Preparing the NCX file

Part 15: use my example NCX template to add an NCX file to your own ebook.
Almost there! The NCX file controls the Kindle’s navigation through the chapters of your ebook. Without it, the ‘go to’ feature won’t allow readers to navigate directly to your table of contents. Instead, that option will be greyed out. As per the previous two files, an example NCX, ready for your modification, is available here. Download it (right click on the link → save link as), unpack it with WinRAR and open the .ncx file in Notepad++.

Chapters: handy in hard copy but invaluable for ebooks     (source)

I’ll point you again in the direction of people who know better than me on all matters NCX – that is, George Benthien (I probably owe the good doctor a nice single malt for all the cross linking), Dave Cassler and Araby Greene.

Exploring the NCX example template

You can adapt this entire file for your ebook (by saving it as yourbooktitle.ncx), taking care to make changes to the following lines:
Line 13-14: Drop your own details in here
1. Now we create ‘navpoints’ at each chapter, and section of front and back matter. Note the value playorder="x". The first playorder is linked to the start ID value (line 14 on the HTML example). The second points to the toc ID value (line 28 on the example). The third is linked to the preface (line 55 on the example), and so on.
2. Remember that you had the choice to assign different chapter reference ID values while building the HTML file? If you chose to keep the the values as c1, c2, etc., then you will not need to alter the corresponding values on lines 27, 32, 37 and so on. If you did change these values in your HTML file, then you need to reflect those changes on those lines
3. The content src="" values on lines 19, 24, 29, and so on need to be changed to both reflect the filename of your HTML and the reference ID values. For example, if your the HTML file for your novel on refrigeration murders was called “chillerkiller.html”, and you referenced your first chapter as ‘part1’, then your version of line 29 would read:
<content src="chillerkiller.html#part1"/>
Makes sense? Now, you have to create as many navpoints as there are sections in your ebook. Saving Davey Gravy is a children’s chapter book, which weighs in at 3 sections of front matter (start, table of contents and preface), 15 chapters and 3 sections of back matter, for a total of 21 navpoints – a featherweight by ebook standards. Your novel is likely to be longer.
4. Save your NCX file. Now, you just need a cover image, and you’ll be ready to generate your Kindle ebook.

Page numbers and locations

The Kindle was never designed to display page numbers. This makes sense when you consider the many generations of the Kindle, which have differently screen sizes and native font sizes. What might be a 200 page book on a smaller Kindle might only be 150 pages on a larger model. Instead of page numbers, your passage through the book is measured by both the progress bar at the base of the scrren, and the ‘location’ counter which displays whenever you press the Menu button.
You can use the menu → go to… → location function to travel to a particular area of a Kindle ebook. For example, the start of Chapter 10 in Saving Davey Gravy corresponds to location 404 of 638. As far as folks can decipher, a location corresponds to a block of 128 bytes (not characters – there are bytes used in formatting which are not displayed as characters).
Of course, people being people, the call for real page numbers grew deafening despite their inherent unsuitability to the ebook format. Amazon caved and allowed page numbers which correspond to the print version of a particular book. As far as I can tell, if you do not have a print version of a book published and for commercial sale, then Amazon will not allow you to have page numbers in your ebook. This is a longwinded way of saying that, if you only plan to publish electronically, do not worry about page numbers for the present. As with everything ebook related, this may be due to change at any time.

Proceed to Part 16: ‘Cover design, part 1’, or return to the article index.
Return to Re: writing
While I’ve endeavoured to provide you with accurate information, what is considered ‘accurate’ will change over time. If I’m wrong, or you’d like to ask a question or share your thoughts, I’d love to hear your take on things.

Rhys About Rhys

Teacher, writer, editor, cook: a bit like that nursery rhyme, really.
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