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Term of the Week: eBook

What is it?

A digital file, in one of many possible formats, containing information similar to what would be found in a printed book.

Why is it important?

eBooks allow readers to engage content digitally, with functionality that is not available in print materials. It also allows communicators to reach broader audiences and expand distribution internationally.

Why does a technical communicator need to know this?

An eBook is a digital publication that can be read on computers or other electronic devices. eBooks are typically sold in one of two major formats: ePub (the industry-standard format) and Kindle Format 8 (KF8, formerly known as Mobipocket, Amazon’s proprietary ebook format). They can usually be purchased from large retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as from individual publishers and authors.

eBooks ease the distribution of book content around the world by eliminating the need for mailing physical books. They also offer a variety of features that enable readers to more fully engage and benefit from the content, such as searching within the book and following hyperlinks to locations both within the book and outside on the web.

Because eBooks are built in HTML, the same language used to build websites, it is becoming more common to see interactivity, animations, and other feature-rich content in eBook files. eBooks do often suffer from limitations imposed by reading applications and devices (collectively, reading systems), but this should become less of an issue as reading systems mature.

The native reflowable nature of eBook formatting makes it easier for readers to engage with content on mobile devices like smart phones. The linking capabilities of HTML can be used to integrate eBook content with other online resources, and the enhancement options make it possible to embed media and other rich content directly inside eBooks. These benefits make eBook formats a preferable alternative to PDF files, which are too limited in their flexibility and functionality.


  • International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF): The IDPF is a non-profit that maintains the EPUB standard. Their website includes technical documentation and other valuable information.
  • Kindle Publishing Documentation: This section of the Amazon website contains information about the format, specs and best practices documentation, Kindle Previewer (a Kindle device emulator for testing ebook files), KindleGen (the company’s automated conversion and packaging tool), and other creation tools for special formats like comics, children’s books, and textbooks.

About Joshua Tallent

Photo of Joshua Tallent

Joshua Tallent, the Director of Outreach and Education at Firebrand Technologies, is dedicated to helping publishers around the world create better books. In addition to heading up training and outreach efforts within Firebrand, Joshua serves on multiple industry committees and working groups and teaches at publishing conferences year-round. He also leads the development of FlightDeck, the most robust EPUB quality assurance tool available.

Term: Ebook



Twitter: @jtallent