Tech Victory: Sermonizing with Tablets and Kindles

by admin

For over a year I have been enamoured with the idea of preaching from a tablet.  I bought a tablet – an ASUS Transformer Prime, and proceeded to attempt to set it up to be a preaching tool.  Unfortunately I could not get it to do what I wanted, too much of my work still needed to be done on a PC so I retired my tablet, and resold it.  I had bought the same tablet for Cheryl but it stayed around.  I became convinced that tablets weren’t strong enough platforms yet for what I wanted to do – to basically be a replacement for my laptop.

Not that kind of tablet.

However, I still really loved the experience of reading ebooks on tablets.  I became convinced that a Kindle was the better option for me.   Just this week, I managed to convince my wife of this, but I had a problem.  I planned to do my Sunday message from the top of a ladder, and I couldn’t have my laptop up there.  It was either memorize my message, or figure out how to make a tablet work for a preaching platform.

Now, before I get any further, I will say this: I am a bit of a rebel pastor.  I refuse to jump on the Apple bandwagon.  So before you start telling me how much simpler my life would be if only I bought an iMac, Macbook Pro and an iPad (which, by the way, they don’t sell as a discounted set for pastors – I’d be looking at shelling out in the neighbourhood of $3000 for such a package, to say nothing of the purchase of a new version of MS Office for Mac, Logos for Mac, and so on and so on…) needless to say, as a church planter of a yearling church, I don’t draw the salary to be able to afford such extravagances, and am not convinced that they will do what the many Mac evangelists in my life claim they will do.

What I have done takes a PC desktop or laptop, MS Office, and a 10″ tablet of any variety. And I mean any.  You can use an iPad even, if you want (I promise I will try not to judge you.)  The end result is you will take your document prepared in the word processor of your choice, and convert it into a perfect Kindle book, where you can repaginate based on your font sizes, and adjust the margins, font sizes and all other Kindle-tweakable settings you want, allowing you to read, at a glance, your notes while holding your tablet or reading it off a table.  

Here’s how.

First, install the Kindle App to your tablet.  It’s free, so don’t sweat the price.

Then, open up your prepared sermon notes in MS Word.  It shouldn’t matter if they are point form, outline form, or full script.  If you don’t have MS Word, you could use any word processor, like Openoffice (Now Libreoffice), or even Google Docs, as long as you can export your file to PDF format.

Next, export to PDF.  It does not matter what font size you use, what justification you use, how big your margins are.  This is HUGE because most people I talked to told me I’d just have to trial and error font sizes and margins until it fit properly on  my tablet.

Next, install Calibre.  Calibre is a free utility for all kinds of platforms that allows you to convert between ebook formats.  Presumably this would allow you to take Kobo books or Nook books or Kindle books and switch between formats, so you don’t need a half dozen different ebook readers on your device.  But for our purposes, PDF is an ebook format, and this tool will let us move beyond the hardened, static font size and page formatting that PDF uses.

Calibre is simpler to use than I initially thought.  The conversion happens so fast that initially I thought I had done something wrong.  You can choose what platform you want to export to but as I discovered it doesn’t have that much effect on the end product.

Click Add Books, and choose your PDF file.  It should then appear in the central pane.

Select your imported PDF from the central pane then click Convert Books.  It will open a new pane where you can set parameters under Metadata, fill in details like author, publisher (yourself), and even set a cover page, which is cool for your own reference.  Under Look and Feel I hit the wizard button to select font sizes, and left most things as they were.

It is important on this screen that in the upper right you choose MOBI format for output.  AZW3 is the official Amazon Kindle format, but for some reason I didn’t have much luck using that format.  MOBI worked like a dream for me, maybe you can get AZW3 to work.

I found the biggest difference maker was Heuristic Processing.  When I turned this on with the default options, it solved the first problem I ran into.  When I first tried importing, the document would allow all the flexibility I wanted but its line breaks were solid, so as I scaled up the fonts, each line broke onto a second line, and it ended up looking like a King James Version Bible.  So make sure you turn this on.

Once this is all done, you should find in your output directory your MOBI file.  The next trick is getting it onto your Kindle app on your tablet (or your Kindle if you want to use that).  There are two options here:  you could brute force it – I have Dropbox, and I just saved it there, then opened Dropbox on my tablet, and opened the file in dropbox – Kindle app fired right up to read it.  Downside to this method – if you close the Kindle app, then you have to open it through Dropbox all over again.  It is NOT in your Kindle library.

The best way is to send it by email to your Kindle app.  This takes a bit of prework to set up but once you have that done this should be a snap in the future.  Basically, you have to Manage Your Kindle at Amazon.com, name the device in question properly so you know you have the right Kindle (there is no limit, as far as I can see, to the number of devices you can have your Kindle account linked to, and this can get confusing as Amazon’s standard format is “Oliver’s 1st Android”, or “Oliver’s 3rd Tablet”.  If you have a history of using different devices, this can quickly get ridiculous.

If you have a Kindle you want to use it should be even simpler.  They are on a separate list.

In this area you can discover the email address for your device.  Once you have that, just bust open your email app of choice, select your MOBI file as an attachment, and send!

Open your tablet, open your Kindle App, hit the little button for the drop down menu in the upper right, and select Sync & Check for Items.  You may want to wait a minute or two before you take this step just to make sure the email has reached Amazon’s servers, but for me is was much less.  But once you do, your sermon should now come up in your book list!  Pick your font size, background, and margins, and start preaching!


2 Responses to “Tech Victory: Sermonizing with Tablets and Kindles”

  1. Valeria says:

    Wow, what a biased rvieew. The Nook Tablet has three hours more reading time, not an hour. It also has page numbers on the books whereas the Fire does not. You can customize your shelves and create your own collections whereas the Fire cannot. The Nook app store has apps that are customized to run on the Nook Color/Tablet. The Amazon app store might offer more apps, but they are mostly for smartphones and not tablets. They have very few apps that have been tailored for the Fire.

    • admin says:

      I never set out to write a review for anything, only explained what tech I use. In fact, I don’t use a Kindle Fire. I use a Kindle Paperwhite, which in my extensive research, the backlighting is significantly superior to the Nook’s version. That said, you can substitute a Nook for a Kindle quite easily. The Calibre program converts to the .mobi standard which is equally portable to the Nook or the Kindle or the Kobo (a common device in Canada, not sure about the USA). As an aside, I deliberately did not go for the Kindle Fire because I didn’t want the app markets at all. As I mentioned in my article, I had already concluded that the tablet market isn’t for me – too much distraction. When I want to read I want to read without being pulled at by all kinds of alerts and notifications.

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