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eBooks 101: Standard Vs. Fixed Layout

One of the most frequent questions we get asked here at BookBaby is, “What’s the difference between a fixed layout eBook and a regular eBook?”

What is a “standard” eBook?

A standard eBook (generally in ePUB format) employs real-time flowable text so you can read it on any eReader and adjust the font size and style to fit your reading preferences. There is no set pagination with a standard eBook because the number of words displayed per page can change based on user settings and the screen size of the particular device.

Most eBooks are standard ePUB format. This format is ideal for text-based books and books with small images embedded amongst the text (which essentially creates paragraph breaks).

What is a “fixed layout” eBook?

When it comes to books that rely heavily on design elements or large illustrations/photos (cookbooks, children’s books, comics, etc.), fixed layout may be the better solution if you want to preserve the qualities of the printed page. To put it plainly, the pages of a fixed layout eBook are… fixed! Content (images, text, etc.) will not “flow” across the page if you change your settings, though most devices will allow the reader to zoom in and out.

Fixed layout is like the digital version of typesetting; you can embed fonts, choose the exact placement of visual elements, etc. The benefit of fixed layout is that you’re in complete control of the experience. The drawback is that readers are NOT! With fixed layout, readers lose the ability to resize text, change margins, change spacing, and change fonts.

Keep in mind that a fixed layout eBook is different from a PDF file. While the content is not re-flowable, a fixed layout eBook can make use of enhanced interactive features. Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon all support derivations of fixed layout ePUB files (though BookBaby currently only delivers fixed layout titles to iBookstore).

Use the standard ePUB format if:

* your book is mostly text (besides the cover art).

* your book features small images that are embedded between paragraphs.

* you want to ensure maximum usability for your book (since standard eBooks are readable on most eReaders, tablets, smart-phones, and computers).

Consider fixed layout if:

* you want to preserve text over images.

* you would like to set a background color.

* you want text to wrap around images.

* you want your book to have horizontal orientation.

* you want multi-column text pages.

* your pages have aspect ratios that you don’t want to change.

Since fixed layout eBooks require some extra attention during the conversion process, fixed layout ePUB conversion often costs more than a basic ePUB conversion. BookBaby can handle fixed layout ePUB conversion (for iPad only) for $199 (up to 50 pages)— plus the cost of either a Standard ($199) or Premium ($299) BookBaby publishing package. Add $3 for additional pages over 50. Click HERE to get started!

[eBook photo from Shutterstock.]

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Chris Robley

About Chris Robley

Chris Robley has written 504 posts in this blog.

splits his time between the Portlands Oregon and Maine. Generally, he plays music on the West Coast and writes poems on the East — though sometimes that gets mixed up. His music has been praised by NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and others. Skyscraper Magazine said he is “one of the best short-story musicians to come along in quite some time.” Robley’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Beloit Poetry Journal, RHINO, Magma Poetry, Pacifica Literary Review, Arsenic Lobster, and more. He is the 2013 winner of Boulevard's Contest for Emerging Poets.

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