eBook publishing is a relatively new field, and a standard format has not yet been established as ‘the best way’ to publish an eBook. What we have instead is a myriad of format options which work on different devices and programs, and navigating through them can be damn confusing. (Even I got a little confused while researching this article!).
Making a decision on a format that’s right for your upcoming release really comes down to how you want to distribute your eBook, what you want it to look like, how you want readers to use it, and a ton of personal choice.
PDF (Portable Document Format)
Where you can read it: Any device with Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader (computers, iPads/tablets, smart phones) and through Apple iBooks
PDF eBooks are my specialty and, I think, a really great option for self-publishing. PDF is a format most people are familiar and comfortable with, and because it is considered a static format, you can go wild with the design aspect as it will look the same across all devices. PDF eBooks are the sexiest ones! You can integrate interactive clickable content and fill-able worksheets or forms.
They’re also great because you can self-manage them – sell directly from your blog or website, and get 100% of the profits.
ePub (Electronic Publication)
Where you can read it: On computers using Adobe Digital Editions, on devices using Apple iBooks or other downloadable reader apps such as Aldiko for Android, Google Books, Kobo eReader (among others)
ePub is a popular option because it is open-source and can be used across a range of devices and readers. ePub is also the only format accepted through iTunes (right now).
This format is created by removing all styling and chapter breaks, before transforming the file to HTML, then converting to ePub. Because it’s ‘barebones’ (i.e. just words) it’s considered reflowable and those reading it can change the format/text size etc. to suit themselves.
If you’re creating an eBook which is mostly text and don’t mind removing any design elements, and are looking to distribute it widely through various channels, ePub could be the way to go. Using commercial distribution channels will take a cut of your profits. The only notable exclusion from the ePub compatibility list is Amazon Kindle.
Where you can read it: Amazon Kindle, or on other devices using the Kindle app
Mobipocket is owned by Amazon and the eBooks sold via Amazon are in this format. Even though it seems strange that one eReader would use a different format to the rest, don’t underestimate the number of Kindles in use (one of the most popular eReaders on the market) nor the sheer number of sales via Amazon.
Mobi is also a text-based reflowable format and supports some images, but is best suited to small screens. Mobi files can be created from scratch in this format or converted from other formats. As with ePub, the distributor will take a cut of the sale price.
Amazon is massive – so if it suits your publication, producing a Mobi version could be a smart move.
How to choose an eBook format
What do you want to do with your eBook? Is it informational and lengthy? Or filled with beautiful image recipes? Or do you want readers to print and fill out some sections?
Take your intentions into account when deciding which format/s suit best. You could always start with the PDF eBook and see how sales go, or bite the bullet and go for all three.
In terms of how to go about it…
Designing and producing PDF eBooks is a service that I provide. They can also be DIY’d – there are a bunch of programs on the market to assist you in creating a PDF, and many word processors will allow you to save directly to PDF as well.
From my extensive googling, it looks as though those of you with technical know-how may be able to work out how to convert documents to ePub and Mobi with certain software programs. There are also plenty of online businesses providing this service.
Stuck in the eBook idea phase? Make sure you download my free Mini Workbook to get clarity now!