With a spate of new eReaders and tablets hitting the market, we thought it worth spelling out some of the features and specs of the major players to help you discern which is right for you – or at least help you figure out what the differences are. Bear in mind, there is no real apple-to-apple comparison here (no pun intended). eReaders have black and white “eInk” screens and are designed to be fairly basic – the introduction of the latest $79 Kindle is the best proof of that. Tablets, on the other hand, are designed to be something like a laptop in your palm – and can be used for reading, gaming, browsing, streaming, recording, and many other “-ings” to boot. In the end, your (and your readers’) preferences may be driven by your choice of book retailer as much as by the features of any given eReader.

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It’s strange to say, but a lot of the questions we get asked about eBook formatting and conversion seem to stem from the fact that many writers have never read an eBook. Many authors are unaware of the benefits and limitations of digital books. They have not seen how text behaves on various eReading devices.

For those of you who are uncertain about how line-spacing, font size, pagination, and word-count work in eBooks, I highly recommend going to Barnes & Noble or Best Buy or a Mac Store and trying out an eReader. You don’t have to buy one, of course. But just a little experience with a Kindle, Nook, iPad, Kobo, or Sony Reader will probably answer 75% of your basic formatting questions.

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With all the eBook devices and formats emerging, it can be somewhat confusing when preparing your book for eBook distribution.  There are three main file types currently associated with eBooks:

EPUB (.epub) – Short for “electronic publication,” this is the most popular open standard format for eBooks that allows DRM (digital rights management). It is also the format used with all the major retailers EXCEPT Amazon/Kindle. With EPUB, reflowable content ensures that text is displayed in the optimal manner for each eReader or smartphone device.

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