The bulk of e-books sold these days (or distributed free, for that matter) are in one of the ‘reflowable’ formats: Amazon’s AZW Kindle or the open source EPUB, most commonly. MOBI, the parent format of Kindle, is also out there, retaining some popularity. All of these are essentially containers for HTML files; there is nothing wrong with a book in unpackaged HTML, whether for reading online or for downloading, and these can be read in pretty much any browser.
We try to offer our books both as EPUBs—our preference—and as Kindle. The latter, simply because so much book traffic passes through Amazon. Not as much, I think, as some would suggest. There are a great many EPUBs being distributed that are not being tracked and counted.
But there is also the venerable PDF. Every book that is printed has probably been in PDF format at some point. That’s what printers mostly work from these days. But as an e-book, the PDF has a much smaller audience. Its fixed, non-reflowable pages do not lend themselves to Kindles and other readers and tablets. On the other hand, if one reads on a computer, whether laptop or desktop, they can look very good and much more like a ‘real’ book. I prefer them personally.
We used to offer dedicated PDF versions of all our books for reading on computers (or elsewhere, if desired), directly from our store. Very few of the online vendors bother with them, Google being one exception. They sold poorly—when at all—and cluttered our store, so we dropped them. The PDF also has the disadvantage of being a somewhat larger file than the typical e-book, with or without illustrations.
But it has the advantage of looking the way we intended. The correct typefaces in the correct places, properly sized and placed illustrations, header and footer, fixed page numbers, etc. In other words, like a print book. This, we feel, is especially advantageous for books for children. A Kindle picture book is not going to cut it (not that toddlers should really be reading PDFs on your computer either). Our early reader chapter books are available as print and PDF, not in any reflowable format.
PDFs are superior for ‘how-to’ books, manuals, instructions, as well. Anything with lots of illustrations. And though poetry works well enough in the standard e-book formats, it really can be presented more effectively in the fixed-page PDF. The novel, admittedly, works quite well as Kindle or EPUB.
We note that the PDF has a certain popularity with the ‘literary’ world. Perhaps because those who inhabit that world spend a lot of time in front of computer screens. What I’m getting at here is that we are going to start offering more of our titles for download as PDFs. A few are already available free in that format and we will add to those, when we can, as we can. The next will be Stephen Brooke’s collection of fantasy short stories, ‘Lands Far Away.’ It was always intended that the digital version would be free (as are his poetry collections) with a print book available for purchase.
How soon we might make novels available in PDF form in our own store is uncertain. It will happen but may take some time to roll out and include all our titles. This will be part of the process of changing the distribution of all our e-books, as we are no longer going to use Lulu for that service. Essentially, EPUB and PDF will be available at our store at Lulu and as a few free titles at our site, and Kindle books may be purchased at Amazon. Of course, print will continue to be distributed ‘everywhere.’