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The Most Popular Ebook Formats

Today an e-book reader is not necessary to enjoy all sorts of content. More and more people are reading on mobile devices, PCs, and even smart TVs. However, we also reach for dedicated devices. With so many e-book formats available, finding the best format can often be a complex task for everyone. Especially if you’re an ebook creator and want to publish interactive content online – which format should you choose for publishing ebooks?

ebook formats

Let’s dive into the most prevalent e-book formats, exploring their characteristics, pros and cons, and compatibility with various devices. We’ll explain the difference between EPUB file format and MOBI files and why one is outdated in 2023 – and much more!

Choosing the right ebook format

Creating an engaging and user-friendly e-book is key if you want to share your content in this form. The ebook format you choose plays a key role in ensuring that your work reaches its audience and provides an optimal reading experience for various ebook readers. There are many various e-book types, and if you want to learn what is an ebook and how to choose the right file format for your work, read the guide in our Knowledge Base.

Ebook file formats are not just a matter of file extension – they determine how the file is read and the information stored. PDF format can’t be easily transformed into a MOBI file, but it’s possible with EPUB files.

Before you pick the ebook format you want to use, consider your target readership and whether you want to reach e-reader users or people who consume your content online. The ebook format you choose must integrate seamlessly with popular platforms such as Kindle, iBooks, Nook, Kobo, and Google Play Books. You should ignore the LIT format, for example, since very few contemporary devices open that.

woman reading digital magazine on mobile device

The ebook file size is another major factor for many readers. Choose an ebook format that uses efficient compression techniques to minimize file size, enabling faster downloads and reducing memory consumption. This will make your e-book accessible and convenient for readers on a variety of devices.

Choosing ebook formats is just one issue that you need to consider if you want to publish your content online. You need to take care of Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection, the price, and whether you’ll offer POD (Print On Demand). You’ll find more information in our Knowledge Base in our guide for self-publishing.


Popular ebook formats for creators

1. PDF (Portable Document Format)

PDF (Portable Document Format) was created to ensure consistency across devices so that content remains visually identical regardless of the reading platform. If you don’t have a font installed on your computer, it will be incorporated into the content of the document. Unlike the other ebook formats, PDF file offers a fixed layout – which means that the page will not size itself for the device screen. It should display the same whether on an ebook reader or a computer screen.

PDF works best for elements that combine graphics with text, like reports or comics. Although it lacks the interactive elements of formats like EPUB, it remains a great choice for digital versions of documents that require precise formatting and layout.

reading ebook

Best for: technical documents and presentations that require precise formatting.

Pros: consistent visual presentation. Maintains original layout and formatting on a variety of devices. Most devices open PDF, including Kindle reader. It’s probably the most common ebook format online.

Cons: limited interactivity. Lacks interactive elements such as embedded audio or hyperlinks. This may result in large file sizes, especially for documents relying on graphics.


Interactive PDF/HTML5

Thanks to new mobile technologies, converting PDF ebooks into user-friendly formats is now a breeze. Online flipbooks relying on HTML-5 technology offer a great solution that enhances the quality of PDF file format. New ebook formats from Publuu allow you to fully utilize the benefits of PDF and add even more features.

Publuu interactive PDFs allow users to embed links, multimedia galleries, quizzes, and YouTube videos – and that’s not all! These features can be a major improvement to existing PDF files, making them more engaging and allowing content creators to deliver a richer, immersive experience to readers.

Publuu’s online ebook example



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Best for: educational content, interactive reports, and product catalogs.

Pros: engaging features like quizzes and multimedia. Great appearance on all devices. Special effects, easy to share and publish.

Cons: requires some extra effort to create. Older devices might not be compatible with HTML5. Viewable online.


EPUB (Electronic Publication)

EPUB format (electronic publishing) is the most popular ebook format, known for its flexibility and support on a wide range of devices, including e-readers, tablets, smartphones, and personal computers. EPUB relies on compiled HTML format and is similar to the principles you know from websites. Like web pages, it adapts to the size of your device – you can enlarge fonts, and the e-reader will display adjusted to your needs devices, unlike the fixed-layout PDF file format.

This ebook file format perfectly supports multimedia content such as images, embedded audio, and hyperlinks, making it ideal for interactive e-books. It embeds digital files as illustrations, rather than integrate them with the text.

ebook reader

Best for: fiction, novels, and extensive reading materials.

Pros: widely supported by various e-book readers, tablets, smartphones, and computers. Multimedia support. Configurable font styles, sizes, and layouts for optimal reading comfort. Good Digital Rights Management options.

Cons: multimedia content can increase file sizes, potentially affecting loading times. Converting EPUB files to other ebook formats may require additional software or tools.


MOBI (Mobipocket eBook file):

MOBI file format (Mobile Electronic Book) used to be Amazon’s proprietary e-book format that was developed for Kindle readers. It offered a more compressed file size compared to EPUB, resulting in faster loading times. However, as of 2023, EPUB became the primary format for Kindle readers. Both new and older Kindle devices already support EPUB – if they have received a firmware update.

A Kindle device or a Kindle app automatically converts EPUB files to AZW file format – which is the actual Kindle format. If you buy a book from Kindle Direct Publishing, it will automatically be imported to your device as AZW files, but most ebooks offered online use the EPUB file extension these days.

Ebook readers

Best for: still compatible with older Kindle devices. You can still use KDP and Kindle Create to publish your own ebooks.

Pros: more or less the same as EPUB file formats. No fixed layout can embed audio files, and so on. Ebook conversion is easy using Kindle tools or software like Calibri.

Cons: disused.


CBR/CBZ

CBR (Comic Book Archive) and CBZ (Comic Book Zip) are commonly used ebook and comic book formats that use compressed archive formats to store image files. An ebook file usually contains individual comic book pages (CBZ is simply a zip file containing comic book pages, numbered 000 to last). These formats are preferred by comic book enthusiasts because they preserve the original panel dimensions and color fidelity. However, many comic book creators offer graphic novels in PDF file format since it offers better DRM protection.

Best for: digital collections of comics, manga, and graphic novels.

Pros: retains original image quality, color schemes, and panel layout; compatible with several graphics editing tools.

Cons: limited functionality beyond basic image viewing; less adaptability to different types of devices than EPUB or PDF; larger file sizes compared to those formats.

e book reader format


Other formats

There are many different ebook formats available online – The Microsoft Reader application wanted to promote the LIT format but it never caught on. DJVU format is similar to PDF files, but it’s mostly used for scans – many book archives and digital libraries use this, and you can find software that converts DJVU to PDF.

Most devices, including Kindle readers, can open .txt files – a plain text file might be often the simplest solution for sharing some content online.


Conclusion

Especially for content creators choosing an e-book format, the key considerations are the group of target readers, the type of content to be presented, and the level of interactivity required.

While there’s no single correct format, it makes sense to opt for one of two formats: EPUB is a universal and widely supported choice, while the PDF ebook file format may be suitable for fixed-format documents. MOBI is becoming less and less relevant for Kindle devices.

Instead, it’s worth choosing interactive features offered by formats such as HTML5, which will help you promote your content in your e-book and take advantage of our offerings. It’s the best ebook format for publishing attention-grabbing ebooks others can easily browse and share.

You may be also interested in:
Ebook Examples
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