Vellum 1.4.1

Vellum 1.4.1 is now available and includes the following minor changes:

  • The MacBook Pro TouchBar can now be used to insert autocomplete suggestions in the Text Editor.
  • Improved appearance of About the Author connect section when seen in Amazon’s older mobi7 format.
  • Text of a Verse text feature is never justified. Lists are no longer justified when seen on Kindle.
  • Kindred drop caps are better positioned when a reader changes away from Publisher Font on Paperwhite, Voyage, or Oasis e-readers.
  • Volumes and Parts can no longer be created without chapters inside. Select the chapters you wish to include and use Create Volume from Selection or Create Part from Selection, available from the Chapter menu. Read more in Creating Parts and Volumes.

Vellum 1.4.1 is a free update, available now.

Note: We briefly released 1.4 before discovering an issue with using Bold / Italic / Underline controls. We’ve addressed this with 1.4.1.

Vellum and Sierra

Today Apple released macOS Sierra, the newest version of the Mac operating system.

Should you upgrade to macOS Sierra, you will need to use the latest version of Vellum, which contains crucial changes made for this version of macOS. Vellum 1.3.9 was released earlier this month, and is a free update.

In Sierra, you’ll find a new way to manage your open Vellum documents: merge your windows into one and use tabs to seamlessly switch between them.

Merge All Windows and other tab management commands are available in Vellum’s Window menu, only when using macOS Sierra.

Vellum 1.3.9

Vellum 1.3.9 is now available and includes a revamped Help menu with integrated search of the Vellum Help website:

Vellum 1.3.9 also includes these improvements:

  • You can now disable text justification for Kindle eBooks
  • Paperwhite Preview is much sharper for El Capitan users with retina screens
  • Import does a better job of detecting spelled-out chapter numbers (“Twenty-one”) and now translates Word’s non-breaking hyphen character
  • Links are formatted to avoid double-underlines
  • When included as a page in your book, the Table of Contents no longer lists Copyright, Dedication, or Epigraph
  • The Text Editor is again functional when using macOS Sierra Public Beta

Vellum 1.3.9 is a free update, available now.

Big Improvements to Look Inside

Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature has long provided readers a way to preview the first few pages of eBooks.

For authors, though, it’s often been a source of frustration, as Look Inside has never looked much like the eBooks seen by readers. Features like drop caps and ornaments — and all of the other touches that make up a Vellum-formatted book — couldn’t be seen in the Look Inside, as it was a place where Amazon continued to use their older “mobi7” format.

That’s why we’re very excited to have discovered that many books created with Vellum have a whole new Look Inside: one that provides a much better preview of an eBook by adopting the same KF8 format used by Amazon apps and devices.

look-inside-screencap

Here are just a few of the many books where you can see Amazon’s new Look Inside:

While we’ve found many eBooks that include this new Look Inside, some — especially those recently published — still use the older format. So you may not see the new Look Inside right after you upload your book to KDP, or even for a few weeks.

Other than waiting, though, you shouldn’t have to do anything to receive it. You may even find your existing titles have already been updated.

Since there are still a few differences, we’ve already begun looking into how we can adjust Vellum’s output to accommodate Amazon’s new Look Inside. But we’re thrilled to see such a huge improvement in how readers preview your books.

Update 8/2: We’ve since found that Amazon’s mobile site continues to use the older mobi7 format for its Look Inside. We hope that Amazon will eventually upgrade this to match the behavior of its full site. In the meantime, readers using mobile devices like iPhones may still see the old Look Inside.

Vellum 1.3.8

Today we released Vellum 1.3.8, a minor update with the following improvements:

Reuse Style
Style choices you make in one book now serve as the starting point for your next

Import Heading Images
Vellum will now detect and import heading images in your manuscript

Assign Heading Images to Multiple Chapters
You can now assign Heading Images to multiple chapters at once

Preview On
Vellum files now open with the Preview showing

Also in this release:

  • Fixed an issue where chapter titles using the Sudo style could be displayed in the Preview as gibberish
  • Improved reliability of the Revert To command, available from the File menu
  • Short amzn.com URLs are now considered when detecting Store Links
  • The Store Link editor now checks Kobo identifiers to ensure that an ISBN hasn’t been entered instead
  • Fixed a crash that could occur when entering an unexpected URL into the Web Link or Store Link editors
  • Fixed problems importing Store Links from the middle of a paragraph
  • Images included in eBooks for Kobo now have a greater amount of compression
  • Descriptions for heading images are now optional and can be excluded for decorative images
  • Changed TOC styling to work around an issue of eInk Kindles showing blank pages
  • Fixed intersecting drop caps for certain font size and line spacing combinations in the Kindle app for iPhone

Note: To be sure it is using a current version of KindleGen, Vellum no longer looks in your Applications folder for KindleGen, and will instead only look in its managed folder. If you previously used the Mac App Store version of Vellum, you may have to download KindleGen again. It will be much easier this time.

Vellum 1.3.8 is a free update, available now.

Since Vellum is no longer available through the Mac App Store, any remaining users of the Mac App Store version of Vellum should migrate to Direct to receive this update.

Leaving the Mac App Store

Today we are announcing that we will no longer sell Vellum through the Mac App Store. We will continue to develop the direct version of Vellum, the version that has long offered a better experience for our users.

If you downloaded Vellum from the Mac App Store, we recommend migrating to the direct version as soon as possible. The books you’ve created and the purchases you have made will work just as well in this version, and by migrating you will be able to receive future updates to Vellum. You can learn more in our guide to Migrating from the Mac App Store to Direct.

We added the Mac App Store as a purchasing option nearly two years ago, hoping it would serve as an easy-to-use option for customers. Unfortunately, that has not been the reality. Users of the Mac App Store have experienced purchasing difficulties, problems when updating, and situations when the Mac App Store version of Vellum simply stopped working. Updates to this version are also delayed by the App Store review process (for as much as a week), making it harder to respond quickly to changes. By focusing on our direct version, we will be able to stay responsive by delivering updates as soon as they are ready.

We’ve made every effort to make migrating as painless as possible, but please contact us if you have any problems or questions.

Vellum 1.3.7

Vellum 1.3.7 is a minor update that includes the following fixes:

  • Vellum will now prompt you to save an unsaved file before generating
  • Small-caps appear in books generated using Vellum on OS X 10.11.4
  • Italics defined in Word styles import correctly, for better compatibility with writing tools like Ulysses
  • Ornamental breaks updated to avoid limitations of Amazon’s Enhanced Typesetting
  • Large images are centered correctly for the Kindle Voyage and latest Paperwhite
  • Quotation marks before drop caps have more consistent position across Kindle devices
  • Grammar checking now highlights and replaces the specific words to change
  • Addressed rare crashes that could occur when performing a Find operation

Vellum 1.3.7 is a free update, available now for Direct users. It has been submitted to the Mac App Store for approval.

Update 4/11: Vellum 1.3.7 is now available from the Mac App Store.

Problems with KDP Online Previewer

In the last week, we’ve received reports that the Amazon KDP Online Previewer, available after uploading your book, has ceased to function for many books generated by Vellum. When launched, the KDP Previewer shows a spinner for some time before finally displaying an error:

The server is down or took too long to respond

We’ve verified that this happens with both newly- and previously-uploaded books, including books that once displayed in the online previewer without issue. Judging from the reports we’ve received, problems with the previewer began about a week ago.

This bug is limited to the KDP Online Previewer. The apps and devices used by readers are not affected, nor are features such as Look Inside.

After some search, we have found at least one specific bit of styling code (CSS) that triggers the problem (though there may be others). A media query that operates on the dimensions of a reader’s device causes the online previewer to fail. For example:

@media (device-width: 768px) {
    h1 {
        font-size: 120%;
    }
}

Media queries like the above allow for style to be adjusted according to the size of a screen, and Vellum uses them to compensate for the inconsistencies in layout across Amazon’s devices. They are perfectly valid CSS and are even discussed in Amazon’s Publishing Guidelines [PDF]. These media queries function across Amazon’s devices and apps and, until recently, caused no problems with Amazon’s Online Previewer.

We are sometimes able to work around Amazon’s bugs, but we can’t work around this one without affecting how books are seen by readers. Unfortunately, a remedy for this bug can only come from Amazon.

We have filed a report and contacted KDP about this issue. If you encounter this bug with your own books, we encourage you to do the same, and welcome you to link to this post for background. Given that this only recently broke, and given that we have narrowed the problem down to this very specific bit of CSS, we hope that if Amazon is made aware of this issue, then they will be able to address it quickly.

In the meantime, we recommend using other means to preview your books, as discussed in our guide to Proofing Your eBook.

Update 5/24: A few users have received responses from Amazon confirming this issue and that it will be resolved “once [Amazon releases] an updated version of the Online Previewer.”

Kindle eBooks and the Table of Contents

Recently, some authors have been affected by a change in Amazon’s policy toward eBooks that include a Table of Contents (TOC) at the end. Although this technique has long been used to prevent the TOC from taking up space within the Look Inside, Amazon has since decided to not allow it, in some cases removing books from sale until they are updated.

Although by default Vellum places a Table of Contents in the front of your eBooks, it also includes a switch that, when turned off, caused the TOC to be placed in the back:

Table of Contents Settings for Insert at Beginning of Book

You will want to revisit any Kindle eBooks you’ve generated with this switch turned off. By re-enabling Insert at beginning of book in TOC Settings, your book will include an HTML TOC in the front, which is what Amazon recommends.

But we know that many authors would prefer to not have a TOC as a page in the book, especially since it is included within Amazon’s Look Inside.

And so, with Vellum 1.3.6, we are changing the behavior of this switch. When on, it behaves as before, and an HTML TOC will be included at the beginning. When off, however, the HTML TOC will be omitted entirely. (In either case, the logical TOC, a hidden file that informs navigation, is always included.)

When choosing to exclude the HTML TOC, please take into consideration that, although the Kindle Guidelines do not state that it is required, including an HTML TOC is “strongly recommended.”

Vellum 1.3.6 is available to Direct users today. If you are reading this on your Mac, click Check for Updates to download it now.

Update 3/16: Amazon has since posted an announcement stating that “absent any other issues of quality, locating the TOC at the end of a book is not in itself outside of our guidelines.” Given the severity of Amazon’s actions (which included citing these guidelines), we are waiting for more information before making any further changes to Vellum’s behavior.

Vellum 1.3.5

We’re pleased to announce the release of Vellum 1.3.5, a minor update with the following new features:

  • Optionally use your own URLs for Store Links, should you want to create an evergreen link or use an alternative linking service.

    Custom Store Links

    You can read more about Custom Store Links on our Store Links Help Page

  • Use the right mouse menu in the Text Editor to Apply Smart Quotes to a selection

Vellum 1.3.5 also includes these smaller improvements:

  • Improved legibility of the Trace book style on eInk readers
  • Restored missing Paragraph After Break style for Trace
  • Fixed TOC layout issues for multiple-author anthologies
  • Improved sorting when dropping multiple Word files onto the Navigator
  • Fixed potential crashes when creating Store Links

Updating

This update is available to Direct users today. If you are reading this on your Mac, click Check for Updates to download it now.

If you downloaded Vellum from the Mac App Store, then this update will be available after it is approved by Apple, a process that typically takes about a week. To learn more about how to upgrade to this latest version of Vellum, please read our guide to Updating Vellum.

Update 3/4: Vellum 1.3.5 is now available from the Mac App Store.