Ever wondered of various formats used for creating digital books-popularly known as eBooks. The term ‘eBook’ stands for “Electronic Book”.  EBooks are the next generation medium of sharing information and knowledge. Modern libraries are turning in to digital libraries with millions of eBook title in different eBook formats. There are also millions of free eBooks are available in different format. Wondering which eBook format is the best and which eBook reader support which formats?

There are many popular eBook readers available. The Kindle from Amazon supports AZW, MOBI, PRC, AZW1, TPZ, PDF and TXT formats where as the PRS line from Sony supports EPUB, LRF, LRX, RTF, PDF and TXT.  In short all of the major e-book readers support multiple formats. Here are a list of popular eBook readers and there supporting formats. You may notice that everyone except Amazon supports EPUB eBook format.

  • Amazon Kindle – Kindle (AZW, TPZ), TXT, MOBI, PRC and PDF natively; HTML and DOC through conversion.
  • Sony Reader– EPUB, PDF, TXT, RTF; DOC through conversion.
  • Apple iPad – EPUB, PDF, HTML, DOC (plus iPad Apps, which could include Kindle and Barnes & Noble readers).
  • Barnes & Noble Nook– EPUB, PDB, PDF.Amazon_Kindle_3

.epub Format

The popular and most used .epub format or OEBPS format is an open standard for e-books created by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). The main attraction of EPUB format is, it is a vendor-independent XML-based e-book format. The .epub format can be read by the Kobo eReader, Blackberry Playbook, Apple’s iBooks app running on iOS devices such as the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, Barnes and Noble Nook, Sony Reader, BeBook, Bookeen Cybook Gen3 (with firmware v. 2 and up), COOL-ER, Adobe Digital Editions, Lexcycle Stanza, BookGlutton, AZARDI, FBReader, Aldiko, Moon+ Reader and WordPlayer on Android, the Mozilla Firefox add-on EPUBReader, and Okular.

.Mobi Format

The Mobipocket e-book format is based on the Open eBook standard using XHTML and can include JavaScript and frames.This format supports native SQL queries to be used with embedded databases. There are several .mobi format converter available. Amazon has developed an .epub to .mobi converter called KindleGen.

 

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.exe or .html Formats
The multimedia eBook is media and book content is a combination of different book content formats.  This type of eBooks include a combination of text, audio, images, video, or interactive content formats.

PDF Format

Yes, correct the popular .pdf format. The popular PDF file format is created by Adobe Systems, initially to provide a standard form for storing printable documents containing a set of page images. One of the important thing that boost the popular of PDF is the extensive tool support for creating and reading PDF files, such as Adobe Acrobat, PDFCreator, OpenOffice.org, iText, ConTeXt and FOP, and several programming libraries. There are several free pdf readers like xpdf are also available. and the Mac OS X has a built-in PDF support.

Txt Format

Simply, eBooks in plain text format, that .txt file. The size in bytes is the number of characters, including spaces, and with a new line counting for 1 or 2.

DjVu Format

You may noticed this format some where in the internet. This DjVu format is specialized for storing scanned documents. This format has advanced compressors optimized for low-color images, such as text documents.The images in the files are divided in separate layers as multi-color, low-resolution, background layer using lossy compression, etc. and each item is compressed in the best available method. The format can decompress files quickly.

Comic Book Format

You may be noticed some files with extension .cbr (RAR), .cbz (ZIP), .cb7 (7z); .cbt (TAR), and .cba (ACE). These  areComic Book Archive files or ComicBook Reader Files. It consists of a series of image files, typically PNG (lossless compression) or JPEG (lossy compression) files, stored as a single archive file, for the purpose of sequential viewing of images, especially comic books.

sony-ebook-reader

So you may get an idea of popular eBook format used. Some formats are popular in some geographic location based on the availability or popularity of the eBook reader. For example in UK  Amazon’s proprietary format-AZW, Sony’s proprietary format-BbeB, ePub, MobiPocket-MOBI/PRC, and Adobe’s Portable Document Format-PDF, formats are very popular.

As from our discussion, I must say that the most popular e-readers supports the ePub format, a format developed by the International Digital Publishing Forum. So .epub is considered as the best ebook format. But it has some drawbacks.  The ePub files are based on XHTML and CSS cascading style sheets,so it may appears different on different machines. Another thing is ePub doesn’t require DRM but it allows it, so some protected books may be unreadable on some system. We can also consider the Adobe PDF. It is a format every e-reader or desktop readers can handle. But some people may say that it may not provide good reading experience on a small screen but the PDF files can have DRM copy protection. The Amazon’s AZW is a proprietary to Amazon enjoying massive support from publishers.

To read eBooks you can use a program such as Calibre or MobiPocket. You can also use desktop reader software programs like dotReader and uBook (some are discontinued). You can use Calibre or other tools to convert eBook file formats. To know more about various eBook format you can check the Wikipedia page about the comparison of eBook formats.

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