Once upon a time, Amazon wanted to define itself as the trend-setter and must-visit library for all ebooks. I was one of the very first authors in the Kindle library when the Kindle launched. Ah, it was a great time. The Kindle was selling out everywhere and all those new readers wanted to gobble up ebooks. Sales were flying.
Fast forward to 2021. Now there are many options for readers to choose from. The Kindle library has millions of entries in it. There are competitors like Nook, iTunes, GooglePlay, and more. Amazon continually tweaks its offerings and systems to try to stay ahead of the pack.
So in the end of May 2021 Amazon announced to authors that they were NO LONGER going to support the MOBI format.
What is the MOBI Format?
This whole situation is pretty funny to me, because way back in the beginning, Amazon was absolutely insistent on the MOBI format. That’s because Amazon bought Mobipocket to launch its ebook world. In 2000, Mobipocket was originally a separate company. In 2005 Amazon took it over. That is what became the Kindle system. Amazon loved having its own special format, while the rest of the world tried out different systems.
Formats came and went, sort of like the VHS / Betamax wars of old. Finally, most of the world settled on EPUB as being a nice generic cross-platform option. But not Amazon. Of course not. Amazon dug in deeper to wanting all Amazon authors to use their MOBI option. It’s part of their way of hooking authors into them. If an author gets used to generating MOBIs, preferably with Amazon software, it makes it harder for those authors to consider going elsewhere.
Why Did Amazon Abandon MOBI?
Back when there weren’t many other options, Amazon could play its reindeer games with locking authors into its system. However, now that there are so many other options, authors can get cranky when they’re required to use super-bizarre formats just for Amazon. 99% of the known world uses EPUB. It’s simply an industry standard.
So at last Amazon caved in.
They announced that as of June 28, 2021, they would no longer work with MOBI files. They’d primarily take in EPUB files. I will note that they still take in Word documents and PDF files, but I would highly suggest NOT using either of those two formats. I would always suggest submitting an EPUB file to Amazon and to any other online system.
Avoid Submitting PDF Files for Ebooks
It actually used to be, back in the dawn of time, that ebooks were PDF files. I used to sell PDF ebooks, before there were MOBI files and EPUB files. A PDF file was a nicely formatted file that anybody could read, that could be read online, and that could be shared around. Back in the early days of the web that was a pretty amazing thing.
However, a PDF file is a format where each page is set in stone. The lines of text are just that – lines of text. You can’t adjust the text size in a way that causes the lines to re-wrap. Every page is like a printed page. You can zoom in and out, sure, but that makes for very challenging reading, if you are swiping your page left to right on every single line.
The very nature of a PDF page is that it is locked to those four edges of the page. This is the exact opposite of how a modern-day ebook works. With modern day ebooks we expect the text to flow. We can change devices, change aspect ratios, and the text flows to match. We can make the font larger or smaller so it’s easier for us to read, and the text should flow to match.
If you really, really don’t want to make an EPUB for some reason, at least submit a Word DOC to your ebook system. A Word DOC by its nature is a flowing entity. Your document starts with “Chapter 1” (or whatever) and flows, looping around paragraphs, flowing through pages, until it reaches the end of that chapter. That means that the destination ebook system (KDP, Nook, etc.) knows how the flow is supposed to be. With a PDF a converter is trying to make guesses on every single line, and it can easily guess wrong. What the converter thinks is the end of a paragraph could instead be the end of a line within a paragraph. An author would have to hand check every single line to ensure the guesses were all correct.
Submitting a Word DOC to KDP / Nook / etc.
OK, so if you should pretty much never submit a PDF file to any online ebook system for processing, how about submitting a Word document?
Absolutely, a Word document would be better than submitting a PDF, for the reasons stated above. You don’t gain anything at all with the PDF format and you risk a lot of problems. The Word document has its natural flow. The word wrap is part of the Word definition. The page flow is also part of the Word definition. Your Word page layout should never have hard-returns mid-paragraph – only at the end of each paragraph. Your Word page layout should also never have page-breaks until you reach the end of a chapter or other functional unit. The key is designing that reading flow right from the start.
So why don’t I submit Word documents to KDP and other systems?
If you submit a Word document to a system, they are generating your final ebook without your input. You can’t tweak it. You can’t review it. And you can’t easily manage it on your own home system. It means if you choose to move from Amazon to Nook, or from iTunes to GooglePlay, you’re now stuck. You got locked into one manufacturer’s system. That of course is their intention. They WANT you trapped in their system so you can’t leave.
I am wholly against that.
By managing your ebooks on your own system, you retain complete control over what, after all, is your key asset for your business – your content. You should always be wholly in charge of your own content. You should be able to ensure it’s formatted exactly the way you want and that you can publish it wherever you want. Your system should be wholly platform independent.
That’s why I use Calibre with EPUB format.
Calibre with EPUB Format
Calibre is wholly free. It lives on your home system. Along with SIGIL, which is a free EPUB editor, it means you control your documents without any meddling fingers from Amazon KDP, Draft2Digital, or any other third-party systems. You can go anywhere you want and have your document exactly the way you want it.
Calibre is an ebook library management system. All your ebooks are right there at your fingertips, easy to manage, easy to review, and easy to update. You can quickly and easily click on any book, update it, generate it into a new format, and use it anywhere.
So, to summarize, Amazon is abandoning its MOBI unique format, which is just as well. EPUB is the industry standard. I highly suggest all authors focus on EPUB files for their ebooks. I highly recommend that authors get in the habit of making their OWN EPUB files on their home systems, to maintain control and authorship over their product. That way their business assets remain in their hands and cross-platform at all times.
Ask with any questions!
Question: Do I have to reload my existing files?
No, you don’t have to reload existing files. If you have a MOBI book already in Amazon, it’s fine to sit there. However, I recommend updating your ebooks every six months to a year as a general principle. There will always be new social media links to add at the end, new “be sure to also read” content you want to update, and so on. Also, it’s good practice to update your cover every 1-2 years to keep the appeal fresh.
Question: Why not just use Smashwords to load DOC files and distribute everywhere?
First, as mentioned above, a DOC file is better than PDF but not as good as EPUB to use as your submission document. I would always create your own EPUB documents and submit those. Your words and files are your assets as an author. They should be under your control.
Smashwords is nice, but it’s also generic. It is offering the most low-hanging-fruit options possible about categories, key words, and so on. It means you miss out on a lot of options because they have to give you selections that will work cross-platform. It also means you miss out on a lot of Amazon promotion / other options, by not being directly in the KDP system. I always recommend loading Amazon directly into KDP to ensure you get the highest rankings and options possible in Amazon. You can get additional categories, etc. etc. Then use Draft2Digital for the platforms it supports, because it is much better at multiple categories etc. to get you the best representation on those platforms. Then use Smashwords to clean up the remaining ones. That gives you the best options in each area, all free.