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  • Writer's picturePraise Saflor

Reflowable and Fixed Layouts: Which Is Better?

If you’re an e-book reader, you might have possibly encountered these:


     From Landline, a novel by Rowell Rainbow.


  From #OKtobeZine Issue 1: In the Mood for Food, a zine by KB Meniado (https://heykebe.gumroad.com/).

Unlike printed books, e-books can be modified as to how the authors or publishers want them to appear on a mobile or tablet screen. There are at least two e-book layout formats which you can see above. We call them fixed layout and reflowable layout. What’s the difference?

 

In a fixed layout format, contents appear just how they would when printed on a book. The texts and images found in a page are carefully positioned to set the reading flow and the message content. They will stay in their fixed positions when viewed from an e-book reader so the reader can understand the relationship of the images with the text. The best examples for this layout are graphic novels, comic books, coffee table books, textbooks with full-page illustrations, cookbooks, and, most especially, children’s books.


However, in a reflowable layout, all contents easily adapt to the orientation of the screen used, whether you are using a mobile phone, an iPad, or a tablet. The content does not break by page; thus, you can read continuously as you scroll your way down. E-books are usually known for this layout. This layout is best used for full-text fiction or non-fiction books like novels, memoirs, biographies, etc.


Reflowable Layout vs. Fixed Layout



Let’s compare the features of these two layouts.


Interactivity

For a reflowable layout, the reader can change the font size and style according to their desire. When they change the font size, the text and line break will follow accordingly. Changing the font style may also make the font look big or small. However, in a fixed layout, they cannot adjust the font style or size. All they can do is zoom in or out and scroll up and down the page so you can read or see the content easier. But you can add animation, sound, and other interactive features.

 

Readability of Content

For reflowable layout, the text size adjusts to the reader’s screen so they can read it comfortably, especially when they are reading text-heavy books. On the other hand, for fixed layout, they can see the content of the whole page as it is paginated. They can turn the pages and zoom in or out the text to read it comfortably.

 

Book Type Compatibility

As mentioned earlier, reflowable layout is good for novels, fiction, or non-fiction books—books that do not have any image contents, so it won’t disrupt the text flow. While a reflowable format is good for text-heavy books, a fixed layout is good for picture-heavy books. Some examples of it are cookbooks, coffee table books, comics, technical manuals, children’s books.

 

Device Support

Since the reflowable layout is widely used in e-books, most e-book reader apps accept this kind of layout. Reader apps like Nook, Kobo, Kindle, Apple iBooks. Many reader devices support reflowable layout, so the reader can just search on app store any e-book reader they can use.

However, some devices do not support fixed layout. Amazon only encourages authors to publish children’s illustrated books with them. You can try Moon Reader app when reading books with fixed layouts.

 

Costs

For reflowable layout, the cost is cheaper because the author only needs to convert the file into a reflowable ePUB format. However, for a fixed layout, the author may need to pay for an illustrator, graphic artist, and a layout artist to finish your book and then additional pay for converting the file into a fixed layout ePUB. However, some resort to using PDF format in finishing their books because readers can also read it via e-book readers.


Are PDF and fixed layout the same?

The answer is no. A PDF is not an e-book format though you can view PDF files on most e-book readers; a fixed layout is. It uses an ePUB file format which can be purchased through Amazon and Apple’s iBookstore. When you open a fixed layout format on an e-book reader, it looks like a real book. It even has an animation in turning pages that looks like you are turning it with your own hand. PDF and fixed layout have some similarities like having a fixed layout design on all pages since books for print can be saved as a PDF file. However, a PDF file does not have the full-display capacity of a fixed layout e-book.


PROS AND CONS

For Reflowable Layout E-book


The Pros

  • The text reflows to fit any screen format and size to make it readable.

  • This kind of e-book is way easier to produce.

  • It is not expensive to produce.

  • It doesn’t take up much memory since this type of e-book can be saved in smaller file sizes.

  • It works on most, if not all, e-book readers and devices.

  • Most distributors support reflowable layout so publishing it will be easy-peasy.

  • Font style, size, color, and format can be adjusted to the reader’s preference.

The Cons

  • The author has limited control over the whole layout since the text will only appear on screen continuously with no added drama.

  • This layout is not advisable to books with images and illustrations. This is only recommended for text-heavy books.

  • With this layout, the author cannot design his book uniquely. All reflowable layouts are designed as simple as possible.


 For Fixed Layout E-book


The Pros

  • The author and layout artist have the freedom to design the book the way they want it. Images and text can be particularly positioned where they think best.

  • This is the recommended layout for books that have graphs, charts, pictures, columns, and illustrations.

  • The layout is fixed so the book will appear on screen as it is designed. Audio, animation, and other complex layout can be added on this layout.

 

The Cons

  • It does not give the reader the power to adjust the font style and size, spacing, margin, or anything on the page.

  • It has limited reach since not every e-book reader supports this layout. That’s why some distributors do not distribute this kind of format, too. Only Amazon and iBook store sell fixed layout e-books.

  • It tends to be larger in size, so retailers require higher download fees. 

  • It is expensive to produce. Aside from the download fees, the author must also consider the cost of the layout design, illustration, e-book conversion, etc.

  • The sad part is not all devices can view this kind of layout.

 

Which is better?

Neither. Given all the attributes of each layout, you can see that they don’t compete each other. Each layout has their own clear purpose: a reflowable layout is for text-heavy while a fixed layout is for image-heavy e-books.


If you are an author, maybe the right question to ask is not “Which is better?”, but “Which e-book layout is best to use for your content?” To help you answer that question, assess your book:


Is it a text-heavy novel or an interactive, picture-heavy book like a children’s book?

Does it have illustrations, charts, columns, graphs, etc.?

Do images play an important role in your book or can you publish the book without them?

Who is your target audience?

How much is your budget?

 

Consider the questionnaires above that you may know the best layout for your e-book.

 

 

TIP:

If you are publishing a children’s storybook, choose fixed layout and partner with me. I’ll guide you through the process. Get my services at https://www.praisesaflor.com/contact


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