Digital books (or ebooks) are an increasingly popular format for readers, particularly as more authors self publish their manuscript not only as a printed book but also as an ebook edition. But there are a few things you need to consider before opting to publish your written content as an ebook. Many authors have little or no experience with this new digital format. This article should give you a quick overview of the ePub format and how to use it optimally.

Ebook and EPUB – What is the difference?

The terms ‘ebook’ and ‘EPUB’ are often used interchangeably. But are they two words that actually refer to completely different items? While basically the same thing, the main difference is that the term ‘ebook’ describes digital books in general, while ‘EPUB’ refers to the specific file format. Since most digital book retail platforms use EPUB, this terminology is often equated with ebooks as a whole.

EPUB files won’t open in Microsoft Word

Many authors convert their manuscript produced in MS Word into an EPUB file and then realise that it can’t be easily opened. The EPUB format requires a special software program to open it. On ereaders and tablets, these are pre-installed. However, to open the ebook on a desktop computer, the user needs to have a software program such as Adobe Digital Editions or Calibre installed.

Ebooks are more flexible than paper books

Many writers wonder why converting their Word document into EPUB results in a file that does not look anything like the printed book. The EPUB format is designed to be readable on any digital reading device. In principle, it is a collection of HTML files rather like a mini-website. Consequently, an ebook can look different according to which device is used to read it. In addition, each person reading an ebook can make their own decision regarding the typeface and size they prefer for viewing the book.

Ebooks are single-column documents

Some authors try to transfer the multi-column layout of their printed book to digital book format. To achieve this objective, they often use tables. Especially on smaller reading devices or for larger font sizes, this can be very unattractive and make the book difficult to read. Ebooks (particularly in the EPUB2 format) are designed for single-column, continuous texts. Additional information should be linked as an extra paragraph at the end of a chapter or as information at the end of the book.

Links – a definite advantage of ebooks

One of the greatest advantages of ebooks over printed books is the ability to include active links in books. In this way, a book’s table of contents acts like a website menu by taking the reader to the desired location. Likewise, links within the body text are like hyperlinks that refer to other chapters and excerpts. Finally, if the digital reading device has internet access, an ebook can even link to external websites.