EPUB vs PDF: E-Publishing File Formats

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With the increase in usage of smart devices, digital documents are replacing printed copies of the same. The ease of reading the content on your smart phone or tablet gives you freedom from carrying the hard copies of content everywhere. Several digital file reading formats are available for use, with eBooks taking an important role. PDF and EPub are two most popular eBook file formats that are widely used for reading digital content.

In this article, we’ll try to present a brief overview of both these types and then present some comparisons from several different perspectives.

PDF

PDF (Portable Document Format) is the famous and widely used standard for digital documents representation. Adobe introduced PDF in 1993 and it was followed by a series of standardization, leading to a family of PDF standards including PDF/A, PDF/E, PDF/UA, PDF/VT and PDF/X. PDF, in reality, is a digital representation of a paper document that has fixed layout. Having a PDF is like holding a printed copy of the document via a screen.

EPub

E-publishing or EPubs are digital representation of documents keeping in view the reading on  mobile devices. Compared to PDF, EPub files are flexible in terms of reflowable and are considered the primary choice for creation of ebooks. The format adjusts document layout according to the device screen, making it more convenient for reading.

EPub vs PDF

The Commonalities

The choice of EPub vs PDF depends on a number of factors. Since both the formats are used for digital representation of documents, the differences as well as the commonality between these two formats are of vital importance before opting for one. The common things between these are as follow:

  • Multiplatform Support: Both the formats are readable over multiple platforms andcan be opened with a variety of readers.
  • Security: PDF offers you security of content by applying a password on the file so that it can’t be opened without password. EPub provides content security via digital rights management (DRM) that protects the work from reproduction.

The Differences

With commonalities come the differences that give priority to one format over the other. Following are the differences between these two types.

  • Rich Media: Though widely in use, PDF doesn’t support rich interactive media such as video and audio. In contrast, EPub supports embedding video and audio links that make the content rich with these media types.
  • Editability: PDFs can be edited using publicly available applications as well as APIs. EPub files are generally read-only and can’t be edited.
  • Reading Experience: EPubs are reflowable as compared to PDF which makes them the obvious choice of readability on mobile devices and tablets. The auto adjustment of contents to fit the screen and around the images makes it the choice of reading on smart devices. In contrast, a PDF file is a fixed layout file format that constantly requires you to zoom, pinch and scroll for readability. However, if the relationship of text to image is essential (like in a children’s story book), PDF dominates.
  • Developer Perspective: From application developer’s perspective, EPub is more flexible than PDF. Based on standard XML and XHTML languages, EPub is easy to use with most types of software. In contrast, PDF is based on strict conforming rules and developers find it hard to write applications for writing PDF files.

EPub or PDF: Which format to use?

The choice of EPub or PDF depends on user requirements actually. If the purpose is to write and publish books, ePub is the obvious choice. However, if your business requires contents that needs to be printed, PDF should be preferred.