eBook Conversion

eBook conversion for Kindle and ePub readers

Images as chapter headings (Kindle)

If you really don’t like the Kindle’s default chapter styles, then a workable alternative is to use an image instead. Of course, this means creating a different image for every chapter, which is time-consuming if your book is long, but it will look really nice if it’s done well. You could maybe ask the person who’s designing your cover for advice (or get him or her to do these graphics for you as well).


Your image should be a GIF and, as discussed in the section on section break graphics, you have to enter the size of the graphic to stop the Kindle resizing it.

The CSS you need is the same as what you’ve been using for text, because graphics in this case are treated in the same way.

h1{ text-align:center; page-break-before: always; margin-bottom: 2em;}

Obviously, if you want your graphic to be left- or right-aligned, change the text-align value accordingly.

Now, putting the image in is not difficult at all; assuming your chapter headings are wrapped in <h1> … </h1> tags, simply adding the HTML code to insert an image between the tags will work. The only problem is that your conversion program has no information on which to build a table of contents.

This is not too difficult to fix; however, I’ve only been able to get this working with Calibre and not with MobiPocket Creator.

Here’s the HTML you’ll need:

<h1 title="Chapter 1"><img src="Chapter1.gif" height="221px" width="250px" alt="Chapter 1" ></h1>

The text you put in the quotes after h1 title is what will appear in the table of contents. Change the height and width values to match the size of your image.

You should also add an alt=”” tag – this is alternate text for an image. When someone is using text-to-speech, an eBook should speak this text when it encounters an image. Unfortunately the Kindle ignores this (poor show, Amazon), but you should still include it – ePub files will not validate unless images have alt tags. (Hopefully Amazon will fix this oversight in a firmware update.)

We now need to tell this to Calibre. The instructions for converting to Calibre are here; in the Table of Contents pane in the Convert dialog, press the magic wand button by the Level 1 TOC field. Enter the following values;

  • Under ‘Match HTML tags …’, enter h1
  • Under ‘Having the attribute’ enter title. Press OK

Bear in mind that, in this case, the output of Calibre’s built-in reader will not be the same as the output in Kindle Previewer or the Kindle.

A sample layout

Kindle file: imageheading.mobi
Source HTML file and images: imageheading.zip

In my prospective Freemasonry-themed conspiracy thriller, I’ve used some Masonic compasses as chapter headings. In the Kindle file, these chapters output as ‘Chapter 1’ and ‘Chapter 2’ in the table of contents. The images are about 17KB each.

Sample chapter with image chapter heading (click to enlarge)

Inserting images

It’s taken some trial and error and reading the official Kindle specifications (so you don’t have to), but I think I now have a good idea of how the Kindle handles images. So before I go into the details, here are some things to bear in mind.

  1. The Kindle likes to resize images to the width of the page. Initially, I was annoyed by this feature but having thought about it, I’m beginning to think it makes sense. The reason for this is simply the multitude of devices that can run Kindle software – an image precisely sized for the Kindle won’t look the same on a smartphone
  2. It’s not possible to size an image to fill the screen. Only the cover is allowed to do this
  3. The maximum dimensions for a single image are 500px x 600px (the 500px is the most important dimension, as it represents the maximum width – height will obviously vary)
  4. The maximum file size for a single image is 127KB. You can upload a larger image to MobiPocket Creator or Calibre, but they will resize them. It’s a far better idea to alter them yourself in a photo editor within this size limit, rather than to rely on these conversion programs
  5. Wrapping text around an image isn’t possible in Kindle format. All you can really do with an image is align it to the left, centre or right.

File formats

The Kindle supports two formats: JPEG (.jpg or .jpeg) and GIF (.gif). The choice of which one to use is fairly simple:

  • Use JPEG for photos. Compress them to the best-available quality within the 127KB size limit. If this is difficult, you can reduce the number of colours in the image in your photo-editor, which will also reduce the file size
  • For line-art, drawings and tables, use the GIF format. The reason for this is that the GIF compression algorithm results in sharper lines and less jaggedness than JPEG.

Amazon recommends using colour images wherever possible, to use on colour-enabled devices; if you do use colour, check how they look in black and white; some colour images do not convert well.

Inserting an image

The code for inserting an image is quite simple:

<img src="myimage.jpg"/>

Remember that filenames are case sensitive and the code assumes your image is in the same folder as your HTML file.


By default, an image will be left-aligned. As I’ve discussed, for a typical photo, you should just let it fill the screen, but for small pieces of line art, centre (or even right) alignment may be desirable.

Add this to the CSS:

p.imagecentre {text-indent:0; text-align:center;}
p.imageright {text-indent:0; text-align:right;}

And add this to the HTML:

For a centred image:

<p class="imagecentre"><img src="image.gif"/></p>

For a right-aligned image

<p class="imageright"><img src="image.gif"/></p>

Fixing the image size

For small images (such as graphical section breaks or small illustrations at the start of chapters), you’ll want to fix the image size.

To do this, you need include the width and height of the graphic in pixels, otherwise the Kindle will resize them upwards. If you’ve forgotten what size you cropped them to, these values are usually available in the information pane of the window; if not, right-click on the graphic icon and select Properties, where you’ll find the dimensions.

For example:

<p class="sectionbreak"><img src="image.jpg" height="50px" width="100px"/></p>

A sample file

The following downloads are based on the first chapter of Alice in Wonderland and have a centred image at the start of the chapter. It looks a little large on the iPhone preview, but fine in all other formats.

Alice in Wonderland: zip file, containing HTML, image and dummy cover image
Alice in Wonderland: .prc file file – will open in the Kindle/Kindle Previewer

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