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How to Create a MOBI File with an NCX TOC on the Mac for Amazon KDP

Here is the process that I used to create an NCX compatible version of my e-book to upload to Amazon KDP. I figured it out after being told multiple times by Amazon that my books needed a working NCX Table of Contents (TOC). The solution I outline in this post is for Mac users using MS Word as the final ap before publishing to Amazon KDP. I write eveNCX-Graphicrything in Scrivener, for instance, but then move my file over for final proofreading to MS Word. I was using a MacBook Air laptop running Mac OS X El Capitan v 10.11.3 and MS Word for Mac 2011 v14.5.2. I also ended up using the free version of calibre for the Mac that I downloaded for free from CNET.com.

I can’t promise this solution will work for you, but I hope it helps. It’s pretty detailed, but here is the summary of the fix:

  1. Create the doc in MS Word using Heading styles
  2. Translate the MS Word file along with a cover into a MOBI file using the free calibre app for the Mac
  3. Upload your calibre-created MOBI file to Amazon
  4. Check the preview file using the Kindle App for the Mac and/or sending it to your actual Kindle devices.
  5. Hit the final publish button

Here are the detailed steps:

1. Write the book, eventually ending up in MS Word for the Mac.

 

2. Use Heading 1 style for Chapter titles and for the titles of anything else you want showing up in the NCX and in the HTML TOC. For example, I included About the Author, Other Works by the Author, and Copyright Notice, among other sections that I wished to appear in the two types of TOCs. Note, if you do not like the standard Heading 1 style in MS Word, then alter it, but keep the style name and use it for your chapter titles.

 

3. Create a separate page with the title, “Table of Contents,” using the Heading 1 style.

3.1 Place your cursor just to the left of the word “Table” and insert a bookmark named “TOC” (do not include the quotation marks in the bookmark name). This is where you will create your HTML TOC. There are plenty of online guides about how to do this, but Mac users should know that at this time (January of 1016), the Mac version of MS Word 2011 does NOT allow you to automatically create a TOC that automatically links your chapter titles to your actual chapters. At the current time, a linked auto-generated TOC ONLY works on the Mac if you create it using page numbers. The page numbers themselves are what carry the links to your chapters, and once you delete them (because e-books don’t have page numbers), your links go away also. This means that you have to create the HTML TOC manually.

3.2 To do this, type (under your Table of Contents title) each of your chapter names and any names of any other sections you want included in your HTML TOC (About the Author, etc.). Format these chapter names using whatever standard style you are using for the rest of your document (I use body text indent, but center mine).

3.3 Select each chapter title, in turn, and add a hyperlink to each chapter title. To do this, highlight your chapter title, then go to Insert > Hyperlink > Anchor > Headings > and select the appropriate chapter or other section title. Select headings, not bookmarks. Once you have done this for all of your links you will have a live HTML TOC that is linked up and ready to go. Next, you have to worry about the infamous NCX TOC.

 

4. Create your NCX TOC. Save your Word document after you have already made your HTML TOC and download/open a FREE program called calibre for the mac. It is offered many places. I downloaded it from CNet because the site verifies the safety of the downloads. You may have to turn off any anti-virus software you have running in order to install it. Once you have installed it do the following:

4.1 Click the “Add Books” icon in the calibre menu. Find and select your MS Word file. I selected my .docx file.

4.2 Your MS Word file will show up in the middle of the calibre screen. Select the MS Word doc title, which will most likely be labeled with the number “1” in calibre. Once the title of your MS Word file is highlighted, click on the “Convert Books” icon in the calibre menu.

4.3 In the top right of the screen (the Metadata screen that automatically appears when you add a new book), it should say that the output format is MOBI (the format Amazon uses). There will also be a small icon to the bottom right of where there is space for a cover image to go. This small icon will be to the right of where it says “Change Cover Image.” I selected the exact same cover (2000×3000 pixel jpg) that I had previously loaded directly to Amazon. I am not sure which cover image Amazon ends up using when it makes its MOBI from the calibre MOBI file you are about to create, but if you do NOT upload a cover image through calibre on this screen, you will GET AN ERROR when you try to upload your MOBI file to Amazon through the standard Bookshelf interface.

** Note that I did not change any other settings in calibre for MOBI conversion. However, when you first install calibre, it may ask you what kind of Kindle you use, and I responded with PaperWhite, since that is what I use.

4.4 Click the OK button at the bottom right of your calibre screen. Calibre will start converting your book. It will notify you when it is done.

4.5 On the right, you will see your book cover and under the cover image it you will see the formats now available for this file, which should include .DOCX and MOBI. Under that, it should say “Path: Click to open” Click this link and it will take you to the folder where your new MOBI file awaits.

4.6 You can open your new MOBI file with the free Kindle app for the Mac. I would use this instead of the Kindle Previewer that can be downloaded from the Amazon upload page. Once you open your calibre-generated MOBI file, you can click the Table of Contents icon in the far top left of your Kindle Ap menu. If you have successfully created an NCX TOC, you will see all of your chapter headings listed there in the TOC menu of the Kindle Ap. Note that ONE of the entries in the NCX TOC is labeled “Table of Contents.” When you click on that link in the Kindle Ap, it will take you to an automatically generated TOC page, created by the NCX code. However, this is NOT the way your final MOBI file will look, so ignore it for now.

 

5. Upload and proof your final MOBI file

5.1 Upload your newly created MOBI file to Amazon via the Bookshelf interface through Safari (or probably any browser for the Mac, I suppose). Use the browse function in Step 6 of the first page that Amazon gives you when you upload or edit your already uploaded book. I did not test this next part, but in my case, I was replacing an old file, so I already had uploaded the cover image separately, and I left that image where it was. All I know is that when you upload your calibre-generated MOBI file that has the cover already included, the Kindle upload engine translates it into a Kindle generated MOBI file with the correct cover in place. I suspect that it ignores the separately uploaded cover and uses the one embedded in the MOBI file created in calibre.

5.2 Preview the converted file under Step 7 on the same Amazon upload page. I preview it virtually using the Amazon Online Previewer, but also suggest downloading a preview file to view in your Kindle Ap on your mac by clicking on the “Download Book Preview File” link.

5.3 Open the file downloaded to your Mac using your Kindle Ap (not using calibre) and you should see everything working the right way—both the NCX and the HTML TOC. The difference when you look at it in the Kindle Ap now is that when you click on the Table of Contents link that shows up on the left menu of the application, the link will take you to the HTML TOC that you painstakingly created back in MS Word.

5.4 If you want to see what your file will REALLY look like, send your MOBI preview file to your actual Kindle using the Kindle email address for your device (you can get this under the Manage Your Content and Devices section under your Account menu on the Amazon home page. Doing so will allow you to open your file on your Kindle. I tested my file on my Kindle Paper White, my iPad, and my iPhone. Using your Kindle, click your Go To menu. You should see all of the chapters show up in the Go To menu (this is your NCX TOC in action). If you click on the link for Table of Contents in the Go To menu, the link should take you to your HTML TOC. I tried to make both the NCX and the HTML TOC contain the exact same items so as to not confuse the reader if he/she alternates between using the two of them.

 

6. Publish your book on Amazon.

Ok, that’s it. Easy peasy. Hope this helps my fellow authors who are also Mac users.

4 Comments

  • Mike Gluck on Mar 29, 2017 Reply

    Mike – thanks for the detailed instructions. I followed them and they seemed to work – my toc looked right in Kindle previewer – except Amazon wouldn’t accept my uploaded .mobi file from Calibre – they said there were formatting errors. But I followed someone else’s advice and created a new book in Amazon (I had tried to upload a new file to a previously created entry in my bookshelf) and it appears that it’s working now. Thanks!

    • Mike on Mar 29, 2017 Reply

      Hi Mike! I am so glad the directions helped out. Sorry about that glitch. I uploaded over top of previous entries where I had uploaded .doc files, and my Calibre .mobi files worked great. Since I posted this blog entry, I’ve learned more about Calibre. Maybe some of the new formatting things I’ve discovered will help others who encounter the same thing. I’d hate for someone to have to create a new book and lose their reviews and rank, for instance.

      By the way, I tried looking you up on Amazon. Are you the Mike Gluck who co-wrote Everydata? Just curious, since your name doesn’t show on the product page as being a co-author with John Johnson. Good luck with everything! – Mike

      • Mike Gluck on Mar 29, 2017 Reply

        Thanks Mike. Yeah, I sent an email to kdp support with my files – seeing if they can help. If not, I’ll just publish without a toc (or without a toc that shows up in the Kindle toc field – it will still have one – annoying…).

        And yes, I’m the Mike Gluck who co-wrote Everydata. That’s weird that my name isn’t on the product page – it was – I’m going to look into that – thanks for the heads-up.

        • Mike on Mar 29, 2017 Reply

          Hi Mike,

          A couple of things. First, for some reason, if you don’t 1) include your cover image when creating your .mobi file in Calibre AND 2) upload your cover as a separate jpg via your bookshelf, I believe it gives an error when you upload it. Secondly, I’d be surprised if KDP comes back with an answer for you, but I hope they do. Thirdly, I understand you don’t really know me, BUT I would be more than happy to troubleshoot your MS Doc file if you want. I work with Word way too much for a living, and am used to tracking down issues. If you don’t have your .docx or .doc file formatted correctly, it can cause some issues in the mobi translation process. Short of that, Either Friday evening or Sunday afternoon, we could do a Google Chat, and I could diagnose your document with you simply sharing your screen. That way you don’t have to send your source file to a (relative) stranger. lol. Up to you, but I relied on the kindness of indie authors a lot when I was just starting out, and I am always ready to pay it back. Let me know. Otherwise, I hope KDP comes up with a solution for you! My email is mwlayne@gmail.com.

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