Friday, December 30, 2011

Table(s) of Contents and Kindle Books

Simply put, there are two of them, one embedded in the book and one, the Navigable Table of Contents (toc.ncx) housed in its own file.

At one point during the creation of my first Mobipocket book, I had three Tables of Contents associated with my book. One was the Table of Contents (TOC) I embedded near the beginning of my .html book. This embedded TOC is the standard, run-of-the-mill contents page which links to front matter, back matter, and chapters by way of simple anchors; Mobipocket Creator spat out the second TOC during the build stage; and the third TOC was the “navigable” (toc.ncx) file, which I created from scratch.

For creating/formatting the embedded Table of Contents (TOC) and the toc.ncx, I again refer the reader to April L. Hamilton and Joshua Tallent.

I looked for a good definition for the toc.ncx file and came up with Table of Contents Navigation Center eXtended, courtesy of the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). No, this doesn’t define the .ncx file, merely breaks out the acronym. As best I’ve been able to figure, an .ncx file allows reading systems (by that I think the powers that be are referring to devices such as Nook, Kindle, iPhone, etc.) that recognize “auxiliary” content to navigate to that auxiliary content. Otherwise, the reader (the human holding the device) couldn’t get to it. In other words, the .ncx file “extends” the content that the device can access/show/read. Kindle 2, I assume, fits that category of devices; hence, Amazon requires an .ncx file for its Kindle books.

In the case of a simple fiction novel such as my River’s Bend, the toc.ncx doesn’t extend accessible content by much. For example, the .ncx file will take my readers two additional places that the regular TOC does not: River’s Bend’s cover and its (embedded) Table of Contents.

The cover is not present in the book’s embedded TOC because it’s not part of the book’s content, and the second item...well, I don’t really need to explain that, do I? In other words, the embedded TOC provides links to the book’s content and the .ncx file provides links to “auxiliary” content--it gets the reader to the book’s cover if he wishes to see it (and what reader doesn’t?) and to the Table of Contents, which gets the reader everywhere else in the book. Of course, the toc.ncx also gets the reader “everywhere else,” which begs the question, is the embedded TOC really needed? Probably not, but it is part of the book’s content right?
Actually, in my print version of River’s Bend, there is no Table of Contents and that’s true of the majority of fiction books these days. Nevertheless, the reader cannot “fan” through the pages of an eBook--an alternative method is needed.
I inadvertently created that aforementioned Mobipocket Creator-produced TOC (identified by the suffix .mbp) early on, when first getting acquainted with the Mobipocket Creator Publication Files window. I’ll admit, I struggled with what to do with the thing for hours. It was one line--said “Table of Contents”--then the page was blank. Of course, it was blank from lack of data that only I could provide. In point of fact, I now understand that the Table of Contents tab in the Publications Files window is for the publisher’s convenience to automatically create the book’s TOC, which I’d already done from scratch and embedded in my book. I know now that just because a tab appears in the Publications File window that doesn’t mean I have to use it.

Oh, duh!

Next week I’ll talk about River’s Bend’s OPF (open publishing format) file. The “glue” that holds the digital book together.

Thanks again for reading,

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