eBook File Formats

During the last few years, ebooks sales have been on the rise.  This is true in part because downloads are far cheaper to produce than print editions, therefore, they are priced much lower.  But ebooks are also gaining popularity because of the variety of apps and devices available on which to read them.  And each device requires a different ebook format – many of which are available on Smashwords.com, an online ebook retailer and distributor.

I published on Smashwords and had a whale of a time trying to figure out which format matched which ereader, because I couldn’t find a succinct list.  I suspect there are others out there interested in producing or downloading ebooks who are having the same difficulty, so I will attempt to clarify what I have learned based on the formats offered by Smashwords.  I’m sure this list will not be exhaustive, so feel free to comment.

The EPUB format seems to be the most widely used.  It is compatible with the Barnes and Noble Nook; the Apple iPad; iPhone and iPod Touch; the Bookeen Cybook Opus; Sony Readers; the Bookworm Online ePub eBook Reader, a free online platform usable with any web browser;  the Kobo eReader; the Elonex eReader; iRiver Touch eReader; and the BeBook readers.  Apps include: ibisReader; Aldiko for Android devices; Stanza, for Windows, Mac, and the iPhone; Book Glutton: The Unbound Reader, for any computer with an internet connection; FBReader for many devices; Calibre; and Azarti.

MOBI for the Kindle and the MobiPocket Reader.

PDB for Palm reading devices.

LRF for older Sony Readers.

Besides the above, Smashwords makes available several formats compatible with most computers, including PDF, RFT and Plain text, as well as HTML and Javascript for online viewing over most web browsers.

If you have any of the above-mentioned devices or even a laptop or desktop, you can download ebooks from Smashwords.  You’ll find thousands of categorized books generally priced at $3.00 or less.  Many are FREE!  All you have to do to start reading is sign up for a free account.  And once you purchase an ebook, you can download it as many times as you like, in multiple formats.

If you don’t have any of the fancy apps or devices but can view from a computer, I’d recommend the easily-readable PDF version.  If you have a computer with a web browser, JavaScript is nice, too.  DON’T order Plain text or HTML; they lack formatting.  And RTF doesn’t seem to transfer complete formatting during conversion, so steer away if possible.

So, now you’re armed and dangerous.  Log on to Smashwords and start your ebook library today!