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What is the difference between a book and an ebook?


What is a book? A book is a physical book that has the text, images, etc., printed on paper. The pages are bound together and the book has either a hard cover, or soft cover (paperback).

What is an ebook? An ebook is a digital or electronic book that is formatted into a file that can be read on an ereader device or app.

Many of the conventions of a print book are used in an ebook – for example: cover, title page, copyright page, table of content, chapters, paragraphs, etc.

So…if these are the similarities, what are the differences?

The single most important difference is that print books have static layouts that once printed do not change, whereas ebooks have dynamic layouts. This is because most ebooks are formatted with re-flowable text.


What is re-flowable text? It is “the ability to automatically wrap words in a document to the next line as the user changes the window size and thereby relocates the right margin of the page”

If you want to see this in action, open your book in Microsoft Word and go to Menu View > Web Layout.   

Now resize your screen smaller, then larger. You will see the text “wrap” to adjust to the size of the screen.

Because the ebook text “flows” to adjusts to the size of the screen, ebooks do not have pages as in a print book. Since they do not have pages, they do not have page numbers. As they do not have page numbers, one cannot use page numbers as a means of navigating and referencing in a table of contents or index. Instead, one has a table of contents that is hyperlinked to the individual chapters and/or sections of the book. Instead of an index, the reader will use the ereader’s search function to search for specific words or topics.

As ebooks do not have pages, there are a few other things found in ebooks are different in print books. There aren’t headers or footers in an ebook. Footnotes become “end notes”. Also, to ensure the predictability of placement, images must be in line with the text and centered. Most eReaders at this time do not accept charts, tables and columns, so these must be converted into an image first.

In an ebook, the reader can set the font type and size, as well as the sentence spacing so long as the font has not been embedded during formatting.

Readers also have the use of the ereader’s search function to navigate throughout the book.

The following are not used for formatting ebooks:



-paragraph returns



-text boxes

-colorent font