Anatomy of an eBook - Difference between PDF and Traditional

When you think of the term “e-book” there are two distinct varieties that immediately come to mind. The first is a PDF version that bloggers often provide to their readers, and the second is a more traditional format that you purchase through e-book retailers like Amazon, iBooks, or Kobo.

There are pros and cons to creating both formats and there are also some key differences between them.


A lot of bloggers offer PDF e-books as opt-in documents to their mailing list or within resource libraries. These documents are intended for that blogger’s specific audience, or to entice people to become part of that audience. This audience depends on the popularity of the blogger, and often numbers hundreds or thousands of people.

Traditional e-books have a much wider audience. They are intended for readers with e-reading devices. They are usually considered products available through e-retailer sites. Due to the size of these companies and sites, the potential audience can number millions of people.

When it comes to audience, the biggest difference isn’t just the size, it’s the focus. E-retailers have large potential audiences, but your e-book is competing with lots of other products for attention. On your own site, your audience is focused wherever you direct them, so your PDF e-book receives more targeted attention.


PDF e-books are often very graphic oriented and visually appealing. The applies not just to the cover, but to all the pages within. This makes them great for website readers, but they do not translate well to e-readers.

Traditional e-books are meant to be read on e-reader devices. The reader can usually change the font type and font size while reading. There aren’t usually set page numbers since this can change based on the e-reader settings. For these reasons, traditional e-books do not have a lot of graphical design and in comparison to PDF e-books, look rather plain.


While PDF e-books are almost all content, traditional e-books have a lot of extra material in them. Traditionally e-books can be thought of as having three sections: front page material, actual content, and end page material. Each of the sections is important as they serve different functions.

Using a meal analogy, PDF e-books are a quick snack. They are usually smaller, and consist of one main item. For traditional e-books, if you think of the middle content as your meat and potatoes, the front and end sections are your side dishes. A meal isn’t complete without everything, so in this same manner, you want to make sure your traditional e-book has all of the necessary sections.


Since both the appearance and the content differ between PDF e-books and traditional e-books, the formatting required to prepare these documents is also different. PDF e-books are often created using graphical software, whereas traditional e-books are usually written within word processing software with very specific formatting rules. While it is not necessarily difficult to create either format, preparing each of these documents requires a different skill set and mindset.


Overall, PDF e-books and traditional e-books are very different. The tie that binds them is often the content. It’s entirely possible, and encouraged, to create both types of e-books for your content since you use them to reach different audiences.

Now that you know the difference between the two types of e-books, take a look at what you offer already. Do you have existing PDF e-books that you haven’t turned into traditional e-books yet? What’s stopping you from taking that next step to reach that wider audience? If it’s simply not knowing how to create a traditional e-book, that’s where Workaday Services can help.

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One Response

  1. This is great info! A lot of people really don’t know the difference, I have more PDF eBook clients and will surely refer them to this article 🙂 Thanks for posting!

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