At the first glance, the name ‘eBook’ signifies a book that can be read on any electronic device such as desktop computer, handheld device like smartphones or tablets, e-readers like Kindle etc. However, such a generalization vaguely describes eBook as many other electronic documents start falling under its purview which is not eBook. eBook’s actual definition can be understood when we compare the differences between MS Word file, pdf document and ePub.

what is an ebook

What is an eBook?

An eBook or electronic book is basically a book publication that is composed or converted in the digital format for the ease of viewing on a computer screen or a handheld device. Sometimes, it is also referred to as an electronic version of the printed book. It can contain image, text, or both, and is usually present in the non-editable form so that readers could not potentially change any information without the permission of authors. It can be easily accessed on any e-reader or computer device that is having a controllable viewing screen, such as laptops, smartphones, tablets, computers, etc.

Different eBook types

Once you decide to convert normal book into eBook, you would across different options to choose from.  Before indiscriminately choosing an option, you need to take a break and weigh the various options available. Different eBook formats are present for different book types. If you go for an incompatible eBook version, your readers would feel lost and distracted. Eventually, your loyal readership would decline.

It would be wise to take a look at different types of ebooks so that you can make a conscious decision about the format that best serves your purpose.

  • Reflowable eBooks

    As the name suggests, the content of reflowable eBook appears to be flowing from page to page. This makes the content adapt intuitively to the dimensions of reader device’s screen without anything spilling out of the readable area. Your reader can adjust various settings for optimum reading pleasure. Settings that can be tweaked include size of font, spacing between lines, style and margins. As soon as you change the settings, the content embraces the same and reflows accordingly.

    The flexible approach of the eBook ensures that same content can appear differently to different audiences. On a given device, the length of the eBook may span 200 pages while on another it may be just 50 pages.

    Reflowable eBook is available in 2 formats- .mobi for Kindle readers and epub for Android, iOS, Nook and other systems. Your printed book can be converted into reflowable ebook versions by first converting into PDF format and then into HTML5 and CSS. This is similar to web pages.

    However, if you want the styling of your eBook to be impeccable, you need to hire someone with adequate technical understanding of the eBook properties. This would result in images being positioned strategically, headings being provided in multi-level manner, lists carry bullets, and captions and links properly placed.

    The technical standards governing them are constantly getting updated. The format still suffers from minor limitations like no support for complex design elements such as fixed position content or columns. Text cannot be wrapped around pictures and things cannot be locked in place. Fanciful fonts or color are not displayed by majority of Kindle readers.

    This implies that you still can’t present reflowable eBook with same typographical clarity and typesetting embellishment like a normal printed book. As technical standards are getting improved, texts and embedded images can be controlled in better manner. With release of each new device, sophistication level and styling intricacy increases.

    Reflowable eBooks may be suffering from certain styling related shortcomings, but they enjoy maximum popularity among readers and publishers. This is because readers can exercise significant amount of control on eBook. Due to smaller file sizes, readers can download these eBooks quickly and easily without expending much on downloading.

    All eBook retail platforms support selling of reflowable eBooks. Many eBooks in fiction and non-fiction genres are published in this format. If your printed book is text only or carries in-line pictures of standard type, conversion to reflowable format can be done inexpensively. Conversion of books with complex styling may be a costly affair. A number of changes have to be done before the book can adjust to reflowable format specifications.

  • Fixed layout eBooks

    In this format, content layout and styling remain fixed overall device types. If you want to retain the same feel, layout, and appearance as the printed version, you can opt for this format. Children’s storybooks or recipe books are typical examples of such eBooks.

    Text searching and selection are enabled in this eBook format. Content is not reflowable. This implies that pages won’t intuitively adapt to screen’s dimensions and font type or size can’t be changed. In many ways, fixed layout eBooks resemble PDF format. Content on page 50 on one device would exactly be same on another device.

    Although the retail market space is fast-growing, still fixed layout eBooks can be sold only through chosen retailers. The fixed layout eBook is presently available in 2 major formats- Kindle oriented KF8 fixed layout and Apple supported epub fixed layout.

    Technical experts carry out the optimization of design elements of physical books to render flawless fixed-layout ebooks that compatible with digital readers.  Paginated sections, references, links, blank spaces, trim sizes, etc. are adapted. The process is a complex one. For fonts to be used in the eBook, you can purchase an eBook font license which is expensive. Else, you can choose from free fonts available.

    Text size is the main constraint experienced with a fixed-layout eBook. If you have published a children’s storybook with large font size, the same would appear appealing over a big screen. However, if the reader tries to go through the eBook over the smartphone, s/he would be frustrated. Certain devices with smaller screens allow zooming in of text but that doesn’t render the reading experience interesting.

    The reading device exercises complete control over the aspects of a fixed-layout eBook. Kindle devices except Kindle Fire cannot display color. So, high resolution fixed eBook pages won’t appear aesthetically pleasing to readers. However, as an author, you may not lose heart. IPad and other devices with high-resolution display make the reading of fixed-layout eBooks a thoroughly rewarding experience. The ideal platforms for publishing fixed layout eBooks are Google Play and iBooks by Apple.

  • ePDF

    ePDF cannot be categorized as a complete eBook. It is just a variant of the normal PDF type. The difference lies in the tweaking which is done to make the PDF book easier to read on electronic devices’ screens. ePDFs are not sold or distributed by online eBooks retail platforms.

    However, ePDF has its own set of advantages. You can easily make changes to the printable version of eBook, add colorful images, insert hyperlinks which can be clicked, and insert interactive panels to facilitate navigation. The rising popularity of ePDF can be attributed to the fact that PDF readers like Adobe or Foxit software are available for tablets and smartphones. With the help of ePDF, you can publish and sell your eBooks directly from your own site without having to get the book first converted into different layout through complex procedure and then negotiate for best price with online retailers.

    Compared to other eBooks, ePDFs can be produced easily and inexpensively. The layout of ePDf would be similar to that of printed book just like eBooks of fixed layout. The only disadvantage is that ePDF books cannot be sold through popular online retail platforms. However, readers can go about downloading, saving and reading them from literally any device with PDF reading application. Some readers may face difficulty in reading them on smaller e-devices as every page would behave like fixed image. The large size of file makes it mandatory to have sufficient space on the device for downloading and reading.

Different eBook Formats

There are many eBook formats but we may come across only a few during the course of reading. Although specific format may be popular among readers, they are open to other formats that promise interesting reading.

The formats vary on multiple counts. The capability to present reflowable and fixed layout content is the primary differentiator. Other factors include support for digital copy protection or DRM, multimedia content, images and compatibility with different reading devices.  Some of the commonly used for publishing content are discussed below

  • Plain text or .txt format

    Plain text format, as the name suggests, can only be used for presenting simple text in reflowable manner. It cannot be used for creating multimedia rich content.

  • Kindle based .azw and .azw3 formats

    These formats are unique to Kindle platform. Support is extended for publishing of fixed layout and reflowable content. DRM and interactive content are also supported. Despite such huge potential, the formats suffer only from one drawback i.e. they are readable only on Kindle apps and devices.

  • .epub format

    After the release of 3rd major update of ePub, the format has been conferred with all functionalities of Kindle format. Further, ePub books are readable on all reading devices except Kindle, hence the popularity of this format is more. ePub 2 format is compatible with every old eBook reading device. All new eBook readers except Kindle accept ePub 3 format. With 3rd update, more interactivity can be added to fixed layout eBooks.

    In ePub 3 format, you can embed pictures, sounds and videos. This has made possible the publication of interactive children storybooks and textbooks easier. Support for global language is also offered by ePub 3. Now, Arabic, Chinese and other non-Latin codes can be easily handled by ePub.

  • Mobipocket or .mobi format

    After launching of Kindle by Amazon, the first format supported was mobi. In due course of time, mobi has been substituted with .azw. However, the popularity of mobi has not faded. Support for Mobi is extended by all reading devices barring Sony and Nook readers.

  • Portable Document or .pdf format

    Pdf cannot be technically considered as a format for eBook. However, the format is popular with most readers. The pdf format can be easily printed and can be shared over all platforms in fixed layout manner. Earlier, problems were confronted when presenting text in reflowable manner but it can done now.

7 most popular tools for creating eBooks

  • Adobe InDesign

    Adobe InDesign is a part of Adobe’s Creative Suite. Familiarity with Creative Suite would make it easier to operate InDesign. Else, you should browse through the tutorials available to get handy with this tool. This sophisticated tool for creation of eBooks is more productive if you want to give a refined and professional feel to your eBook with proper styling and attractive graphics. You need a subscription of Adobe’s Creative Cloud plan for downloading and using InDesign. You can pay $19.99 per month if you but annual subscription else you have to pay $29.99 per month.

  • Open Office

    MS Word is usually used for converting .doc or .docx files to pdf. But, you have to spend money for buying MS Word. In contrast, Open Office is available free of cost and supports conversion of documents to pdf. The functionalities are similar to MS Word, hence you would not feel discomfort in using it. After the content has been written and proofread, you can convert the same to pdf from File -> Export to Pdf.

  • Kindle Gen

    It is a command line app. You can convert HTML as well as popular eBook source files into Kindle compatible formats for selling your eBooks on Amazon. Familiarity with usage of command window is expected to operate this tool. The tool comes accompanied with ReadMe file that carries all instructions useful for conversion of files into Kindle Package Format or KPF. The Kindle Previewer can be downloaded along with Kindle Gen to access a user-friendly interface. Conversion of different eBook formats into Kindle becomes a breeze.

  • MS Word

    Microsoft Word is the most popular and widely used document editor. If you are not interested in learning or investing in other tools for publishing your eBook, you can use MS Word for creation of eBook. Support for conversion of doc files into pdf has been integrated within MS Word. You need not buy any add-on. You can also use free doc to pdf converters available online.

  • iBooks Author

    If you want to publish your eBooks only on Apple iBooks store, then you can use iBooks Author to edit and finalize your eBook. The format is compatible with iPad and Mac OS only. Though this format suffers from restrictions, still it is preferable if you want to benefit from the clear retina display feature of iPads. Reading exclusively developed eBooks over iPad is a joyous experience for iPad users.

  • Calibre

    Calibre is basically a free to use eBook management app and viewer. eBooks can be stored and organized within a library using Calibre. Apart from this, Calibre can be used for converting eBooks into pdf, ePub, mobi and various other formats. This is very helpful for beginner authors. Also, many changes can be made to the converted eBook.

  • Scrivener

    If you want to publish screenplays or novels, then Scrivener is suited for your needs. This advanced writing tool allows creation of such content. The content has to be entered in a manner similar to regular eBook. After completing content input, you have to trigger the Compile option for exporting the export to eBook format of your choice. All popular formats like ePub, mobi, azw etc. are supported. The process is not simple but you can find good tutorials regarding the method of execution. The software is not free. You have to pay $40 for the software after availing of one month’s free trial.

If you like to know more about free eBook conversion software go through the article.

Free eBook publishing platforms

  1. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)

It is an online eBook publishing platform that won’t require you to spend even a single penny. It means that setting up an account is free at KDP, and uploading eBooks are even easier.  However, before converting your eBooks, you first need to convert it into Amazon’s proprietary format. Once it is done, you can upload the eBooks and make them available within 24-48 hours.

  1. BookRix

It is another free e-publishing site that allows authors to distribute their eBooks to major online stores, which will provide them a royalty payment of around 70% of the sales. It is completely flexible and risk-free, thereby allowing users to cancel it at any time they want. The community consists of more than half a million of professional authors and readers.

  1. Smashwords

It is one of the top pioneers in the eBook publishing domain and has a large collection of published books that are the works of nearly 40,000 authors. By using it, one can easily publish the eBooks to a wide range of online stores like Apple’s iBook, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, etc.  Apart from uploading, users can also sell and promote their works directly on the self-publishing platform.

  1. Apple’s eBook Store

Users who need to provide maximum exposure to the eBooks can choose Apple’s eBook store and iTunes U. Both the online stores are free to use and require the conversion of files into ePub or iBooks format. The royalty payment provided by Apple to the eBook authors is similar to that of the payment offered to the iPhone and iPad app developers, i.e., almost 70% of the sales.

  1. Lulu Publishing

Lulu Publishing is also among the leading self-publishing eBook industries that offer the worldwide distribution of eBooks. It allows authors to reach their potential readers who are about anywhere with the help of e-readers, tablets, and print devices. Here, users can create eBooks that suit a variety of devices and platforms. It is easier to earn more by selling eBooks through Lulu.


eBooks can serve as a medium of consistent income for you. If writing is your passion, you can transform it into your forte by publishing your ideas in readable manner. If you need any assistance in creating the eBooks reach us we can help you in better manner.

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