What is ePub?

The EPUB (short for electronic publication) format, with the file extension .epub, is an open source e-book standard established by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). This reader is publicly accessible, and, with its innovative technological structure, has superseded the prior Open eBook standard.

Special features of the EPUB-format

The EPUB has become the most commonly used e-book format in recent years. EPUB documents, as opposed to other file formats, are not specified to a particular page size. Instead, the content can be adapted to the size of the display, thereby allowing for smaller screens by increasing the amount of pages used, and vice versa. Even though the format has the extension EPUB, the file structure is one that can be integrated into a ZIP file. In its newest version, EPUB also supports various text formats and multimedia enrichments (audio and video elements etc.). Unfortunately, most of the readers can not yet reproduce those; however, most of the time, e-books in the EPUB format are merely a digital version of the published textbook.

Creation of EPUB

EPUB documents can be created using DTP systems (desktop publishing) like Adobe InDesign, as well as many other file conversion programs-

Other formats

Other widely used publishing formats include the PDF (Portable Document Format) and the AZW format, which is used by Amazon’s e-book reader, the Kindle. The PDF format in particular can be a bit problematic, as it does not allow for flexible layouts (i.e. not facilitating operations such as reflow by font size very well) and does not make for ideal reading using the e-book readers. If you want to use it as an e-book, you must first convert the format, otherwise, you might find  it difficult to read it on some of the e-book readers (on how to convert e-books).

e-book reader

Since EPUB-based e-books permit a dynamic adaptation of the text to the respective screen size of the device used by the reader, they are particularly suitable for reading on handheld devices. Almost all e-book readers (apart from Amazon’s Kindle) support the EPUB format.

The e-book readers differ in some characteristics. There are readers with an e-ink/e-paper display, which gives the reader the impression of having a printed sheet of paper in front of them. This display reflects light in the way ordinary paper does, and only uses energy to change the content, like when turning the page, for instance. This means that the battery life is very long. But not all of these displays have their own lighting. Moreover, switching can take a lot of time. Other e-book readers work with LCD technology. In addition, there are differences e.g. regarding the weight, the usability (touchscreen or keys) and the color scheme of the displays.

Devices that support EPUB are e.g. the following:

  • Acer LumiRead
  • BeBook (pure oder touch)
  • Bookeen Cybook Odyssey (Thalia)
  • Cool-er
  • Ectaco Jetbook
  • eClicto
  • eSlick
  • Hanlin eReader
  • Hanvon WISEreader
  • iRex Digital Reader
  • iRiver Story
  • Kobo
  • Movistar eBook bq
  • Nook (Barnes & Noble)
  • Onyx Boox
  • OYO
  • Papyre (Spanish)
  • PocketBook
  • Sony Reader
  • TrekStor eBook Reader (z.B. Pyrus)
  • Tolino Shine (Telekom)

Overviews of all sorts of e-readers and their properties can be found in English, German, und Spanish.

Reading on smartphones and other devices

For all modern smartphones, there are also applications available that make it possible to read EPUB. You can also read e-books on other handy devices:

  • iPhone, iPad und iPodTouch (via iBooks, Lxycycle Stanza)
  • Android-phones (Play Books, Aldiko, CoolReader, FBReader)
  • Symbian-phones (Mobipocket Reader, Albite Reader, BuBue Book Reader)
  • Windows-phones (Freda)
  • BlackBerry Playbook (kobo)
  • Velocity Micro Cruz reader
  • Toshiba folio
  • Linux tablets
  • Nintendo DS
  • Playstation Portable

Reading on the PC

In order to read e-books on your PC, you can use e.g. the following programs:

Add-on for Firefox
Add-on for Firefox
If you are using the firefox browser, you can download this add-on. With the EPUBreader you can read files in the EPUB format by simply dragging them to the browser. When downloading EPUB files these will open in the browser automatically and can easily be read on the screen.

Adobe Digital Editions
Adobe Digital Editions
Available for free with a simple design from Adobe, with which the formats PDF, XHTML, EPUB and Flash can be displayed; existing e-books can also be managed
Azardi epub3 Reader
The Azardi reader lets you read EPUB files on your desktop and is available for Linux, Macintosh and Windows.

Calibre – E-Book management
Free software for processing and managing e-book files (available for Windows, Linux and Macintosh) and has its own viewer for the administration of its own book collection. With this program it is also possible to convert documents into other file formats. For example, with Calibre you can convert e-books in the EPUB format (without DRM protection) into the MOBI format and thus are able to read them on Amazon readers too. Almost all common e-book file formats are supported and can be displayed and configured, printed or converted. There are many features for cataloging and managing e-books. News can also be retrieved and transferred to mobile devices using an integrated RSS reader.
Simple program for displaying e-books. Supports documents in these formats: FB2, TXT, TCR, RTF, DOC, EPUB, HTML, HTM, CHM, ZIP, PDB, PML, PRC und MOBI.

Free program for viewing e-books that works on several mobile hardware platforms and desktop systems and supports different formats.
Kindle for PC
Kindle for PC
Can display the e-book formats used by Amazon.
Stanza Desktop
Stanza Desktop
Free software for reading e-books, digital newspapers and other digital publications. The software supports different formats and is available for Windows and Macintosh.
Sumatra PDF
Sumatra PDF
A small and fast PDF viewer… in its newest version, the program is also able to display e-books. Sumatra cannot be configured further, which means, that the font size, the font itself and the colors of the document or the margin are unchangeable. Therefore it is not suitable for serious reading.

The acquisition of e-books

E-books can either be bought online or using the e-book reader itself. The books are then stored on your device (or your account) and are also available to the user offline. Most of the e-books have some sort of a copy protection “DRM” (Digital Rights Management), which prohibits an illegal distribution. It can also regulate the printing or copying of passages of the text. DRM sometimes links the e-books to a certain user who can read his books only on a limited number of different devices. Since the usage rights of e-books with DRM are not transferable, these e-books cannot be given away as a gift to someone else. However, there are also e-books can be accessed for free and thus can also be duplicated. These are for example books, of which the copyright already expired. Moreover, there are many libraries that offer their members the possibility of borrowing e-books for a fixed period.

E-books that have been purchased via the internet are excluded from the right of withdrawal because they are not suitable for a return due to their properties. Therefore it is not possible to exchange or return an e-book.

There are many overviews presenting websites where you can download free e-books, for example the following in English, German and Spanish.