Understanding .mobi and Other EBook Formats

Understanding .mobi and Other EBook Formats

There are a lot of different eBook formats out there, and understanding them is important because if you are self-publishing then you are probably going to publish in at least one – or more likely more than one. Understanding why there are so many different formats and what they refer to is vital to understanding the self-publishing process. While there are many little-used formats out there, only a few of them are mainstream, and they are the ones that we are going to be discussing here.


The .mobi format is the format that Kindle uses most of the time. They do have another format, but when you see a Kindle book format being referred to, it is usually this one that people mean. The .mobi format is not compatible with any of the other eBook readers that are out there like it is with the Amazon Kindle, although there are some applications that can read .mobi books, either on your computer or mobile device. However, the formatting is usually off with these programs. You also are not able to read other eBook formats natively through the Kindle device, although you can install third-party software on a Kindle that will allow you to read eBooks in other formats.


The .epub format is sort of the universal format if you are not including books for Amazon Kindle. This format is the one that you will find across the board for most of the readers out there. For example, if you want to read a book on Kobo or download a book from the Apple bookstore, both of them are going to be in this format. In addition, the Barnes & Noble e-reader device the Nook reads books that are in this format as well. There are lots of other programs that are lesser-known but read this format natively, some of them also including the ability to read Kindle books, although not nearly as well as the Kindle devices themselves do. If you need help setting up this format, there is always IT Services NYC


The .lit format is something that Microsoft has taken for their e-readers. This may explain why Microsoft e-readers are not very popular out there, coming in last in a race between the Kindle, the Nook and Apple’s iBooks app. This was a lot more prevalent when it first came out, but now many authors do not even publish in this format, which makes it very difficult for the Microsoft reader to get a foothold in the self-publishing world.


The .pdf format is the same one that you’ll find on your desktop computer, usually using the program Adobe reader to view. PDF books are not nearly as popular as the other formats. But in some cases, such as where an e-book was never created specifically but where a digital book was created from images of the print books pages; the PDF can be extremely useful. You can usually read a PDF on any device with a third-party program such as Adobe reader or Adobe reader mobile.

A more nuanced article on comparing epubs, mobis, and pdfs can be found here

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