PDF and EPUB logos

PDF vs. EPUB

When converting your books into a digital format, the first question you will likely come up against is whether you want to create an EPUB or a PDF.

There are pros and cons to both formats, and which format you choose will depend on the type of content in your book, and your target audience.

EPUB

The EPUB format is an open specification, which means that anybody can create an EPUB. The standard is maintained by the International Digital Publishing Forum.

An EPUB is essentially a zipped archive composed of HTML, XML and CSS files, along with any images, fonts and other media contained in the book.

Pros:

  • Most EPUBs are reflowable, which means that they adapt well to different sized screens and devices
  • The reader has the freedom to change the font, and size of the text in an EPUB
  • It’s easy to add accessibility features to an EPUB for people with print disabilities

Cons:

  • Some knowledge of coding (HTML, XML and CSS) is required to create or edit an EPUB file

PDF

Adobe’s Portable Document Format is a compressed file with all of the fonts, images and other elements of the text embedded inside of it. A PDF is an electronic image of text and/or images and other materials.

Pros:

  • PDF is the most widely accepted electronic document format worldwide
  • Easy to produce in Microsoft Word or other word processing and desktop publishing programs
  • Ability to perfectly replicate a printed page

Cons:

  • Not reflowable – readers can’t adjust the font or size of the text
  • Not accepted by most retail ebook vendors

PDF is still the most popular format in the academic market, and most children’s books are produced as PDFs as well. EPUB is the dominant format in the trade market. It’s possible to create fixed layout EPUBs, which preserve the exact appearance of a page, but utilize web technologies. Fixed layout EPUBs are a good option for content with a lot of images, graphs or tables.

For more information on reflowable vs. fixed layout EPUBs, click here.