There are two main types of e-book: dynamic and fixed layout, and it is important to know both before deciding on the appropriate format.
Dynamic or Fixed Layout?
The first step in converting an electronic publication into an e-book is to decide which is the most appropriate format for a project. There are two main types of e-book: standard or dynamic layout and fixed layout, and it is important to know both before deciding on the appropriate format.
E-books available in dynamic ePUB format, can be published in all book stores and work on all reading systems (applications and devices). Amazon currently also accepts ePUB, so files in Mobi format are not required.
They can be published in most book stores, and variations include KF8, ePUB 3 (Apple Books, Google Play, Kobo and other stores) and Nook (Barnes & Noble). These e-books are designed for devices and applications that can display them properly. Therefore, a fixed layout book may not look as expected if viewed in an electronic ink reader, such as the Kindle or Kobo models, which are designed to show books that are mainly based on text.
For most publications it is a very simple decision; fiction titles (except illustrated children’s books) and non-fiction titles, such as biographies, memoirs, historical titles and commercial guides, are almost always dynamic in layout and can be adapted to any type of screen. Illustrated books for children, books with cooking recipes, photographic and artistic titles are usually produced in fixed-layout e-book formats. However, for some books, deciding which approach to take can be a more difficult choice, since the content can work in both standard and fixed layout formats.
The following information aims to help understand the differences between the two approaches and decide which type of e-book is best suited for a project.
Standard or Dynamic Formats
Also known as flowing books and reflowable formats, dynamic formats are the most common type of e-books and are suitable for publications based mainly on text. They have a fairly simple page layout. Virtually all fiction and non-fiction titles, such as biographies, business books and memoirs, are produced in dynamic formats.
The two most common formats of dynamic e-books are:
- ePUB for all other major retail stores and devices such as Apple’s iPad and iPhone, B&N Nook, Kobo, Google Play and OverDrive.
- Mobi for Amazon Kindle (Amazon now accepts ePUB as its preferred format).
Below are some examples of dynamic layout e-books captured in Apple Books for macOS. For an enlarged version, tap or click on the image.
As you can see in the examples, standard formats can include images (color and grayscale), embedded topographies, tables, lists and formatted text. However, the appearance of these elements, in addition to other standard features such as font size, will depend on the device/platform with which the e-book is displayed, and on the personal settings of the person who is reading the book.
Fixed Layout Formats
Fixed-layout e-books are often used for projects where page layout is more complicated than a single column of text or where there is a need to position the content absolutely. Common examples of the use of fixed-line e-books are cookbooks, company reports, technical publications and illustrated titles for children.
The most common e-book formats are:
- ePUB 3 for Apple, Google and Kobo
- KF8 and Kindle Textbook Creator for Amazon Kindle devices
- Nook Kids for Barnes & Noble
Not all book retail stores accept fixed-layout titles, so if it is vital to achieve the widest possible distribution, the standard/dynamic format may be the best option.
Below are some examples of fixed layout e-books captured in Apple Books for macOS. For an enlarged version, tap or click on the image.
Examples show the flexibility of design with fixed layout formats. Features such as full-bleed graphics, background images, double facing pages, multi-column text and vertical text, are totally possible (depending on the device or platform).
Fixed layout formats give e-book creators much more control over the design of each page of the book and, unlike standard formats, fixed layout formats do not allow the user any option to change the fonts, text size, line spacing or margins. On most devices, the user can change from portrait to landscape orientation, view from one page to two pages and zoom in or out of the content, but it cannot alter the design of the content of the page.
What is the Right Format? Comparison of Benefits and Limitations
Adaptive and Dynamic Formats
- Extensive distribution opportunities – accepted by most platforms and devices
- Give the user control over the display of text*
- Small file sizes, so Amazon download fees are lower
- Faster to update
- It only supports simple page design, without several columns and without content with absolute positioning.
- Limited control for orphan and widowed lines. The user controls the text size, typography, line spacing and margins* so the amount of visible content will differ between devices and from user to user.
- Limited support for embedding specific fonts
- It is usually more expensive to produce
Design Formats and Fixed Layouts
- Full control over the design of the page, so it can include:
- Content of several columns
- Text positioned on images
- Colorful backgrounds
- Graphs and images with full bleeding
- Double-page sheets
- In general, it is cheaper to produce
- Excellent support for embedding fonts*
- Limited opportunities for distribution
- Not suitable for all devices or applications due to specific styles
- Larger file sizes, so Amazon download fees may be higher
- Readability issues with small content on some devices
- It is usually more expensive to update
* Dependent on the application and device.
Request a Quote for a Project
If you want a quote to convert files into dynamic layout (adaptable) or fixed layout (fixed design) e-book formats, complete the quote request form or send us the files along with an explanation of the services you need.