EPUB vs MOBI vs PDF: Which eBook Format is Best for You?

epub vs mobi vs pdf

EPUB vs MOBI vs PDF and why does that matter to me?

Because now that you've finished your masterpiece, it's time to upload it to the publishing market place.  But here's the challenge…each marketplace like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc…have different file formats and requirements.

Some accept EPUB, others accept PDF, and some accept MOBI.  So what is a writer to do? Do you know what format your manuscript is written in?

This might seem trivial, but proper formatting is your ticket to eBook Publishing. And if you’re publishing on different platforms, guess what… You’re gonna need completely different kinds of formatting.

So, what are the different available eBook formats? And which one is the best for you?

In this article, you will learn:

  • EPUB vs MOBI vs PDF…. what's the difference between each format?
  • The benefits of using each format
  • What publishing platforms accept each format

What Format Should You Use for Different Publishing Companies?

Before we get into the individual differences in EPUB vs MOBI vs PDF, let's look at them from a side-by-side comparison and see how they stack up against each other and what marketplaces use them:

Apple Books
Barnes and Noble Press
Google Play

EPUB- The Open Source Standard for eBook Publishing

When it comes to eBook publishing, there is a golden standard when it comes to publishing.



Based off of HTML, it’s the free and open source standard for formatting. And with all those picky publishers and editors out there, you know there’s a good reason why.

Certified by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), EPUB is the most widely supported vendor-independent eBook format. Simply put, it can be read by more eBook readers than any other format in the world.

EPUB files also carry with them a huge number of benefits. These include:

Ease of Creating and Editing

When compared to other eBook formats, EPUBs are just easy. Simply make a few changes in the HTML coding of your book, and BOOM! You’re ready to go. With other formats, you may need specialized tools and a greater know-how to get the job done.

Multimedia Friendly

Do you have any illustrations to go with your eBook? Or how about a cool tutorial video you want to insert? Make your eBook an interactive one by using EPUB format. The format itself caters to adding media so your book can always look its Sunday Best.

Flow and Feel

Have you ever read an eBook that was a pain to read? (And I’m not talking about James Joyce’s Ulysses.) If you found yourself constantly resizing the text and layout of your eReader, you probably weren’t reading an EPUB. EPUB files automatically adjust to the size of your device–be it smartphone, tablet, laptop, or eReader–so that you have a great reading experience. This is called “reflowable” and it’s pretty great.

But there is another major player in the world of eBook publishing.

Extra Resources for EPUB

MOBI and Amazon’s Metamorphosis to AZW

You can’t have a conversation about eBook publishing formats and not bring up Kindle and MOBI.

Amazon and its Kindle platform dominate the book market. There is no comparison. And… they have their very own eBook format MOBI.

Well… kind of anyway.

So, back in 2005, Amazon purchased Mobipocket.com, the creator of the MOBI format. And all he way up to 2011, MOBI was a readily available format. But something happened in 2011.

Amazon discontinued support for the MOBI file format. But that doesn’t make it the end of MOBI (Similar to another Moby’s Animal Rights…). Instead, MOBI was reborn as AZW. AZW is essentially the exact same thing as MOBI but with a different name and DRM (Digital Rights Management) scheme.


In a nutshell, the AZW upgrade made your MOBI files safer. It locks your purchased work to a buyer’s account, therefore protecting your work from nasty digital eBook pirates.

So why should you use the AZW format?

Kindle and Amazon Access

This is the major benefit. As stated before, Amazon is so huge that it can actually get away with having its own format. By using the AZW format, you have access to millions of potential readers–and their purchasing power.

Amazon DRM

By publishing with the retail giant, you get to enjoy the perks that go along with it. Particularly the DRM scheme. Online book piracy is a thing. Wouldn’t it just suck if you spent hours laboring over your masterpiece and watching potential profits go down the drain? Yeah, I think so too.


Just like the EPUB, AZW files are reflowable. This makes them perfect for their associated Kindle readers or tablets.

Both EPUB and AZW file formats are great for a reflowable purpose. But what if you have more rigid needs?

Extra Resources for MOBI

PDF: The Steadfast Book Format

PDFs are one of the most popular forms of eBook formatting nowadays. PDFs can be accessed on virtually any device. They are the most universal of the three formats. But just because the devices can open them doesn’t necessarily mean it should. PDFs have one major disadvantage that may lead you to consider another format.

Yet, its biggest disadvantage may turn out to be its greatest strength.

Unlike EPUB and AZW formats, PDFs are not reflowable. They don’t play nice with any devices except a printer. They don’t resize or alter when swapping from one device to another. This can make PDF files extremely awkward to read on an eReader, tablet, or phone.

But that’s ok. PDFs can use this to their benefit.

Fixed Format

Since PDFs don’t scale, this allows graphically detailed manuscripts to remain just that. Graphically detailed. How you would perceive a picture or graphic on a piece of paper is how you will see your PDF. Speaking of…

Perfect for Print on Demand

Many authors that self-publish online tend to publish traditional books on a much smaller scale. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t any demand for print. This is where POD (Print on Demand) services come in handy. Companies such as KDP Print and IngramSpark are two popular choices. These companies print what you need when you need it without having to amass a surplus of print books. But in order to do so, they need a fixed layout of your book. And you guessed it… PDF is perfect for that.

Extra Resources for PDF

Tools to Format in All Three

And just like the EPUB vs MOBI vs PDF battle…there's a few angles to consider when choosing the right tool. Here are just a few programs that you can use to format these types of files:


Vellum is an all-in-one eBook development tool for Mac users. (Sorry Windows users…) It helps you with every aspect of your eBook and that includes formatting. I definitely recommend this for any author using Mac.


D2D is a really useful and powerful book aggregator in its own respect. But did you know that they offer a simple and elegant formatting service as well? Just upload your MS Word-readable document to D2D and they take care of the rest. Afterwards, it will be ready to distributed to any of D2D's partners. For those of you using Draft2Digital, your life has just become easier.

Ebook Launch

Sometimes, it's just best to let the professionals handle it. Ebook Launch handles everything from illustrations to front matter to hyperlinks. They come with a 100% guarantee that your eBook will be properly formatted for most major book retailers and aggregators such as Amazon KDP and Smashwords.

Which eBook File Format is Best for You?

To say that one format is better than another regardless of the situation would just be foolish and irresponsible of me. What really helps out a lot is actually having multiple formats of your work.

So EPUB vs MOBI vs PDF? The answer is yes! All of them!

The easiest way to do that is to go through a professional formatting company such as Ebook Launch. Here you can choose multiple formats so you can guarantee you have the right format when the need arises.

That's exactly what I do. I have all three formats available just in case I'm going to utilize Amazon (MOBI), other publishers (EPUB), or Print (PDF).

Each has their own individual strengths that must be considered. But hopefully I’ve been able to enlighten you on some benefits of each.



  1. Zaccagnini Anna on May 5, 2020 at 8:47 pm

    I just finished on my PC Microsoft Word and now this e- book I need to sell it on Amazon but don’t know which system to use MOBI to download into Kindle Create for Amazon or another application EPUB

    • Dave Chesson on May 6, 2020 at 3:44 pm

      Mobi for Amazon, and if you are publishing on other platforms like Barnes&Noble and or iTunes, you’ll need EPUB.

    • xPPx on July 3, 2020 at 2:15 pm

      Did you even read this article? lol

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Hey Guys, I’m Dave and when I am not sipping tea with princesses or chasing the Boogey man out of closets, I’m a Kindlepreneur and digital marketing nut – it’s my career, hobby, and passion.


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