eBooks: The Ultimate Guide

Jill Conway


February 24, 2020 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

Man using tablet to write over what is already typed out on the screen

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EBooks have been around for almost two decades, but only recently have they sprung into the mainstream. Not only are they a great alternative for writers, but they also create affordable methods for businesses to market their products and services. In this article, discover more about what an eBook is, study in-depth steps on both writing and publishing an eBook, and explore an extensive list of advantages and disadvantages.

What Is an eBook?

An electronic book, commonly known as an eBook, is a form of text translated through a screen or handheld device. The defining factor is that it’s non-editable, just as a physical book. EBooks, themselves, are digital files that are stored, shared, and read as any other file on a computer would. Another prominent feature is that they’re reflowable, meaning they adjust to fit any screen size without breaking the book’s content.

How Do eBooks Work?

EBooks offer digital alternatives to physical copies of books. They’re often downloaded on special devices such as eReaders that store hundreds of eBooks. With this technology, readers download full libraries into single devices, accessing any book as they please.

How to Use eBooks

Woman reading her kindle in her home or office

Image via Pixabay by Pexels.

The idea behind an eBook is that it’s viewable on electronic devices. This poses many benefits such as sustainability and cost savings. Higher education institutions say that the use of eBooks is on the rise due to the cost benefits for students. Instead of purchasing an expensive, physical copy of a book, they can read it online on almost any device. The same remains true for recreational readers. EBooks grant them the ability to read their favorite works of literature anytime and anywhere. From this versatility came the idea for eReaders.

What Is an eBook Reader?

An eBook reader (or eReader) is a portable electronic device used to read eBooks. Due to the nature of these devices, many work long hours using minimal battery power. The technology these devices run on has been around for a while, but their popularity increased with the release of Amazon’s Kindle. It revolutionized the eReader industry with new ideas like high-contrast screens, SD slots, and WiFi. It also included a full keyboard, allowing users to navigate and buy eBooks right on their device. For the first time, heavy readers and travelers didn’t need to pack multiple books. They accessed almost any piece of literature right at their fingertips.

Since the release of the Kindle, other eBook readers have come to the market. Each one takes the initial idea of the Kindle and builds on it in their own way. Some of these devices include:

  • Kobo
  • Nook by Barnes and Noble
  • Onyx Boox
  • Sony eReaders

Readers for Personal Computers

Those without specific eReader devices can access eBooks on tablets and other devices. Some paid reader services exist, but two very popular sources have free packages:

  • Adobe Acrobat Reader is a globally-trusted application for viewing PDFs. On top of their base program, Adobe has also released its own eReader, allowing users to access other types of eBook files.
  • Microsoft Reader is a Microsoft-specific application developed for eBooks. It displays both PDF and XPS files and has similar capabilities to Adobe’s reader including searching for words and phrases, taking notes, filling in forms, and printing.

Types of eBooks

There are two primary types of eBooks on the market: reflowable and fixed format. Reflowable, as defined previously, holds mostly text with little-to-no images, making this type a great fit for novels. Amazon and their Kindle device popularized this type by making it affordable and more available.

Alternatively, fixed format eBooks hold more images than text. Because of their make-up, files download with a device-specific layout and don’t adjust to other devices. Children’s books, magazines, and comics are the most common fixed-format media.

Enhanced eBooks

Newer generations of eReaders provide support for what is known as enhanced eBooks. These next-generation eBooks come with additional features such as audio and video that plays along with text. This provides consumers with various methods of consuming eBooks. Due to their enhanced nature, publishers often charge more for them. Other features include read-along audio and interactivity, available in both formats.

What is eBook Format?

There is no single file type for eBooks. While some eBooks only offer text, others include images and video. Doing so requires specific file types, and eBooks come in various formats. The following list introduces and defines each type of eBook format:

EPUB (.epub)

The EPUB file format (or .epub file extensions) is one of the most popular eBook file options. The file name stands for electronic publication. It’s supported by most eReaders and offers compatibility with tablets, smartphones, and computers. EPUB defines the means of representing, packaging, and encoding web content such as HTML, CSS, images, and other related coding into single-file format. It acts similar to a zip archive containing coding elements from the aforementioned languages and other assets. The following includes other types of EPUB files:

  • EPUB2 improves the experience of the first-generation epub files.
  • EPUB3 capitalizes on the enhancements from the previous version, improving elements in audio and video, navigation, linking and more.
  • Encrypted EPUB allows security controls for publishers, allowing access to only certain users.

MOBI (.mobi)

MOBI files (or .mobi file extensions) are lightweight and support the use of bookmarks, notes, and even JavaScript. This Mobipocket binary eBook format supports standard HTML and often contains Digital Rights Management (DRM) copyright protection features. MOBI format primarily works for smartphones, Windows, and Kindle devices.

AZW (.azw)

Based on the MOBI file format, AZW (or.azw file extensions) files are specific to Kindle devices. They’re known to contain better compression than MOBI files and still include bookmarks, annotations, and last known page functionality. They also come with DRM and copyright protections. Newer generations of Kindles now have AZW3 (or KF8) and KFX.

  • AZW3 supports newer features like HTML5 and CSS3
  • KFX (or Kindle Format 10) supports enhanced typesetting such as improved character placement, more adaptable page layouts, and margins

PDF (.pdf)

PDF (or portable document format) files provide electronic images of text and graphics. These documents are viable for viewing, printing, and transmitting across multiple devices. Adobe developed this format to present images and other documentation on any software, hardware, or operating system.

Average Size of an eBook

With such versatility and so many options, how large can an eBook be? Just as any written material, an eBook ranges in sizes large and small, depending on the genre and goal of the book. For example, some eBooks are more like how-to guides. They introduce a topic and explain how to do it most effectively. These types of books are often schemes convincing individuals on buying into a product or service. In many cases, they’re around 50 pages or fewer. Other materials, such as novellas and full-length novels, range from 100 pages onward. On average, most end up around 300 pages in length.

File Size

While most publishing platforms care less about the number of pages, they do care for the actual file size. File sizes range drastically, depending on the length of the text and if it includes any media such as images and videos. Pure text eBooks of around 300 pages create a file size of roughly 2.6 megabytes (MB). That breaks down to two kilobytes (KB) per page. Most publishing platforms do have a maximum file size they allow, although it’s well beyond the average. For example, Amazon’s guidelines prefer that authors avoid file sizes greater than 650 MB.

Page Size

When creating and self-publishing eBooks, some authors have the option to determine page dimensions. Some publishing platforms have specific size dimensions they prefer, but it’s often up to the individual author. A great deal of customization comes with creating eBooks such as font type, font size, and spacing. The size and dimensions of each page change as those customizable options change. For that reason, authors determine their own page size. However, if the eBook contains any images, the general standard dimensions of 8.5 x 11 guarantee that images are large enough for devices like iPads.

The above dimensions are the default for word processors such as Microsoft Word. Leaving the setting as is makes printing physical manuscripts much easier. Conversion to PDF format works seamlessly as well.

How to Create an eBook

Many people write their own eBooks. They’re versatile not only in their design, but their intent as well. Some act as informational material steering consumers to buy a particular product or service. Others are often free guides on how to do certain things easier from cooking to coding. The rest are catalysts for novelists to print and publish their works. Those entering the eBook arena for the first time may not know how to go about it. The following steps outline how to create an eBook:

1. Choose a Topic

Potential goals for an eBook are vast. It can be anything from generating leads to pleasing an audience of fantasy readers. Understanding the intent and concept of an eBook stands as the first step to creating one. For example, if the eBook’s goal is conversions, the topic must relate to other content within the company’s various marketing channels. If the goal is to please an audience of fantasy readers, the content needs to meet the goals and expectations of those readers.

2. Create an Outline for the eBook

Writing an eBook without a proper outline is challenging. To ensure a solid piece of work without aimless rambling, writers create outlines in which they follow to see their book to completion. All books begin with an effective introduction or preamble leading readers into the content. What writers include within their introduction relies heavily upon the content’s topic and goal. For example, if the eBook aims to explain better processes for house cleaning, the introduction would present the topic of house cleaning on a broader scale, explaining how it worked in the past and why it needs change.

Alternatively, a novel about dragons might begin by explaining how the world works. Many such writers use the introduction to help readers understand magic, laws, politics, and other major areas that affect the story.

Most writers govern the rest of their outline by Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. Campbell based his cycle on the many stories and fables told throughout history as they all follow a similar structure. The versatile idea of the Hero’s Journey applies to marketing as well. Effective marketing eBooks also require a concise beginning, middle, and end as they guide readers through a journey to conversion.

3. Create an Outline for Each Chapter

Outlining the full content itself only gets a writer so far. Outlining individual chapters ensures cohesive structure throughout. Break down each chapter into bullet points or small sections similar to a PowerPoint presentation. Focus solely on the main ideas or plot points presented within the chapter and how they flow from beginning to end. Looking at an eBook from this perspective also allows a writer to maintain consistent structure. Readers find it easier to digest a book whose chapters follow a similar pattern. Readers who better follow the content are more likely to engage with it, especially in the sense of converting.

4. Design the eBook

Both novelists and marketers have their own methods of designing their eBooks. Self-publishing allows them to break general publishing house rules and do their own thing. For example, a fantasy author who wants their book to resemble an ancient text might give each chapter number and name their own page rather than positioning them above the first paragraph. They might also choose a particular font that continues to evoke a sense of antiquity.

Marketers might instead make use of their own tactics. For example, they’ll treat it as a lengthy blog post with helpful images, bullet points, and short paragraphs.

5. Incorporate Appropriate Colors and Other Visuals

When self-publishing an eBook, treat it as its own brand. Consider a potential logo and color palette that evokes the same senses the story does. Marketers often use the established design and color schemes of their business to create a better sense of cohesion with the brand. However, sometimes brand colors don’t mix well with the goal of the eBook. In these cases, both marketers and fiction authors share a similar level of creative freedom.

Publishing platforms such as Amazon’s recently retired CreateSpace offer specialized tools that help with this endeavor. With their advanced editors, both marketers and writers create effective book covers during the publication process. It also grants them the ability to edit each individual page with its design and color scheme options.

6. Incorporate the Appropriate Calls to Action, if Necessary

Marketers who opt for eBooks often do so to lead readers through a journey and into a call-to-action. A call-to-action is a link or button which entices users to engage by downloading, purchasing, or other avenue leading them along the funnel. In accessing the eBook originally, readers probably had to click a call-to-action within their email or on a website. The eBook itself, however, is a prime tool to send readers further into the marketing funnel, either offering a link to purchase or a link to other products and services.

7. Convert to a PDF, if Necessary

Not all marketers or novelists choose to officially publish their eBook. Some present it simply as a downloadable PDF. Converting a file to a PDF is often easy in most word processors. When saving the document, choose to save as a PDF. This action instantly creates a PDF copy of the document, allowing it to be posted and downloaded online. These documents are secure and unlike other presentable formats such as PowerPoints and basic documents, they can neither be edited nor corrupted.

How to Publish an eBook

Once the eBook is written, designed, and completed, the next phase is publishing if not offering a simple PDF. EBooks are widely self-published due their simplicity in distribution. Through self-publishing, marketers and writers have the opportunity to set their own price points and make all creative decisions in-house. The following steps outline the best procedure for self-publishing an eBook:

1. Edit and Finalize Content

It’s very common to see eBooks from marketers littered with grammar and punctuation errors. When readers spot these issues, it diminishes the credibility of the eBook as well as the brand. Take the full body of content through multiple rounds of edits and allow it to be seen by multiple people. Ensure all written content is clear, concise, error-free, and formatted in a way that is most effective to its goal. Use proper keywords throughout and omit redundant sections or bullet points.

2. Choose a Format

Once the document is fully edited, the next step is to choose the proper format. Refer back to previous sections and consider the possibilities of reflowable and fixed-layout eBooks. Study the capabilities of each and decide which works best for the eBook. From there, marketers narrow down the specific file types best for distributing their eBook. Knowing if the eBook should either be reflowable or fixed better determines the best file type. File types include EPUB, MOBI, AZW, and PDF.

Files such as AZW are device-specific. For example, AZW files are only compatible with Kindle devices. Although Kindles are popular, this decision limits the eBook’s potential reach. If the target demographic doesn’t include many Kindle users, the eBook becomes a waste of effort and resources.

3. Create and Set Metadata

For the eBook to be found in seller databases, it needs searchable metadata just like a blog post or other website content. Book metadata includes all the keywords and phrases that describe the eBook including the title, author name and bio, and book description. Both search engines and online retailers use this information to categorize books and help users find what they’re looking for. Determine a list of keywords for the eBook and place them throughout its metadata.

4. Set the Price

Without the need for physical copies, the small costs of production and distribution increase potential profit margins. Some marketers are unsure where to set their price points. Use the list of keywords developed in the previous step to find similar eBooks and determine their price ranges. Also, consider what platform sells the eBook. Different platforms offer various royalty options, and some are better than others. Some marketers find that their offered royalties significantly impact their price points.

Some eBooks are meant more as tools for conversion rather than sources of income. In these cases, marketers may not put as much emphasis on royalties when setting a price.

5. Promote 

With a finished eBook and publication process, all that’s left is promotion. In self-publishing, authors hold sole responsibility in marketing and promoting their material. Websites and landing pages are great methods of promotion, using newsletters as a way of educating and funneling users toward these pages. Marketers can also use their social media channels to either directly promote the eBook and link followers straight to the purchase page or link followers to the landing page for more information.

Plan a promotion strategy ahead of the eBook’s release. For example, some publishing platforms allow users to set their official publication date some time in the future. Once the date is chosen and publication set, share the date on the company website and social media channels. Letting consumers know the specific time of release can dramatically boost sales. Due to the heavy amount of traffic, some platforms may promote the eBook as a featured item, earning high volumes of both reach and sales.

EBook Publishers and Sellers

Choosing a publishing and selling platform for an eBook is just as important as it is for regular books. Some have greater reach while others offer better incentives such as high royalties and chances for greater promotion. The following list includes some of the most popular platforms:


Amazon is an international, online retailer selling almost anything consumers could ever want. It started small, selling only books, and keeps to its roots with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). KDP acts as Amazon’s eBook publishing platform and guarantees getting to market faster, earning higher profits, and keeping authors within full control of their work.


Smashwords is one of the world’s largest distributors of independent books. They guarantee a fast, free, and easy process for anyone to self-publish an eBook using their platform. Publishing with them gives free distribution throughout other major retailers such as Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and more. All author income made from sales goes to their PayPal.


Kobo sells almost everything in the e-entertainment space such as eBooks, audiobooks, eReaders, tablets, and more. They also offer publishing services for eBooks. With Kobo, authors can set special promotional and pre-order pricing. Income derived from sales goes through a direct deposit process with authors. Kobo also offers in-depth sales analytics, allowing authors to track sales and see real-time updates. Marketers may find great use in cross-referencing these metrics with their own.

Barnes & Noble Press

Formerly Nook Press, Barnes & Noble Press is another easy and free self-publishing platform. They offer unique tools and guides for both new authors and experienced marketers alike. All eBooks published here immediately publish to the official Barnes & Noble website and become available for all NOOK devices. Unlike other self-publishing platforms, Barnes & Noble does not require exclusivity.


GooglePlay is a digital distribution service offered by Google and is the official application store for Android users. Publishing eBooks on GooglePlay isn’t as easy as other platforms. Authors and businesses must create a GooglePlay account and fill out the interest form. They currently only accept a limited number of new publishers. Once on the platform, eBooks gain discovery through the world’s most powerful search engine as well as the one billion Android users across the globe.


BookBaby is one of the leading self-publishing companies in the U.S. If needed, the teams at BookBaby handle editing, design, and distribution. After edits, they send authors a finalized proof, allowing them to either pass or take the next step to publish. Their goal is simply to make the lives of writers easier. BookBaby also provides physical copies of books along with their eBook counterparts, printing on demand and distributing globally. One of the biggest benefits of choosing this platform is that authors and businesses take all of the net income from sales.


Blurb is solely a self-publishing platform allowing users to not only create and publish their work but to promote and share it as well. They offer a wide variety of digital tools to help authors and marketers alike in their self-publishing journey. Similar to Kobo, Blurb offers an analytics dashboard to track sales progress and manage sales on Amazon and other retailers. For those wanting physical copies, the platform allows the choice of either printing on demand or printing a specific amount of books.


Lulu is an online self-publishing, print-on-demand, and distribution platform. The only mandatory cost associated with self-publishing on Lulu is the purchase of a proof copy of their work for review before publication. For marketers self-publishing for the first time, this platform provides helpful agents that guide organizations through the process from designing a cover to uploading a manuscript. As with other platforms, Lulu users retain full control and complete copyright of their work.

Benefits of eBooks

The advent of eBooks not only changed the literature industry forever, but it also spawned a host of unique benefits for users and the planet as a whole. It’s because of some of these advantages that many people flock in support of them. The following list contains some of the many advantages and benefits of eBooks:

Instant Delivery

Consumers avoid going to bookstores or waiting on deliveries by downloading eBooks. They’re able to obtain their desired material at the click of a button. Once they download a book, it becomes a permanent piece of their collection.

No Trees Required

Ordinary books are made with paper products. Mass-producing books requires the destruction of thousands of square miles of forest. With eBooks, companies don’t need to cut down trees. They supply users with a single device, reducing production costs and positively impacting the world’s ecosystems with a much lesser need for wood.

Additional Bonuses

Along with the purchase of an eBook, both individuals and businesses have the opportunity to offer additional bonuses. These often come as special promotional materials or additional downloads. With an ordinary book, the offering of these incentives becomes impossible.

Less Space

For scholars and recreational readers alike, the concern for space continues to be an issue. With eBooks, there’s no need for shelving, cabinetry, or any other form of book storage. A full library collection condenses down to a single e-reading device.


Taking preferred reading material on a plane, car, or boat remains a difficult decision process. Most bags only allow for a handful of books fitting in with other travel-related items. With an eReader, users take their full library anywhere they go, accessing the exact book they want at any given moment.


Newer generations of eBooks and eReaders offer link functionality, giving authors the opportunity to provide links to their social media, their website, their other books, and any other supporting material. Books presenting research and hard facts link to additional resources so that readers can learn more on individual subjects.


Newer generations of eBooks and eReaders are printer compatible. If a particular section of a book stands out or users would rather read the material in a traditional manner, they print the pages. This is often done by saving the eBook as a PDF file (if it isn’t one already) and printing the image.

Easy Purchase and Download

The process of obtaining new eBooks is simple, especially with an eReader device. Users simply navigate to a store, search for the desired title, make a purchase (if required), and download. The process takes no more than five minutes and can be done from home.


When a user finishes reading a section of a physical book, they place a bookmark for future reference. Most eReader devices have similar functionality. Users return to the page they left on during their previous reading which occurs the moment they open the eBook file.


Many eReader devices have a search function for eBook files. Readers who want to show off their favorite quote or section of a book can simply search for it within a search panel. Every instance of the searched keyword or keyphrase highlights within the material, allowing readers to pinpoint their desired text.

Customizable Fonts

Some fonts are difficult to read and some readers prefer particular fonts. In these cases, users have the ability to change the font of the eBook as desired. Font size can either increase or decrease, and the font style can change all-together.


EBooks are generally more affordable than physical books. With no shipping and handling fees, vendors set prices up to 60% lower than the average physical book. This gives readers the opportunity to expand their library. It even provides educational institutions a means to decrease the cost of books.

Multimedia Elements

To explain their points, physical books only have text and images at their disposal. Some eBooks, however, include audio and video elements. To better explain ideas, they include short movies with speakers guiding readers through the content, making for a more well-rounded learning experience.

Drawbacks of eBooks

With eBooks comes a great deal of change and not all of it for the better. As great as the technology is, it leaves room for potential disadvantages. The following list contains some of the many drawbacks of eBooks:


Physical books are easily copied and resold. However, it takes a large amount of time and money to make it happen. Alternatively, eBooks present users with the ability to share content. They can send the file to friends or potential buyers, post the full text online, or even copy it to multiple documents.

Traditional Preference

No matter how far technology advances, some individuals prefer to keep the status quo. The same is true in the literary industry as some prefer physical copies of books over digital files. EBooks can’t mimic the smell of a new book or the feeling of flipping through pages, which many readers crave.

On-Screen Glare

Whether reading an eBook with an eReader or on a computer screen, there is a chance of glare from room lighting. Individuals often find themselves in situations where they can’t avoid it. Although it remains a minor inconvenience, physical books can’t reflect a glare.

Wide Variety of Format and Device Options

A variety of options is great for any industry selling products. However, for readers, deciding which file format and which device is best for them is often overwhelming. Also, some formats still don’t work effectively on all devices, making it difficult to read when the layout breaks. Those with traditional books don’t experience these issues.


Physical books are used at all times and all hours with some readers finishing whole books before putting them down. This may not be possible with e-reading devices as they require charge. Those traveling without a suitable charging hub could have their reading experience interrupted by a loss in power.


People use physical books until they finally fall apart. Some families hand down books from generation to generation before they crumble. This isn’t possible with eReaders. With all the benefits they bring, their life-spans are relatively short, lasting around six years on average.

Next steps

EBooks provide amazing marketing opportunities both large and small. They can be great tools for educating consumers on offered products and services. As the world progresses more toward digital spaces, eBook sales and overall popularity are only expected to grow. Stay ahead and explore the plethora of options an eBook provides for a business.

Need an eBook for a new product and don’t know where to start? CopyPress offers extensive writing and design services. With the advanced CopyPress application, users can watch the development and progress of their campaign in real-time and provide feedback with ease. All it takes to start an eBook is a simple phone call.

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Jill Conway

CopyPress writer

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