Ebook, PDF, And EPUB: What Is The Difference?: A Guide For Self-Publishers

Updated on October 21, 2015

What Is An Ebook?
Ebook is short for “electronic book”. An ebook is simply a book that has been formatted so that it can be read on a screen. Until recently, ebooks were typically limited to being read on computer screens and the larger reading devices. Now, more than ever before, ebooks are being developed exclusively for the screen, and not for print. But now, the term ebook is being used as a generic term for any electronic book, whether it is in the PDF format or EPUB format. The term “ebook” will remain with us even after the EPUB format becomes the standard for the publishing industry.

Linkedin - Ebook, PDF, And EPUB: What Is The Difference?

Linkedin – Ebook, PDF, And EPUB: What Is The Difference?

Open Format Vs. Closed Format
You must understand the difference between “open format” and “closed format”. “Open format” means that a wide range of reading devices can display the publication. “Closed format” means that the publication can only be read on the device that it was downloaded onto – meaning it is proprietary to one company. Amazon’s Kindle uses a closed format, which means that publications must be downloaded to the Kindle or can only be read on a computer or smart phone if the Kindle app is installed.

What Is PDF?
PDF is short for “portable document format”. It is a computer program that formats a document to make it easier for computers to share the documents while still retaining the original formatting (fonts, text, images, etc.) – almost like a photocopy of the original document. PDF is the default format for static documents. The PDF document is indifferent to the device that it is displayed on or the operating system (Apple/Microsoft) that is used. It is the standard way for people (businesses, colleagues, clients, students, etc.) to share electronic documents – and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Until recently, exporting a publication to PDF was the traditional way to create ebooks. The problem with eBooks created with PDF is that they can be difficult to read on a small screen, such as on a cell phone, because the text and images don’t flow gracefully enough to be read on a small screen.

Business2Community.com - Ebook, PDF, And EPUB: What Is The Difference?

Business2Community.com – Ebook, PDF, And EPUB: What Is The Difference?

What Is EPUB?
An EPUB is short for “electronic publication format”. It is a computer program that formats a document to make it easier for computers and small-screen devices to display readable text – it makes the text adapt to every screen size. It can do this because it is similar to a web page; and an ebook reader is similar to a web browser. EPUB is the default format for re-flowable documents. The EPUB format is quickly replacing PDF as the standard for eBooks. PDF will remain the standard for document sharing for MS Word and Excel documents, for example. EPUB is becoming the publishing industry standard because it was designed to make a book’s content “reflowable” irrespective of the size of the screen of the ebook reader, portable/mobile device, or computer screen. The most important point is that EPUB is becoming the standard “open format” for the publishing industry and quickly becoming the standard for most reading devices.

“Thank you, Joseph. This is just what I am looking for. Great post. I am a new indie author of children’s books, and have developed my own website/blog/store. Now trying to learn how to market on a shoestring. Also trying to find good people to follow. You are now on my list.” Joyce Crawford

What Is MOBI?
The MOBI format is basically Amazon’s proprietary version of the EPUB format. As an author and self-publisher, you don’t need to be concerned with this. When you upload your .doc file to Amazon, they will automatically convert your book into the appropriate formate for the Kindle. There are also other ways to convert your files to the Kindle/MOBI format, and then upload them manually to Amazon. But from my experiences, Amazon does an excellent job with the conversion.

What Does This Mean For A Self-Publisher?
As a small publisher it is essential that you prepare all of your publications for print and screen. You will need to be very familiar with both PDF and the EPUB format. But most importantly, Amazon makes it very easy to upload and convert your books to be listed and sold in the Kindle format. Fortunately, there is only a very small learning curve to become familiar with each format. With a little effort it shouldn’t be too hard to learn about, understand, and use all formats. But learn them you must, because PDF is essential to running your publishing business, and EPUB and MOBI (Kindle) is becoming the standard format for ebooks within the publishing industry.

This article is also posted on LinkedIn.com
This article is also posted on Business2Community.com
Learn more about epublishing at MobileRead.com
Read about all things InDesign at InDesignSecrets.com
This articles is also posted on EzineArticles.com

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About Joseph C. Kunz, Jr.

Author, educator, business owner, husband, and father of twins. Kunz’s mission is to help others profit from their skills, knowledge, and experience - achieve success with writing and publishing non-fiction, and grow an audience of people who know, like, and trust them. Kunz is the founder of Dickson Keanaghan, LLC, a medical training and publishing company near New York City.
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36 Responses to Ebook, PDF, And EPUB: What Is The Difference?: A Guide For Self-Publishers

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  2. Zyla says:

    Thank you for being clear and concise. Zyla

  3. Excellent post. I’m facing some of these issues as well..

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  5. balu says:

    Very nice article… Got a clear idea of these formats….

  6. rachana says:

    Nice article! everything is specified very clearly. Thank you.

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    something related to this blog post, “Ebook, PDF, and EPUB:
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    • Hi Jamaal. When you base your writing on another source, it is best to re-write it using your own words. Re-write it so that it better reflects what you are trying to tell your audience. Re-write it so that your particular audience will understand it better. If you quote directly from another source, it is best to mention and link back to the original article. I hope this helps.

  8. Tim Blake says:

    Thanks Joseph for clearing this up. I haven’t yet produced a publication using EPUB format, but will be adding it to my repertoire.

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  20. Thank you, Joseph. This is just what I am looking for. I had epub trial, but I think I will purchase my own. Great post. I am a new indie author of children’s books, and have developed my own website/blog/store. Now trying to learn how to market on a shoestring. Also trying to find good people to follow. You are now on my list. Would love for you to visit my webpage joyceandthelma.com

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