The Amazon Change to EPUB Ebook Format
Most Christian Self-Publishers are aware there have been two dominant ebook formats for several years. One is the “Mobi” format used by Amazon, and the other is the “Epub” format used by everyone else. Last year, Amazon announced they were eliminating their exclusive Mobi ebook format and transitioning to the universal Epub format. That transition is now complete.
Ebooks have proliferated in the last dozen years and are here to stay. I have always found it odd that some Christians react negatively to ebooks. They strongly dislike them because they say they like the feel of a print book. Some even say they like print books better because of their smell. I can only suppose that there was outrage when book pages were printed and bound. Readers insisted they liked scrolls better.
In my view, Christian writers who want to disseminate the Christian message should embrace ebooks. They are an efficient, universal way of sharing Christian books of all types, and they can be read on any device (smartphone, tablet, computer).
The household penetration of computers worldwide was 47.1% in 2019. In addition, there are 1.28 billion tablets and 7.26 billion smartphones worldwide, so if people can read (86% of the world population is literate), they can read your Christian content on a device.
Accessing ebooks has never been easier since a dedicated ebook reader is no longer required. People can read them on free apps. This makes ebooks ideal for spreading the Christian message.
A Very Short History of Ebooks
Few people recall how this happened. In the earliest days of the electronic book revolution, I used to create executable (exe) book files that could only be read on Windows computers. That was okay since Windows was the dominant computer operating then as it is now.
These exe files “wrapped” your text to be easily readable but protected it so people could not steal the text. It was the only way of reaching a mass market at the time, although the US government and others used other specialized systems, such as the Dynabook.
In 1989, Franklin Computer released an electronic Bible that could only be read on a portable device they manufactured.
By 1993 the Portable File Format (PDF) file format emerged. It did not achieve a wide following among self-publishers for three main reasons. It lacked practical security measures for mass-market distribution. The layout was not flexible; the way the publisher formatted it was how the purchaser was required to read it. Finally, PDFs did not lend themselves a book look-and-feel that readers wanted. Later, PDFs became essential for creating digital printing of all kinds.
In 2005, Amazon bought a small company called Mobipocket and began producing ebooks for their Kindle ebook reader. They used the Mobi format which could only be read by their Kindle Reader and not any other device. Amazon captured the ebook market early because of the “Whispernet” delivery system. When readers bought a Kindle ebook, it instantaneously appeared on their Kindle Reader (now called an Amazon Fire device). Today, their ebooks appear on any device, and your purchases are also available in the Cloud.
Meanwhile, the International Digital Publishing Forum produced the Epub format as a free and open alternative to Mobi. Epub was adopted by ebook publishers old and new. There were only two major formats at this point, Mobi and Epub.
Now, Amazon has given up the Mobi format and adopted Epub as their only ebook format. Epub now reigns supreme across all platforms and devices in the electronic book publishing world.
How the Amazon Change Helps
We must remember that when it comes to ebook distribution, Amazon is really the only game on the planet. Love or hate it, Amazon is the #4 site for traffic in the US and #11 in the world (June 2022). On the other end of the spectrum is the popular Indie ebook selling platform, Smashwords.com. Their US traffic rank is 12,154, and their global ranking is 23,994.
If you are fishing for people to buy your book, you want to go to the lake where they have the most fish. That’s Amazon. Is it profitable to post your book everywhere now that you can use the same Epub file on all book-selling sites? Yes, it can be, especially since you can now use a single Epub formatted ebook on them all.
What about books you uploaded to Amazon in the past? Are they now obsolete? No. Amazon will convert and continue to sell them without any action on your part.
What if you want to make a change to a legacy Mobi book, like correcting misspellings or changing your email address? Make changes to your original document (Word, Scrivener, or whatever), convert it to Epub, and upload it at Amazon KDP. Amazon is no longer accepting the Mobi format for new or revised ebooks.
Convert your book to Epub once if it requires changes, and that new Epub file can then be your source document on all sales platforms.
The Best Ways to Convert to Epub
There are many easy ways to convert your formatted manuscript to an Epub ebook.
If you use Microsoft Word, you can upload your book directly to Amazon KDP, and their systems handle everything for you. This works best with text-based books; things can get complicated if you have tables, indexes, or more than a couple of images.
If you want more control of your interior book design, use a free tool like Calibre. It allows authors maximum flexibility when creating or updating ebooks. It has a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, you see it is a valuable tool.
Are you a Scrivener fan? If so, you can easily export your manuscript in Epub format by going to the File menu, selecting Compile, and selecting Epub 3 in the “Compile for” option at the top.
There are many online methods of creating Epub ebooks. Perhaps the best known is Google Docs. Even if you don’t like to use it to write, you can cut and paste your manuscript into it, then select File/Download/Epub.
Regardless of your writing tool, you want to review your ebook carefully before clicking the “publish” button. Fortunately, Amazon KDP makes this easy with their free Kindle Previewer. You can see precisely how your book will appear to users who are reading it with different devices.
Ebooks can help us fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). They can help us share Christian values in both nonfiction and fiction books. You can publish at minimal cost and reach a broad audience using proper book promotion methods.