eBook Snobbery Run Amok, or Yes, a PDF is Still an eBook
The most surprising example of Epub snobbery crossed my desk this week. Writing over at The Book Designer, David Kudler declared that PDFs aren’t ebooks before he proceeded to make all sorts of nonsensical claims.
He starts with:
Why is a PDF not an ebook? Two reasons.
The first is that they’re not designed to be displayed on an ebook reader.
That is an irrelevant point, and also false. You can make a PDF with a page size that works well on a 6″ ereader, and I’ve read standard PDFs on 8″ E-ink screens without a problem. Sure, some standard 8.5×11 PDFs don’t work well on 6″ screens, but that doesn’t disqualify the entire format.
And while we’re on the topic of ereader support, by Kudler’s reckoning Apple’s iBooks aren’t ebooks, because they can’t be read on an ebook reader, either. Furthermore, consider the earliest ebook formats, which were developed to be read on PDAs. According to Kudler those aren’t ebooks either, nor is any other ebook format that can’t be read on an ereader.
And that’s not his only technical mistake:
So if you’re trying to show someone exactly what a particular physical document looked like, PDF is the way to go.
If, on the other hand, you’re trying to share a document without knowing what the reader is going to be viewing the file on — and the content is more important than the appearance — stick to ePub.
Nope. If I want to make sure someone can read a document I will send a PDF. That is the single most widely support document format, and it is the one which I can almost guarantee will be usable by the recipient.
Epub files can be read by the limited subset of computer users who read ebooks and have installed an app on their machine, while PDF is supported by every web browser. Furthermore, most copies of Windows and OSX I’ve seen shipped with a PDF reader, while Epub support was hit or miss (mostly miss).
Claiming that Epub is the more universal format is a surprising oversight, and Kudler is apparently under the impression that no one sells PDFs, either:
PDFs can’t be uploaded to any of the major ebook commercial retailer sites and distributors (Amazon, Apple, Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, etc.), so if you want to sell your ebook, you’ll have to create an ePub file.
That’s simply not true. Google will take a PDF, and Amazon sells them on the Kindle platform as Kindle Print Replica. You’ll mainly find them as textbooks, and if you like you can make one with Kindle Textbook Creator.
And even if Amazon didn’t sell PDFs, that would not disqualify them as ebooks because the lack of support from major retailers is irrelevant to the intrinsic nature of an ebook.
You might as well argue that a Tesla is not a car because no car dealership carries them, or that an antique gun is not a gun because you can’t buy bullets for it any more. It is simply an irrelevant argument.
O O O
And just so we’re on the same page, folks, I’m not insisting you should like PDFs or that you should use them. I am merely questioning the logic of dismissing them as an ebook format.
In my opinion, folks, the file you wrap around an ebook simply doesn’t matter; the content is what’s important.
I have read ebooks in PDF, RTF, Doc, DJVU, BBeB, and a dozen additional formats whose names slip my mind at the moment. I’ve even read ebooks embedded on websites (I just finished Bujold’s latest novel, and I read it on the Baen website).
To argue that an ebook stops being an ebook simply because you convert the file to one of the lesser used formats is simply stupid. If it’s the same content before and after then arguably both are ebooks.
image by Jellaluna