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The Difference Between PDFs and EPUBS

Right now in digital publishing the two most common ebook formats are EPUB and PDF. There are pros and cons to both formats, and understanding the differences between them can make deciding which format to use a lot easier.

The PDF file format has been around for a long time and was instrumental in making digital publishing possible. It is still relevant, but going forward the EPUB format is posed to take over in many cases.

Portable Document Format (PDF) is a document exchange that was created by Adobe Systems in 1993. PDF provides files in a two-dimensional layout that works independently of most software and operating systems. To view a PDF file on a digital device, it is necessary to use a PDF reader like Adobe Acrobat Reader.

At this time, PDF is the most widely used electronic document format worldwide. Because it is  entirely independent of the operating system and hardware of the device viewing it, every PDF looks the same regardless of the device. In addition, because it has been around for such a long time, many companies besides Adobe offer tools for generating PFDs and they are all quite easy to use. Unfortunately PDF files don’t adapt well to various sized displays and devices, and this can make it difficult to view some PDF files on small screens such as smartphones. The technical term for this is being not easily reflowable.

Another disadvantage to the PFD format is that the code needed to generate PDF files from scratch is complex, and converting a PDF file to a web-friendly format is almost always too difficult for someone without developer experience.

EPUB® is the distribution and interchange format standard for digital publications and documents based on Web Standards. EPUB is written primarily in two languages: XML and XHTML, so it works well with most types of software. It is the format used for reflowable books and was developed specifically for digital publishing. EPUB was standardized by the International Digital Publishing Forum and has become increasingly popular with major publishers. Although EPUB was designed for  ebooks, it can be used for other types of documentation.The current version of EPUB is EPUB 3.0.1

EPUB is delivered as one ZIP file that’s an archive of the organizational and content files for the book or document. Platforms already utilizing XML formats can easily be transferred into EPUB and files for a book or document made in the EPUB format are reflowable and easy to read on small devices. There are many tools available to convert EPUB files to and from various formats, but there are some specific requirements for creating the archive for EPUB, and creating documents takes technical expertise.

To create an EPUB file it is necessary to know the basics of the associated languages in order to build valid files. EPUB is an open eBook standard and file format that is optimized for viewing on devices. It automatically resizes to fit your screen and when you adjust font size. In other words, reflowable. It is also compatible with numerous e-readers and reading apps.