Popular eBook Formats

Much has changed in the eBook industry since we first began publishing electronic books almost 10 years ago.  Devices and formats have come and gone.  Various e-reader devices and reading apps entered the market only to disappear years later.  Others solidified their positions as they gained in popularity.  We can publish eBooks in any of the top formats, depending on your needs.  To determine which format is best for you, please read further.

Adobe Reader PDFpopular e-book formats

For many years, the words “PDF” and “Ebook” were practically synonymous.  Long before the Kindle and Nook were on the market, many people read their eBooks in PDF format – either directly on-screen or by printing them out on paper.  Although not the easiest format to read on a handheld device, PDF files gained in popularity because the Portable Document Format became the preferred digital format for many company and government documents.  Most eBook reading devices are capable of displaying PDF documents without the user having to convert the file.  However, the documents have a fixed design that prevents users from changing font sizes, paragraph sizes and page sizes.  Regardless of their limitations, though, we recommend authors create PDF editions of their books.  Not only are they are such a familiar format, they’re also ideal for use as review copies.

Mobipocket and Kindle AZW

Launched in France in 2000, Mobipocket created one of the first software programs for reading electronic books – the Mobipocket Reader.  Designed for use with Palm, Handspring and other PDA devices, the software was easy to install and displaying eBooks in the early PRC (Palm Resource Code) format.  The company’s website was also one of the first online retailers for eBook titles. In 2005, Amazon bought the French company… perhaps seeking to gain a technological head start in its development of the Kindle, which would be released two years later. The MOBI format is based on XHTML and can include javascript.  It differs only slightly from the Kindle’s AZW format and, like the PRC format, can be read on Kindle devices.  All three Amazon formats – PRC, MOBI and AZW – are capable of working with DRM-encrypted or non-encrypted eBooks.

sony reader eBook format


For years, we early eBook publishers bemoaned the fact that there were so many different formats.  With each new device came a new proprietary format.  From the Rocket eBook’s RB and the Franklin eBookman’s FUB formats to the Microsoft Reader’s LIT and the HieBook’s KML, converting a manuscript to so many different formats would make a publisher’s head spin.  As more and more people began reading electronically, and in a variety of different ways, there were more formats to account for.

The ePub format – originally the OEBPS (Open eBook Publication Structure) format – was developed the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) as an industry-wide standard for eBooks.  First created in September of 1999, it sought to bring some order to the chaos by establishing formatting guidelines for eBooks that could be displayed on a variety of different devices and platforms.  Today’s EPUB format was released in 2007 and allows for both fixed and reflowable content.  EPUB eBooks can be read on Mac and PC computers, Android tablets and smartphones with the appropriate reading apps, iPhones and iPads, and popular e-reader devices like Kobo, Nook and the Sony Reader.