Fixed-Format eBooks

Have a special book needing advanced layout?

My Book Has Special Formatting

Sometimes, a reflowable book (the usual ePUB or MOBI) just won't do the trick.  Cookbooks, workout books, art books, and certainly Kids' "picture books" need special handling.  Why is this?

Fixed-Format Books Don't Reflow

A key feature of the traditional ebook is that it can reflow. This means that if you want to make the font larger, for ease of reading, the letters get bigger; there are fewer words per line and fewer lines per page. This means that the book changes.  Unlike a PDF, which never changes, an eBook will change the way it looks, based on the screensize of the device it's being viewed and the font chosen to view it. In short--if you could fit, normally, say, 325 words on an e-reader screen (the word count here is for example only), and you increased the font size, then some portion of those 325 words will spill over onto the next page, and the ripple effect will continue throughout the book.  If you reduced the size of the font, perhaps now you can fit 500 words on a page, and that change also ripples through the book.  (This is why page numbers are assigned by the device--not the bookmaker--because we can't know in advance what "page" a given word or paragraph is going to be seen upon.) 

This means that sometimes, elements of a book can display on separate pages, or screens.  Sometimes, a caption will show up the page after the image to which it ideally would be attached.  Or the ingredients of a recipe are shown on the page after the image showing how one ingredient should be whisked into another.  While in most cases, this isn't critical--in some cases, it is. 

Therefore, when you have situations in which, for example, it's absolutely crucial that certain elements stay together--perhaps an image, with an explanation about what's being demonstrated in the image, or a kids' book, where the image and the narrative must stay together (as the text is usually shown atop the image), then fixed-format is really the only solution.

Fixed-Format Gives You Near-Total Control Over The Layout of The Page--like Print

So, you'll ask--why wouldn't you want Fixed-Format, then? Because there are Pros and Cons to Fixed-Format, that's why.


  • Near-perfect emulation of print layout;
  • almost total control over the placement of elements on a page;
  • you can do columns and other elements in a FF book that you can't do, or can't do reliably, in reflowable;
  • you can float text atop images, in fixed-format, which you can't do for all reflowable formats.
  • Some--not all--fixed format options allow you to use special formatting like pop-up text (Region Magnification), embedded audio for read-aloud/read-along, animation and sound effects/background music. 


  • Significantly more expensive to do than reflowable;
  • Takes more time for the bookmaker to make the book;
  • there are limited distribution opportunities, unlike reflowable books,
  • because not all readers can display fixed-format (for example: Amazon won't sell a FF book to someone with a Kindle2 e-ink reader, or a DX, as it can't be displayed);
  • which makes your return on investment harder to accomplish.
  • Some vendors (like B&N) will not allow self-publishers to upload or sell FF books at all, even though this is available for traditional publishing houses.
  • Each retailer (Amazon, B&N, iBooks, KoboBooks, GooglePlay) has their own set of specific formatting guidelines for their fixed-format books (as each has their own readers or reading software, and fixed-format success is tied heavily to tailoring the books to the devices upon which they'll be seen).
  • This means that while in a reflowable book, you can use one MOBI (for Amazon) and one ePUB (for everyone else), if you're going to go with fixed-format, your formatter has to make a separate file expressly created for that vendor. Instead of two books, you could be looking at five--thus also costing you more money.
Strings Attached, a fixed-format book for the Columbus Museum of Art
Strings Attached, a fixed-format book for the Columbus Museum of Art (tap or click to zoom)

Fixed-Format Requires More Expertise to Make Correctly Than Reflowable Books

So, bear this in mind, when you're seeking help with your fixed-format book. A conversion company requires more expertise in bookmaking to make a fixed-format book correctly.  No formatting company should give you any pricing, or even discuss the project in any specifics, until they've seen your book/manuscript.  Like every book, each project is a custom conversion, and a talented bookmaker may know of ways to ensure that your book comes out exactly as you'd hope, without needing to go to Fixed-Format.  Even if they don't, make sure that you can see that they've done not less than 20 or more fixed-format conversion projects/jobs, so that you know you're getting someone with experience.  At, we've done over 100 Fixed-Format book projects, and we're more than happy to have you look up and download samples of any of the books that we've made. 

For specific types of fixed-format books, make sure you check out our Services sections on Kids' books and Comic Books!