Learn About eBooks


Copyright law can sometimes be confusing to new authors. In the sections below we will try to clear up some of the basic misconceptions and questions we commonly hear from our clients. We will also cover what an eBook copyright page typically includes, and provide a sample copyright page you can edit and use in your eBook files.

Please note that this page contains information about copyright laws in the United States, but it should not be construed as being professional legal advice. We will cite official sources as needed, but if you need assistance in this area we highly recommend that you contact an attorney who is well-versed in copyright law.

U.S. Copyright Law

For a thorough overview of copyright law in the U.S., we recommend you read this informative Copyright Basics circular [PDF], or take the time to read the law yourself.

There is a common misconception that you have to register your book with the U.S. Copyright Office in order to obtain a copyright. This is incorrect, though there are some benefits to registering your copyright. According to the law, a work created today is considered to be under copyright once it is created. The definition of “created” is pretty broad, and includes each version of a work as it is being written.

Registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright office gives you more protections should you need to take someone to court for infringement. That includes being able to receive statutory damages and attorney’s fees, not just actual damages and profits, as well as the possibility of your copyright being considered prima facie evidence in court.

Copyright registration also satisfies the Mandatory Deposit Requirement [PDF] for all works published in the U.S. This is a little-known law that applies to every published print book, but apparently not to content published only in eBook formats.

For more information on registering your copyright, see the U.S. Copyright Office’s website.

Elements of a Copyright Page

If you look on the copyright pages of the books in your library you will see that they almost all have the same basic features. These include:

1. The copyright statement. This is actually the most important part of a copyright page and is the only one that is technically required to be included. The copyright statement starts with either the word “Copyright” or the © symbol, or both, and is followed by the copyright owner’s name (typically the author’s name). For example:

Copyright © 2014 by John Smith

2. All rights reserved. This statement is sometimes just those words, but in many cases it can be expanded to be more forceful or clear. For example:

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

3. Disclaimers. Many authors include standardized disclaimers in their books. Joel Friedlander has some great examples on his website (6 Copyright Page Disclaimers to Copy and Paste).

4. The publisher’s address and contact information. This can be helpful for readers who have questions or might be interested in reporting an error they find in the book.

5. Cataloging in Publication Data. CIP data is helpful for library systems, but it can be hard to obtain. Joel Friedlander has a great page on his website explaining how this data is created and used (CIP: What It Means, How to Read It, Who Should Get It). It is important to note that eBooks cannot be assigned CIP data. We recommend removing CIP data from eBook files.

6. The ISBN. Please see our page on ISBNs for information about how to assign them to eBook files.

7. Colophon. This can include anything about the actual printing methods or typography used in the creation of a book, such as:

“Printed in the United States of America”
“Printed on acid-free paper”
“Acme Publishing is committed to protecting the environment. We only print our books using recycled paper…”
“This book is typeset in Adobe Caston and Courier New.”

In most cases these statements will not actually apply to the eBook version of a print book, so it might be preferable to remove them or somehow adjust them to limit confusion.

8. Creative information. Some authors and publishers call out their design team or vendor on the copyright page, and some will also include information about images used on the cover or within the book.

Sample Copyright Page

Here is a simple copyright page you can use as a template for your eBook files:

Copyright © 2014 by John Smith

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

ISBN 978-1-2345678-9-0 (EPUB)

You can, of course, include more information, but this is all that is needed.

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Is it a good idea to put my Table of contents at the end of my eBook?

Some people do this to increase the size of the free samples automatically generated by the eBook retailers. However, the Kindle and other devices will re-set the “last read location” to the end of the book if you have your Table of Contents there, so we normally recommend against that practice.

What is the difference between HTML5 and XHTML5?

HTML5 is the latest version of the HTML standard used on the Web and in eBooks. XHTML5 is a stricter and cleaner version of HTML5, with rules from XML imposed on the code. For example, when a tag is opened it has to be closed, and all of the tags have to be properly nested. XHTML5 allows the code to be more easily interpreted by the display engine, and it keeps the code more consistent and easier to edit.

I have heard you can’t use color in eBooks. Is that correct?

No, that is absolutely incorrect. eBooks look great with color, and we highly recommend using color images and even colored text (within reason) in your eBook files. Some devices have grayscale eInk screens, so the color will not show up on those devices. However, the color will be in the file, and it will work on all of the color devices. We do recommend you test colored text on a device with an eInk screen and ensure that the text will not be too light to read.

Do you need to have a separate ISBN for each version of the eBook for different companies?

Technically, yes. See an extended answer on our ISBNs page.

What is KindleGen?

KindleGen is Amazon’s eBook creation/compiling program. It is used on the KDP website to auto-convert files uploaded into the Kindle store, and it is also integrated into the Kindle Previewer program to handle the conversion of non-Kindle files loaded in that program. You can download KindleGen and get access to other Kindle creation information at amazon.com/kindlepublishing.

What is a fixed layout eBook?

Fixed Layout eBooks are HTML-based eBook files that are usually designed to match the layout of a print book. The key difference between fixed layout files and reflowable files is that reflowable eBooks allow the reader to have more control over the reading experience, such as changing the font size, background color, etc. For more information, please see our Fixed Layout Children’s and Non-Fiction pages.

Does Amazon sell HTML files or only Kindle?

Amazon only sells eBooks in the Kindle format, but that format, just like ePub, is built using HTML and CSS files.

How is fixed layout different from a pdf of the book?

Fixed layout eBooks are built using HTML, so they have more functionality than PDF files. For example, the narration overlay functionality used in many children’s eBooks is not possible in PDF files. In addition, none of the eBook retailers sell PDFs, so fixed layout eBook files offer the best sales opportunities.

A university librarian told me they are not acquiring any Kindle books but only HTML5/ePub. Have you found that to be common with other libraries? I know our local public library does buy Kindle books.

Libraries acquire their eBooks from services like 3M and Overdrive. These services sometimes offer an option for Kindle checkouts, but typically they are limited to ePub files because of the more common use of the Adobe DRM.

Has the Kindle format gotten any more sophisticated in how it handles tables or floating images?

Yes, Amazon’s Kindle Format 8 has support for many great design features, including floating images, tables, color text, embedded fonts, and more.

How are page numbers handled in an eBook?

Print book page numbers are included in the HTML code of both the Kindle and ePub formats as anchors. They are also listed in the PageList section of the NCX or Navigation file. The PageList is used by some reading systems (like the Kindle and iBooks) to show the reader the print page numbers of the book as they read.

How are page headers created in eBook files?

The different reading systems control what shows up in the header of your eBook. Most will display the title of the book, and some will also display the author name. That text cannot currently be set to display the chapter name or other information about where the reader is currently reading in the text.

How do eBooks handle hyphenation of long words?

Some eBook reading systems will apply hyphenation to longer words to make the text better fit on the screen. This is typically controlled by the reading system, and will change depending on the font size and other settings the reader has set on their device.

What about protecting the file?

eBook file protection is called Digital Rights Management (DRM). Please see our DRM page for information on how it works and suggestions on how to use it.

Can I sell my eBooks on my own website?

Yes! You are certainly able to sell your eBooks on your own website. For more information, please see this page.