Electronic Publications 101: PDF vs EPUB / Reflow vs Fixed

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Sharing information within a corporation has never been easier. You can now efficiently create and share documents electronically and more businesses are doing exactly that. But what exactly do these electronic documents (EPUB) look like and how are they different?

Electronic publications, otherwise known as EPUBS, refer to a broad range of publications, the most common being the eBook. The eBook is especially unique when you compare it to its cousin the PDF format. The major difference between the two is that PDFs are split by separate “pages”. PDFs are basically an electronic representation of a paper document. EPUBs lack this type of splitting. Instead they are formatted in two different ways known as reflow and fixed.

Reflow (or Standard) Format

The reflow format is a standard because more devices can open the file. Writers commonly use the reflow format to create novels and textbooks. This format is best used for text-heavy work and it’s displayed in a single column. This formatting allows readers to adjust the text size limited only by their e-readers’ capabilities. If you are working with a primarily text-based work and want to share this document with the most amount of people, the reflow format is going to be your best bet.

Fixed-Layout eBook

So what should you do if you are creating a document that is visually heavy? If your document has technical illustrations, additional graphics, requires page formatting, or has multicolumns, you will be working in a fixed-layout eBook format. Cookbooks, illustrated books, and technical publications are examples of some EPUBS that use a fixed-layout. In this format style, the author has full control over how they can display their content.

Readers though don’t have any option to change font, spacing, or margins. These limitations mean that you’ll have to consider readers discomforts before settling on a specific format. For example, you will need to make decisions on things like font size, since your reader will not be able to change these settings on their own devices.

eBook and eReader device support is also limited in this format. Fixed-layout eBooks are supported by KF8 (Kindle Devices), ePub3 (Apple, Google, Kobo) and PagePerfect (Barnes&Nobles). If you’re considering putting together a magazine, photobook, or catalogue, the fixed format would be an excellent format to use.

How to create an EPUB?

There are a handful of ways you can create an EPUB. In “4 Ways to Create an ePub eBook”, David Kudler outlines your options in substantial detail. The most technically demanding way of creating an EPUB is through code. Though the coding isn’t outrageously difficult, it can be both time consuming to write the code and difficult to find your mistakes unless you’re pretty comfortable coding. There are a number of great guides online (like Alicia Ramirez’ article on creating an Kindle eBook from scratch) if you’re feeling up to the challenge.

If you’re not comfortable coding your own EPUB, you have a few other options. You can create your document on a designing software and then export your file as an EPUB. To do this, you can use software like Adobe InDesign, Adobe Digital Publishing Solution, Blue Griffon, Sigil, and Apple iBooks Author. And thanks to contributors online, you have access to a variety of sources that can guide you step by step through this process.

And of course, you always have the option of hiring professionals to create or convert these files for you! Take a look at TLAC’s eBook Publishing services. Get in contact with us through our instant chat feature (on the bottom right corner of this page) where we give you instant feedback on any of your EPUB inquiries.


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