This might be judged more of a discussion than a question that can be answered, but bear with me.

I began my epub journey with a series of InDesign tutorials that instructed me to choose 3.0 as the default setting. I quickly gave up on InDesign and began using Sigil, but I continued using 3.0 as my default.

Then I ran into some heated debates regarding the relative merits of Epub 2.0 and 3.0. Some people claim Epub 2.0 is readable in far more devices, making 3.0 a lousy choice. However, others claim that there's no significant difference, except that certain FEATURES supported by 3.0 won't display in all devices.

I finally decided the best strategy would be to save my projects as Epub 3.0 but use a minimum of special features (e.g. JavaScript, advanced CSS), OR use special features only if I'm sure they won't cause problems on less advanced devices. That would seem to represent a good compromise - a platform that's readable in a wide variety of devices but that might also contain a few special features that will be visible in at least a few more advanced devices.

So here's my question: Is the above statement true?

I'm aware that Epub 3.0 books are being produced and sold by Amazon, iBooks and others. I've just run into people that insist that 2.0 is really the only way to go.

  • Yes, it's more an opinion based discussion than a plain Q&A. Anyway, it is largely dependent on the kind of book you need to publish (a simple novel or a handbook that maybe requires some extra features) and the end user; when I read a book, I don't really care about bells and whistles like animations, interactive parts etc. It is a book, I want a good story/essay/whatever, I'm reading it for the contents, not because it looks "cool"; but again, this is my personal view, others may have different tastes; you need to consider many things like your target audience, the kind of book, and so on
    – Sekhemty
    Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 10:40

1 Answer 1


Epub 3 is designed to be backward compatible. So a epub3 file will almost always render on reading systems which read only epub 2. Whether it will actually look good in a epub2 only reading system is another matter.

My strategy is to save all files as epub3 and then test on various platforms.

Of course, Kindle is another matter but Kindle Previewer accepts epub 3 no problem and the kindle app and kf8 support quite a bit of advanced css.

The big difference between epub2 and epub 3 is css media queries, and most reading systems jumped quickly to support that. (Css media queries let you target css according to device/dimensions; that's a vital feature for today's ebooks). Even Kindle supports css media queries pretty well.

A way to separate them by the way is to use basic css for legacy reading systems (epub2) and then to enclose your more adventurous css within css media queries targeted to specific screensizes for epub 3 friendly reading systems.

To summarize: if you make epub2 files instead of epub3, you won't be able to target your css to different dimensions and sizes for reading systems which are more compatible with epub3. That is a huge disadvantage for me.

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