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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A user viewing an electronic page on an eBook-reading device

An e-book (short for electronic book,or EBook), also known as a digital book, is an e-text that forms the digital media equivalent of a conventional printed book, sometimes restricted with a digital rights management system. An E-book, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary of English, is "an electronic version of a printed book which can be read on a personal computer or hand-held device designed specifically for this purpose".[1] E-books are usually read on dedicated hardware devices known as e-Readers or e-book devices. Personal computers and some cell phones can also be used to read e-books.



Early e-books were generally written for specialty areas and a limited audience, meant to be read only by small and devoted interest groups. The scope of the subject matter of these e-books included technical manuals for hardware, manufacturing techniques, and other subjects.

Numerous e-book formats emerged and proliferated, some supported by major software companies such as Adobe's PDF format, and others supported by independent and open-source programmers. Multiple readers naturally followed multiple formats, most of them specializing in only one format, and thereby fragmenting the e-book market even more. Due to exclusiveness and limited readerships of e-books, the fractured market of independents and specialty authors lacked consensus regarding a standard for packaging and selling e-books. E-books continued to gain in their own underground markets. Many e-book publishers began distributing books that were in the public domain. At the same time, authors with books that were not accepted by publishers offered their works online so they could be seen by others. Unofficial (and occasionally unauthorized) catalogs of books became available over the web, and sites devoted to e-books began disseminating information about e-books to the public.

As of 2009, new marketing models for e-books were being developed and dedicated reading hardware was produced. E-books (as opposed to ebook readers) have yet to achieve global distribution. Only three e-book readers dominate the market, Amazon's Kindle model or Sony's PRS-500 and Bookeen with Cybook Gen3 and Cybook Opus[2]. On January 27, 2010 Apple, Inc. launched a multi-function device called the iPad[3] and announced agreements with five of the six largest publishers that would allow Apple to distribute e-books.[4] However, not all authors have endorsed the concept of electronic publishing. J.K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, has stated that there will be no e-versions of her books.[5][6]

  • 1971: Michael S. Hart launches the Gutenberg Project.
  • 1985-1992 Robert Stein starts Voyager Company Expanded Books and books on CD-ROMs.
  • 1992: Charles Stack's Book Stacks Unlimited begins selling new physical books online.
  • 1993: Zahur Klemath Zapata develops the first[citation needed] software to read digital books. Digital Book v.1 and the first digital book is published On Murder Considered as one of the Fine Arts (Thomas de Quincey).
  • 1993: Digital Book, Inc. offers the first 50 digital books in Floppy disk with Digital Book Format (DBF).
  • 1993: Hugo Award for Best Novel nominee texts published on CD-ROM by Brad Templeton.
  • 1993: Bibliobytes, a project of free digital books online in Internet.
  • 1994: Online poet Alexis Kirke discusses the need for wireless internet electronic paper readers in his article "The Emuse".
  • 1995: Amazon starts to sell physical books in Internet.
  • 1996: Project Gutenberg reaches 1,000 titles. The target is 1,000,000
  • 1998 Kim Blagg obtained the first ISBN issued to an ebook and began marketing multimedia-enhanced ebooks on CDs through retailers including amazon.com, bn.com and borders.com. Shortly thereafter through her company "Books OnScreen" she introduced the ebooks at the Book Expo America in Chicago, IL to an impressed, but unconvinced bookseller audience.
  • 1998: Launched the first ebook Readers: Rocket ebook and SoftBook.
  • 1998: Cybook / Cybook Gen1 Sold and manufactured at first by Cytale (1998–2003) then by Bookeen
  • 1998-1999: Websites selling ebooks in English, like eReader.com and eReads.com.
  • 1999: Baen Books opens up the Baen Free Library.
  • 1999: Webscriptions starts selling unencrypted eBooks.
  • 2000: Stephen King offers his book "Riding the Bullet" in digital file; it can only be read on a computer.
  • 2001: Todoebook.com, the first website selling ebooks in Spanish.
  • 2002: Random House and HarperCollins start to sell digital versions of their titles in English.
  • 2005: Amazon buys Mobipocket.
  • 2005: BookBoon.com is launched, allowing people to download free textbooks and travel guide eBooks
  • 2006: Sony presents the Sony Reader with e-ink.
  • 2006: LibreDigital launched BookBrowse as an online reader for publisher content.
  • 2006: BooksOnBoard, the largest independent ebookstore, opens and sells ebooks and audiobooks in six different formats.
  • 2007: Zahurk Technologies, Corp,launched the first[citation needed] digital book library on Internet 『BibliotecaKlemath.com', 『loslibrosditales.com' and 『digitalbook.us'
  • 2007: Amazon launches Kindle in US.
  • 2007: Bookeen launched Cybook Gen3 in Europe.
  • 2008: Adobe and Sony agreed to share their technologies (Reader and DRM).
  • 2008: Sony sells the Sony Reader PRS-505 in UK and France
  • 2008: BooksOnBoard is first to sell ebooks for iPhones.
  • 2009: Bookeen releases the Cybook Opus in the US and in Europe.
  • 2009: Amazon releases the Kindle 2.
  • 2009: Amazon releases the Kindle DX in the US.
  • 2009: Barnes & Noble releases the Nook in the US.
  • 2009: BookBoon.com achieves over 10 Million downloads in one year - placing the company as the world's largest publisher of free eBooks
  • 2010: Amazon releases the Kindle DX International Edition worldwide.
  • 2010: Bookeen reveals the Cybook Orizon at CES.[7]
  • 2010: TurboSquid Magazine announces first magazine publication using Apple's iTunes LP format.[8]
  • 2010: Apple introduces the iPad and with it the iBook store. [9][10]date=January 2010}}


There are a variety of e-book formats used to create and publish e-books. A writer or publisher has many options when it comes to choosing a format for production. Every format has its proponents and champions, and debates over which format is best can become intense.

Comparison of e-books with printed books


  • Availability- There are over 2 million free books available for download as of August 2009. [11]|date=January 2010}} Mobile availability of e-books may be provided for users with a mobile data connection, so that these e-books need not be stored on the device. An e-book can be offered indefinitely, without ever going "out of print".
  • Portability and Storage- In the space that a comparably sized print book takes up, an e-reader can potentially contain thousands of e-books, limited only by its memory capacity. If space is at a premium, such as in a backpack or at home, it can be an advantage that an e-book collection takes up little room or weight.
  • Language Accessibility- E-book websites can include the ability to translate books into many different languages, making the works available to speakers of languages not covered by printed translations.
  • E-Reader Attributes- Depending on the device, an e-book may be readable in low light or even total darkness. Many newer readers have the ability to display motion, enlarge or change fonts[12], use Text-to-speech software to read the text aloud, search for key terms, find definitions, or allow highlighting bookmarking and annotation. Devices that utilize E Ink can imitate the look and ease of readability of a printed work while consuming very little power, allowing continuous reading for weeks at time.
  • Costs- While an e-book reader costs much more than one book, the electronic texts are generally cheaper. Moreover, a great share of books are available free of charge. For example, all fiction from before the year 1900 is in the public domain. Free samples are also available of many publications, and there are lending models being piloted as well. E-books can be printed for less than the price of traditional new books using new on-demand book printers.
  • Security- Depending on possible digital rights management, e-books can be backed up to recover them in the case of loss or damage and it may be possible to recover a new copy without cost from the distributor.
  • Distribution- Compared to printed publishing, it is cheaper and easier for authors to self-publish e-books. Also, the dispersal of a free e-book copy can stimulate the sales of the printed version.[13] An e-book can be purchased, downloaded, and used immediately, whereas when one buys a book one has to go to a bookshop, or wait for a delivery.
  • Environmental Concerns- The production of e-books does not consume paper, ink, etc. Printed books use 3 times more raw materials and 78 times more water to produce[14]


  • Changing Technologies- The formats and file types that e-books are stored and distributed in change over time, for instance from advances in technology or the introduction of new proprietary formats. While printed books remain readable for many years, e-books may need to be copied to a new carrier over time. PDF and epub are growing standards, but are not universal.
  • Availability of Works- Not all books are available as e-books, and very few books are exclusively distributed digitally.
  • Aesthetic Appeal- Paper books can be bought and wrapped for a present and a library of books can provide visual appeal, while the digital nature of e-books makes them non-visible or tangible. E-books cannot provide the physical feel of the cover, paper, and binding of the original printed work.
  • Power and Shelf Life- A book will never turn off or be unusable. The shelf life of a printed book exceeds that of an e-book reader, as over time the reader's battery will drain and require recharging. Additionally, "As in the case of microfilm, there is no guarantee that [electronic] copies will last. Bits become degraded over time. Documents may get lost in cyberspace...Hardware and software become extinct at a distressing rate." [15]
  • Durability- E-book readers are more susceptible to damage from being dropped or hit than a print book. Due to faults in hardware or software, e-book readers may malfunction and data loss can occur. As with any piece of technology, the reader must be protected from the elements (such as extreme cold, heat, water, etc.), while print books are not susceptible to damage from electromagnetic pulses, surges, impacts, or extreme temperates.
  • Artistry and Author's Vision- An author who publishes a book often puts more into the work than simply the words on the pages. E-books may cause people "to do the grazing and quick reading that screens enable, rather than be by themselves with the author's ideas." [16]. They may use the e-books simply for reference purposes rather than reading for pleasure and leisure.[17]
  • Costs- The cost of an e-book reader far exceeds that of a single book, and e-books often cost the same as their print versions. Due to the high cost of the initial investment in some form of e-reader, e-books are cost prohibitive to much of the world's population.
  • Security- Because of the high-tech appeal of the e-reader, they are a greater target for theft than an individual print book. Along with the theft of the physical device, any e-books it contains also become stolen. If a e-book is stolen, accidentally lost, or deleted, in the absence of a backup it may have to be repurchased.
  • Limitations of Readers- The screen resolutions of reading devices are currently lower than actual printed materials.[18] Because of proprietary formats or lack of file support, formatted e-books may be unusable on certain readers. Additionally, the reader's interaction with the reader may cause discomfort, for example glare on the screen or difficulty holding the device.
  • Digital Rights Management and Piracy- Due to the digital rights management, customers cannot resell or loan their e-books to other readers.[19] Additionally, the potential for piracy of e-books may make publishers and authors reluctant to distribute digitally.[20]
  • Environmental Concerns- E-book readers require various toxic substances to produce, are non-biodegradable, and the disposal of their batteries in particular raises environmental concerns.

Digital rights management

See also Digital rights management on E-books

Anti-circumvention techniques may be used to restrict what the user may do with an e-book. For instance, it may not be possible to transfer ownership of an e-book to another person, though such a transaction is common with physical books. Some devices can phone home to track readers and reading habits, restrict printing, or arbitrarily modify reading material. This includes restricting the copying and distribution of works in the public domain through the use of "click-wrap" licensing, effectively limiting the rights of the public to distribute, sell or use texts in the public domain freely.

Most e-book publishers do not warn their customers about the possible implications of the digital rights management tied to their products. Generally they claim that digital rights management is meant to prevent copying of the e-book. However in many cases it is also possible that digital rights management will result in the complete denial of access by the purchaser to the e-book.[citation needed] With some formats of DRM, the e-book is tied to a specific computer or device. In these cases the DRM will usually let the purchaser move the book a limited number of times after which he cannot use it on any additional devices. If the purchaser upgrades or replaces their devices eventually they may lose access to their purchase. Some forms of digital rights management depend on the existence of online services to authenticate the purchasers. When the company that provides the service goes out of business or decides to stop providing the service, the purchaser will no longer be able to access the e-book.

As with digital rights management in other media, e-books are more like rental or leasing than purchase. The restricted book comes with a number of restrictions, and eventually access to the purchase can be removed by a number of different parties involved. These include the publisher of the book, the provider of the DRM scheme, and the publisher of the reader software. These are all things that are significantly different from the realm of experiences anyone has had with a physical copy of the book.


Some e-books are produced simultaneously with the production of a printed format, as described in electronic publishing, though in many instances they may not be put on sale until later. Often, e-books are produced from pre-existing hard-copy books, generally by document scanning, sometimes with the use of robotic book scanners, having the technology to quickly scan books without damaging the original print edition. Scanning a book produces a set of image files, which may additionally be converted into text format by an OCR program.[21] Occasionally, as in some e-text projects, a book may be produced by re-entering the text from a keyboard.

As a newer development, sometimes only the electronic version of a book is produced by the publisher. It is also possible to convert electronic book to a printed book by print on demand. However this is an exception as tradition dictates that a book be launched in the print format and later if the author wishes, an electronic version is also produced.

Among the first Internet-only publishers of new e-books were New Concepts Publishing (1996), Boson Books, Hard Shell Word Factory and Online Originals, all founded in the mid-1990s.[citation needed] Each pioneered different aspects of what has since become common practice amongst e-book publishers, e.g. the support of multiple formats including PDFs, the payment of much higher royalty rates than conventional publishers, and the online presentation of free samples. Hard Shell Word Factory set the first professional standards for commercial e-books and pioneered author-friendly contracts. Online Originals was the first e-book publisher to win mainstream book reviews (in The Times) and a nomination for a major literary prize (the Booker Prize).

In 2004-05, many newcomers to e-book publishing have included major print publishers. At the same time, e-publishers have started to offer print versions of many of their titles.[citation needed] Thus the line between the two is fast blurring.

There are some parts of the industry where there are particularly notable leading firms. In the general field of science-fiction and fantasy, Baen Books, an American publishing company established in 1983 by science fiction publishing industry long-timer Jim Baen (1943–2006) has a well-established position. It is a science fiction and fantasy publishing house that specializes in space opera/military science fiction and fantasy (though it does not restrict itself to these subgenres). It is notable for releasing books without DRM in a variety of formats, before hard-copy publication, and pre-releasing ebooks in parts before the hard-copy release. Many older titles are available for free, especially the first book in a series.

E-books have their own bestseller lists, including those compiled by IDPF, BooksOnBoard and Fictionwise.[citation needed] There are two yearly awards for excellence in e-books. The longest-standing and most inclusive of these is the EPPIE award, given by EPIC since 2000.[citation needed] The other is the Dream Realm Award, first awarded to speculative fiction e-books in 2002.


e-Readers may be specifically designed for that purpose, or intended for other purposes as well. The term is restricted to hardware devices and used to describe a category type.

Specialized devices have the advantage of doing one thing well. Specifically, they tend to have the right screen size, battery lifespan, lighting and weight. A disadvantage of such devices is that they are often expensive when compared to multi-purpose devices such as laptops and PDAs.

See also


  1. ^ Noorhidawat, A and Gibb, Forbes. "How Students Use E-books-Reading or Referring?" Malaysian Journal of Library and Information Science 13, no. 2 (2009): 1-14 Wilson Select Plus. Online Database.
  2. ^ http://community.zdnet.co.uk/blog/0,1000000567,10014045o-2000667842b,00.htm
  3. ^ http://www.apple.com/ipad/
  4. ^ http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2010/01/27ipad.html
  5. ^ Italie, Hillel (2007-02-04). [Rowling: No E-Book for Harry Potter VII "Rowling: No E-Book for Harry Potter VII"]. New York Times (Associated Press). Rowling: No E-Book for Harry Potter VII. Retrieved 2009-01-28. 
  6. ^ "J.K. Rowling: No E-Book for Harry Potter". Associated Press. 2007-02-05. http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2007/2/5/114757.shtml. Retrieved 2009-01-28. 
  7. ^ http://www.engadget.com/2010/01/08/bookeen-debuts-orizon-touchscreen-e-book-reader/
  8. ^ http://turbosquidmagazine.com
  9. ^ http://www.apple.com/ipad
  10. ^ http://www.engadget.com/2010/01/27/apple-ipad-first-hands-on/
  11. ^ http://www.law.stanford.edu/library/blog/?tag=2-million-free-ebooks
  12. ^ Harris, Christopher. "The Truth About Ebooks." School Library Journal 55, no. 6 (2009): 18. Wilson Select Plus. Online Database
  13. ^ Giving It Away - Forbes.com
  14. ^ Siegel, Lucy, "Should we switch to reading books online?", The Observer Magazine, 30th August 2009.
  15. ^ Darnton, Robert. "The Library in the New Age." 55, no. 10 (2008).
  16. ^ Abel, David. "Welcome to the library. Say goodbye to the books. The Boston Globe, 4 Sept. 2009.
  17. ^ Noorhidawat, A and Gibb, Forbes. "How Students Use E-books-Reading or Referring?" Malaysian Journal of Library and Infomation Science 13, no. 2 (2009): 1-14 Wilson Select Plus. Online Database.
  18. ^ For instance the screen resolution of Amazon Kindle is 167 ppi versus 600–2400 ppi for a typical laser printer.
  19. ^ http://gizmodo.com/369235/amazon-kindle-and-sony-reader-locked-up-why-your-books-are-no-longer-yours
  20. ^ Print Books Are Target of Pirates on the Web http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/12/technology/internet/12digital.html?fta=y
  21. ^ The Book Standard is closed


External links

Simple English

An e-book or ebook is a book that is on the computer or on a CD. The word "e-book" comes from "electronic book".

Citable sentences

Up to date as of December 27, 2010

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