An electronic book (a.k.a. ebook or digital book) is a book that can be read on your computer, laptop, mobile phone, tablet, ereading devices, etc. eBooks are available in different digital formats such as MOBI, EPUB, PDF, LIT, ODF, and many others. However, EPUB and MOBI are the most commonly sold by ebook retailers and most commonly read on ereaders and ereading applications. For instance, MOBI files are read on one of the most popular ereaders, the Kindle from Amazon.com.
Why should you publish an ebook? According to Forbes Magazine and Digital Book World, ebook sales made up 23% of total of trade publishing revenues in 2012. Additionally, Bowker Digital Marketing notes that 43% of publishing purchases made by Gen Y (consumers born between 1979 and 1989) were in the form of ebooks that same year. Sales numbers like that should make every author consider ebooks within their publishing plan.
If you’re thinking about publishing an ebook, you need to familiarize yourself with digital formatting, different ereaders and apps, and the types of file formats they use.
Used by Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Nook apps, Kobo and Sony ereaders, and the WaveCloud ereader app (among others), EPUB is considered the industry standard for ebook file formatting. EPUB is an “open standard”, which means it is free, not owned by any one company, and publically available. EPUB has a lot in common with HTML, which makes it a strong choice if you have a lot of specific formatting you’d like to embed. It supports complex layouts, images and embedded fonts. EPUB has “reflowable text”, meaning it allows the text to adapt to the size of the display screen while staying true to the layout and formatting. This allows for an optimal reading experience. An EPUB is simply the most versatile of all ebook formats, and is supported on all major platforms except for Amazon’s Kindle. You can download apps for Nook, Sony, Kobo, and WaveCloud all at the iTunes store and Google Play store, turning any of your mobile electronic devices (laptops, tablets, mobile phones) into an ereading device.
It is no secret that the Kindle has helped Amazon become one of the largest ebook retailers. Kindle and Kindle ereader apps read three kinds of files: AZW, MOBI (short for Mobipocket) and PDF. AZW is proprietary to Amazon, but MOBI (being nearly identical to AZW) is truly compatible with Kindle and Kindle apps and the best choice when formatting your ebook for distribution through Amazon. MOBI files are able to handle fairly complex content, including advanced navigation and indexing, annotations, highlights, and bookmarks. MOBI files also use “reflowable text”, so formats are not constrained to specific pages, unlike PDF. Amazon has made their Kindle reading app available through iTunes Store and Google Play Store, giving desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones the ability to be used as ereaders. If you want to maximize the success of your book, we highly recommend distributing your ebook at Amazon.com.
The format you may be most familiar with is PDF. PDF is a format that is best used on desktops or laptops in an 8.5×11 presentation. It is designed to guarantee identical display no matter what the screen size, which actually makes it more difficult to read on small screens and many ereading devices. Unlike a PDF, MOBI and EPUB have the ability to adapt to the size of the screen and user preferences while still keeping the layout and formats intact.
Authors should make the effort to get books into the major ebook formats as part of the publishing process, in order to ensure distribution by the widest selection of ebook stores. eBook formatting is complicated by three factors: content layout, file formats and Digital Rights Management. If you have questions, or would like to inquire about formatting your manuscript for distribution, please see our Author Services information for ebook Layout and File Conversion.