Choosing file formats for eBooks

PDFs and EPUB file formats are the most popular formats for eBooks.  If you are selling them already or planning to, here’s the low down on the pros and cons.

PDF (Portable File Documents)

PDF files are very widely supported.  PDF isn’t technically a true eBook, but it’s the format most people are familiar with.

Devices made in the last 10 years come ready with software installed to read a PDF file.  This means your customers don’t need to install any additional software or transfer the content to their e-reader.

The downside of PDF is that the ‘page’ size is fixed.

So if you design your PDF with a large screen size in mind, customers on smaller screens can have difficulty reading the content without zooming and panning.

In practice, since most people now have large phones and small screens account for little of the market so it’s not a big issue.

EPUB (.epub)

This is the most widely supported eBook format.  They can be read on a variety of devices, including computers, smartphones, tablets, and most eReaders – but not Kindle.  All are DRM protected.

EPUB is great for e-readers and e-book software because the text size can be increased without causing any issues, which PDF files are not suitable for.

It’s also generally smaller, though that depends on the format of the images and the specific software you’re using to generate the PDF.  For most ebooks, this difference isn’t too important.

The downside of EPUB files is that they’re not as widely supported by default on devices, so many of your customers may need to install additional software in order to access them.   

Remember Kindle devices don’t support them at all, and they must be converted to MOBI or PDF for them to work there too.

You can offer more than one format

You could make both formats available, and recommend the PDF format for customers who don’t know which to download. 

That way, anyone with the technical expertise and understanding of what an EPUB file is can still use it, but your less EPUB savvy customers will be able to read your ebook without transforming anything.

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