ebook filetypes & my quest for noting and annotating PDF’s

This post will explain the basic difference between the most popular eBook filetypes/formats. This may not seem important, but it is if you want to be able to use these formats across multiple devices or even on a computer.

Let’s start with epubs. According to Wikipedia

EPUB (short for electronic publication; alternatively capitalized as ePub, ePUBEPub, or epub, with “EPUB” preferred by the vendor) is a free and open e-book standard by theInternational Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). Files have the extension .epub. EPUB is designed for reflowable content, meaning that an EPUB reader can optimize text for a particular display device. EPUB also supports fixed-layout content.

The format is intended as a single format that publishers and conversion houses can use in-house, as well as for distribution and sale. It supersedes the Open eBook standard.

Next, let’s look at the mobi and AZW formats. A file with the MOBI file extension is a Mobipocket eBook file. According to the mobi Wikipedia page, Mobipocket.com was bought by Amazon.com in 2005. The first Kindle devices (Amazon’s series of ebook readers) used the AZW e-book format, which is identical to the Mobipocket (MOBI) format for files that are not DRM-restricted. Kindle devices do not support the epub file format used by many other e-book readers. Instead, they are designed to use Amazon’s own e-book format AZW. Like EPUB, these formats are intended for reflowable, richly formatted e-book content and support DRM restrictions, but unlike EPUB, they are proprietary formats. Right about now you’re probably wondering why any of this matters. Well, as a mobile device junkie (I regularly use an Android phone, iPad, and Kindle Fire HD) and a graduate student, these formats matter. The epub format is great for the iPad as it opens right up in Apple’s iBooks app. The mobi and azw formats will work on Kindle devices and will open in the Kindle app on iOSz devices. Let’s take a glance at one last format type, the pdf.

Portable Document Format (PDF) is a file format used to represent documents in a manner independent of application softwarehardware, and operating systems. Each PDF file encapsulates a complete description of a fixed-layout flat document, including the text, fonts, graphics, and other information needed to display it. In 1991, Adobe Systems co-founder John Warnock outlined a system called “Camelot” that evolved into PDF.

Ok- so now that we’ve gotten all of that technical stuff out of the way and we kinda know what standard eBook formats are out there let’s talk about why any of this matters. PDF’s can be opened up on iOS as well as Android (including Kindle) devices. As a student and teacher, I download lots of PDF files that I need to read. I started sending all of these to my Kindle account using the Send to Kindle application or Google Chrome extension. I chose this method over sending them to Dropbox and opening them on my iPad for a couple of reasons:

  1. I was able to skip a step by sending these items directly to my Kindle account.
  2. Sending these things to my Kindle account meant that regardless of where I logged in to my Kindle account (whether via Kindle Cloud Reader, smartphone, computer, tablet, web-browser, or any of Amazon’s free reading apps), I can access those files and read them, picking up right where I left off reading the last time.

Awesome, right?! Well, kinda… So the more I did this and the more I read on the Kindle the more I realized that when reading the PDF’s on the Kindle I couldn’t makes notes or highlight, and I really missed that ability. And then I found pd4kindle.com. pdf4kindle.com This web app allows you to upload a PDF and download a converted version of that pdf in mobi or azw format, FOR FREE! The same folks have also created the epub2mobi.com site, allowing you to upload an epub file (maybe one you’ve downloaded from the awesome dotEPUB service) and download a Kindle supported file that you can send to your Kindle account using one of the Kindle apps.

What’s the point, you say?

Well, now I can makes notes and highlight in those used-to-be-PDF’s that I’m using for research or studying. If you ask me, it’s worth it!

Also, according to the developers the process of converting will be made easier soon by a Chrome extension. Whoo-hoo! I’m looking forward to it!

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