Why Doesn’t My eBook Look Like My Printed Book?

ebook publishing

Authors are still acclimating to the world of eBook publishing, which has some asking, “Why doesn’t my eBook look like my printed book?” There are practical reasons why.

There’s no shortage of questions about eBook publishing. Dozens of ‘em come into BookBaby every day from authors all around the globe. Some are basic and simple. Some are much more than that.

Digital books, or eBooks as we call them, are still very new to most authors. You know the old saying about “there’s no such thing as a stupid question.” I had a grade school teacher who used to put it a different way: “If you ask a question, it might make you look stupid for five minutes,” she said. “But if you don’t ask, you’ll stay stupid – so ask away.”

With that in mind, two of the most commonly asked questions about publishing eBooks are:


“What can I do to make sure my eBook and printed book are exactly the same?”


“Why doesn’t my eBook look like the printed version and/or the source document I provided you?”


For the typical eBook, it is virtually impossible to make the digital version match the printed version. I recently wrote a blog post, “Fixed Or Standard Layout For Your eBook?” that covers this topic in some detail.

The key point in that post is this: Unlike a printed book that is presented in one static format – for example a 6″ x 9″ trim size trade book – an eBook layout can and will change based on several factors:

  • Reading device. A book read on an iPhone will look much different than the same book viewed on a Kindle or iPad simply due to the different screen sizes.
  • 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 choices.

How important is it that your printed books and eBooks look the same?

For some books – various children’s books and recipe books, for instance – an exact page design may be critical to the reader’s experience. If that’s the case, we recommend converting your eBook as a fixed layout. [Note: At this time, BookBaby only distributes fixed layout books through iBooks.]

“What happened to the page numbers and/or headers and footers in my book?”

Page numbers don’t exist in eBooks, for many of the same reasons as outlined above. Devices such as Kindles, Nooks, iPads and others come in different sizes. That means the amount of information displayed – e.g. your words – on the screen on any given device is different. So it makes sense that what is page 18 on one device can be page 35 on another device simply because the settings are different.

Regarding headers and footers: Each device has its own specs for using headers and footers, which often includes the name of the book, chapter, or author. Some devices also insert footers on the cover page.

“Why have you added pages to my eBook?”

We add a few pages to eBooks to ensure they can be viewed on numerous devices.

  • Title page. A title page is added because some devices don’t read the cover and need a landing page when the book is first opened on the device. This is an image page and not live text.
  • Table of Contents. We add a Table of Contents (TOC) page because older devices/readers will not allow navigation to be accomplished without a physical TOC.
  • Copyright/ISBN page. We create this page as this is now a standard for the vast majority of eBooks. At times this will just be a page with the ISBN number on it.

And one more question we often hear has to do with eBook proofs that we send to our clients prior to completion:
“Why have none of the corrections I requested been made?” or simply, “You sent me the same file as last time!”

When you receive a second eBook proof, your changes ARE really there. The issue is eBook devices save a cache of the epub file. It allows for quicker load time when the book is being read on the device. However, this can be a problem for multiple versions of the file. Unless the book is completely different, the device may or may not load the new file correctly.

Here’s how you solve this problem: Delete all prior versions of the file from the reader. Don’t worry – we keep copies of everything if you need to revert back to an earlier version. Then you can load the newest file without a problem.

Have more questions? Our team of publishing specialists are on call to lend assistance. Call us at 1-877-961-6878 from 9 am to 5 pm Eastern, Monday through Friday.

Image via Pexels.com.


Your path to self-publishing


Related Posts
Fixed Or Standard Layout For Your eBook?
What Is A Fixed Layout eBook?
How To Format Your eBook
The eBook Price Is Right. Or Is It?
Your ISBN: Answers To Frequently Asked Questions


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Steven Spatz is a writer, marketer, and President Emeritus of BookBaby, the nation’s leading self-publishing service provider. After a successful career with companies including Mattel, Hasbro, and Pinnacle Orchards, Steven joined AVL Digital in 2004 as Chief Marketing Officer, leading the direct-to-consumer marketing teams for music industry-leading brands Disc Makers, Oasis, and CD Baby. The native Oregonian was tapped to lead BookBaby, the company’s new publishing division, in late 2014. BookBaby’s growing book-printing operation is located outside Philadelphia, PA, and employs over 100 book-publishing experts across the United States to meet the printed and eBook needs of thousands of self-publishing authors around the globe. Steven retired as brand President in 2022 and continues to contribute via weekly emails, industry guides, and posts on the BookBaby blog. He’s in the process of relocating full-time to southern France in early 2023. Steven loves to hear from authors, editors, and publishers in the BookBaby community with tales of publishing trials and triumphs. To tell him your story, write to steven@bookbaby.com.


  1. That is like asking why doesn’t a movie look like a book. They’re different media! You know, paper versus electronics.

  2. eBook publishing really is a different world from traditional publishing. As you mentioned, there are so many variables when it comes to eBooks and it’s impossible to control them all.


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