Ever since eBooks began gaining popularity over traditional books, publishers and authors started utilizing this medium to expand their reader base. For a manuscript to be published as an eBook, it first has to be converted into a format that is compatible with eReaders. ePUB is one such format which is widely supported by most eReaders. It is the first standard digital publishing format.
ePUB initially had only one publishing format- the reflowable layout. Then came ePUB3- an advanced version which introduced the fixed layout format. It brought along many enhanced features like interactivities, games, videos etc., which could be embedded into an eBook. But, in order to create a responsive and adaptable eBook that provides a comfortable reading experience to the users, publishers had to go back to the original layout i.e. reflowable ePUB.
What is Reflowable and Fixed Layout?
A page is said to have a reflowable layout when the contents of the page auto-adjust themselves to fit the screen size. The pagination and alignment changes according to the device that it is being viewed on. The user can view the content on any eBook reader or smartphone and the pages will automatically adjust according to the size of the device screen. It is a responsive design which works on both portrait and landscape orientation.
In a fixed layout format, it appears as if you are viewing a physical version of the book. If the page seems too big for your device screen, you will have to pan and zoom to read the entire content. A fixed layout is like a printed book where the contents of the page remain static, no matter what screen size you are using.
Books that contain a lot of images, like coffee table books, recipe books, children’s illustrated story books, comic books etc., require a fixed layout. The reason being, while text material can flow on to the next page, images can’t do that. It could lose its aesthetic appeal and end up looking stretched. Hence, it is advisable to use a fixed layout ePUB while publishing eBooks that are image heavy.
What is a reflowable ePUB format used for?
Reflowable layout is mainly used for text heavy books like novel, essay, fiction books etc. When a user reads a novel on his eBook reader or a mobile phone, he might want to increase the font size for better readability. When that happens, the line break and page break changes, so that the page can perfectly fit according to the screen size. Some of the text that were present on the page prior to the font change might now have moved over to the next page. The entire book reorganizes itself according to the change in the font size and orientation of the device.
Let us now see how to create reflowable ePUB for multiple devices
Select an eBook Creation Software
In order to create an eBook you first have to convert your digital manuscript into an ePUB format. You could use one of the many software tools available online for the conversion process. Indesign, Amnet, Kitaboo, Newgen, Kindle are some of the software services which publishers can use to convert their text or PDF files into ePUB. Some websites even let you start working from scratch, where authors can begin writing their eBook directly on the software application. Selection of the eBook creation software is an important step because here’s where you have to figure out which tool offers maximum features that you can utilize to create a compelling eBook. You cannot keep switching between software applications midway through the eBook creation process, it will be tedious and time consuming.
Import File and Start Editing
Import your file into the software and start converting. As the conversion process proceeds, all the line spacing, margin, indents are taken care of by the tool. In a fixed layout, everything that appears on the page has a fixed position and it cannot change. So, these ePUB files can have page numbering in the header or footer. But while creating a reflowable eBook you would have to remove all the page headers and footers, as they tend to change when the user makes changes to the font size and style. The software will usually add the headers and footers while the pages are being created. A table of content is created by the software, based on the titles. So, you don’t have to worry about creating one. The conversion software would most probably also take care of the copyright pages.
While a fixed layout ePUB does not allow its user to change font sizes because of its static nature; reflowable layout lets you do that. You can also add hyperlinks to your content, which would take your user to an external site. There’s also a search feature available to find particular words, passages or chapters.
Adjust Images Within the Content
We have figured that reflowable layout is not an ideal format for images and graphics. The contents on the page (text and images) being fluid in nature, would move positions according to the reader’s device. You will not be able to control the position of an image in such a scenario. If the texts are wrapped around the image, it might end up looking unattractive when the alignment changes. A slight change in the image location might throw the text out of its format. So, if you are using images, ensure that you place them either above or below the paragraph and anchor them at the place that you want. If you still find difficulty in keeping the image at one place, you would have to do a little bit of coding by making slight changes in the HTML and CSS codes. But avoid using images in a reflowable layout as far as possible.
Add a Cover Image
Select a visually appealing and relevant cover that indicates the theme of your eBook. Your cover image should convey the genre of the eBook to the reader. If you do not want to select a cover by yourself or if you want a custom designed cover, seek professional help. Ensure you choose the right resolution, image format and image dimension. The cover and the title on the cover image must be legible even at thumbnail size. It is advisable to put considerable thought into this process because many a times a reader may be compelled to open an eBook just based on the cover image.
Perform the Final Checks
Save a copy of the file, so that in case the file gets corrupted, you would have a copy intact, saving you from going through the entire process again. Preview the eBook and if possible check every page, check whether the hyperlinks are working, the table of content takes you to the appropriate page, and the texts are not overlapping. Do a thorough check of the eBook.
Export the File
Make sure you have made all the necessary edits and modifications. Once you are sure that your eBook is ready to be published, choose the export option. Here you would be prompted to select either fixed or reflowable layout. Click on reflowable and then export the file.
Publish and Distribute
Your eBook is now ready for distribution. Before you publish and make it available for the public, decide whether you want to apply DRM to your eBook. You can choose to keep your eBook DRM protected or DRM-free. DRM ensures that your eBook is safe from piracy and unauthorized distribution, as only users with an appropriate access key can read your eBook. Once your file is ready, hit the publish button and let the users enjoy your new responsive eBook.
Creating an eBook is not as cumbersome as it might seem. If you know the right tools and formats to use you can easily create an eBook. We would suggest hiring a professional eBook service provider to take this stress off your back. You have created the manuscript, now let the pros handle the rest. Although if you still want to create and publish on your own, keep the above-mentioned points in mind. An eBook with a reflowable layout can be viewed on mobile, tablets, various eReaders and PCs, offering wide distribution opportunities. And that is why it is the most preferred type of ePUB format, as it gives the reader an enjoyable reading experience.