With eBook sales worldwide expected to hit $3.2 billion in 2012 and $9.7 billion in 2016, now is a great time to write and self-publish your eBook.
Taking into account the multiple eBook marketplaces, eReaders, and eBook formats, self-publishing can be a little overwhelming your first time around. One important step in successfully publishing your eBook is to choose the right format.
Researching the various eBook formats can be time-consuming and challenging, but will pay off in the long run, saving you time and money, and giving you larger distribution and greater overall sales.
To save you a little time, here is a comparison of the three eBook formats we consider to be the best for self-publishing, complete with background information on each format, as well as a comparison of positive and negative characteristics.
Leading eBook Formats
With 29 formats listed on the Wikipedia page comparing eBook formats, and many other formats available or in development, choosing the right format for your eBook can be overwhelming. Luckily, the decision is not as hard as it may initially seem when you narrow down the list to the leaders of the pack. Out of the leading eBook formats EPUB, PDF, and Kindle format are the three we believe to be the best eBook formats for self-publishing.
What is EPUB?
+2 EPUB is one of the most widely used formats on eBook marketplaces . This makes it a good choice if you want to reach a large distribution across eBook marketplaces that reach millions of consumers.
+2 The EPUB format currently supports much of HTML5 and CSS3. As stated in the EPUB 3.0 Overview, HTML and CSS are considered to be integral to the eBook format. As eBook reading experiences become more interactive and contain more multimedia content, EPUB’s adoption of HTML5 and CSS3 will enable the creation of rich content experiences.
+1 EPUB has optional support for digital rights management (DRM).
+1 Since EPUB is such a popular format, large marketplaces that use other eBook formats provide EPUB conversion tools for free. Even Amazon offers a conversion tool for the Mobipocket format.
-1 EPUB is not support by Kindle or Amazon’s new Kindle Fire. Amazon, however, still supports eBooks that use the EPUB format by providing a conversion tool for creating Mobipocket (MOBI) and Kindle Format (KF8) formatted eBooks.
-1 Amazon’s EPUB to Mobipocket conversion tool, called KindleGen, does a pretty good job at converting EPUB to Amazon’s Mobipocket format, but it will leave you with touch-up work.
What is PDF?
The PDF or Photo Document Format was created by Adobe in 1993 as an open standard for storing documents. By the the end of the 90s the PDF was one of the most widely used document formats. It remains a prominent format today.
+2 Almost any modern computer already has the software to open a PDF. This opens up distribution possibilities to, literally, anyone with a computer and a web browser, making it great for self-published eBooks.
+2 PDF is one of the formats that printers and on-demand publishing services like Lightning Source and Create Space prefer for printed books. If you’re planning to take your eBook to print, PDF might be a wise choice.
+1 Adobe also provides compression, password capabilities and digital rights management (DRM) for PDF documents. These can be nice features in an eBook format, especially if you are concerned about people illegally sharing of your eBook.
-0 PDFs created without re-flow enabled cannot be resized to fit a variety of screens. When creating your eBook, make sure to enable re-flow so your PDF will be able to be resized for popular mobile devices.
What is the Kindle Format 8?
Kindle Format 8 Positives
+3 Amazon is the largest online retailer in the world. Your eBook sales on Amazon will probably dwarf some of the other eBook marketplaces.
+1 Amazon provides KindleGen a free eBook conversion tool that supports HTML, XHTML and EPUB. This makes it easier to convert books to the new Kindle format.
Kindle Format 8 Negatives
-2 The Kindle eBook format is currently only supported by Amazon’s Kindle Fire, eReaders and smartphone apps. If you want to sell your eBook in marketplaces other than Amazon it might be a good idea to consider going with EPUB or PDF.
-1 Kindle format only supports a limited subset of HTML5 and CSS3. This limits the ability for the format to support next-generation reading experiences.
Choosing Between EPUB, PDF and Amazon Format 8
This eBook formats review should have provided you with a basic understanding of the best formats, and helped you choose the one that is right for you.
Overall, we scored EPUB the winner, PDF a close second, and Kindle Format 8 a far third.
PDF’s massive head start in the 90′s, coupled with the fact that most computers support the format, would have most people thinking it to be the clear winner. However, EPUB edges PDF out in our books because of one fact: With the demand for next-generation reading experiences and the integration of HTML5 and CSS3, EPUB is a better bet for the future than PDF.
PDF is still a good choice for an almost hassle-free eBook format that will get you a large distribution and allow you to go to print with the help of a print-on-demand service like Lightning Source.
In the end, as long as you write a great eBook and chose a format that is supported by at least one of the major eBook marketplaces, you’ll probably do just fine.
Let us know if you disagree, or have another eBook format to suggest, by leaving a comment below.
Photo courtesy of Pen Waggener.