What Ebook Formats Are Most Important?

As a blogger it can be hard to decide what ebook formats you might want to put your ebook into. After all, there are way more ebook types than there are web page types. If you create a web page, you can be confident (at least with most blog templates today) that your creative content will be available for everyone. But ebooks offer many different flavors. Some of the most popular ones are:

  • PDF
  • Kindle (also called Mobi)
  • ePub

My Kindle

Outside of the standard formats there are file types that people use for ebooks that aren’t explicitly ebooks, but can be used for that purpose. Format types like Word documents, HTML, and text files are often used to distribute ebooks, even though they are not specifically ebook formats.

And beyond that there are many other formats you can use. As of this writing, Wikipedia lists 27 different types of ebook formats. And the fact of the matter is that all of these formats are used by somebody. So by ignoring them you are potentially ignoring someone who might enjoy your book.

So How Do You Choose?

There are a number of things you can look at to help decide what format or formats is best for your ebook. You can look at your readers or potential readers, you can look at the technology the format supports, or you can look at what you’re comfortable creating.

What Do Your Readers Want?

Ebook readers like the Kindle, Nook, and even the iPad have gotten more popular in the last few years, but in many surveys most people still prefer PDF files for reading ebooks. PDF files (Adobe Acrobat) files have an advantage over many other ebook file formats because they have been around for a long time. Nearly every computer on earth has a PDF reader, and if they don’t it’s available for free. Plus, most people are familiar with PDF files and how to use them. They know they can print them or read them on their computer or mobile device and they know that they work.

ePub Logo

Giving your readers the format they prefer is a good choice, and if possible you should find out what that format is so that you can provide it to them. But if you don’t know what your readers would want, starting with a PDF file is a good choice while you do a survey to find out.

But there are reasons to choose other formats rather than (just) PDF.

What Do the Different Formats Offer?

The technology available inside the different formats can make some more preferable than others. For instance, some of the technology I look for includes:

  • DRM While I don’t always want digital rights management, I often want to know if the format supports it or has it turned on. PDF, Kindle/Mobi, and ePub all have DRM that can be turned on if necessary.
  • Multimedia Multimedia like images and video can turn an ordinary book into an extrodinary one. And while all ebook formats (other than plain text) support images, video is not as widely supported. PDF, Kindle/Mobi, and ePub all support video, but some depend upon what eReader is viewing them.
  • Bookmarks Bookmarks make it much easier for the reader to use your book, but they aren’t always supported. For example HTML ebooks don’t have reader-created bookmarks unless the ebook author can write a script to do it. PDF, Kindle/Mobi, and ePub all support bookmarks, but again may not have them depending upon the eReader being used.

Another aspect of the technology that might make you choose one over another is whether it’s an open standard or not. PDF and ePub are both open standards while the Kindle/Mobi standards are not.

But the main issue with technology is what devices your readers are going to be using. If your readers use a Kindle device then you should create a Kindle or Mobi file (or both), if they use a Nook or a Kobo then ePub might be best. Most tablet devices like iPads and Android tablets have apps for Kindle/Mobi, ePub, and PDF, but you’ll find that they often prefer one format over another.

What Is Easiest for You?

When choosing a format, it often comes down to what format you find easiest to create. This is another reason why PDF ebooks are so common. Many software programs like Word will print to PDF. Macintosh computers will print to PDF right from the print screen. And there are many HTML to PDF converters that you can use online.

But with a tool like Calibre you can convert almost any ebook format into almost any other format. Because of this great tool, I recommend that people create their ebooks in at least three formats: PDF, Kindle/Mobi, and ePub. It is easy to create ebooks from HTML and then you can convert that HTML to ePub and PDF within Calibre.

About Jennifer Kyrnin

Jennifer Kyrnin has been teaching people how to publish online content since 1997. She writes the About.com site about HTML and web design. She has published several books on web design and writing online and has assisted authors in creating ebooks and publishing their work and making money doing it! She loves to read, write, ride her horse, create artist books, and play with her son.

One thought on “What Ebook Formats Are Most Important?

  1. Probably the most important eBook formats are those needed to a reader for its portable device, but mobi format seems to be a very common format used by people. Indeed, there are some tools out there to convert pdf files to mobi/epub formats, but I would suggest kitpdf.com tool for making pdf to your eBook format.

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