Ebook Primary-formats

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Maddie's eyes glazed over when I mentioned the topic for this week's blog so we agreed I would handle this topic.

As my next two books COURTING DISASTER and COURTING DEATH are coming out from Carina Press in digital form and I have sold another [HER DARK PROTECTOR] to Carina Press as well, I figured I'd better start learning about this new world of publishing...

Except I found out that digital is not so new. Founded in1971 by Michael S. Hart, Project Gutenberg is the oldest digital library. It is a volunteer effort dedicated to preserving books and has been converting public domain books to digital. A reader can download for free many books ePub, Kindle, HTML and simple text formats:  http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page

But what are these formats? When I got the copy of COURTING DISASTER, it was in EPUB and PDF formats so I had to research what these designations and found there are an endless array of formats. I discovered there are proprietary ereader formats [generally specific to a particular ereader] and secondary formats. Proprietary ones include the following:  

AZW - Amazon’s file type for the Kindle series of ereaders. The AZW extension is used on ebook files that are protected with DRM and files that are not protected.

PRC/MOBI – is the file extension of the Mobipocket reading software. In either case it may be DRM protected or non-DRM

LIT - a filename extension for Microsoft Reader ebooks

LRF/LRX/LRS/BBeB – BBeB is Sony’s format. LRF denotes DRM free files and LRX file types are encrypted and can be set to expire.

Secondary formats included:

PDF – Adobe’s “Portable Document Format” is immensely popular but often does not format well to the small screens of ereaders. However despite its drawbacks it remains a popular format.

TXT – Plain text format, readable by most ebook devices

RTF – Text format for Word and Office, readable by some ebook devices

DOC – this can refer to Microsoft Word format.

HTML – Hyper text mark-up language, aka the language most web pages on the Internet are coded in

EPUB - EPub is a free, open standard for "reflowable" content, meaning that the text display can be optimized for the particular display device.

ACSM - File format used to provide DRM on Adobe ebooks PDF and ePUB

PPT – Power Point files

A simple overview of formats can be found here:


At this time, the vast majority of e-books on the market are distributed as PDF files, meaning they can be read on any computer or device that can read PDF files. (For example, if a reader computer has Adobe Acrobat or Preview installed, s/he can read e-books that are distributed as PDFs.)
What does the proprietary and secondary formats mean to a reader? A potential pain in the neck as a reader has to deal with compatability issues. As a newbie Kindle owner, I ran into the problem when I downloaded my first book from a non-Amazon site. Then horror of horrors, again when I received the copy of my own book as I couldn't load them onto the Kindle. The Carina Press author listserve came to the rescue and my next blog will be about a program that makes the warring formats play nice with each other.