What is an eBook?

Amazon kindle reader for ebooks wifi enabledYou’ve probably heard of the term eBook but if you’ve never seen one you’re likely wondering, “What is an eBook and how do I read it?”

The concept of eBooks isn’t new but with the introduction of new eReaders, tablet devices, such as iPads, and advances in mobile phones, eBooks have increased in popularity. Some experts hope the new trend will be so widely accepted that people will prefer eBooks to traditional print and the doomsayers reckon that eBooks will mean the end of the printing press.

What is an eBook?

An eBook is a traditional print publication available in electronic format. In conversation and print, an eBook may be referred to as an eBook, e-book, electronic book or digital book. Adding to the confusion you will also find eBook spelled variously as eBook, Ebook, e-book or ebook!

eBooks are growing in popularity for many reasons. If you’re a tree hugger you may be pleased to know that fewer trees are being felled, or you may simply like the convenience of reading on the go and being able to carry hundreds or even thousands of books in the palm of your hand.

What Type of Content Can Be Found in an eBook?

An electronic book contains the same information found in a traditional print book and more. The variety of eBooks is endless. Readers can enjoy both fiction and non-fiction electronic books in a variety of formats (see later for a list of some common formats). An electronic book may contain words and images, but the major advantage is the potential inclusion of audio and video and facilities to enable you to make notations on the text or to adjust the colour and size of the text to suit. You can even use text to speech capabilities to have your eBook read to you while you’re lying in the sun. This flexibility provides additional features that aren’t found in traditional print media.

Where Can an eBook Be Purchased or Obtained?

eBooks can be found almost anywhere traditional print media may be found. Libraries, online bookstores such as Amazon Kindle and traditional bookstores feature eBooks for sale or for loan and there are eBooks available from many thousands of websites on the net. eBooks are convenient and accessible from a variety of locations.

What Devices Will Support an eBook?

Most people associate electronic books with eReaders such as Amazon Kindle and Nook but eBooks can also be purchased and read on computers, mobile devices and tablets such as the iPad. One point to be aware of is that some publishing companies will only allow their books to be compatible with specific devices. In general, most eBooks are accessible from any device at any time and there are free programs online that allow you to convert eBooks to a different format if you purchase a book but don’t have a compatible reading device.

Technology is advancing to facilitate the sale of electronic books.

Do eBooks Have Special Features?

One of the special features associated with electronic books is the ability to convert text to speech through the device and listen in audio format. Some devices such as the Amazon Kindle have the capability built in to the device.

Other devices will require the purchase and download of software for this ability. For smartphones, an application is available to facilitate text-to-speech. Software is also available for laptops and desktops. In most instances, a simple button must be pressed to activate the software once downloaded.

The ability to change the size of the font is standard in most reading devices and most will bookmark your place so that you can return to exactly the right page in the book – even if you are flicking through several books. You can also add your own notes next to the text and most devices allow you to highlight text which can be handy if you’re studying or researching, or simply want to remind yourself of something important.

What are the Different eBook Formats?

The most common eBook formats include: ePub, PDF, Kindle, RTF, TXT and HTML. Some eReaders support all of these formats while others only work with a limited number of formats. PDF documents are one of the oldest formats and can be read on almost any device including your humble home computer.

Amazon Kindle products such as Kindle Touch, Kindle DX and Kindle FireKindle Fire support the majority of these formats. Other eReader providers do not offer extensive options for reading different formats. It’s a good idea to check the format options prior to purchasing an eReader and to make sure that any books you purchase are compatible.

Is Publication Quality Compromised with eBooks?

Self-publishing is more common in digital format, and the quality may not be great in some instances with spelling mistakes, poor grammar and typos but if you’re happy to weed through the dross you can find some gems online that aren’t available in the traditional print format. You also get the advantage of getting up-to-the-minute material at the push of a button instead of having to wait for the printing presses to churn out “old news”.

Traditional print publishers also create eBooks and aim to maintain high editorial standards. Many avid readers are concerned about the quality of eBooks, but it need not be a concern. Any publication found in a bookstore can be purchased through eBook stores with the bonus of being cheaper and more immediately available than a printed book. If you’re concerned about quality use your discretion to find publications produced by reputable authors and publishing companies and check reviews and refund policies before purchasing.

This is part one in a series of three articles on eBooks. Stay tuned for more on the advantages and disadvantages of eBooks.