How To Choose an eBook Format

There are currently many different ebook formats from which to choose. As the ebook industry develops, the amount of formats will probably decrease, as some become standard and others fall away. We’ve already seen this happen to some extent with older e-readers being discontinued and their ebook formats disappearing with them.

These are the most common current ebook formats:

PDF — .pdf
EPUB — .epub
Microsoft Reader — .lit
Mobipocket — .prc
eReader (Palm) — .pdb
Kindle — .azw

There are other formats that can usually be read by e-reader devices, such as .txt and Word files, but I don’t really consider those to be actual ebooks. It’s nice that e-reader devices can display those types of files but they’re really just general text files that you use on your computer.

The best way to choose the format that’s best for you is to make your decision based on what kind of computer or e-reading device you’ll be using. Here is list to get you started:

PDF — Windows, Mac, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, Cool-er, Cybook, BeBook, Pandigital Novel
EPUB — Windows, Mac, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, Cool-er, Cybook, BeBook, Pandigital Novel
Microsoft Reader — Windows, Windows Mobile
Mobipocket — Windows, Windows Mobile, Palm OS, Blackberry, iRex iLiad, Nokia
eReader (Palm) — Windows, Mac, Palm OS, Windows Mobile, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad (Apple devices with Stanza)
Kindle — Amazon Kindle

You should always check the tech specs for your particular device to verify the ebook formats that it can use.

eBookMall has a useful comparison chart that shows many devices, the best ebook format for each, and some tech specs like size and weight. Also, there is a huge chart on Wikipedia that shows a comparison of devices and their supported formats.

I used to recommend that people consider whether they need to print the ebook when choosing a format, but so few ebooks are printable now that it’s almost becoming a non-issue. Your best choice for printable ebooks is PDF, but many (if not most) book publishers disable the printing function on their PDF files because they are concerned about copyright protection. In general, if you need a book on paper, it’s best to just buy the paperback.

The formats listed above are the most common that I’ve seen. If you have an e-reader that reads a different ebook format, please leave a comment and mention it. That might be helpful for others who are trying to figure out which ebook format they should use.

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About The eBook Reader

I love reading and I love technology. eBooks are an interesting combination of the two.

6 responses to “How To Choose an eBook Format”

  1. RandomizeME says :

    Well, ePub is supposedly the universal format, with majority of the ebook readers able to read it (especially the mobile or eReader devices).

    But reports about percentage sales from certain authors (James Patterson, JA Konrath etc) show that a vast majority are using Kindle, just because of the popularity of the Kindle device.

    • Eric Stevens says :

      Agree with the previous commenter: ePub is more or less the standard for the non-Kindle/Amazon users out there. And with Apple using epub for the iPad, iPod and iPhone, you can be sure ePub gets an even bigger boost.

  2. ebookliterature says :

    ePub has certainly become a standard. But watch out for DRM … if it’s an .epub file that has to be opened with Adobe Digital Editions, then the devices that are listed in the post will be able to open it, but not Apple iOS devices.

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