People who sell downloadable files from their websites sell a wide variety of file types. A musician selling her songs will sell those songs in the WAV or MP3 file format. A photographer selling his photos might sell those images as JPG files. A person selling how-to videos he's created might opt to save those videos in MP4 format.
For a person selling eBooks, or any document-based file, the most common format to use to sell downloadable versions of the files is PDF. But many eBook sellers choose to save their eBooks in MS Word format, and sell those MS Word files as downloadable files. That's understandable, as MS Word is a very popular editor, and as such is the software many, if not most, eBook writers use to create their eBooks. While it's fine to create your eBook using MS Word, you don't want to sell the eBook in that file format.
Why? In short, because MS Word is not free software and while many people own the program, there are certainly many, many people who don't own it. If a person buys your eBook, and downloads it in the MS Word format that you've saved it to, that person won't be able to open the file! A person will double-click on the file, and if MS Word isn't on their PC or Mac, their computer won't be able to open the file. The result will be one unhappy customer, and a customer that will most likely (and rightly) insist on being refunded for their purchase.
As the eBook seller you can easily solve this potential dilemma by saving, or exporting, your MS Word file to PDF format. When you're finished writing your eBook in Word, you should save it as a Word file (so that you can edit it at any time), but you should also save it as a PDF file. Why PDF? PDF is a file format of Adobe, and Adobe has a free version of Adobe Acrobat (a PDF reader) available to all computer owners (PC or Mac). Most new computers come with a version of Adobe Acrobat already installed on the machine, and for those few computer owners that don't have an already installed version of the app they can easily and freely download a copy from the Adobe website.
Most eBook sellers don't have an interest in providing buyers with a version of their eBook that is editable. But as a selling point, some people who sell eBooks (or any other kind of document) might want to provide buyers with a version that the buyer can edit. How should such a seller handle the case of wanting to give buyers an editable file, while ensuring that all
buyers get a copy that they can open (whether or not they own MS Word)? The answer here is for the seller to bundle two versions of the same eBook into one downloadable file. Sell each individual buyer a version in MS Word format as well as a version in PDF format.
If you want to give any one person two versions of the same eBook, you want to make it easy on them — you want that person to be able to add just one item to your site's shopping cart, and then download a single file after purchase. You can easily do that by bundling the two versions into a single archive, or ZIP, file, and selling that one ZIP file. Any buyer will download the single ZIP file, double-click on it, and extract both versions of the same document. That way, both owners and non-owners of MS Word are happy customers!
If you'd like to know more about selling ZIP files, take a read of our How to Sell Multiple Files As a Single Download