EPUB Reflowable vs. Fixed-layout: Which is the Best Choice for your eBook?
A question that many authors may be asking themselves is, “What formatting should I use?” There are two main formats to choose from: fixed layout or reflowable. The difference between the two depends on how much control you want over your ebook’s design and reading experience.
You’ll need to learn more about both reflowable and fixed-layout eBooks to design a perfect one. To better utilize their strengths, you first need to know their differences, their differences, and how they will affect you.
What is an ePUB Reflowable Book?
One of the format options while creating an eBook is reflowable. The reflowable eBook “flows” with the screen size of the eBook reader. Think of it this way: each element on a reflowable layout is not anchored to its position on the page – or it is not “fixed,” hence it “flows” to conform to the available screen size. This functionality is available for both EPUB and MOBI formats.
Being movable or being “reflowable” doesn’t interfere with the functionality of each element. A sound bite will still produce a sound when activated, interactive elements will still perform their intended tasks, and visual elements, such as images and animations, will still be visible. Sometimes, these elements are even better in a reflowable eBook format as they can be emphasized a bit more since they can be thrust into the foreground.
What is a Fixed-layout eBook?
A fixed-layout eBook has elements that do not move, whatever be the screen size you read the eBook on. Each page behaves in much the same way as a physically printed page. Everything is “fixed” on the page, hence the term “fixed layout.”
Since EPUB is one of the main formats used by eBook publishers, sometimes a fixed layout eBook is referred to as a fixed layout EPUB. But, to be more precise, a fixed layout EPUB is an ebook with a fixed layout in the EPUB format. In this format, a page can have all the interactivity present on the page. Still, the main feature of this type of format is that all the elements, such as buttons, animation, sound bites, pop-up descriptions, or images, are “fixed” in their set positions on the page.
These features are the same for the fixed-layout KF8 format. Only that KF8 eBooks are formatted using the proprietary KF8 format by Amazon’s Kindle that utilizes the MOBI database.
How does a Fixed-layout eBook differ from an ePUB Reflowable book?
So, how do you decide to publish your book? Reflowable vs. fixed layout, which one should you choose? This decision will depend mainly on what you want as the author and what you want your readers to experience. You should put yourself in your readers’ shoes and ask yourself, “Does the reflowable format offer more benefits that add value to my eBook, or do the flowing elements take away from experience?”
Fixed layout is ideal for authors who prefer to control the look and experience of each page or each two-page spread. It is especially true if you are going for a visual effect that can only be achieved with a fixed layout. The most common limitation is that the book is not responsive and will not change according to the device it’s displayed on. It may mean that a reader may have to constantly zoom in and out or scroll horizontally to read a page that doesn’t quite fit the device.
On the other hand, the reflowable layout has the benefit of being responsive to the device it’s viewed on. The eBook optimizes itself to the screen size, making each element easily visible or accessible. An example of a component that works excellent on a reflowable book is images since images can be easily made larger by tapping on them. One problem with this formatting is that text wrap is not always possible. It is difficult to take control of the aesthetics or visual effect of a page.
When to use Fixed-layout eBook instead of ePUB Reflowable Book?
There is no hard and fast rule regarding which type of book would perform best utilizing fixed vs. reflowable EPUB or other eBook layouts. A good idea is first to make a PDF copy of your eBook and scrutinize this well. Inspect the placement of the pictures, the text wrapping, and the placement of the paragraphs. You need to inspect all the elements and ask yourself, “Does this work?” If you deem your particular book to work in a PDF format, it’s safe to assume that it will work with a fixed layout.
One type of book that works well with fixed layouts is children’s books. A children’s book may have page elements that are crucial to how the story is perceived, or you, as the author, may want to put every element, especially the images and animations, in such a way to create the experience that you want to evoke. The same goes for cookbooks, travel guides, and any other book that relies heavily on well-placed images.
One element of a page layout that authors may want to control is text wrapping. This is best achieved with a fixed layout. Also, suppose you’re going for a simple eBook with minimal interactivity that works well with the device’s zoom capabilities. In that case, a fixed layout may be preferable.
Examples of elements that don’t need to be moved to be appreciated are graphs, tables, and charts representing organized data. So, if your ebook incorporates these a lot, as in textbooks, then a fixed layout may work best for your needs.
Pros & Cons of Each Type of eBook Format
ePUB Reflowable eBook
- Text will reflow to fit into any screen size.
- The text size can be increased or decreased by the reader.
- It can be read on most devices.
- Limited design ability.
- Minimal control over how the content appears in the end product.
- The format is fixed.
- Immense freedom with design, format, and layout.
- Complete control over how the final design will appear to the reader.
- Easily integrate audio, animation, and complex layout.
- The reader cannot adjust the layout.
- It might require a larger file size and take up storage space.
- All devices do not always support it.
Now you have a fair idea about both these formats. You can weigh in the advantages and disadvantages of both ePUB Reflowable and Fixed-layout and choose the perfect layout for your eBook.