Digital Book Formats

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So you decided to work on your book’s interior yourself! Or you hired a designer and you just want to know how it all comes together. This article will show you the differences between the most popular formats for self-published books.

Depending on your distribution plans, there are three formats that you need to know: EPUB, mobi files and print-ready PDFs!


The most common format for ebooks! It’s a standard HTML that allows for “flowable text”. This means that the book can easily optimize itself to any device, whether you open it on an e-reader or an iPhone. All major retailers, apart from Amazon, use it on their platforms. If you plan on using any other retail platform — like Nook Press, iBooks, or SmashWords, you’ll need to have an EPUB file on hand. 

How do you get it without a professional typesetter? By finding a free conversion tool. I’ve personally found Draft2Digital to be the smoothest and easiest to use. Fortunately (as of when this was originally written), you don’t have to distribute through Draft2Digital to use their conversion tool. You just have to sign up, upload your manuscript and poof! You got yourself an EPUB file! There are also many other options across the web, you just have to look for them!


This format is for the big bad Amazon. When you purchase an ebook through Kindle, it arrives on your device in the mobi format (a format owned and used by the retail giant). At it’s core, it’s no different then an EPUB file, with the exception of being “locked” to the devices registered to your Amazon account. Meaning, they can’t be distributed to another user.

Kindle Direct Publishing (the Amazon format editor) converts all books to mobi before displaying them within  the confines of their massive library. So no heavy lifting here! You can just upload your manuscript and wham-bam thank you ma’am! After some approvals, its up on kindle ready for purchase!


The last format, but the easy of the three! You can PDF your book right from your word processor. Have it look exactly like you want it to with little to no effort!  Just export it as a PDF, and done! Few ebook distributors use PDF format, but if you want your book to go to print, or you want to send free copies to friends and family, this is the way to go!

Next, we’ll focus more on these distributors and how they’ll help to get your book out into the world!