eBook and audiobook formats

Now that there is such a wide and broad conversion to electronic books, it makes sense to figure out what format to keep your own DRM-free ebooks (eg, classic books that aren’t copyrighted that you can get from the Gutenberg project for instance). For music, I keep everything in MP3 mainly because it seems like the widest format available and it is open. Normally try to keep it in variable bit rate, joint stereo at maximum quality. So if you have a bunch of books, right now here are the choices:

  • AZW. This is Amazon’s proprietary format that is based on MOBI. It is DRMed and has to use the Kindle reader
  • IPA. This is the Apple DRMed IPUB format.
  • EPUB. This is a DRM format that reads on everything but the Kindle.
  • Overdrive. This is a public library set of formats that need the Overdrive Console
  • MOBI. This is an open format that is DRM-free, so in a sense is the most open format there is because Kindle is most closed
  • AAX. This is the Audible (Amazon owns them) format that is encrypted MP3
  • PDF. This is a default format, but doesn’t have bookmarks and things.

The net conclusion is that for eBooks, MOBI is the best DRM-free format because it reads on just about everything.
iPhones and other IOS
Here is what you need to make things work on your iPhone:

  1. Kindle reader for AZW
  2. Audible player for AAX purchased books
  3. iBook reader for IPA
  4. Overdrive console for those books, audiobooks, etc.
  5. Stanza for MOBI. This is the owned by Amazon and right now is the best but it will probably get killed as Amazon doesn’t care about the reader obviously. 
  6. iBook reader for PDF and EPUB for DRM-free books and you can get this to the application through iTunes and then wireless sync them. Basically you drag EPUB format stuff to iTunes and its type becomes a Book folder

Kindle
You don’t have many choices with the Kindle. This closed box handles

  1. AZW. Amazon ebooks
  2. AAX. Audible audiobooks (Amazon owns this)
  3. Overdrive

Mac
On the mac, there are quite a few choices, but here is look what you need to download

  1. Kindle reader for AZW and MOBI
  2. iTunes can directly read AAX and MP3s
  3. Caliber for EPUB. It isn’t completely clear which is better, but there are 18 of them around.
  4. Overdrive. Get a library card and then the reader.
  5. Amazingly you can’t actually read an Apple IPA format on a Mac (or Windows for that matter), another reason not to commit to that IPA format
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