Calibre, e-Books and Arabic

I have just dived into the world of e-publishing and e-books. I am most interested in the foreign language support of the various devices, especially for Arabic. My iPad seems to handle Arabic fairly well if the document is first parsed as an xml/html document and then converted to a .epub file. Microsoft Word 201o facilitates this pretty easily with their Save AsWeb Page, Filtered” command [I am still exploring this on the Mac as I have Word 2008 and it only offers the non-“Filtered” mode of saving]. You can take any .doc/.docx file and it will save as a stripped down version of an html file [.htm] [funny enough Microsoft says concerning the “filtered” option:

This feature is only recommended for experienced Web authors who are concerned about the tags that appear in their HTML files.

You mean there are Web authors who aren’t concerned about the tags that appear in their HTML files? Surely they jest. Normally, this makes the hand coder in me cringe at the thought of the kind of code Word will generate [normally, it’s horrible]. However, the tags here are fairly clean. And you can even tweak the code yourself a bit before dumping it into Calibre, my e-Book creator of choice. You can even view an .epub sample here [zipped file].

Microsoft Word 2010's "Web Page, Filtered" version of HTML

All this is fine and dandy for the iPad. The Kindle is a bit trickier. According to, the Kindle DX does support Arabic through either a PDF file or through Amazon’s proprietary software, .AZW. The issue with PDF’s is that they are not scalable and are often a pain in the neck to read [the font renders very small and cannot be changed]. There are a number of converters out there that can go from .epub to .azw but I have not had the chance to try this out yet. One Omani woman has chosen to write about her experience with the Kindle and Arabic language support here. It’s a good read if you’re thinking of buying an e-reader for reading in Arabic. Hopefully in the future, the Kindle will develop a better and easier to implement support for non-Latin languages. In the meantime, I will continue to happily publish to the .epub platform and enjoy native Arabic on my iPad and iPhone.

8 Replies to “Calibre, e-Books and Arabic”

  1. I see the Arabic in your file in Calibre, but on the Nook no dice.

    It’s the same converting your file to MOBI in Calibre and looking at it on a big Kindle.

    What am I missing? Do you actually see Arabic on a device?

  2. Rich. It would seem the key to getting this to work on the Kindle is their .azw file system. I have as yet to get this to work from Calibre, as I don’t think it has the option to export to this mode. It may also require one to send the .mobi file to Amazon, where it gets converted. All in all, this is very poor support for Arabic on these devices [I do not have access to a Nook at the moment to test this]. The iPad/iPod seems to be the only native support of for Arabic in the eReader world.

  3. @Rich – Hmm… I’m not sure. I don’t have any experience with the Nook but I am able to get it to work on my Kindle running Ice Cream Sandwich without any issues.

  4. Are you able to get proper right-to-left spacing and whatnot, or do you have to just do without?

  5. Did you ever figure this out? Kindle now natively supports Arabic book. However, when I use Calibre to side load an Arabic newsource, it renders the words left-to-right instead of right-to-left.

  6. Hey, Peter. It’s been so many years (originally written in 2011) that I have not used Calibre since I published the article. Sorry I can’t be any more help than that.

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