EPUB vs. Kindle (MOBI)

There has been a bit of discussion over on WattPad about the Kindle and self-publishing. In the discussion one user bring up a question on preferences towards the Kindle store and Smashwords, which has sparked a little interest between preferred eBook formats. Today, I will talk about my preference in the matter of EPUB vs. Kindle, which is technically the mobi format.

What format do you like the best? I prefer the EPUB format over Kindle. You guys may think that I do not know what I am talking about, but I most certainly do since I make all my ebooks by hand, with exception to those distributed by Smashwords. I even have images to show you guys exactly what I am talking about.

EPUB Strengths

  • Properly rendered HTML
  • Extranel stylesheets applied as should be
  • Smaller file size

First, let's start with properly rendered HTML. HTML is a standard that all webpages are made from. Event the flash sites use HTML, since flash is just a type of multimedia technology. As such, there needs to be something that describes how it works. In this case, and pretty any other case, the functionality actually how to render it on a display. tags like heading tags and paragraph tags automatically should have whitespace, meaning that there is no need to create a newline. Most EPUB readers follow this standard. Because it follows this standard, it is easier to find the place one left off, instead of having a big mess. Let us take a look at an example from one of my books called Man's Punishment. e_mp.png

Now, the display has been manipulated a bit via CSS, which I will talk about later with a better example. However, there was not a huge use of CSS to create this look. Normally, HTML paragraphs are not indented, even though they are in this image (part of the manipulation done via CSS). However, tags such as


usually have whitespace separating things. Notice how easy it is to read that passage in the image?

Now, let us compare the same passage in the Kindle format.


Again, CSS manipulates the image a bit, but this is precisely the kind of preview I get of the Kindle format. Notice how there is absolutely no whitespace between the paragraphs? It kind of looks like a print book, which is not so good of thing on a device for ebooks. Now, some things are messed up in both images, but that is mainly due to a mistake on my part. It should not look like that on Smashwords, hopefully.

Now, let us move on to stylesheets. Back in the day, formatting code was placed right inside of HTML, which made it difficult to change the appearance of web pages and have a consistent look throughout the entire website. That changed with the emergence of CSS. Thanks to the CSS standard and updated HTML standards, design and content could now be easily separated, as well as have smaller HTML files. While the paragraph indentation that you guys saw was consistent in both the EPUB and Kindle file, they did not have that kind of consistency between all pages. Let us look at the Table of Contents page.


This image comes again from the EPUB file. Notice how there are not any numbers or bullets next to the listed chapters? this is done via CSS. Simply, this page has a heading, and an unordered list. The CSS used in this file, as well as the Kindle file, since both used the same source files and directory, hides the bullets and produces this page. the lines there were not done via CSS but are done through HTML and are called horizontal rules.

Let's compare the same page in the kindle format.


This image should tell you exactly how I got the Table of Contents to look like it did in the EPUB. However, notice how there are bullet points in the Kindle edition, but not the EPUB edition? It cannot be the reader, because Calibre rendered the same page the way it should be in the EPUB. It was not made to look this way, since as I stated before the Kindle ebook was produced from the same source files and same source directory as the EPUB (otherwise the images displayed earlier in the post would not have the same problem). This means that the format does not support all CSS styles. Kindle does not support the same style rules that EPUB supports.

Finally, it is time to talk about file sizes. EPUBs are smaller in size than Kindle ebooks. Again, I have images to show this fact. Now, I do not know everything there is about computers, since my major in college was in Computing Information Technology, not Computer Science, so I am not too sure of the exact reason behind this, but my guess is that Kindle ebooks have as much compression settings applied to them as EPUBs.

Here are the details of the EPUB version of Man's Punishment.


Here are the details of the Kindle version.


Notice how the Kindle ebook is more than double the EPUB edition. Both are relatively small files, but with differences like this, and it is not even an ebook heavily populated with images, one could practically fit more EPUB files on a reading device than Kindle files. Let's do some math here, with the assumption that all the ebooks in one's collection is the same 90 kilobytes for EPUB edition or 201 KB for Kindle edition (remember this is not overall, just each individual ebook). Obviously, this will not be the case in reality, but it should demonstrate my point. A megabyte is 1000 kilobytes (in the decimal system) and the EPUBs we have are about 90 kilobytes each. The device has 4 gigabytes, which is 1000 megabytes/gigabyte (in decimal system). Our theoretical ebook library has 44,000 titles. In the EPUB format, you could put all of them (3,960,000 KB) on to the device safely. As for the kindle edition, which has the same titles as the EPUB edition, the library would come out to 8,844,000 KB. The device can only handle 4,000,000 KB, since the numbers are being based on the decimal system. This means that only 3,999,900 KB of the library will fit on the device, which comes out to 19,900 files, using the math that was brought up early. If we were doing actuals, which would be 1024 kilobytes is a megabyte (binary system) and 1024 megabytes/gigabyte (binary system), the number would be much smaller. This is because a device with 4 gigabytes of storage only has about 3.73 gigabytes that is usable (I am using the decimal prefixes just to help people understand what I am talking about). A larger file size means less space for files to be stored.

EPUBs do have their downsides too, but I'm afraid that this post is already super long, so I am going to end it here.

What are your opinions on this post? Outside of the Kindle device and apps, is there really any benefit to using Kindle ebooks? Feel free to comment.

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Copyright © 2015 Bryce Campbell. All Rights Reserved.