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?” For many authors, understanding the nuances of eBook formatting can be a challenge.
Updated April 2021.
eBooks have been around for over a decade, yet, for many BookBaby authors, understanding the world of digital books can be a challenge. That’s why it’s helpful to have guys like Gino Vasquez and Kyle Fadigan on your side. Gino and Kyle head up our eBook Conversion team in the BookBaby office, and they field questions all day long from authors who are new to self publishing.
These guys play an important role in many BookBaby authors’ lives, as converting manuscripts from programs such as Word or Pages into formats that work on eReaders is a fundamental step in the eBook production process.
Who is in control?
“A lot of people think their online books should be a carbon copy of their physical book,” says Gino. “And that’s just not going to be the case.”
When you consider the differences between the printed and eBook format, Gino’s point is very relevant. It boils down to an issue of control. Self-published authors are in complete control of their printed book. The author chooses a certain trim size, font size, formatting, and design that remain consistent. The book itself is static and doesn’t change – unless the author wants to create a second edition with changes. With a printed book, the author has the luxury of specifying the exact reading experience that will remain consistent from book number one to book number 1,001.
Not so for the eBook. For this medium, it’s everyone – and everything – BUT the author that makes all the choices.
- Reading device. A book that I read on my iPhoneX is going to look a lot different from the same book viewed on a Kindle or iPad.
- Software or browser. If you’re reading the book on proprietary software like Adobe Digital Editions or different browsers, the layout can and will change.
- Distribution partner. Some partners, including Amazon, can add formatting rules and guidelines of their own to digital files.
- The reader. His or her experience can be customized with font and point size.
All of these variables are outside of the control of authors. Without special – and more expensive – conversion techniques, it’s virtually impossible to ensure every eBook reading experience is the same.
“The reality is that once the file is uploaded, the author is really not in control anymore,” says Gino. “Sometimes when authors review their eBook proofs, they call because they might not like the way the pages are breaking or where hyphens occur in a copy block. But that’s something they can’t dictate on every reader’s device unless they choose a fixed layout.”
Dynamic (or standard) layout
The majority of the eBooks that BookBaby distributes are mostly text without photographs or images. These books have what are called “dynamic” or standard layouts. A standard eBook is engineered with flowable text so you can read it on any eReader. Readers can adjust the font size and style to fit their reading preferences. That means there is no set design with a standard eBook because the number of characters and words displayed will vary based on user settings and the screen size of the particular device.
For these books, it’s not really necessary that readers have exactly the same viewing experience. Just because our experiences are different is doesn’t mean anything is wrong with the book! My iPhone6Plus will display a few dozen words at a time vs. an iPad that might have digital pages containing hundreds of words. Like they say on the car commercials – your mileage may vary. With eBooks, every reader will have a slightly different experience. Not better or worse. Just different.
There are some kinds of kinds of books that require a precise and consistent layout and pagination. Books that rely heavily on design elements or large illustrations and photos are candidates for what is called “fixed layout” eBooks.
What kinds of books are suited for this kind of file conversion?
- Children’s books
- Coffee table books
- Certain text books
Many of these kinds of books must preserve the qualities of the printed page. A “fixed layout” conversion will literally “fix” the images to a digital page. The book content – text and images – will not “flow” across the page if you change your settings, though most devices will allow the reader to zoom in and out.
Just like with printed books, the author is in complete control of the experience with a fixed layout book. The drawback is that readers are NOT! With fixed layout, readers lose the ability to resize text, change margins, change spacing, and change fonts. Given the differences between screen sizes on the hundreds of different kinds of eReaders, a fixed layout eBook might be difficult to read.
Keep in mind that a fixed layout eBook is different from a PDF file. While the content does not “flow,” a fixed layout eBook can make use of enhanced interactive features that a PDF cannot. Apple Books, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon all support derivations of fixed layout files. [Note: BookBaby delivers fixed layout titles to Amazon and Apple Books.]
How can you determine if your eBook is a good candidate for fixed layout? It’s easy – call Gino, Kyle, or any of our conversion specialists at 877-961-6878. “We can look at the files and number of graphics and offer you our opinion,” says Gino.
Some factors for deciding between dynamic vs. fixed layout
You should have a standard (dynamic) eBook conversion if:
- Your book is almost entirely text (besides the cover art)
- Any images you have are embedded between paragraphs
- You are concerned about maximum exposure for your book
You should consider fixed eBook layout if:
- It’s important to maintain a design that has text going over images
- A specific background color is important
- You want to wrap text around images
- You want your book to have a horizontal orientation with multi column text pages
- Your book must be viewed in aspect ratios that remain constant.
Think you need a fixed layout for your eBook? Here’s how it works.
- Create and save a quote for your fixed layout eBook project. Or, call our Publishing Specialists at 877-961-6878.
- Upload your files and fill out the required information. Please note: If you are providing a formatted file for your book’s interior, you must upload your book file either as a packaged InDesign File and/or a Live Text High Resolution Interactive PDF. Live text allows for the content to be searchable and accepted by our distributors. Interactive PDF files export with internal and/or external links the author has included in the manuscript.
- Place your order.
- Review your proofs. Fixed Layout eBook conversion takes about 10 business days. Once the conversion is complete, we’ll provide you with a proof you can test on your devices.
- Promote and sell your book! Once you approve your proof, we’ll distribute your Fixed Layout eBook to Amazon and Apple Books (this process takes about a week) where your readers will be able to purchase it.
What is a Fixed Layout eBook?
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