When it comes to books nowadays, you’ll hear many terms thrown around pretty regularly:
Ebook, PDF, Kindle, Nook, ePub, .mobi…the list goes on. We don’t blame you for being confused…it’s confusing.
Don’t fret, we’re here to make some sense of this stuff for you.
Luckily, despite the confusing terms, dot-whatever file types and cute device names, there are really only three different electronic book formats we need to worry about. Let’s look at each of these.
But first, we best play Socrates and clarify our language and terms a bit.
Standard Electronic Book Definitions
Ebook: Generically, ebook just means “electronic book.” That means it’s read on a computer or hand-held device. If what you’re reading is on a screen of any type and not on paper, it’s an ebook.
However, when you see “download my new ebook” on the internet, about 99% of the time that means a PDF document (.pdf file type). A .pdf (Portable Document Format) is a document that can be read with Adobe Reader, Preview on a Mac, and other software. Pretty much any computer in the universe, brand new off the shelf, can open and read a .pdf.
Kindle: A Kindle is a hand-held book reader. It reads many different file types, but its favorite at this time is a known as .mobi. That’s the file type that offers us the best control over how the Kindle actually presents the written work.
Now, when people want a book for their Kindle, they usually don’t say “ebook” which fairly universally means a pdf. Instead they’ll specifically ask for a Kindle book or say, “Can I get this on my Kindle?”
Nook: Nook is much like Kindle, in that it’s another hand-held reader. However, it does not use .mobi files like the Kindle does. Instead it uses .epub files.
So much for the semantics. What’s the real difference between these?
A .pdf ebook is a fixed document, much like a magazine is fixed. We all know that once a magazine is printed, its words and images stay put forever after. The text will never grow or shrink in size and one column of text will never magically become two columns. It’s set in stone.. Er…paper.
A .pdf is the same. Once a .pdf is created, it is fixed in layout. Yes you can zoom in and out, but that’s really just the equivalent of holding a magazine closer to your face. Unless you’ve got really bad breath, it doesn’t change the document one little bit.
But…Kindle and Nook books are different. They both have a resizing text feature, meaning users can make the text bigger or smaller to accommodate their vision and reading comfort.
Because of this resizing, text will flow differently from page to page. If, for example, you increase the text size, fewer words will now fit on the electronic “page”, so text that was once on page 5 might end up on page 6. Make sense?
Because of this fact, Kindle and Nook books require a bit of a special touch when it comes to layout and design. Once the text starts moving about, obviously so will chapter beginnings and endings, page breaks, etc.
I hope that brings a little clarification to the e-book confusion.
But what do I need? An ebook or Kindle book or…?
Now, one last thing. We get a lot of questions from clients, writers and business owners about what they really should be offering their customers. Do they just need a pdf ebook, or something set up for the Kindle and Nook?
The answer is yes, all of the above.
Honestly, it’s just better to have them all. If you’re selling an ebook, some of your customers will only read it on their computer screens (like I would). Others will only read it on a Kindle (like my father would). But then other folks will read some of your ebook at home on their computers, and then want to read the rest with their Kindle on the subway. So give them both. It can’t hurt.
Bonus benefit of having each format is that you can feature it on your sales page, in the selling-points of your book. Something like this will do quite nicely and actually improve sales:
“Each electronic download comes bundled with a .pdf as well as both Kindle and Nook formats! You can read it anywhere you wish on any device.”