Two ebook formats dominate industry

When self-publishing an ebook, you’ll likely run into a couple of terms about the “format” that your manuscript must appear in, specifically terms like EPUB and MOBI. While you need not be too concerned about how to create documents in each format, knowing the difference between the two can help you better understand the ebook creation process.

Each electronic device that you can use to access ebooks – a tablet, a Kindle, a Nook, a smartphone – uses an operating system. Because these devices are created by competing companies, they use different operating systems, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. Operating systems only can read information provided to it in certain formats.

Though there are many different formats that ebooks can appear in, generally, two major industry standards dominate.

One is called EPUB. This format is used by most major ebook retailers who produce ebooks, including Nook (Barnes and Noble), iPad (Apple), Kobo, and Sony Reader. The other is MOBI, which is used by Kindle (

When self-publishing, you do need not know how to write software code in EPUB or MOBI. Currently, Kindle DP, Smashwords, and most other publishers of ebooks will reformat Microsoft Word documents into EPUB and MOBI formats for you when uploaded. However, to accomplish that, you may need to follow specific guidelines about how you create and format your Word document; for example, Smashwords does not allow tabs to be used (while Kindle DP has no problem with it).


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.