The “One Thing” About Kindle Formatting


In this clip from City Slickers, Jack Palance, as Curly, talks about the “one thing” in life (with a bit of swearing, if that’s of any concern).  With Kindle formatting, there are many tips, tricks, pitfalls and things to learn, but there’s something of a “one thing” as well.

The “one thing” is that content should be linear.  Each thing follows the next vertically, and not horizontally.  Two columns?  Forget about it.  Wrap an image in text?  No.  You need to place the image between blocks of text, vertically.  Tables?  Only the simplest will work; anything more complex and you should look at ways of making the content work in a more linear fashion.

For instance, if you had a table like so:

Name Height (cm) Weight (kg)
Lance Armstrong 177 67
Alberto Contador 176 62
Eddy Merckx 180 71
Bernard Hinault 172 62

You could transform it to work like so:

Lance Armstrong
Weight: 67 kg
Height: 177cm

Alberto Contador
Weight: 62kg
Height: 176cm

… and so on.  Granted, a table is easier to use to quickly compare and contrast data with, and if you’re really desperate, you can always make an image of your table, but where possible, transforming it into one-thing-after-the-other is your best bet for easy formatting that will work everywhere with no hassles.

Bullet points, on the other hand, work fine, if you know what you’re doing, because they’re a linear element – one comes after the other.

Like Curly, at some point in the future this advice will probably shuffle off this mortal coil due to advances in ereader technology that allows fancier formatting, but for the time being, it’s a good rule of thumb.  And even in the future, we’ll still be faced with the problem of disparate reading devices from cell phones to PC monitors, so content that “flows” is always going to be superior to content that needs very rigid formatting.