Learn about the pros and cons of each format.
- So you have a book, you have a manuscript, you have a layout that you need to export to EPUB because you want to sell it. Which format should you choose? Reflowable or fixed-layout? Let's look at some of the features or things that you should consider about each format before making a final decision. With a reflowable EPUB, you get the widest distribution. That is the format that is used by almost every e-book that you'll find on the Kindle, and a ton of them as well in the Apple iBookstore and the Nook store and the Kobo store.
It's the one that all the trade books come out in. So if you're trying to reach the widest audience, you need to try as much as you can to create a reflowable EPUB. Another great feature of reflowable EPUBs, is that it fits all screen sizes. If you think that your audience will be looking at it in an Android device, a small Android tablet for example, or an iPhone then you'll want to go with reflowable because it just reflows to fit. The type size stays the same size regardless if its on a large screen or small screen. You just fit fewer words per line on the small screen.
If you want to see something close up, you can easily just double-tap something to zoom it and it'll appear as an overlay on top of the text and then you click the little X to close it. It's also the format most familiar to end users. If you talk to anybody and you are talking about e-books, they're going to think in their heads a reflowable EPUB. Though they may not know it's called an EPUB, that's what they're thinking of, the book that they just read on their Kindle or on their iPad. The problem with reflowable EPUBs though, is that it's a flat, linear design.
So you can have quizzes and slideshows. You can have animations. You can even include read aloud, and that's that feature you might have seen in some EPUBs where the words on the screen light up or change color as a voice-over narration is reading the story. It's great for kid's books. One problem though with fixed-layout EPUBs, is that there's a very limited distribution compared to reflowable. They're very difficult to get into the Kindle store, and I'll address that in more detail in my chapter on Kindle e-books. That's why you'll find most fixed-layout EPUBs on the iPad and the Apple iBookstore has a much smaller market compared to the Amazon Kindle store.
Finally, there is no user customization and this can aggravate readers. I've gotten emails from some readers of EPUBs that I've published that say, "How come I can't change the type size in your e-book?" They're not realizing that it's actually fixed-layout EPUB and that you just can't do that. These are some of the pluses and minuses of both formats to keep in mind. I know it's a difficult decision. But let's think about what kind of book is the best fit for reflowable format. Obviously trade books, fiction, non-fiction, the kinds that are on the best-seller lists, all the genre fiction, those are great.
Reference material that's text heavy. If you have a dictionary or an encyclopedia, or some sort of manual for something that's very text heavy, you want to go with reflowable. Things like journals, professional journals. Now if you have a different kind of book, like a kid's book, that is a much better fit for fixed-layout format. Because with a kid's book, especially if there's very little text and large images, the designer spent a lot of time, and maybe you're the designer, spending a lot of time and making sure that the images and the text fit together perfectly and so you'll want to use fixed-layout EPUB format.
Same thing for comic books or graphic novels. Those really make no sense at all in a reflowable EPUB. And books that are heavy with photography, like photo essays. Also textbooks, they have a lot of images and diagrams. Those are great for fixed-layout format and they would be very difficult to make any sense out of as a reflowable EPUB. Now we also have then a class of books that could go either way. For example, cookbooks. You might think, looking at a cookbook, oh this has to be fixed-layout because I need to have the recipe right next to the picture.
But remember you have a much smaller distribution, and if you want to get your cookbook out to the masses, there are ways to design it so that it is a reflowable EPUB but the recipe is very close to the pictures. Same thing with brochures or travel guides. These are books that you could redesign to turn into a reflowable EPUB to get all those advantages. I know it's a tough decision for a lot of books, but if you really want to include interactivity and high-end design, you want to go with fixed-layout.
If you want to get it out to the widest possible audience, you want to go with reflowable.
- Finding, downloading, and reading free ebooks
- Choosing the right format for your ebook
- Building reflowable EPUBs and fixed-layout EPUBs
- Using tools like Word, Sigil, calibre, Jutoh, Pages, PubCoder, and InDesign
- Adding animation and interactivity such as clickable buttons
- Creating ebooks for the Kindle
- Learning the pros and cons of PDF ebooks
- Creating reflowable and multitouch ebooks with iBooks Author