Our company has a series of printed publications that need to be added to our website. These publications are strictly informative in nature - no marketing, no advertising, no product features or help. They're just education pieces on topics in our industry. They'll be read by graduate/undergraduate students in university.

There's a divide among some in our company of the medium in which these pubs should be presented on the website. Some (including myself) think they should just be added as pdfs.

Others insist that they're created into interactive ebooks that can be opened in browser for a "better experience". I disagree with this mainly because I don't see the reason to present them this way. To me, it seems like they want to recreate a physical magazine reading experience. Why not just send our printed copies (we're trying to get away from that for financial reasons).

Note: I'm not talking about Kindle, iPad books - just the comparison of pdf vs. flash-based ebooks that are viewed in browser. Example: we may use service called: http://issuu.com/

  • 1
    Thanks for the note at the end. I have never seen the term “ebook” being used for that.
    – Crissov
    Dec 12, 2014 at 16:12
  • Why is this a UX issue? - Both support links and using various apps text reflowing. Dec 15, 2014 at 16:17

4 Answers 4


Personally, I'd go for pdf. Firstly, not every browser is the same (html5), and not everybody has flash (iOS/android). Secondly, PDFs can also be saved and read when the user is offline


It all depends on what you want to achieve in terms of reading experience.

If your users just need to be able to read and search text then PDFs should be sufficient because I think most people are used to them after xx number of years.

The only case for an interactive e-book that I can think of would be to provide interaction with the book such as a per-professor bookmark reference or maybe embed videos to supplement the reading experience. Sure they can open a link in their browser but that would break the experience and if the video link ever needed updating then only people who recently downloaded the PDF would have the new link.

The other case for ebooks would be mobile users.

That's just my 2 cents.


While Flash is almost ubiquitous, it is still not universal, and not supported on many mobile devices.

Doing the pages as straight HTML with hyperlinks may work, but is not as portable. Building the interactivity takes additional time and effort and I am not sure if the result is worth the extra effort. Not to mention the fact that HTML doesn't lend itself to dead-tree format.

It seems to me that PDFs are the answer. PDFs are easy to create, very portable (hence the name), viewable on just about every platform out there, and are designed to be printed. They event support embedded links.

Ask those who are suggesting the flash-based content, how the students are going to print them off?


"Besides technical reasons, what are reasons why to avoid ebook creation software and just display as pdfs."
You state besides tehcnical but then immediately bring in technology by referencing creation software.

Non technical

  • PDF
    Fixed page layout
    It renders to the screen the same as printer
    Fixed layout - you can have table of contents and links but it is a fixed layout
    Most people are familial with navigating a PDF
  • ebook
    Dynamic layout
    Rich user experience
    Typically not a fixed page layout
    Does not (typically) render to printer the same as screen
    No save to disc unless you build that in (maybe that is a technical issue)
  • I mean limitations of my hosting platform.
    – Mark Bubel
    Dec 15, 2014 at 16:55
  • For me that comment adds no clarity.
    – paparazzo
    Dec 15, 2014 at 16:57
  • I'll amend my question to remove that sentence as I already know the tech limitations.
    – Mark Bubel
    Dec 15, 2014 at 16:59

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