What’s the difference between a PDF, ePub and HTML?


A PDF (Portable Document Format) is a digital, universal file format used to represent and share documents across multiple operating systems and devices. When a file is converted into a PDF, it looks like a digital photocopy of the original by retaining its fixed layout, fonts and graphics. A PDF can also include clickable links, form fields and audio video. Virtually anyone can read a PDF using free Adobe Reader software.


An ePUB (electronic publication) is an open standard format for eBooks. As an open standard, it is compatible across a wide range of eReaders and has become the universal standard for ebooks. An ePUB renders text and content specifically designed as reflowable content allowing the user to control the size of the text as well as make use of other features such as highlighting and bookmarking. Links and rich media can be added to ePUBs.


HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is the programming code used to build and render pages on the World Wide Web. HTML uses tags to provide a web browser with the directions on how to structure and present a web’s text, graphics, layout and links. The content is re-flowable and re-sizable by the user. Virtually anyone can read an HTML page with a web browser.

Here is a handy table that compares common tasks and functions in PDF, HTML and ePUB formats.


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