Which eBook Format Should I Choose?

Which eBook Format Should I Choose?

As distribution channels evolve, the decision about which format is best becomes simpler.

A decade ago, when ePub was new and untried, ebook distribution channels like Amazon and Kobo developed their own ePub standards, which resulted in a confusing array of formats required from publishers.

Today, by contrast, there are only two formats required to reach those channels: ePub3 and PDF.

Here's a breakdown of popular ebook formats and the platforms they serve:

1. ePub This widely accepted ebook format is supported by many reading devices and apps. It's the standard format for the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). Apple Books uses ePub, and many other platforms support it. It's a flexible format that can be generated as reflowable or fixed-layout, depending on the type of content. (See here for more on Fixed layout vs Reflowable.)

As of May 2023, the ePub standard is ePub3.3, described here

2. MOBI/KF8/AZW3 These formats are used by Amazon for its Kindle devices and apps. MOBI is the older format, while KF8 (Kindle Format 8) and AZW3 are newer and support more advanced features. If you're distributing directly to Amazon, they'll often convert ePub files to their proprietary formats. When you use Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform, you can upload an ePub file, and they will automatically convert it.

3. PDF While technically an ebook format, PDFs are not reflowable like ePub or MOBI, which means they maintain a fixed layout regardless of the device or screen size. They're great for content where layout is essential (like graphic novels or magazines), but they might not offer a great reading experience on smaller devices.

Given the above formats, here's a strategy for publishers:

For Maximum Flexibility and Compatibility, start with an ePub file. It's versatile, widely accepted, and can be converted to other formats relatively easily.
For Amazon  If you're publishing on Amazon, they will take your ePub and convert it. However, if you want more control over the final appearance on Kindle devices, you might consider converting the ePub to KF8/AZW3 yourself using Amazon's tools like Kindle Previewer and KindleGen.

For Apple  Apple Books primarily uses ePub, so you're good to go with that format.

For Direct Sales or Specialized Content If you're selling directly from your website or have content where the design and layout are paramount, providing a PDF version might be beneficial. See more below.

In Summary
ePub3 is the most versatile and widely accepted format for ebook distribution. Start with a high-quality ePub file, and then consider additional formats based on specific platform requirements or needs.

    • Related Articles

    • Reasons to Choose DPS

      Format Challenges As outlined here, there is a bewildering variety of ebook and print-on-demand distributors and format choices. Distributor Challenges The same could be said of production options. Every distributor offers to format your manuscript ...
    • A Brief History of ePub Formats

      APLN Reference Over the years, several formats have been developed to facilitate digital reading. Here's a brief overview: Plain Text and PDF: The Pioneers Before dedicated eBook formats arrived, there was plain text (.txt). This format was simple ...
    • Onix Creation for Accessible EPUB Conversion Orders

      ONIX is the universal metadata protocol used by publishers worldwide to support the marketing of books through all supply chains. For every format issued, a separate ISBN is required, which in turn requires an onix record. By the time most books are ...
    • Expanding eBook Distribution with Open Source Technology

      Since the ebook emerged in the early years of this century, there has been an effort, initially spearheaded by the library community, but now more widely recognized, to maintain the develop the "open source" nature of the ebook format for maximum ...
    • The Evolution of ePUB and Case for Accessible ePUB3

      The world of digital publishing has seen considerable change over the past decade; at the heart of these changes lies the ePub format, one of the most popular and universally accepted eBook formats.. The ePub Journey ePub 1 (2007) As a replacement ...