ePub vs. MOBI vs. PDF: Which format should you use for your eBook?

If you’re an author, I’m sure you’ve considered self-publishing your book as an eBook. You’ve probably read some pretty inspiring success stories about authors who have sold a substantial number of books on the Web. And even those who haven’t sold very many at least were able to get them online and out in front of the public. That might not have happened if they were still trying to get their books accepted by acquisitions editors at traditional publishing houses.

But deciding to self-publish an eBook seems to lead to a lot of questions, many of which we hope to answer in future posts on this blog. One of the first things you’ll have to decide is which format you want to use to publish your eBook. The most-common formats are ePub, MOBI (used on Kindle) and PDF.

Pros and Cons of PDF

The format you’re probably most familiar with is PDF (Portable Document Format) since that’s the file format used with Adobe Reader, which is installed on most computers. So it might seem that it would be your best bet, being that almost anyone with a computer can open a PDF file. But think again…

Try opening a PDF eBook on a phone and you’ll see the problem. PDF files contain t static text, so if there are 400 words on a page when you create it, there will be 400 words on a small iPhone screen. Obviously the text will be too small to read, so you’ll have to enlarge the page. And then you’ll have to move it around with your finger in order to read everything on the page. If you own an iPhone, try downloading our Tips for Authors Creating an Index which is available as a PDF. Or borrow a friend’s iPhone and try it out. You’ll quickly see what I mean.

Benefits of ePub

On the other hand, text in ePub books is not static. Instead, it flows. ePub eBooks display as much text as will fit on the screen, depending on the text size the user has chosen. So all the user has to do is read and flip pages. Very nice. MOBI does the same for eBooks on the Kindle.


As far as the differences between ePub and MOBI, they are very different, technically-speaking, but not so different for the reader. ePub tends to format books in a way that looks closer to what the author initially sets up than MOBI does, especially with spacing. And MOBI files of same books tend to be quite a bit fatter, sometimes double in size. However, if you want to sell your book on Amazon, then it needs to be in MOBI format.

Deciding on a format

Still unsure about which format you should use? If you want to reach readers who will read your eBook on their computer, then your best bet is PDF. If you want to reach those who will read on their iPhone or Android phone then you’re better off going with ePub. And if you want to sell to Kindle users, then MOBI is the format to use.

But wouldn’t you rather reach them all? So why not make your eBook available in each of the three most poplar formats? Considering how cheap it is to produce eBooks, it makes sense to publish your eBook in a way that makes it accessible to anyone who wishes to read it.

How do you go about publishing in these formats? We’ll answer that in an upcoming post…

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  1. Calibre is a great application for organizing your eBooks. It can automatically sort your books by their metadata, and even display their covers in a Coverflow-style viewer. Calibri makes it simple to read your eBooks in any format you need. It is a project that is in constant development, and updates regularly adding better stability and features. Whether you want to ready your PDF eBooks on a Sony Reader, Kindle, netbook or Smartphone, your books will now be more accessible than ever. And with thousands of free PDF eBooks out there, you’ll be sure to always have something to read. But first, you’d better understand the difference between: PDF, ePub and iBook.(http://www.vibosoft.com/ebook/convert-pdf-to-epub-mac-windows.html) I have a cookbook that is in pdf format with all the links between recipes and index/contents done. As there are 275 recipes, this took a lot of work.

  2. The way I go from Mobi > ePub is to use Calibre to convert, use Modify ePub to put in the cover and then use Sigil to rename the files and clean up the code/CSS. I find that’s the easiest way to do it, youc an also try Coolmuster ePub converter: http://www.coolmuster.com/epub/mobi-to-epub.html

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  4. Thanks! I keep forgetting which file is which, and your short explanation helped me remember which one is for amazon. The example of opening a pdf with 400 words on it on a phone really clicked too.

  5. Thank you so much for a well-written article on a very important subject! You are gifted at being informative and easy to understand. I am a new eBook author and did not understand ePub or MOBI. Excited to read more of your articles. Keep up the good work!

  6. Love your explanation on types of eBook formats. My current eBook is in PDF format. Looking forward to your upcoming post about publishing in ePub and MOBI.

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  13. very nice article. Actually ePUB and mobi only for kindle user. Amezone kindle can support epub and mobi format.

  14. Lame article, there are a zillion ways to read PDFs, you do not need Adobe reader what-so-ever.

  15. Sumatra reads all 3 file formats

  16. what about the FB2 format, is it better than epub or is epub better than FB2 format of ebook that’s an question I tried to search without much luck, any ideas about the FB2 format, I know calibre can convert epub to fb2 but is their any reason two, and if so, whats the best converting settings for FB2 format?

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