Guide to eBook Formats

by / January 19, 2016 Books No Comments

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Remember the days when all you had to do is decide between hardcovers and paperbacks? You either chose the one that looked best in your bookcase or the one that fit better in your backpack. Either way, you had no problem in reading whichever version you decided upon buying. However, if you’re getting sick of carrying stacks of paper around or couldn’t care less about a bookcase, you should learn the basics of ebooks. Not every format is supported by every e-reader, so it’s important to know which is which.

EPUB: The Standard

The epub format was developed by the International Digital Publishing Forum and is one of the most common ebook formats out there. It gained popularity over the likes of PDF in recent years and can be read on a large variety of e-reading software, freeware and gadgets including the Firefox add-on EPUBReader, iPhones, iPads, iPod Touch, the Sony Reader, the Sumatra freeware program, Okular and many more. Ironically, this widespread ebook format is not compatible with the best sold e-reader, the Amazon Kindle, making for a not-so-subtle invitation from Amazon to buy your books from them.

PDF: The Dusty Ancestor

Much like Adobe Systems, the company that created the format all the way back in 1993, the PDF does not bend easily. Actually, scratch that, it doesn’t bend at all. Although it’s still spread all over the Internet, reading PDF documents on smartphones, tablets and e-readers can prove frustrating and runs the risk of damaging your eyesight. That’s because the text does not adapt itself to fit the size of the device, remaining in a rigid A4 paper formar. On the other hand, due to its prolonged life and standardization, the format will be recognized by almost anything, including Xpdf, Foxit Reader, Nitro PDF reader and countless others. Still, since most folk don’t do their ebook reading on a PC with a large enough screen, the PDF makes for a poor ebooks format today. Keep the standardization for things like legal contracts, when it comes to reading we need some flexibility and style.

Mobi: The Upstart

The mobi format for ebooks is not only a fraction of the size of a PDF, it’s by sales the most popular ebook format around. Mobi is Amazon’s exclusive format, so if you have a Kindle, anytime you pay for a book it should be a mobi file. The mobi originated as an extension of PalmDOC and is now fit to run on its own software, the MobiPocket Reader, as well as Amazon’s official Kindle Reader software for PC and smartphones. If your document contains tables and images however, you might have a problem, since they tend not to scale with the size of the font.

AZW or KF8

Although the name doesn’t hint it, azw is an ebooks format closely related to the mobi. In fact, it’s a more compressed and encrypted version of the mobi. You might run into it on the Amazon online bookstore since, well, it’s their format. Since Amazon made it easy to order ebooks online and all their Kindles can connect to wifi, compression and encryption tend to matter. The biggest difference between azw and movi is that all azw ebooks are DRM protected, which means that they remain locked on the account from which the purchase was made.

If you find yourself getting frustrated by all these three letter words and just how compatible they may be with your particular ebooks reading setup, you can always make use of Calibre, a type of freeware that will convert the initial format into whatever type strikes you fancy. However, some PDF documents don’t translate well into epub or mobi.


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