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File types for ebooks explained

If you are ready to jump into ebooks, you may be confused as to what the different file types mean. You may have seen pdf, epub, and other names. This happens every time a new technology is introduced and there is a scramble for a standard format. If you are old enough to remember, it happened with VCR and Beta, vinyl records, 8-track tapes, cassettes, and CDs. If you are over 100 years old, you remember when the controversy was should electricity be direct current (DC) or alternating current (AC). Eventually a standard is settled on and all is forgotten about the confusion. But while it's happening, it can be a real hassle. Which format should you buy?

Here are the major categories of ebooks

• PDF. This format by Adobe, the Portable Document Format, has been used to allow anyone with a computer to read a file with text and images. Technically, it is Adobe's Reader format, but everyone just calls it a pdf. And that was the standard that ebooks started with, but it has fallen out of favor in recent years as the type doesn't flow correctly in ereaders. Avoid pdf.

• Epub. Epub is the standard for ebooks. It allows text to flow, allows images, and works for any type of ereader from an iPad to a Nook. Libraries started including this format a few years ago. The only ereader that can't read epub formats is a Kindle.

• Kindle. In spite of the fact that the epub format is the most universal, the success of the Kindle ereader is forcing libraries to supply this format, too. Since the vast majority of people who are reading ebooks are doing so on a Kindle, this will probably become the standard, and other devices will have to follow.

I hope that this helps.