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Everything Self-Publishers Need to Know About Ebook Formats 

by | Nov 8, 2021

Congratulations! Your book is done. The hours of research and writing are finished and your book is ready to be published for your readers to find and enjoy. 

One of the best ways you can easily reach new readers for your book is by publishing as an ebook through online book retailers such as Amazon (Kindle) and Barnes and Noble (Nook). 

Unfortunately, if your book is only ready to be printed, then your book is probably not in the correct format required by most ebook retailers. Therefore, you will need to spend time formatting your manuscript into one of the required ebook formats.

While navigating through the various ebook formats yourself might seem overwhelming, it can be done, even if you are doing the work yourself as a self-published author. That’s why we’ve made this handy guide to help you.

Table of Contents

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Everything You Need to Know About Ebook Formats

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What is an ebook format?

An ebook format is the type of file your book is in when it goes to an online book retailer to be sold and read electronically. There is a huge range of ebook formats you could potentially use, from the very simple .TXT that is a book full of text only, to ebook formats that have hyperlinks built in, multimedia capabilities, and more to help enhance your electronic reading experience.

With online retailers, there are a variety of formats that should be considered depending on what kind of book you wrote and where you want to sell it. Also, online retailers do not all accept the same types of ebook formats, but some are more widely accepted than others (such as epub). 

Where to start when looking at ebook formats

When you are ready to format your book, first consider the content of your book. Do you have a large amount of pictures with little text descriptions? Do the pictures flow seamlessly within the words or are they separate? Or do you have a book with more text and very little pictures? In order to understand the formatting you will need, you first need to understand the layout and formatting needs of your book.

After you consider the word and image content in your book, picture how you want your Ebook to appear when it is read electronically from someone’s phone or from an Ereader. Is it important that the pages look identical to how it is printed on paper? Or do you see your Ebook working better on an Ereading device where the format can flow to best fit the reader. 

Now you will need to determine whether your book will work best with a fixed or reflowable format.

Understand the difference between a fixed format and a reflowable format

Fixed format

An easy example of a fixed format is a PDF, where the document looks the same, with the same word and picture placing regardless of where you are reading it. It will always appear on a screen just as it would if it were printed.

Fixed format books are great for books that rely heavily on images and artistic layouts such as cookbooks, health books, children’s books, and travel guides. These types of books are very image-heavy and the image placement and design plays a central role in the book. You would not want your children’s book to appear different than what you have designed.

Reflowable format

Reflowable format does just what it sounds like, it is a document that is able to flow and change. A document in this type of format will shift appearance to best fit where it is being read, such as from a phone, an ipad, or a large computer screen. 

The reader might also be able to change the size of the text, the font, or the color to read it better. The pages might appear slightly different in order to help the reader best read the book.

Books with a lot of text are more easily read in a reflowable format because changing the text size or font doesn’t change anything substantial in the book. The format changes to optimize the book’s digital readability which doesn’t affect the content of the book.

Depending on where you want your book published and what type of book you have, you might choose to format your book in one (or more) of these popular Ebook formats. 

Epub (most popular Ebook format)

  • Use with: Kindle, Apple, Nook, or Kobo
  • Format: Reflowable

Epub is an extremely common, industry standard format for Ebooks. Epub is reflowable, so it is easily read on a variety of applications and devices. Epub has a huge range of possibilities when it comes to the multimedia capabilities of your Ebook. This is where you can add in additional tools and resources that would not be available in your printed copy. Epub has several newer versions that have more multimedia capabilities to explore (Epub 2 and Epub3). If you are going to spend time and energy converting your book to only one reflowable Ebook format, Epub is the most versatile and will be most easily read on all the major devices.

KPF (Kindle Create)

  • Platforms: Kindle’s preferred Ebook format 
  • Format: Both reflowable and fixed format

Kindle Package Format (KPF) is the format Kindle says most easily fits across all their Ereader devices. It has a wide range of capabilities, available both as a reflowable format as well as fixed, and is supported by Amazon. In order to format your book into a KPF file you can go to Kindle Create for a free and easy-to-use step-by-step tool. 

While formatting your book into a KPF file is perfect for Kindle, it is not currently widely accepted elsewhere and you will still need to format your book in a different way for it to be available through other retailers.


  • Platforms: Only fixed format available for Kindle, Kobo
  • Format: Fixed format

Mobi is an older Ebook format that is designed for reading files on mobile phones with lower bandwidth. Amazon Kindle no longer supports Mobi reflowable formatting, but prefers EPUB files now. 

TXT (Plain Text)

  • Platforms: Kobo, Kindle supported, Nook
  • Format: Reflowable

TXT is just like it sounds, a file that only supports text. While it is not a flashy Ebook format, if you are looking at simply formatting your book of words without pictures to be read on an Ereader, TXT will do the job for most of the Ereaders. 

PDF (Adobe)

  • Platforms: Nook, Kindle supported, Kobo, Apple
  • Format: Fixed

PDFs are a commonly used file that can contain a variety of text, and graphics but does not flow or change on Ereader devices. PDFs are used in a variety of ways, not just for Ebooks, but it is an option if you want your pages fixed and read just like they would be printed. 

How do you convert your book into the ebook format of your choice? 

If your book is not already in the Ebook format you have chosen, then go directly to the online book retailers to see their specific resources and tips for the format you are planning on uploading to their site before you get started. 

Retailers want the content on their site to be well-formatted and easily read, so they will include tips for formatting for their site. Kindle published Ebook Manuscript formatting guide to help their author submissions go smoother.

Once you have made the necessary adjustments, you can download your document into the format you need from Google Docs. If you are using Microsoft Word to write, go to Save As and select the appropriate file type from there.

Another option is to use a book formatting software like Atticus, where you can easily drag and drop your Word doc into it. This handy software will quickly turn your Word doc into a professional-looking ebook in no time.

Don’t let ebook formatting overwhelm you

Don’t let the process of Ebook formatting make you feel like you need to format your book multiple times or in a way that feels forced. Take your time, find the right format for your book to look its best and then enjoy the thrill of reading your self-published book electronically through an online retailer.

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