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Dealing with indents in Kindle


The blog of Stephen Arnott (aka S J Arnott). Writer of the Leofric Dark Age adventures and Jack Bleacher.

Dealing with indents in Kindle

Stephen Arnott

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The short version:

Unpack your epub file. Open the relevant documents with a text editor. Find the text you don't want indented, then cut and paste the following code within its 'P' tag: style="text-indent:0"

For example, change: 

<p class="p.first">Nice weather for a gila monster.</p>


<p class="p.first" style="text-indent:0" >Nice weather for a gila monster.</p>

The longer version:

I'll explain the technical stuff below, but first we might ask why we'd want to 'un-indent' text in the first place. The answer is, that it looks nicer. Open any novel and you'll see that, while nearly all the paragraphs are indented, the opening paragraph of each chapter is not. It's done that way because it looks attractive.

On some Kindle devices (such as the Fire), the default is to show all text as un-indented, the paragraphs being separated by a line-break (the text in this post is an example of this style); on other devices, indented paragraphs are the norm. For the latter, we need to tweak some HTML code to ensure that those first paragraphs display as we'd want them.

Unless you're familiar with HTML and the way ebooks are structured, the above is not likely to have made much sense, but, to put it simply, HTML (Hyper-Text Markup Language) is the language used to write webpages, and an epub file (the foundation of most ebooks) is a mini website compressed into a ZIP file.

Once you have the epub version of your book (Google has the answer if you don't know how to create one) you have to unpack it. For instructions on how to do this in Windows, try the Red Jumper site. This site also has instructions for Mac, but I use the application 'ePub Packager' (available on the Mac App Store) to do the job and I find it extremely useful. 

Once unpacked, your epub file will reveal itself to be a collection of plain text files and images collected within folders. The folder you're interested in is called 'OPS' (meaning 'Open Publication Structure'). Depending on how your book was compiled, its text might appear as a single text file within the OPS folder, or be scattered through many files. Don't be afraid to open files and take a look to see what's where, but be sure to use a plain text editor and not some word processing package such as MS Word. There are plenty of free text editors available for Windows. The editor I use on my Mac is the incomparable TextWrangler. Once inside your text file, look for a paragraph you want to un-indent, then go to the 'P' tag at the start of it.

Here's an example of a 'P' tag: <p class="p.first"> 

The 'P' stands for 'paragraph' and the code within the brackets tells the Kindle, or other reading device, how to display the text between this tag and the closing </p> tag at the end of the text segment.

All you have to do now is insert the code "text-indent:0" within the tag at the start of the paragraph. Like this: <p class="p.first" style="text-indent:0" >.

Here's the example from the top of the page: 

<p class="p.first" style="text-indent:0" >Nice weather for a gila monster.</p>

Here's another:

<p class="p.first" style="text-indent:0" >To paraphrase Oscar Wilde&#58; there&rsquo;s only one thing in life worse than being knocked unconscious by a fifty-pound light fixture, and that&rsquo;s waking up afterwards.</p>

And another:

<p class="p.first" style="text-indent:0" >I took a shower. The bathroom plumbing rattled and wheezed like an octogenarian go-go dancer, and the water that trickled out of the pipes was the colour of Won Ton soup, but it cut through the dust, and I came out marginally cleaner than when I went in.</p>

Inserting this code will ensure that this text is un-indented when viewed on an ebook reader.

I've repeatedly tried to do this in other ways (using the CSS stylesheet), but the above method appears to be the only way of achieving reliable results.

Anyhow, I hope this is useful. The text examples are taken from my 'Jack Bleacher' novella. If you're interested, you can find out more here.


Header image c/o of tiramisustudio at