What is an eBook?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘eBook’ as…
‘An electronic version of a printed book which can be read on a computer or a specifically designed handheld device.’
But a more complete and in our view accurate definition can be found on Wikipedia…
‘An electronic book (variously: e-book, eBook, e-Book, ebook, digital book, or even e-edition) is a book-length publication in digital form, consisting of text, images, or both, and produced on, published through, and readable on computers or other electronic devices. Sometimes the equivalent of a conventional printed book, e-books can also be born digital. Commercially produced and sold e-books are usually intended to be read on dedicated eBook readers. However, almost any sophisticated electronic device that features a controllable viewing screen, including computers many mobile phones and nearly all smartphones, can also be used to read e-books. Some companies, such as Amazon, with their Kindle for PC software, provide an emulator that allows a user to read their format on other platforms’.
eBook views (from left to right) on PC using Adobe Digital Editions; on the iPad; on a Kindle; on an Android smartphone (HTC)
eReading software packages (i.e. Adobe Digital Editions; Blufire; Calibre; Aldiko and other proprietary packages from Apple and Amazon) are designed to optimise the reading experience on the specific device that the reader is using. Common features include:
- Resizing the Font – The user has the option to resize the font and the eBook will automatically re-paginate or reflow to accommodate the reader. So if your eyesight is not too strong you can enlarge the font to meet your needs.
- Bookmark a Page – Just tap the bookmark feature and close your eBook, when you come back to it you’ll be taken straight to your bookmark
- Highlighting – Highlight quotes and passages and easily find them again.
- Notes – Create and then easily display archived notes. Instead of scribbling in small writing in the margins of a paper book, you can type a clear note in your eReader.
- Dictionary – Tap a word and the definition will be displayed
- Search – Search for topics or keywords inside your eBook, or out on the Web. Similar to the word look-up feature, this is something that augments the reading experience.
- Links – Internal links from the contents page and/or from individual words within the text take you to related content within the same eBook.
There are many other common and exclusive features not mentioned here including a range of possible multimedia enhancements like augmenting the experience with video or audio (including trailers, background and reference materials, interviews text-to-speech synchronisation etc.) and other more basic features like the ability to share highlights and notes, change the font and background colour or brightness to suit your personal preferences.
The eBook device market is populated by four distinct categories of product or hardware capable of supporting an eBook reading experience. The mobile marketplace now includes three main product categories. Within each of these categories there are now a plethora of products which are either multifunction devices or dedicated eBook readers, a few of these are listed in the graphic below.
eBook Device Categorisation (incl. sample brands/manufacturers)
Only the eReaders are designed almost exclusively for ereading, all other products are capable of carrying out a range of other functions. Tablets and smartphones are often referred to as Multi-function Devices (MFDs) for this reason.