Ebook Formatting Answers: Reflowable vs. Fixed Layout Ebooks

Q. What’s the difference between a fixed layout ebook and a regular ebook?

A. Normal ebooks that you’re reading (such as a regular Kindle book or novel, etc.) are what’s called “reflowable.” With a reflowable ebook, on the page you can resize the fonts and the book just reorganizes itself. You can make bigger fonts, smaller fonts and the page will just flow to the next thing. You might be reading landscape; you might be reading portrait and the text and images will fill up the page as you’ve specified them to fill up in the ebook. (Reflowable ebooks are what Pressbooks book formatting software produces.)

Q. So what’s a fixed layout ebook, and why would I use it?

A. There’s another format called fixed layout which basically defines individual pages. In this format, you can’t change the font size and the images stay exactly where they’re supposed to be, next to specific text. Essentially, these books look terrible on iPhones and pretty good on tablets.

Q. So why would people create fixed layout ebooks?

A. The notion there was that certain kinds of books—very image-heavy books where the design is page-like design—certain kinds of children’s books—that fixed layout was a good solution for that. Fixed layout was a format that was invented because designers were annoyed that they couldn’t control things completely on the platforms.

Q. So should I used reflowable or fixed-layout format for my ebook?

A. Generally people think that fixed-layout is a good solution, but in practice unless you’re doing a really highly specified design, then fixed layout isn’t what’s required and reflowable’s much better because it works on all devices, not just on some devices. 

Do you have questions about ebook formatting? Email support@pressbooks.com. We may just answer your question in a future blog post.