Kindle First Line Indents

My Kindle First Line Indents are all over the place! 

That's probably the most-often heard cry among Kindle publishers... when they view their eBook -- even though it looked perfectly fine as an MS Word doc.

Some even report going through hundreds of pages and thousands of words, adding or deleting indents line by line.

The sad thing is that it is so easily prevented.

(It's also fixable... just enter a couple of pertinent words into the Search box under the Birds on a Tight-Rope.)

All it takes is an understanding of the Kindle's default first-line indent, and the knowledge of how to work with it.

First, it might help to understand WHY the Kindle imposes that default first-line indent...

Too many people don't realize the necessity of a first line indent, and send their text to the Kindle as one massive glob of words.

To make matters worse, the "default" for Normal Style of MS Word 2003, the most-used word processor in the world, is "no first line indent" and "no space between paragraphs"

(That's because we, as writers, are different, our editors are different, and others have different requirements... by leaving these options open, we can enter what we want there.)

Can you imagine what a couple of hundred thousand words with no first line indents and no space between paragraphs would be like?

The programmers of the Kindle decided that the best solution was to impose a first line indent.

And it does work!

It works if we work with it, that is.

If we just leave it alone, and don't try to help it along with tabs and spaces, our file will be nicely lined up with even and consistent first line indents for all paragraphs.

The programmers, no doubt reasoned... "This will save the necks of those who don't know how to enter a first line indent... and it won't affect those who do know how."


It's that last half sentence that causes all the trouble!

Nobody told us that all we have to do is enter our own first line indent into our paragraph style!

It doesn't matter what you enter... even 1 px will disable the Kindle's automatic first line indent. (And being so small, it will look like no indent at all if you want block paragraph paragraphs).

{Update: The 1 px I mentioned above is the smallest you can enter with Word's scroll arrows; it works, but it is "slightly" noticeable.

A reader of these pages reported that it is possible to enter an even smaller indent if you actually type it in... you can't use Word's up/down arrows.

As a result, I'm offering this update:

The best way (I've found so far) to disable Kindle's automatic first line indent, is to type in a first line indent of "0.01".}

The Kindle's default size of the indent is 48 px... just like MS Word's... but if you want more or less, just modify your paragraph style to suit.

And, of course... don't do anything by hand... let the Styles handle all the indents.

Next... for those who really didn't know how to enter their own first line indents with styles, I'll tell how to "Modify" a style to include -- or exclude --a first line indent.


  1. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  2. The funny thing is, I never knew the Kindle did this until today. I'd already been making EPUBs for a while before I got a Kindle for real-world testing of conversions. Previewer is very helpful but you have to have the real thing for final review, as Previewer has odd areas where it can create a flaw that doesn't appear on a real Kindle or App.

    My habit to overcome was the level of indent I was accustomed to from targeting paper and PC displays. Too deep. The Kindle is subtly narrower than a mass market paperback and overdoing the indent is a waste of space and can lead to ugly lines if they wrap too soon.

  3. @Paul... You are welcome!

    It's amazing how easy it is when you know how, isn't it!


    That default first line indent probably seemed like a great idea to the original programmers of the Kindle software, and it may be fine for the majority of their world of users, but it sure is confusing to those who already know how to handle indents in their documents.

  4. Hi CJ,

    This is really useful. I'm still having a couple of problems when I have a number of paragraphs with speech in them. They appear like a block paragraph instead of the second lines of the speech going back to left align. I've tried to alter the first line to px25 as you suggest but it still isn't changing it when I preview. Any suggestions would be very helpful.


  5. Martin,

    I can't imagine what could be wrong unless you don't have a true paragraph break between paragraphs.

    A manual line break is sometimes used to create paragraphs that are all alike without an actual paragraph break between them.

    Sometimes that is exactly what is wanted, but not if you want each paragraph to be indented.

  6. Thanks so much, CJ. I shall look at the code and investigate further.

  7. Thanks for the inside skinny. Now... about those non-existent paragraph spaces...

  8. Yes!!!! Thank you for your brilliance and wonderful help! I had a lot of trouble switching the indents since on my text I actually needed to select all the text in the document to make it .01px. Just changing it in the paragraph box didn't do it.

  9. Thanks so much for posting this! But how can you go about getting rid of the spacing between paragraphs that shows up on the kindle fire and the ipad? I think it must be a similar idea, but I can't figure out where to start.

  10. Kate,

    I modify my Styles exactly the same way for the Fire as for the older Kindles.

    When I check my results with the new Kindle Previewer, it is possible to check how the file will look on different devices, including the Fire, "old" Kindle, and ipad... and all still require the same steps that are here in these tutorials.


  11. This has been hugely helpful to me - amazing how difficult I found trying to solve it with searches: mostly got frequent admonitions to 'learn HTML', which I will try to do at some point but this saved me a lot of hassle just when it was needed. Thank you CJ

    I set my first para indent to 0.001 just to be safe! Perfect!


  12. Thanks, Joe.

    It is that admonition... to learn HTML... that causes the most trouble for those learning to format for the Kindle.

    Well, maybe it is next after "never ever use MS Word"... when in actual fact, Word is the very best program for the majority of Kindle ebooks.

    Unless a book has elaborate and complex formatting... such as a math book... MS Word will do the job faster and easier than HTML


  13. Hi I indent my paragraph by 0.001 by right clicking on the paragraph in question and clicking the 'paragraph box'. It doesn't work when I preview it however - the automatic indent remains. What am I doing wrong?

    1. Alex,

      You are doing the right thing... you do have to type in the very small indent... as MS Word won't do it for you...


      The proper indent is "0.01" (you were using too many zeroes before the "1", so MS Word just ignores it.)

  14. This is so brilliant, thank you, CJ!!

    One question... for the first paragraph of a new chapter, I like to have no indent, like in my print books. I've tried to do this with a special "first para" Style in MS Word, but Kindle overrides it and puts in an indent. Is there any way to get the first line of new chapters flush with the margin? Thanks! Marius

    1. Marius,

      Yes... for that "no first line indent" style, type in "0.01" for the first line indent.

      That will disable Kindle's indent, but will be so small it's not noticeable.

  15. CJ, this has been driving me slowly crazy for four titles now. I'd been spending hours to find work-arounds until I saw this post. The .01 cm first line indent in the header settings was all I needed!

  16. Not sure if you have to take out the tabs that are at the beginning of each paragraph. I get the .01 thing but not the tabs.

  17. Yes... Remove tabs is one of the "find and replace" items in the "clean up MS Word" steps.

  18. You are a life saver!!! Thank you! Pulling my hair out over this for days.