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If you are like me and still do your eBook hunting and buying across different websites and in different digital formats due to the availability of certain titles.

Contrary to popular belief, and Barnes and Noble surprisingly don’t have every title in existence, you might be shocked that your eBooks don’t just come in only PDF format (Adobe’s popular Portable Document Format).

While many eBook Readers nowadays like Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook as well as Tablets like Apple’s iPad and any model of the many Android devices out there can read PDF (for the latter with the proper application), some readers do have native formats exclusive to the device you are using. On the other hand, some formats are cross-platform but may work better on certain devices.

eBooks Digital File FormatsTherefore, in this post, we will review the most popular digital book formats in use by devices out in the market now.


First is Mobipocket (with the extensions .mobi and .prc), an early and consistently flexible eBook format that was first adapted on Palm devices (yes, I remember reading eBooks on their very prehistoric screens in the late ‘90s), Pocket PCs, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, and other smartphones.

Mobipocket eBooks have page-turning with your finger or a stylus, bookmarking, built-in dictionary, GIF image reading, and font/color customization. I was surprised to learn that Amazon’s proprietary Kindle format (covered later) is actually a modified Mobipocket format. In fact, if you are so inclined, you can find a way to read Amazon Kindle books without a Kindle device or other devices that can read Mobipocket (you didn’t hear it here though).

ePub format

Next is the ePub format (electronic publication or extension .epub) that was Sony Reader’s latter default format when I began my love of digital books with my now ancient Sony Reader Pocket Edition. It is as of 2011, the most device-supported format, including by eBook Readers Kobo, Apple iBooks and Apple iOS devices (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch), Barnes and Noble Nook, BeBook, CyBook, and eBook Reader apps Stanza and Lexcycle, among many others.

However, support for ePub seems to be missing from the Amazon Kindle. Furthermore, Adobe Digital Editions eBook reading software on your computer also uses ePub with integrated DRM protection that requires you to unlock a title first on your computer before it becomes transferrable to a device.Of course, plain text (extension .txt) also makes our list of popular digital eBook formats.

Naturally, it can be read by almost any device, making it extremely versatile across any word processor and Operating System like Windows, Mac, Linux, and more. Likewise, Microsoft Word (extension .doc) is also used as an eBook format due to mainstream familiarity with the application and ease in printing out a hard copy from it.

It can be read by various Microsoft Office-related apps on Blackberry, iOS, and Android like Documents To Go. Meanwhile some proprietary and less well-known but still well-used eBook formats include:

Amazon Kindle Ereader

Amazon Kindle (extension .azw) is based on Mobipocket as aforementioned. It is exclusive to Amazon Kindle eReaders, which are actually accessible now on a variety of other platforms via Kindle software/apps for Blackberry, Android, and iPhone/iPad as well as on your computer or even just your web browser via Amazon Cloud.

Broadband eBooks

Broadband eBooks BBeB (extension .lrf and .lrx) is Sony Reader’s proprietary eBook format that allowed for DRM protection. Sony now uses the much easier Mobipocket format as we covered above but began with its own proprietary format in BBeB.

PDB Format

The eReader format (extension .pdb) might be familiar to longtime Palm users more so than the Mobipocket format. Digital books for PalmOS first came in eReader, but the format has been recently resuscitated for Barnes and Noble’s Nook in 2009 (albeit not their NookColor). While comic book readers will be familiar with the extensions .cbr, .cbz, .cb7, .cbt, and .cba as the Comic Book Archive file, non-comic book fans might also run into it when dealing with image-heavy eBooks due to it efficient handling of PNG and JPEG image files.

PDF Format

Adobe Portable Document Format (extension .pdf) was specifically created as a digital standard for printable documents read over multiple platforms. Indeed pdfs can now be read by eBook Reader devices like Sony Reader, Barnes and Noble Nook, Amazon Kindle, Bokeen, BeBook, and more as well as on web browsers and computers and tablets. Due to PDF’s popularity, there are a lot of papers and books all already available on PDF format.

HTML Format

Last but certainly not least, along with Plain Text, HTML is another digital eBook format we are most familiar with but does not necessarily spring to mind when we think about reading eBooks. Hypertext Markup Language (extensions .html and .htm) is probably the most popular eBook format (think Project Guttenberg and even this blog).

It lets users easily and freely access content via web browsers, incorporating all sorts of multimedia from pictures to video. Furthermore, many devices from Tablet computers to eBook Readers have built-in web browsers as do many of today’s phones. Hence, HTML can be considered the most popular digital book format.

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