How to Make an Interactive Kindle Document

By Jacob Andrew

Interactive e-books bring a new level to reading.
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The rapid expansion of tablets and e-readers has created a veritable arms race of e-book functionality. Interactive e-books represent the next step in electronic publishing, with major retailers pushing their own formats. For Amazon's Kindle, the MOBI and newest Kindle Fire 8 formats allow for greater possibilities through support for HTML5 and CSS 3. Building the interactivity into your e-book begins with design or publishing software and ends with free tools from Amazon.

Format your e-book using a desktop publishing program or HTML editor. Electronic books are mostly just carefully-formatted Web pages. If you have Web design experience, it's better to work directly in a Web design program such as Dreamweaver. However, many desktop-publishing programs such as Microsoft's Publisher or Adobe's InDesign allow you to convert your project to an HTML file or directly to ePub.

Save your e-book project as either an XHTML, HTML or ePub document. Depending on your level of expertise and the programs available to you, it might be better to save your document as an HTML file and then perform minor "tweaks" to the format in a Web-design program. HTML is where you'll likely add the interactive elements of your e-book, such as clickable links, embedded videos and more.

Open your document in Kindle Previewer. Ensure the viewer is set to Kindle Fire by selecting "Kindle Fire" under the Devices menu. This program will allow you to verify that the elements appear as you want on various types of Kindle viewers.

Download and extract the KindleGen program to an easy-to-remember directory such as C:\Kindlegen. Copy your book project to this directory as well.

In Windows, open a Command Prompt window, navigate to the KindleGen directory by typing "cd c:[DIRECTORY]" (without quotes here and throughout) where "[DIRECTORY]" is the location you extracted KindleGen (e.g. "cd C:\Kindlegen").

Enter the command "kindlegen [source file]" where "[source file]" is the full name of your HTML e-book file, making sure to include the .html extension (e.g.: MyInteractiveBook.html). If the conversion was successful, you should now have a file with the same name, but a new ".MOBI" extension (e.g.: This .mobi file is the Kindle-compatible version of your e-book.

Items you will need

  • Web or desktop-publishing software (i.e. Adobe InDesign or Dreamweaver)

  • Amazon Kindle Previewer

  • Amazon KindleGen


Some publishing or Web design programs allow you to save directly to ePub format, which is supported by KindleGen. Be careful, however, that the program supports ePub version 3, as earlier versions of ePub might not support all the interactive functions required.

Note that simple Kindle readers won't likely be able to view multimedia-rich files. Multimedia Kindle files are primarily designed for the Kindle Fire and Kindle Apps for various smartphones and tablets.