VSN eArticles: pdf vs epub vs mobi Version?

Last Updated on July 3, 2022 by Nancie Waterman

Ok, I know that this post is geeky, but if you are confused as to which format of VSN eArticle to download, I think you’ll find it helpful, so please give it a shot.

Most of VSN’s eArticles are available in three versions: pdf, epub and mobi (Kindle). Whether these file types mean anything to you may depend on your personal computer savvy and what type(s) of computer, phone, tablet or eReader you use. For those who might not know a pdf from an epub, here are a few screen shots from the different versions to help you better understand what the heck this all means and how to choose the best version for you. (Note: All of these “screenshots” are actually photos of the eArticle on my 7″ Galaxy Tab 7.0 Tablet.)

pdf eArticle on Tablet

PDF Version: This is page 16 from the pdf version of VSN’s most recent eArticle, “Specialty Card Folds”. Notice a few things here. Each page of the eArticle is laid out in a landscape orientation designed to fit neatly and completely on your desktop or laptop computer screen without a lot of scrolling around. Notice too that this version has permanent page numbers because what is on page 16 (in this case) will stay on page 16 no matter how much you might increase the text size.

The pdf version is my personal favorite version and is what I create first when I lay out a new eArticle. I like it because, as the page designer, I can pick fonts that I like and can style the text to make it more readable. I can pick what page a picture goes on, where the picture goes on the page and put captions and other descriptive text next to it.

It is the prettiest version of the eArticle and can be laid out like a magazine page (well, half a magazine page.) It can also be printed on your computer if you prefer a print copy. I can optimize the pdf version which makes it the smallest of the three file types, something that might appeal to you if you have a slower computer connection. pdf files can open right in your browser window or can be downloaded (saved) to your computer to read offline using pdf viewer software (depending on how you have your pdf reader software and/or browser software set up.)

pdf eArticle on Tablet zoomed in

The downside of a pdf version is that the text does not reflow if you, the reader, zooms in or out as I’ve done here. So if the page designer (in this case me) picks a page size and/or text size that doesn’t work for you and your computer screen, you might need to zoom in the text and then scroll around a lot to read it. By making VSN’s pages half size landscape rather than the more typical full page portrait, I’ve tried to minimize this. But if you are reading the pdf on a very small screen or have poor eyesight and need to zoom it really big, you might find this scrolling around irritating.

epub and mobi Versions: So what to do? This is where the epub and mobi file versions come into play. The word “epub” is short for “electronic publication” and is a relatively new type of file. It is a actually a little rudimentary self-contained website wrapped up inside a file, so epub files tend to be much simpler in layout than pdf files. Instead of the text wrapping around images in fancy ways, you are more likely to see simplified pages arranged in one long column of text that flows from page to page with the occasional picture in between paragraphs.

Epub files are currently most often used for electronic versions of text-heavy books like novels. If you purchase a digital book from the Books section of Apple’s iBooks store or from Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, you are purchasing an epub. On the other hand, mobi files are epub files converted to a format that can be read on Amazon’s Kindle eReaders and are the type of ebook you buy on Amazon. Using the epub or mobi format to publish picture heavy craft articles is pushing the envelope a bit, but these file types have some advantages for digital reading that are too good to miss.

epub eArticle on Tablet with UB Reader

To read an epub, you need epub reader software. On tablets, this software is called an “app” (short for “application”.) Here is the same page shown earlier except that it is the epub version and is shown using the “UB Reader” app on my Galaxy 7 tablet. The orientation is vertical (portrait) and the text is now in one long column. Pictures are placed between paragraphs rather than off to one side. Notice that all of the content from the original pdf page doesn’t fit on the epub page. Instead it flows onto the next page.

epub eArticle on Tablet text bigger

Although the page in the epub version is often not as pretty as the pdf version, the cool thing about this format is that you can increase or decrease the text font size and the text will reflow. You don’t have the problem of text being hidden off to the right or the left as you would if you zoom in on a pdf file. Here I’ve increased the text size a little bit. Now you only see the title, the first paragraph, the first picture and the paragraph beneath it. Any text that doesn’t fit on the current page simply flows onto the next page. This makes reading text comfortable and flexible. But because things move around in this way, you can’t be sure where a particular picture will wind up. It might be at the top of the page with  descriptive text right below it or the middle of the page or off by itself with the text following on the next page. So picture viewing can be a little clunkier. It is a trade off.

epub eArticle on Tablet horizontal

And if I turn the tablet on its side, the page looks different once again. The text is the same size but the picture adjusts to fit the wider space, so much less content fits on the page. Again, the remaining content simply flows to the next page(s.)

epub eArticle on Tablet Aldiko ReaderWith epubs, as a page designer, I can indicate whether something is regular paragraph text or a title or subtitle, but the text can actually look different depending on the epub software you are using. The font can change. Things that were originally in bold type are sometimes now in regular type. Often what were originally nice looking fractions now look clunky. For example, here is the very same page of the epub version instead using the “Aldiko” epub reader app. Notice that the text styling looks a little different, including indents on all the paragraphs and the loss of some of the text bolding, and the page content ends at a slightly different place.

epub eArticle on Tablet Cool Reader appAnd here is the same page yet again, this time using the “Cool Reader” epub reader app. This particular reader’s software is set up to make the page “paper” appear aged rather than white, which can be kind of nice for reading some books but can really alter the look of something like VSN’s craft eArticles!

And there are other small differences. For example, in epub and mobi files, you can’t put links on top of a picture, so clickable links on Sponsor pages are instead listed as extra text beneath the Sponsor page picture instead of being clickable right on the Sponsor page.

Epub vs Mobi Versions: The epub and mobi (Kindle) versions of VSN’s eArticles are very, very similar to each other. I’ve found that mobi files don’t handle drop shadows very well and that they can do weird things if artwork is tilted at all, so I usually strip out any shadows on pictures and make sure any tilted artwork is straightened up. Otherwise, the two formats are very much alike. They just need different eReaders.

Occasionally there will be other minor differences that relate to the way the page has to be laid out for epub and mobi. For example, in the Specialty Card Folds eArticle’s pdf version, I often used letters to identify pictures described in the text so readers could match them up on the page easily. In the epub and mobi versions, I stripped out most of these letter picture labels and simply inserted the pictures in between the paragraphs.

The eArticles’ basic content (article text, pictures and links) are the same in all three versions. It is just the layout that has changed. The experience you have when reading the eArticles is slightly different, depending on the version of the eArticle you choose with pros and cons for each.

Which Version to Pick: Most readers pick the pdf version as it is a pretty universal file type and is also the most familiar. If you’ve spent much time at all on a computer, you’ve probably read pdf files. If you are at a loss as to which format to try, go for the pdf version. Adobe offers a very good free Adobe Reader software so that you can read this type of file on many types of computers and eReaders.

If you want to read an eArticle on a tablet using an epub reader app, you might choose the epub version. If you have a Kindle, you might choose the mobi (Kindle) version. Just remember when picking these file types, that you need to get the file to the personal documents folder of your eReader to read them.

Some VSN readers actually download two versions, typically the pdf version for viewing on larger screens and for printing, and then either the epub or mobi version for reading on smaller tablets or eReaders, choosing one or another based on what type of tablet or eReader they have.

Note: If you want to read an epub or mobi file on a regular computer screen rather than a tablet or eReader, you can do it. You just need to install eReader software on your computer. For example, Adobe offers a free “Digital Editions” epub reader and Amazon has free Reading Apps for mobi (Kindle) files.

Questions About eArticle Version Types: If you have questions about the various file types used for VSN’s eArticles, you are welcome to ask them in the comments below. I’m happy to answer. ~Nancie

2 thoughts on “VSN eArticles: pdf vs epub vs mobi Version?

  1. i have a same book in two versions. pdf and epub
    while epub has 200 odd pages, pdf has 300 odd pages.
    i’ve read a part of the book, one page on the pdf takes 20 epub pages. so what is it, that im missing to get only 200 epub pages?

    1. Hi Anil, I can see why you would be puzzled! Without actually looking at the two versions, I can only guess, but here are some possibilities that I can think of that might explain the page differences.

      1) If you are finding that your text size setting on the epub is giving you 20 pages per every pdf page, but your epub has fewer total pages than the pdf, the first possibility is of course that they left out some text when they created the epub version. Are there, for example, appendixes or indexes that exist in the pdf version that are not found in the epub? Missing chapters?

      2) BUT, it is also possible that the text is all there but that pictures are what is causing the difference. Basic epub files were really originally intended for text-only or text-mostly publications, but many books that include pictures are starting to be converted into epub format. Converting a file with pictures can be tricky however. You can create epubs using different methods. The method I use (InDesign) gives me a choice on pictures to have the pictures appear on the eReader page in either a fixed size that is the same no matter what size screen it is viewed on, or a size relative to the size of the page. For the epubs I create for VSN, I set it to relative size so if you look at the picture on a smart phone, it is relatively small, fitting the page, but if you are reading on a 10″ tablet, the picture adjusts to be much bigger, so that it still fits the same way on the page. I’ve purchased epubs from other people who do it differently, resulting in my only being able to see the pictures as very small – not much bigger than thumbnails really – regardless of how I set the text size on my eReader. So in those books, while I’ve got all the pictures and context, the pictures are so small that they take up much less space than they would in a print book.

      So one possibility that I can see for your mystery lost space is that maybe the difference is pictures. Is it possible that the publisher has removed the pictures altogether? Or it might be that all the pictures are included but are very, very small while they take up larger portions of the pages in the pdf (and therefore more pages.)

      3) Another possibility might be empty white space. A lot of times when a book is laid out for print (and pdf files are often laid out in a format very much like a print publication), there is a lot of white space – big margins, empty space left on the page, empty pages entirely. Even in a text-only novel, often a chapter will end partway through a page, leaving the rest of the page empty. Then the next chapter begins on the following page. In some books there is even an extra blank page between chapters and more blank pages at the beginning and end of a book and/or pages with very little text on them (like title pages or pages with copyright info for example.)

      These are the places I would look to try and figure out why there is a difference.

      I hope this is helpful, Nancie

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