What is an EPUB?

Self publishing and the formats by which you can produce books have many terms that are interchangeable, but can mean different things. Knowing your way around digital publishing is critical to making it work well for you.

So what is an EPUB? It stands for Electronic Publication Format, a broad term that can be applied to almost any form of digital publication but mostly associated with an eBook or ePub. The structure is based on HTML just like a website and, in common with a website is viewed across devices such a laptops, tablets, desktops and specialist eReaders.

So now it gets a little tricky. Within the EPUB are two types of formats. One is Reflowable and the other is Fixed Layout.

Reflowable EPUBs

A reflowable EPUB contains ‘live text’. This is active text which you can select, highlight and search. You can also change the size of the text and even the font view to suit you in this type of publication. This will force the lines of text to expand and break onto other lines; to ‘reflow’ as the name suggests.

Most text-heavy publications, like novels and textbooks, will be set in a reflowable EPUB format.

Fixed Layout EPUBs

A fixed layout EPUB is just that—the layout is fixed and doesn’t behave responsively when the reader views it. 

This works well for complex eBooks and eMagazines, that contain a lot of images with intricate layouts that would suffer if they had a reflowable digital format. The final result may look a bit like a PDF (do note that a PDF is different to an EPUB). You may find reference books or cookery books set up in this way. 

Why do you need to know this?

It will affect how you plan out your production and creation. As a designer or self publishing author, you need to make the decision very early on about the format. If you decide on reflowable it will determine the set up of the software. A visual book will require the export of the files to a specific fixed layout setting. This will keep the layout and page structure intact, including colour gradients and transparencies. 

What software do you need?

Adobe Indesign is the boss of design and the standard industry software for print. Adobe have added in some great features for EPUBS in the latest 2017 Creative Cloud, and there is a wealth of support in the Adobe Community.

Adobe Digital Publishing.This is the software package suite aimed directly at digital publishers allowing complex layouts for digital devices.

Apple iBooks is targeted at self publishers and designers who want to sell digital books to Apple user, using iBook author which is free and accessible.

Sigil is a free, open source content creation software that works across Windows, Mac and Linux. It’s great for a basic book with little interaction. If you love code, then you get direct control over the HTML too.

BlueGriffon is best suited to novels, it’s very user friendly and works across Mac and Windows.

Microsoft Word is used by Amazon, Lulu and popular supplies simply because we've all encountered it at some point. As frustrating as it can be genius, it's a personal choice.

So you’re all set with the terms and the choices, but how to plan it out? Check back next week when I’ll talk you through the best way to plan out your files. Sign up to the newsletter and you’ll get the first read!