After two long weeks of ridiculous credit card troubles, unexplainable interrupted transactions, and some seriously effervescent rage, I finally got my precious Kindle.  “Love at first sight” can’t quite encompass what I -and particularly, my eyes – felt the first time I used that wonderful little machine.

During those two epically horrible weeks, I developed tunnel vision, as I usually do, and aside from fighting with people over the phone and by email, I decided to embark on a quest to find or come up with a way to convert text-based pdf screenplays for the Kindle I was so desperately trying to buy.

Reading from a computer screen causes me severe eye strain.  And my gods, do I have stuff to read! has a great tutorial on how to format text and html based screenplays for the Kindle, and from this tutorial, I discovered Calibre, a free program used to convert documents to Kindle-friendly formats.    This tutorial also uses Celtx, the free screenplay formatting program.  But this tutorial wasn’t quite what I needed.

So I began a series of experiments and found a way that produced good results.

Then I came across an archived post from the forum, where a user posted a way to convert test-based pdf screenplays to Kindle format.  However, when I gave it a try, the resulting file didn’t look like a screenplay at all.  Someone else reported the same problem in that forum, so it’s most likely a system compatibility thing and not a problem with the solution itself.  This solution and my solution share something in common, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Here are two pictures of the results I got.  By the way, I used The Robotard 8000’s awesome screenplays Asshole Ninja and Balls Out as my test subjects:

I used Notepad, Final Draft 8, Dreamweaver (not needed), and Calibre.  If you don’t have Final Draft or prefer Celtx, follow steps 2 and 3 from this guide and then follow the solution.  If the solution works for you, use it, because it is a lot quicker than mine.

This guide will seem very long the first time you try it, but from then on, it’ll be pretty easy.  I promise!

At last, here is the guide:

1.  Create two Final Draft templates, for the Kindle’s vertical and horizontal screen rotation respectively, to make the whole process easier in the future.

  • Open a blank screenplay document in Final Draft.
  • Go to Format=> Elements. Click on the Paragraph tab.
  • For vertical screen rotation, change Indent values to:
    • General:  Left = 0; Right = 3;
    • Scene Heading:  Left = 0; Right = 3;
    • Action:  Left = 0; Right = 3;
    • Character:  Left = 1; Right = 3;
    • Parenthetical:  Left = 0.75; Right = 2.38;
    • Dialogue:  Left = 0.50; Right = 2.50;
    • Transition:  Left = 2; Right = 3;

  • For horizontal screen rotation, change Indent values to:
    • General:  Left = 0; Right = 5;
    • Scene Heading:  Left = 0; Right = 5;
    • Action:  Left = 0; Right = 5;
    • Character:  Left = 1.63; Right = 5;
    • Parenthetical:  Left = 1.13; Right = 3.63;
    • Dialogue:  Left = 0.63; Right = 4.13;
    • Transition:  Left = 3.38; Right = 5;

  • Give each template a proper name and save them as Final Draft Template (*.fdxt).
  • Copy the template files to the Final Draft 8 / Stationary / Scripts folder in your system drive. 

2.  Open pdf in Adobe Reader.

3.  Select text by highlighting or go to Edit => Select All. And copy.

4.  Paste in Notepad, remove unwanted lines of text (like headers and footers), make sure the text begins with a scene heading (INT. / EXT.), and save as text file (ANSI).

Note:  Don’t use the File=>Save as Text command from Adobe Reader.  This will generate unwanted blank pages and rendering problems on the next step.

5.  Open text file in Final Draft as script.

Go to File=> Open=> Browse for text file=> Select Script from the Open File As window.

Final Draft automatically converts the text file back to screenplay format, but corrections might be needed because sometimes Final Draft generates the following problems:

  • If text file doesn’t begin with INT. or EXT., Final Draft formats the first line of text as transition and the next line is formatted as a scene heading.
  • If there’s dialogue in all capitals, Final Draft formats it and the previous text line (character name) as Scene Headings.
  • Mini-sluglines are sometimes formatted as transitions or as character.  When formatted as character, the next line will be formatted as dialogue.
  • If a block of dialogue begins capitalized but continues in lowercase, Final Draft formats it as Action.
  • Dual dialogue gets combined into a single block of dialogue.

Of all the tests I made, I only got a couple of these problems each time.  If you don’t mind some of these issues, don’t make corrections and move on to -

6.  Go to Format=>Elements.  Click on the Apply a Template button.  Find one of the templates you created (whichever you wish to apply), and click Ok.

7.  Save as html file.  Tell it to not break script into several script files.

Final Draft automatically wraps the whole script in pre tags. Pre tags are used in the aforementioned forum solution.  The pre tag is used for preformatted text and preserves spaces and line breaks.    Learn to love the pre tag here.

8.  Final Draft generates some extra code at the beginning and end of the html file.  If you don’t mind it, move on to the next step. 

To remove the extra code, open html file in Notepad or Dreamweaver.

Find and delete this code at the beginning of the document:

Find and delete this code at the end of the document:

And save changes.

9.  Open Calibre.  Click on Add Book, find html file and open.

10.  Click on Convert Books or press the C key.

11.  Set Output Format to MOBI.  On the Page Setup tab, make sure Output Profile is set to Kindle.  Click Ok.

12.  Once processed, transfer to Kindle.

That’s all!

When the Kindle is set to horizontal screen rotation, the horizontal template works well with the third and lower font size settings in the Kindle, but it generates weird word wrapping if font size is set to a higher value.  If you use the horizontal template with vertical screen rotation, the Kindle generates weird word wrapping after the second font size setting. 

When the Kindle is set to vertical screen rotation, the vertical template works well with the fourth and lower font size settings, but it generates weird word wrapping if font size is set to a higher value.  However, if the vertical template is used with horizontal screen rotation, you can go as high as the sixth font size setting without getting weird word wrapping.  

In other words, the horizontal template looks prettier, but the vertical template is more flexible with font sizes. 

I don’t have a Kindle DX, so I don’t know how these templates will work with it.  But you might get good results by tweaking the default indent values in Final Draft.

One final issue:   Kindle renders text wrapped in pre tags as monotype font, which is just what’s needed for screenplays.  But if you use the Go To command in the Kindle and specify a particular location to go to within a text file, the Kindle renders the text with the default Kindle font type and the only way to have it render the text as monotype again is by going to the beginning of the text.  I couldn’t find a solution for this little problem.

Here’s hoping this guide ended up not being too confusing…