Use of Unicode in Kindle Formatting Is Incomplete!
Writing this post has certainly clarified my own thinking. I hope it’s helpful for other people.
By now most of the people reading this post probably know about my problems with using Wingdings symbols from the Symbols drop-down menu of Word Documents. I used them as link signs in my Shshi conlang and also used a couple of them in
!Ka<tá, my Bird language. I picked them out in blissful ignorance solely because I liked the way they looked. They work fine in a Word document and they copy fine to PDF, so they will show perfectly in a printed book. Any of you who wants to see my languages the way I intended them to look will have to get a copy of the paperback.
Putting the book in Kindle is another matter, however. An expert in Unicode gave me a lot of much appreciated advice, helping me discover the Character Map in Word. This can be found at Start/Programs/Accessories/SystemsTools/Character Map. All the characters listed there in the font Arial Unicode MS should show both in internet postings (as on this blog) and (I hoped) in Kindle. However, Wingdings aren’t Unicode at all, so I decided to substitute similar characters that are Unicode, as follows:
↳ (U+21B3) ↻ (U+21BB) ⇄ (U+21C4) ⇅ (U+21C5) ⇞ (U+21DE)
It seemed to work with blog postings (see my sample Chapter 12 on Ruminations of a Remembrancer, where the symbols should show correctly now on all operating systems). So I prepared a sample post for uploading to Kindle. Previously I had done a sample upload using the Wingdings. When you do an upload, you can preview it on a mobi. format (in my case it goes to the MobiPocket Reader), and then you can move it into your Kindle. In my original upload, the Wingdings showed only as the corresponding alphanumeric characters. In the sample using the Unicode substitutions, the only character that showed was ↳(U+21B3). The others all showed as little squares with question marks in them, or in one single case, just a really tiny empty square.
Awhile back I asked Kindle about the Wingdings problem and they replied by sending me a PDF copy of the “Kindle Publishing Guidelines.” At the end is a list of the Unicode symbols that they accept. So this morning I did some comparison. Kindle lists the symbols sorted by the Unicode number, just as the Character Map does. And of the ones I wanted to use, only ↳ (U+21B3) is present.
Just for curiosity’s sake, I also tested out the Symbols drop-down menu (using Arial Unicode MS [Unicode (hex)]), as well as the Font drop-down menu (Arial Unicode MS). Both of these got exactly the same result – nothing showed in Kindle except ↳. But it’s interesting to learn that these two methods seemed to produce Unicode characters. I haven’t tested yet whether they would work with web postings on all operating systems.
!Ka<tá also uses two arrow symbols (↗↘2197 & 2198) that don’t appear in the “Kindle Publishing Guide,” but since these don’t happen to be used in “The Termite Queen,” I’m ignoring them for the moment.
I have not tested any of this on Smashwords, but they told me they can’t take “symbols”; they will show as question marks. I don’t know if that includes Unicode. I’ll probably test it out someday when I have time.
So I would suggest that when anybody is constructing a language, if you want to publish it on Kindle, get a copy of the “Kindle Publishing Guidelines,” be sure you’re familiar with Unicode, and pick only symbols that are in the guidelines.
The best alternative would be if Kindle decided to include all Unicode characters in its font. And I would really like to see the various Wingdings character sets given Unicode designations.
So whenever I’m able to publish “The Termite Queen” on Kindle, I’m going to use the method outlined on the 2/18/12 post on the termitespeaker blog entitled “I Think I’ve Solved the Wingdings Problem.” I’ll substitute superscript syllables for the link symbols and explain what I’m doing in a prefatory Author’s Note. (As for what’s holding up the Kindle publication, the permission to publish Robert Graves quotations in e-book format is still up in the air, but that’s off the point of this post.)