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Different e-reader devices support different ebook formats. The main two seem to be ePub and MOBI. I'm wondering why we have two commonly-used formats. Do they have different technical advantages, rendering each format more suitable for certain uses? Or is it a matter of device manufacturers each wanting to do things their own way?

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Many of the ebook readers either have or have had their own format. Sony had the LRF format (more properly known as Broadband eBook), for example. Proprietary formats are designed for two reasons:

  1. to take advantage of special features of the hardware and software
  2. to lock users into the vendor's hardware and content ecosystem.

Currently, there are at least five commonly used formats that are specifically designed for eBooks (as opposed to PDF which has broader aspirations and use).

  • MOBI (Mobipocket)
  • AZW/KF8 (Kindle)
  • iBook (Apple)
  • LIT (Microsoft)
  • ePub (open standard)

All of these formats are based on HTML, but with special wrappers, extensions, and/or Digital Rights Management (DRM).

Of the five, ePub is the most open, and therefore preferred by technical consumers who don't like to be locked in to a particular company's hardware and/or software. This has lead most eBook hardware and software vendors to support ePub, as least for books acquired from other sources.

A detailed comparison of eBook formats is available on Wikipedia.

  • Lit has been discontinued along with the MS Reader, it hardly qualifies as a common format anymore. Oh and, for the record, LIT is a descendant of HTML as well, as it's based on CHM. – SáT Dec 19 '13 at 13:59
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    @Chad HTML is not based on XML. XHTML is, but that's mostly unused nowadays. – svick Dec 20 '13 at 1:37
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    @Chad - HTML and XML are both offshoots from SGML. I'm too lazy to find proper reference but if you google SGML HTML and XML together one is sure to be among the first results. – DVK Dec 20 '13 at 19:07
  • @DVK yourlogicalfallacyis.com/burden-of-proof - I am talking about the EPub standard not html/xml I do not know why you guys are dwelling on that let it gol. – Chad Dec 20 '13 at 19:10
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    @Chad - you said "HTML is also XML based". And my comment was for eduction purposes, not proof purposes. If you want proof, post on Skeptics and someone will hunt one down :) – DVK Dec 20 '13 at 19:11

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