Formats and Files. Foes?

Have you noticed that when it comes to the electronic world, no one can seem to get along? Macs and PCs didn’t always want to talk to each other. One word processor didn’t get along with another’s documents. This situation has improved somewhat, but not in the e-reader world.

Adobe’s PDF was one of the first formats that crossed platforms of the various types of computers. PDF is still a popular choice for e-books because it is readable on the popular devices such as the Kindle and iPad. PDF files are now easy to make, not requiring special software, and easy to download from websites.

Beyond PDF, there is little compatibility among the e-readers. Kindle has its own format based on MOBI and doesn’t like EPUB files. iBooks uses EPUB but won’t look at a MOBI file. The Nook reads EPUB files but not MOBI. All three of the popular e-readers do accept PDF files.

If that’s the case, why different formats? Who knows. Why can’t Pages files (a Mac word processor) be read by Word? I would prefer to only need one e-reader or reader app. That’s not the way the system works, though.

What does this mean for you as an e-book producer? Have your product available in the various formats. Make it easy for your reader to use. If you can start only with one file type, go with PDF first. It’s cross platform and makes your e-book available to more consumers.

The other option is to have a third-party handle your e-book for you. There are a number of companies that distribute e-books to the various e-reader outlets.

Whatever method you use, make your e-book available for as many devices as you can.

Do you think the format war come to a truce with one particular format? Who will win?

Comments (2)

  1. Reply

    I would disagree about starting with PDF’s. They are not easily read on tablets or smartphones which are fast becoming the new way people read even leaving ereaders behind. I’d say start with Kindle. All you have to do is have a good clean copy of MS-word and you can use the Kindle conversion app that will accept MS-Word, HTML, PDF, Plain Text, Rich Text. If you have Pages on Mac, simply save the file as .doc and you are good to go.

    Now, I happen to use an InDesign plug in that will create a .mobi file so it goes through the system a bit faster. You can also use a free program called Calibre ( to convert your files.

    Kindle is the largest ebook retailer, the book goes live in about 12 hours, you can optimize your page so your book shows up in the Amazon search engine which reduces the amount of marketing you have to do.

    PDF, you are left trying to sell it on your own. Pub-it by Nook is just about as easy to use. And Smashwords will take convert your file and send it just about everywhere except Kindle. But, even though I own a Nook, I’d suggest the first timer go with Kindle. The marketing is easier there.

    I just got started and have put up 10 titles in a couple of months. My novel has already sold more than all my traditionally published books have in two years. Once you learn the basic formatting, it takes only a few minutes to prepare an upload. There are tutorials on Amazon. But the simple rule is to take your word document, copy and paste it into a plain text editor to remove all the hidden formatting, then paste it back into Word (or Pages), add only the most basic formatting such as Bold Face, Centering and Font sizes. Remove any hard carriage returns you can. Use dashes or asterisks instead of bullets and that’s about it.

    Just saying that from my experience, this is a great way to start. I’ve been very impressed by my results so far. I’m Just getting started and last month I sold close to 200 units. In the last two days I’ve sold another 35. So, it’s much better than I expected. I don’t think I would do that well trying to sell direct from a website.

    • Reply

      Thank you for your comment, Terri.

      I would agree somewhat with your assessment of PDFs on mobile devices. I do, however, read PDFs on both my iPad (in iBooks) and Kindle. The problem arises in how they are formatted (a longer discussion for a later time).

      I initially offered the e-versions of my books as PDF from my website because of the ease in making them available–“save as PDF,” upload to Payloadz (my choice for e-book sales from my website), and start marketing. For me, and maybe others, this is the fastest way to get a product into some readers hands. Converting to a PDF first is also easy for someone who has a print book already fully formatted manuscript document. I later convert to the other formats.

      All other versions, Kindle, EPUB, etc., are a little more detailed in converting than PDFs are.

      I’m glad to hear of your successes. I wish that for all of the followers.

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