free kindle booksI was recently on a flight sitting next to a nine year-old girl.  We spoke casually for awhile until she indicated that she “needed to do some reading.”  I waited for her to take out a book, but instead, she whipped out an Amazon Kindle.  Clearly, eBooks are a thing of the present and the future, and if you are like most people who enjoy reading, you probably own some type of eReader.  If you are interested in the different eBook formats for your eReader, let’s take a look at some of the most popular eBook formats to ensure that you have a high quality reading experience.

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Top eBook Formats


The ePub format for an eBook is one of the most popular open formats for eBooks.  ePub was designed by the Open eBook Forum and developed by the International Digitial Publishing Forum.  ePub is based off of XHTML and XML, and can act as both a source file format and an end user format.  Some software programs that are compatible with the ePub format are: EPUBReader Firefox add-on, Adobe Digital Editions, and QuickReader.  There are also other devices that can access  books in ePub format, such as an: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Sony Reader, Kobo Reader, and the Barnes & Noble Nook.


AZW is a format that was made and used exclusively for the Amazon Kindle by Amazon.  It is a lot like the MOBI format and uses a high compression option.  However, it is becoming more accessible because Kindle applications have been developed and released for devices other than the Kindle reader.  Thus, AZW file formats can be opened from smartphones such as iPhones, Android phones, and Blackberries, both Macs and PCs, and most tablet devices, such as iPad, Android tablets, and Windows 8 tablets.


LIT is an eBook format that was developed for the Microsoft Reader Software.  It can be accessible on the PocketPC, other Windows Mobile Devices as well as PCs and the Hanlin eReader.  Unfortunately, since 2011, eBook content available in LIT format has been discontinued.  If you still have Microsoft Reader on your PC or mobile device, you can still access and read eBooks in LIT format, but you cannot add or download any more new content.


Most people are probably familiar with the PDF format, which was created by Adobe for its Adobe Acrobat products.  PDF is a very popular eBook format since PDF is supported on most computer and mobile devices.  Some examples of PDF viewers are: Adobe Reader, Foxit Reader, Nitro PDF reader, PDF-XChange Viewer, Xpdf, and many more.  Most of those mentioned are freeware.  However, a downside of reading an eBook in PDF format is that PDF is generally scaled for only A4 or letter size.  This can prove to be almost unreadable if the content is reduced in attempt to fit onto small screens or smartphones.


ODF is an OpenDocument Format.  The XML-based file format is the default for OpenOffice.  OpenOffice is an open source suite that is quickly becoming a popular alternative to Microsoft Office.


MOBI is another popular eBook format that is used by MobiPocket Reader.  MOBI can be opened with MObiPocket’s eReading software, and it can be installed on most PDAs and smartphones.  However, there are some limitations of the MOBI format.  For example, images cannot be scaled down in size to correspond with font size, tables are displayed differently depending on the eReader used, and there is no support for nested tables.  Note that third party readers such as Stanza, FBReader, Kindle for PC and Mac, and STDU Viewer are all able to open files that are in MOBI format.   eBook users who use MOBI’s format should also keep in mind that MOBI can be protected or unprotected by a digital rights management wrapper.  This is used as an anti-piracy tool that will protect authors and prevent readers from opening an eBook file even if it is compatible with the reader that you are using.

eBook Frequently Asked Questions

creative small business ideasWill an eBook look like a print book or a PDF file?

No, an eBook has a “liquid” layout.  A liquid layout means that the user will be able to customize their reading experience.  An eBook page is formatted for differently from that of a print layout, and the way that a book’s page is formatted for print will not translate directly into an eBook format.  A lot of things will be dependent on the medium that the eBook is being viewed on.

Will an eBook look the same on different eReading devices?

No, each eReading device is built a certain way and has their own specific technique requirements and abilities when it comes to displaying an eBook file.  For example, consider an iPad and an Amazon Kindle.  An iPad has a much larger screen than a Kindle, and for this reason, an eBook will not look the same when displayed on these two devices.  Also, font styles and defaults will vary throughout different devices.

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Do eBooks have typical elements of a print book, such as: table of contents, page numbers, and index?

No, an eBook does not have actual pages.  eBooks have locations, so an index would not be applicable.  Instead, eBooks are more interactive.  Users can click on chapters that they want to access, and they will automatically be directed to the chapter that they want to go to.  eBooks also do not have page numbers on each page; instead, they have “location” numbers located at the bottom of the screen.

Read Digitally

Now that buying regular books to read are a thing of the past, an eBook is a definite cost productive, easily accessible, and technology-drive solution to reading.  By browsing through the various eBook formats listed above, you can best determine what type of eReader and eBook platform is right for you.  To take your eBook knowledge to the next level, learn how to create professional eBooks and much more, in this online course.

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eBook creation for indie authors: get that professional look

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Learn how you must format your Word document to create a professional-looking eBook instead of an unreadable wreck. | By Frauke Nonnenmacher

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