How to Enable Kindle X-Ray: An Author’s Guide

POSTED ON May 13, 2024

Shannon Clark

Written by Shannon Clark

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What is Kindle X-Ray?

Finding ways to engage readers is an ongoing search for many authors. When you understand that connected readers don't just read books but also share them and buy more, finding tools to make this easier is critical to any book marketing strategy. This is especially true for self-published authors who often have to make decisions about the book design process.

One book feature that you don’t hear many talking about (yet) is Kindle X-Ray. Below we'll take a closer look at the Kindle X-ray feature to uncover what it is and how you can set it up on your Kindle book to offer readers an enhanced reading experience. 

What is the Kindle X-Ray feature?

KDP Definition: X-Ray is a unique Kindle eBook feature that allows readers to learn more about a character, topic, event, place, or any other term, simply by pressing and holding on the word or phrase that interests them. Even a few descriptive words can make a big difference to the reader as they try and situate characters or learn more about events or other terms.

If you’ve ever read a nonfiction book and flipped to the back for a glossary or the definition on your computer; or, if you’ve found yourself deep into an epic fantasy novel and run across an obviously made-up word and thought “Wait, what?”, then Kindle X-Ray might be your new best friend. 

The beautiful thing about Kindle X-ray is that it keeps readers on the page, reducing the time spent looking up definitions on other pages or locations. Leaving a page can dampen a reader's experience and can also distract a reader enough to stop reading altogether. 

Who should use the Kindle X-Ray feature? 

One of the great benefits of this Kindle feature is that any author can use it. It is free to use and genre-independent. Here are some use-case examples:

  • An epic, multi-generational novel could use the Kindle X-Ray feature to help readers keep up with a long list of characters and where each one belongs.
  • A beginner's book on investing could provide definitions of investment terms along with author commentary with examples.
  • A grammar textbook with definitions and author comments that provide exceptions to the rules.
  • A fantasy novel with a constructed language could use the Kindle X-Ray as a translation feature.

This accessible feature can be used in any way that you think a reader might benefit from additional information.

How can you enable Kindle X-Ray?

Once your book is published on Amazon, you can enable the X-Ray feature and add content.

  1. Go to kdp.amazon.com
  2. Find the ebook you want to activate X-Ray on and click the ellipses (…) for the drop-down menu
  3. Select “Add X-Ray.” If your book already has X-Ray installed, you can click on “Launch X-Ray” and be taken directly to the author tool.  If it has not been added, yet, Amazon will turn it on and auto-fill suggestions to get you started. Amazon sends a confirmation email once the setup is complete (may take up to 4 hours to process).
  4. Once you receive approval, you can begin adding content. Amazon will use “publicly available sources, machine learning, and excerpts from your book” to suggest content, but you have the option to accept or reject their suggestions as well as add your preferred content. Entries can be up to 1,200 characters long.
  5. This is not an all-or-none feature. You can add your content in one sitting or a little bit at a time. When you’re ready to approve what's been added, click the “Review and Publish X-Ray” button. 

Additional tips for using Kindle X-Ray

  • Kindle X-Ray accepts custom definitions, Wikipedia information, and text-based content for links.
  • You can hide terms but Amazon only recommends this if the information is a spoiler.
  • Once you add the X-Ray feature to your book, it cannot be removed. The content can be changed, but the feature will always remain.
  • If duplicate content occurs, update with new content or “combine terms as aliases.”
  • When Kindle X-Ray is enabled on your book it will show up in the Product Details section
Kindle X-Ray - Product Details On Amazon Showing That Kindle X-Ray Has Been Enabled
  • You can add characters and terms. This allows you to link different versions of a character’s name to one definition. For example, let’s say I have a supporting character in my thriller novel whose name is Adrian Drake but he also has the nickname Dice. I can connect the different versions of his name so whether a reader highlights, Adrian, Adrian Drak, Drake, or Dice, they will all lead to the same character’s description.
  • You can also add author commentary, which could offer the reader insight from the author’s perspective.
  • Updates to your manuscript on the KDP platform can delete X-Ray content, so keep a backup of your definitions and custom content handy.
  • Kindle X-Ray does not work with Kindle for Web but can be accessed on the following devices:
Kindle X-Ray - A List Of Kindle Devices That Can Access The Kindle X-Ray Feature

Takeaways

As a self-published author, whenever you can set your book apart by offering your reader something unexpected, do it! Anything that enhances a reader's experience is always a good thing. Readers remember the little things, and not having to put in extra work to get through a book is something that anyone can appreciate.

Amazon's Kindle X-Ray and other free tools can give authors an advantage but only when they take the time to learn how to use the tools. Offering readers extra content (e.g. definitions, author commentary, etc.) helps to draw them further into your story whether fiction or nonfiction by adding layers to their reading experience.

One of the reader benefits of X-Ray is that once you turn it on, it's always in the background whether the reader chooses to use it or not. So, why not give them a little bit extra, just because? They'll remember it, and what they can't get from others, they'll come back to you for the experience time and time again.

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