PDF vs. ePub

A Portable Document Format (PDF) is a common and highly used file format that provides an electronic image of text or text and graphics that looks like a designed, printed document and can be viewed, printed, electronically transmitted, and interacted with on screen. They are a reflected output of the designed piece so rely on the quality of design. PDFs are also very common as the print file format used for printed material as well as the file format used for viewing on all screens, devices, etc… Many interactive elements can be added to PDFs, making them engaging on screen, and still printable.

An ePub (Electronic Publication) is a file format that provides a responsive on-screen ‘electronic-publication,’ that’s viewable on most any device or web browser. It’s wide range of interactive features, basic animation, and on screen functionality fit well with the more modern “ePub” formats on all modern devices. It is seen as a true “online” or “on-screen” only document.

What’s the difference?

There are two popular forms of media today. Printed media, and on-screen media. And when it comes to documents, you can create them to print, and you can create them for online or on-screen viewing— or both.

When it comes to (on-screen) documents you ultimately have three primary options: A PDF document, an ePub document, and a Website. The Website option essentially is your document as either a Web page, or a Web site dedicated to your content. That’s really all a Web site is anyway— content. Text and graphics. Let’s focus here on the PDF and ePub.

Both PDFs and ePubs are “documents.” Both can be considered many things: ebooks, info-documents, infobriefs, white papers, booklets, digital books, etc… but they’re all basically still just documents at the end of the day. And both rely heavily on the expertise of the creator. Highly creative and skilled designers, managers, and writers can create outstanding documents no matter what kind they are. But it also helps to know which one or which type to create as they each have similarities, but slightly varied pro’s and con’s. I’ll try and provide some of the differences here.

PDF

A Portable Document Format (PDF) is a common and highly used file format that provides an electronic image of text or text and graphics that looks like a designed, printed document and can be viewed, printed, electronically transmitted, and interacted with on screen.

A PDF is a file format used to present and exchange documents reliably, independent of software, hardware, or operating systems. Invented by Adobe, PDF is now an open standard maintained by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). PDFs can contain links and buttons, form fields, audio, video, interactivity, and business logic. They can also be signed electronically and are easily viewed on most all devices. Far from dead— still growing, highly used, and very popular with several great features available to make an exciting, highly visual piece of content. To learn more: https://acrobat.adobe.com/us/en/acrobat/about-adobe-pdf.html

Pros of PDF:
• Simple to create, print, email, download, view online, and distribute
• Most widely-used electronic document format worldwide
• Entirely independent of the operating system and hardware of the device viewing it
• Looks the exact same on every device
• Interactive content can be only for on screen, and not print out
• Total control over design— it looks how you design it to be, and locked in place
• Excellent features allow the “cool factor” can be easily pushed
• Embed other pdfs, graphics, audio
• Add meta tags, descriptions, and titles
• Add pop-ups, hidden files, and moderate interactivity
• Implement security, forms, and digital signature options
• Can implement social media sharing

Cons of PDF:
• More or less static: They do not respond to different device screens, and do not reflow
• Hard to see on some readers and smart phones (show up small, cut off, etc…)
• Limited animation ability (can’t add animated pieces of content on screen)
• Interactive content is ONLY on screen, cannot be printed
• From a programmers point of view, the code is very complex and not easy to work with
• Interactivity only works locally on device, not online
• Quality of piece highly relies on design experience and technical knowledge

ePubs

An ePub (Electronic Publication) is a file format that provides a responsive on-screen ‘electronic-publication,’ that’s viewable on most any device or web browser. It’s wide range of interactive features, basic animation, and on screen functionality fit well with the more modern “ePub” formats on all modern devices. It is seen as a true “online” or “on-screen” document.

An ePub (Electronic Publication) is an e-book file format with the extension .epub that can be viewed on or downloaded and read on devices like smartphones, tablets, computers, or e-readers. ePub is the most widely supported vendor-independent XML-based e-book format (as opposed to vendor-specific PDF). It is supported by the largest number of hardware readers today. Most e-Readers such as Apple’s iBooks, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Adobe Digital Editions, Aldiko on Android among others (nearly 300) support .epub files. It continues to grow as the open standard format for most reading devices.

‘ePubs’ can do a bit more than PDF-style ebooks, although they do integrate well. They allow fully integrated and interactive online experiences with your content and work particularly well with text documents, but can also be used with less text and more graphics. They respond well to varying screen sizes, devices and browsers, allow animated content, hyperlinked material, and interactive content all contained within. They are modern, fun to work with, and can be easily shared on social media, as well as easily added to your own web pages (using iframe code). They can also be downloaded as a zip file and read on all modern devices, with full functionality of an ePub.

Pros of ePubs:
• Animated content is easier to create (stuff moves and acts out on screen)
• More interactive content such as popup graphics, embedded infographics and video
• Unlimited hyperlinked additional material
• Downloadable pdf version can be also be embedded, included
• Share buttons for social media
• iFrame code to embed to your own web pages
• Zipped ‘ePub’ format that can be used on ePub, iBooks, etc…
• ePub file can be downloaded and read locally on any modern device (most all devices have ePub readers)
• Unlimited design potential
• Add meta tags, descriptions, and titles
• Spread or single page options
• Fluid, responsive layouts can be created
• Can be created as an app, or put on numerous ePub stores (Apple’s iBooks, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Adobe Digital Editions, Aldiko on Android)

Cons of ePubs:
• Not ideal for printing— in fact, primarily an online, or on-screen document
• The higher-ended programming, although better for programmers in XML, can be VERY complex
• Strict requirements for creating archives and other deeper valid files innate in an ePub
• Can be more pricey to create
• You need to have experience with ePub creation software to create the ePub (Indesign, etc…)
• Adding the more elaborate layers of an ePub can be rather complex
• Quality of piece highly relies on design experience and technical knowledge

Overview

Both PDF and ePub can be beautiful, engaging and useful file formats depending on what you want to create and they both have individual advantages and disadvantages. Creating either a PDF or an ePub depends on these factors:

1. Budget. ePubs will cost a little more to create.
2. Ideal deliverable type. A single PDF file that can be emailed, printed out, or downloaded/viewed on screen— or an ePub that will be experienced on a screen only.
3. Interactivity expectations. Knowing the limits of each format and what interactivity options they provide. What kinds of interactivity will you want?
4. Distribution, sharing, marketing. Do you want to email it, download it it, print it out? Or only have it viewable on screen? Maybe it’s a simple text-only book that you want responding on peoples phones and tablets— vs. a set in stone design that is like a photo album.
5. Think of the user experience. How do you want the audience to experience your document?

Samples:

ePubs

These are samples that show an ePub on Adobe’s ePub hosting server:






Sample direct ePub download



PDFs

Interactive PDF document sample. Direct pdf download to device.

Interactive PDF document sample. Direct pdf download to device.

Sample standard PDF documents












 

Let’s get creative— together.

[email protected], or visit my website: http://www.mitchellcreativegroup.com

©2018 Mitchell Creative Group, LLC

Share This Content!