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Why do Kindle books look so bad with mathematical formulas?

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Showing 1-25 of 110 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 28, 2012 9:25:30 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 28, 2012 10:22:14 PM PDT
Every time I want to buy a book that contains some mathematical formulas, there is always a problem with the way the formulas are formatted. This book for example: Understanding Digital Signal Processing

Download a sample and go to location 454 or 453. Equation (1-1) is just too small barely readable. True I could enlarge it but I don't want to do that for each and every formula.

This is just one out of thousands of technical books out there that have similar problems. And it doesn't matter who do the conversion. All of them have the same problems.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2012 9:40:49 PM PDT
Loz says:
I would say it's probably due to them not being optimised for the small kindle screen.

Posted on Mar 3, 2013 12:11:09 AM PST
A.G. says:
You are totally right !
I bought the book "Networks: an introduction" and in some parts it is almost unusable, I can't read the formulas. Until Amazon solves this issue I won't buy more technical books.

Posted on Mar 3, 2013 1:15:33 AM PST
ThePrince says:
It's because formulates are extremely difficult to format right.

You have a few options -

Use an image. That doesn't work with changing font sizes.

Use some sort of font manipulations to represent the formula. Most fonts don't support enough things required to write formulae properly.

So whatever solution you use there are lots of drawbacks.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 3, 2013 1:54:57 AM PST
Jazzy_Jeff says:
Amazon has nothing to do with the formatting of the book. You need to contact the publishers.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 3, 2013 2:05:33 AM PST
Dragi Raos says:
JC, the publisher elected to format even the simplest formulae as images, and made them too small (they probably looked fine to them in some preview tools). You can zoom them and then they are readable just fine, but that is tiresome.

The obvious solution would be for Amazon to start supporting some math markup language as extension to its subset of HTML (at least MathML if not TeX), but that is not very easy. BTW, books in ePub format suffer the same problem. But publishers could also do more to use whichever markup capability does exist in mobi source language before resorting to inserting images.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 3, 2013 2:35:15 AM PST
A.G. says:
Yes, that would be an interesting problem to solve... if I was payed by Amazon to do it.
But the situation is exactly the opposite: I'm a customer of Amazon and I need to be able to read the math on that book so that I can do my own work :)

Posted on Mar 3, 2013 2:55:43 AM PST
Most publishers have been very slow in making the transition to e-books and probably wish e-books would just go away. At least in the case of the book you're referring to they clearly state on the product page that it is optimized for large screens.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 3, 2013 2:56:13 AM PST
CBRetriever says:
I recommend Kindle4PC for this type of book or else a zoom-able kindle like a Fire

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 3, 2013 3:03:34 AM PST
Dragi Raos says:
Yes, those parts look decent in K4PC and Cloud reader, and Fire and PW allow relatively easy zooming.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 3, 2013 3:06:36 AM PST
Dragi Raos says:
"Yes, that would be an interesting problem to solve... if I was payed by Amazon to do it. "

By publishers, A.G., not Amazon. Amazon is just a seller. Do you complain to the bookstore when you find a poorly formatted paper book?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 3, 2013 3:22:17 AM PST
A.G. says:
I'm not complaining about the book, I'm complaining about the browser: it says "kindle", therefore it is an Amazon product. Am I right ?
I have the same problem on the android version and on the huge screen of my iMac. The screen size isn't a problem, the problem is that a vectorial format should be used to display mathematical expressions. Obviously they should zoom together with text font.
But ok, I'll complain to the publisher and also write an email to the author. I don't think he is to blame, but his excellent work is been spoiled.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 3, 2013 3:43:06 AM PST
Jazzy_Jeff says:
If the Kindle format doesn't work for you there is always paper....

Posted on Mar 14, 2013 11:51:26 AM PDT
tagger9 says:
I have lots of technical books on kindle, and use them for convenience as I need to be able to access these books at work, at home and on business travel. Paper copies just won't work due to the accessibility issues I have.

Most of my kindle books have a lot of equations in them, and almost all equations are unreadable in native form. In some cases (like on a kindle fire hd) you can dbl click the equation to make it bigger. This is inconvenient, and in many cases the images are so pixelated that you cannot read them.

Why can't amazon make readable kindle tech books, and/or require that publishers make readable kindle books? This is routinely done in other formats (eg, pdf, MathML, etc.) and should not be much of a technical challenge for amazon to do.

It seems to me that tech books are substantially more expensive than other books, and probably have higher margins for amazon. You would think it would be in amazon's interest to make these books have a decent quality. I do think ebooks will be the future standard, so maybe another company will see the opportunity to capture this big and lucrative market.

Does anyone know how to get in touch with the actual kindle team about this issue?

In the meantime, I will continue to leave as many negative kindle book reviews as I can to raise awareness of the very poor quality of kindle tech books.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 14, 2013 11:57:18 AM PDT
K. Rowley says:
"..and in many cases the images are so pixelated that you cannot read them."

Chances are the equations are not actually text, but instead a low-res graphic... High-res images tend to make file sizes really large.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 14, 2013 12:03:33 PM PDT
CBRetriever says:
Why can't amazon make readable kindle tech books, and/or require that publishers make readable kindle books? This is routinely done in other formats (eg, pdf, MathML, etc.) and should not be much of a technical challenge for amazon to do.

Because Amazon doesn't make the ebooks - the publishers are responsible for the product you receive Amazon merely acts as the market place for the finished product.

Posted on Apr 30, 2013 8:39:15 AM PDT
I agree as well (Kindle mangles some books), the way the Kindle chooses to be responsive in font-sizes actually creates more problems within technical books, I have the print and kindle version of This Is Service Design Thinking, which in PDF form would be appropriately reflective of the books actual layout. As it was Amazon's choice to employ the technology behind what I am calling it's responsiveness, it seems it should take on all that encapsulate, especially that a Kindle book is reflective of the way the book was actually designed. Maybe there is a way to have it display in it's default format.

As far as the people commenting about it being the publishers fault, I don't believe it can be all directed at them. They are using proprietary tools and have to assess that they may not be able to reflect the design of their book exactly and must use the tools as best they can to get to this point.

...Until the Kindle team hopefully builds an easier way to do this. There was a time where you couldn't do much without hacking in html+css, now the limits seem to be as vast as the web itself, let's hope something as this can happen here as well.

Posted on Jul 2, 2013 11:51:56 PM PDT
Old Gaffer says:
I can only underline the above comments. A recent thermodynamics book I have trialed only has an icon of a camera in place of the expected equation or diagram which is hopeless. Thank goodness I only downloaded the trial. The picture images of the equations work okay if the author has restricted the equations to a few terms, although this isn't always possible. This is clearly a problem waiting to be solved - and although I can't quote a "Title" at this moment I am sure I have seen instances which indicate a glimmer of a solution exists, in some of the books on my kindle.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2013 12:09:44 AM PDT
CBRetriever says:
part of the problem is the font/characters aren't supported by kindles

and there's no options for fractions or subscripts in most cases - even this article on wikipedia:

uses images as I can't copy a single equation

Posted on Oct 14, 2013 2:38:01 PM PDT
Eric Jetty says:
It's true, publishers should not be releasing technical texts to Kindle if the formulas, figures, or code samples are illegible. On the other hand, I haven't found much useful information from Amazon instructing authors and publishers on how to include mathematical formulas in Kindle texts. Kindle's MOBI and AZW formats don't seem to have any built-in support for mathematical formulas. The most common workaround appears to be converting formulas into images. This can work reasonably well for shorter formulas, but of course the images don't necessarily resize when readers increase or decrease the text size.

If there are any other methods for including math formulas, I'd love to hear about them.

Posted on Feb 10, 2014 8:01:05 PM PST
If you really care about the presentation of the book, from mathematical formulas, and figures to slideshows and videos, you should see if it's available on Inkling. They really get the details right when it comes to the presentation of content.

Posted on Mar 29, 2014 2:58:07 AM PDT
Agree a big piece of xx with respect to math. And to think these a holes get the monetary benefit from math in high tech.

Posted on Jun 1, 2014 3:37:23 PM PDT
Stan says:
Interesting thing is that on Kindle for Iphone, the formulae and graphics are displayed perfectly. You can enlarge them by simply spreading your fingers across the formula. So I don't think its got anything to do with the publisher. Its a Kindle technicality. I can read technical books on my Iphone much easier than on the Kindle - and I quote "Understanding Digital Signal Processing" which I have, as an example.

Posted on Jun 3, 2014 2:19:41 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 3, 2014 4:42:31 AM PDT
I am very disappointed by this Kindle App for Android as well. Formulas are unreadable there with standard 7'' or 8'' Android devices. It's quite interesting to read that Kindle for iOS seems to do better there. I stopped reading scientific books on Kindle for Android for that matter. It is of interest as well that such books are very readable via the standard Google ebook reader, say. I thus switched to buying such books from Google rather than from Amazon. @Amazon staff: You better get your act together and make formulas and similar issues sizable and zoomable for the Kindle Android App much as you obviously did for the iOS version. Otherwise people opt to buying from Google or other vendors. This is an Amazon problem and has nothing to do with the publishers.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 3, 2014 2:52:42 AM PDT
Are you saying the exact same book on kindle has problems not found on Google books or ibooks?

BTW, you are speaking to other customers here not Amazon.
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Discussion in:  Kindle forum
Participants:  32
Total posts:  110
Initial post:  Oct 28, 2012
Latest post:  Sep 17, 2015

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