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eBook File Formats

by Ron Kurtus (10 August 2012)

Although there have been a number of e-book file formats available, three main types of e-book files have become industry standards: EPUB, MOBI, and PDF.

Other formats, such as Palm Media PDP, Microsoft LIT, HTML, DOC, and others may still be used, but they are in the minority.

EPUB is the most widely used format, while MOBI is primarily used in the Kindle e-book reader. PDF is used more for sending documents than for use as an e-book format.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.


The EPUB (or ePub) format for e-readers is the most popular format, and is considered a standard for e-books. The format can be read on the Barnes & Noble Nook and Apple iPad, as well as many other e-readers.

ePublishers can convert Adobe InDesign files to the EPUB format. Mozilla Firefox has a plug-in that will convert the files. Mobipocket software also allows the conversion.

MOBI (Kindle)

Unlike EPUB, MOBI (also called PRC) is a "closed format" and can only be used on the Amazon Kindle, MobiPocket Readers, and their respective applications. Some people are turned off by the idea of a closed format, although the Kindle remains the best selling reading device.

The Mobipocket Reader has a home page library. Readers can add blank pages in any part of a book and add free-hand drawings. Annotations — highlights, bookmarks, corrections, notes, and drawings — can be applied, organized, and recalled from a single location. Mobipocket Reader has electronic bookmarks, and a built-in dictionary

Mobipocket has developed an EPUB to MOBI converter called KindleGen.


PDF (Portable Document Format) is a file format created by Adobe Systems to provide a standard form for viewing, sending, and printing documents. It is also a usable format for e-books and can be viewed on most e-readers.

You can create PDF files directly from Microsoft Word documents and Adobe InDesign documents and books.

One negative point of using PDF files in most e-readers is that the text does not flow, and thus font size cannot be not effectively changed.


EPUB, MOBI, and PDF are the industry standards for ebook file formats.

EPUB is the most widely used format, while MOBI is primarily used in the Kindle ebook reader. PDF is used more for sending documents than for use as an ebook format.

Keep up to date with the latest technologies

Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials


eBook Formats - eBook Architects

EBook File Formats - Blog

How You're Gonna Get Screwed By Ebook Formats - Gizmodo

Comparison of e-book formats - Wikipedia

How to Produce and Sell eBooks: SPAN’s Tips and Best Practice - SPAN

Publishing Resources


Top-rated books on Self-Publishing

Questions and comments

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School for Champions

Self-Publishing topics

eBook File Formats

Self-Publishing topics

Initial considerations

Start publishing business


Structure of book

Design book

Design cover

Publish hardcopy book

Publish e-book

Prepare to market

Convert format

Check Copy in eReader

Distribution and sales

Sell books

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