We receive many inquiries from authors, asking for eBook help. How does a print book become an eBook? What’s a “mobi?” Does an eBook need a new ISBN?

So, we thought we’d pull together authors’ most popular queries and provide the answers here in one blog post.

eBook Help: Q & A

I’ve seen companies that will convert my paperback into an eBook and companies that want to charge more for formatting the eBook. Which do I choose?

We’ve all seen bad eBooks. These are almost certainly converted. We’ve also seen eBooks that look, and read, as easily as their print counterparts. These are almost certainly formatted.

Ebook conversion is available everywhere and it’s cheap. Why? Because the codes are inserted by running a Word file or a PDF file through a software program or an algorithm that makes all the formatting decisions—many of them bad—and inserts the codes.

In contrast, eBook formatting is done by a human trained in how to format eBooks. By hand-coding your file—inserting the codes needed to properly format the eBook—the designer can “correct” for the idiosyncrasies of different reading devices so that the eBook always displays as well as the technology allows.

Here at 1106 Design, we format eBooks.

What is the difference between a fixed layout eBook and a reflowable eBook?

A fixed layout eBook retains all the beauty of your print book with backgrounds, fonts, etc. A fixed layout is recommended for picture books, cookbooks and children’s books.

A reflowable eBook looks generic: pictures followed by text in a single long column. These are best for novels and allow for the widest distribution (for now) when distributed through IngramSpark. A reflowable book allows for enlarging the fonts, “pinching” the page to zoom in, and other familiar actions on eReaders and tablets.

What is the difference between a “mobi” file and an “epub” file? Which do I need?

Mobi (.mobi) files are a file format for Amazon Kindle.

ePub (.ePub) files are the format for Apple, Kobo, Nook and other eReaders and tablets.

So, I should upload my eBook to Amazon Kindle and IngramSpark, right?

The choice depends on whether you’re content to offer your eBook only on Amazon or you want it to be available everywhere (including Kobo, which is the gateway to selling your eBook on the Walmart website).

Here are four distribution scenarios and what you can expect (as of October 2018):

Sell your eBook through Amazon Kindle Direct.

Your eBook does not need to be exclusive to Amazon. Uploading your book file to Amazon is free. You have two royalty (compensation) options: 35% and 70%. The 35% option is pretty clear-cut: 35% compensation on every book sold. The 70% option is a little fuzzier: you receive 70% compensation less delivery charges (charged per MB of data) in all territories except India, Japan, Mexico and Brazil. For eBooks sold in these four countries, you receive 35% compensation. Unless your book’s file size is huge (e.g., many photos and a long book) and/or you plan on selling a lot of books in Japan, I can’t find a downside to this option for 70% compensation.

Sell your eBook through Amazon Kindle Direct and enroll in Kindle Select.

The advantage of Kindle Select is that you’ll receive 70 % of the retail price as compensation in all countries, including India, Japan, Mexico and Brazil. However, you cannot sell your eBook anywhere else, including IngramSpark. You’ll be eligible to be a part of Kindle Unlimited, a subscription service from which authors are paid from a global pool of funds based on how many pages of their books were read.

Sell your eBook through IngramSpark.

You can upload your file to IngramSpark and there will be a small fee for doing so. They require the cover to be a separate file in a jpeg format. From here your eBook will be distributed to Amazon and many other sites as well, including Indigo, Walmart, Kobo and more. Your eBook does not need to be exclusive to IngramSpark and you can sell it from your website. You’ll receive 40% royalties from eBook sales through IngramSpark (regardless of where your book is sold) and 45% on books sold through Amazon. Note that IngramSpark takes Amazon Kindle’s exclusivity very seriously. If you’ve sold any eBook through Amazon Kindle Direct in the last twelve months—not just THIS eBook—you cannot distribute your book to Amazon Kindle through IngramSpark.

Sell your eBook through Amazon AND IngramSpark.

Upload your file to Amazon and enroll in either the 35% or 70% compensation option. Also upload to IngramSpark to take advantage of selling on Apple, Kobo and Walmart’s new eBook website.

We recommend this last option to our authors. It’s nice to have all your Amazon books—eBook and print books—on one platform and also be able to take advantage of IngramSpark’s much larger distribution list.

I already have an ISBN for my paperback. Can I use it for my eBook as well?

A new ISBN is not required for the .mobi eBook that you upload to Amazon Kindle, as Amazon assigns its own ASIN number. If you also upload an eBook to IngramSpark, that eBook requires a new, separate ISBN.

I’ve already published an eBook but now want to make some revisions to it and upload it again. Do I need a new ISBN?

If your planned revisions change 30% or more of the text, this would be considered a new edition and a new ISBN should be assigned. This creates an issue with Amazon because a new ISBN is a completely different book as far as their system is concerned (or rather, they will assign a new ASIN). You’ll need to contact them to move your reviews over to the new version. Once that’s done, then go back to your Bowker account and mark the old version as “out of print.”

If your edits are minor, it’s not necessary to assign a new ISBN or copyright date. You can add “Second printing, 2018” to the copyright page if you like.

Do you have questions about eBooks? Contact us to find out how we can help you.