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Amazon adds HTML5 – and suddenly its ebooks get much better looking

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(Read caption) Kindle Format 8 (KF8) and it supports a new range of formatting capabilities that mean design-centric e-books (like children’s books, cookbooks, and comic books) will pop.

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Your Kindle e-books are about to get a whole lot prettier.

Just in time for the first shipment of its Kindle Fire tablet, Amazon recently announced a new, HTML5-supported Kindle format. It’s called Kindle Format 8 (KF8) and it supports a new range of formatting capabilities that mean design-centric e-books (like children’s books, cookbooks, and comic books) will pop.

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"As showcased on Kindle Fire, KF8 enables publishers to create great-looking books in categories that require rich formatting and design such as children's picture books, comics & graphic novels, technical & engineering books and cookbooks," Amazon said.

Kindle Format 8 replaces Amazon’s existing Mobi format and gives book publishers and designers some 150 capabilities to choose from, including HTML5 and CSS3 support, as well as embedded fonts, drop caps, line spacing, alignment, justification, margin, color, style, and border. For the non-techies out there, the new options basically mean brilliant new visuals and an enhanced market for publications that rely on good design and images, like picture books, comic books, textbooks, manuals, and cookbooks.

"Children's picture books come to life with brilliant images, fixed layouts and Kindle Text Pop Up"; "[c]ookbooks and other titles requiring rich design look spectacular with embedded fonts, callouts and sidebars"; "[c]omics and graphic novels are presented in high resolution color with Kindle Panel Views," says Amazon.

According to Amazon, KF8 will be available in its Kindle apps eventually, as well as latest generation Kindle e-ink devices like the Kindle Touch and the recent $79 Kindle.

Kindle Format 8 threatens the last bastion of publishing, namely highly visual works like coffee table books and cookbooks, writes one blogger at Technology Review.

“In the past, I've argued that picture books are perhaps the last bastion of print publishing likely to remain resilient against the rising tide of the e-book,” writes David Zax. “…I wonder, though, if Kindle's new format – and a new generation of book publishers thinking specifically with a colorful, fully-featured tablet in mind – means that even this bastion won't be held much longer. KF8 threatens to be the first format to frighten even those in publishing who have believed that the paperbound book-as-art-object will always have pride of place on the coffee table or nightstand.”

What do you think? Is KF8 and the inevitable copycats the final nail in the coffin for paper books?

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Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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