Many people don’t know it but there is more than one type of ebook. The two types of formats are a reflowable and a fixed layout. What type you should use depends on the layout of your book. I will go over both formats in this blog post.
The most common type is a reflowable ebook. In this type, the content is fluid and fits the size of the screen that your ebook is being viewed on no matter how big or small. The reflowable ebook format can be published on all of the major self-publishing platforms. It can be viewed on all reading devices that have the ability to display ebooks. If your book is all text with some images that don’t need any special placement then your book should be done in this format.
In a reflowable ebook, users can completely customize their reading experience in their own reading devices. This includes changing the font size, font style, adjusting the margins, line spacing, and even the justification. This ability to personalize the way an ebook is read is one of the reasons why people love them so much. The text and images in your ebook will shift and change locations as people change the settings in their individual devices. The images usually appear smaller, then when double-tapped or double-clicked an image will enlarge so the user can get a closer look and then do the same to make them small again.
These features cannot be changed or stopped in any way. It is just how reflowable ebooks work. So you need to be prepared for that if you are going to publish your books in ebook format. There are also some other features to consider with the common reflowable format. Here is a list of the major ones:
- No columns. This means that nothing can sit side by side. An example would be if you have a cookbook and you want the image to the left and your ingredients list to sit directly to the right of that, it won’t work. The reading devices will not display it.
- Most Specialty fonts don’t work. The reading devices don’t display fancy fonts because there is a list of fonts that people have to choose from. If the specialty font that you are using isn’t on that list then it won’t be displayed. So it is best to just stick with the basics because people are going to change them to what they prefer anyway.
- Images have limited placement. The images in a reflowable ebook tend to center with text above and below. If you want your images to the left or right with text wrapped around them that may not work so well. The newer reading devices are better about this but it is always a good idea to plan your layout with older reading devices in mind because you never know what your readers will be viewing your book on. That way all of the bases are covered.
- Drop Caps don’t display well. If you have written a novel and want a fancy design such a drop cap at the beginning of each chapter, be prepared because it won’t look the same in every device. They look great in some reading devices and display horribly in others. A good alternative to a drop cap is a larger fist letter at the beginning of each chapter. Or even all caps in the first several words of the first paragraph of each chapter. There are ways to add specialty design to your ebook as long as you stay within the parameters of what the reading devices will display.
If you want more help or a complete list of what can and can’t be displayed and also what kind of quality is expected of your content then Amazon is always a good place to start. You can find that here: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200952510.
These features can vary depending on the self-publishing company but Amazon KDP is always the first place I start with.
If you have a book that has some type of specialty layout where your text and images absolutely have to stay in one place, then these features could create a real problem for you as an author. This is where the fixed-layout comes in. in a fixed-layout format, everything stays in place exactly as it was designed. If you have images that are placed to left and you want text to sit beside it to the right you can do that with this format. In fact, if your book is also in print your ebook can be designed to look exactly like it and it will display that way in the reading device.
The fixed-layout format is generally used for children’s picture books and photo books. Many of them have full-page images that have to stay in one place and the fixed layout format is only way to achieve that. Cookbooks are also a good candidate for type ebook format.
There are some downsides to fixed layout formatting, though. The distribution for them is not as wide as for the reflowable format ebooks. This is because some reading devices just won’t display this type of format. This will affect what self-publishing companies will accept them and what ones won’t.
If you need your ebook formatted in fixed-layout then the three main self-publishing companies that will accept it are going to be Amazon KDP, Apple iBooks, and Kobo Writing Life. Which means that if you want to publish through a distributor like IngramSpark or Lulu then they will accept it and only distribute it to Amazon, Apple iBooks, and Kobo because they accept that file format. If your ebook is in this file format and you have a specific company in mind that you want to publish with other than those 3 then you will have to check with them directly to see if it will be accepted.
So that is a rundown on both ebook file formats. I hope that this post helps you decide which format will work best for your ebook.