eBook Collections Usage Guide: eBook Formats

A comprehensive guide to using the Marriott Library's ebook collections.

About eBook Formats

eBooks are like many forms of digital media in that there is no universal method of distributing and presenting them to users, meaning there are many different file formats that ebooks can come in. Because each file format has different programs and devices it is compatible with, it can be confusing for new users to understand what to do with the various ebook formats they encounter.

Generally, for each kind of ebook format there will be a default program and a few devices that are designed to support it, as well as a variety of third-party solutions compatible with some or all of that format's features (see Useful Software for some examples of good ebook software). The following list of ebook formats is designed to help you quickly and reliably use any of the formats in our collections. Keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list, and as with all things technological the information may change as new devices, programs, or formats are developed.

List Of Common eBook Formats

PDF [.pdf]

DRM: Yes

Works With:

- Adobe Acrobat ReaderAdobe Digital Editions

- Amazon Kindle Barnes & Noble Nook | Sony Reader | Kobo eReader | Other E-Readers

iOS Devices | Android OS Devices | Other Smartphones [With Compatible Applications]

PDF is a very common format for distributing documents and ebooks, and by far the most common format you will find in the Marriott Library's collections. Many PDFs in our collections are protected by DRM, and for those the best reading method is Adobe Digital Editions. DRM-protected PDFs can be used on portable devices if the device supports Adobe's DRM, but otherwise the file will not open. For PDFs without DRM, almost any current reading device, smartphone, or computer should be compatible. A variety of PDF readers exist for non-protected PDF files, but the most common is Adobe Acrobat.

ePub [.ePub]

DRM: Yes

Works With:

Adobe Digital Editions

Barnes & Noble Nook | Sony Reader | Kobo eReader | Other E-Readers

- iOS Devices | Android OS Devices | Other Smartphones [With Compatible Applications]

ePub is one of the more widely-used ebook distribution formats. It is compatible with almost all major e-readers (except the Amazon Kindle) and there are many programs that can read the format as well, most notably Adobe Digital Editions, which is one of the most popular ebook programs. ePub files can be protected by DRM, so the device or program you use must support the DRM for the file to work. For DRM-protected ePub books, the best reader is Adobe Digital Editions, or a device that supports the DRM. For unprotected ePub files, any device or program that supports ePub will work.

Mobipocket [.prc | .mobi]

DRM: Yes

Works With:

- Mobipocket Reader

- Amazon Kindle or Kindle App | Other E-Readers

iOS Devices | Android OS Devices | Other Smartphones [With Compatible Applications]

The Mobipocket format is an ebook format commonly associated with e-reader devices like the Amazon Kindle. The format sometimes has DRM, but not always. If a Mobipocket ebook is protected by DRM, the program or device that attempts to read it must support the DRM or the ebook will not work. Generally, if you have a DRM-protected Mobipocket ebook, the best way to read it is with Mobipocket's software on either a Windows PC or one of their supported devices. If your Mobipocket ebook is not protected by DRM, it will work on any program or device (like the Kindle) that supports the format.

eReader/Palm Digital Media [.pdb]

DRM: Yes

Works With:

- eReader Application

Barnes & Noble Nook

iOS Devices | Android OS Devices | Other Smartphones [With Compatible Applications]

Palm Digital Media (sometimes referred to as eReader format) is a method of distributing ebooks which is somewhat unpopular relative to the others listed here, but there are still many ebooks in this format. These files may be protected by DRM, in which case the files will only work with programs and devices that support the DRM. If the file is not DRM protected, any application or device that supports the format will be able to read it.

Plain Text and HTML [.txt | .htm | .html]


Works With:

- Browsers

- Text Editors

- Almost Any Device or Program

Plain text and HTML files are sometimes used to distribute ebooks. They are both very simple and small file types, and they never have DRM. Any program capable of handling text will be able to open .txt files, and most will be compatible with HTML. A surefire way to read either of these formats is to open them with a web browser (any web browser will work).

Guide Author

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Mary Ann James
Electronic Resources Manager
J. Willard Marriott Library
University of Utah
801 581 8077
Marriott Library Eccles Library Quinney Law Library