What are ebooks?
Ebooks continue to grow in popularity as they become less expensive and people continue to look for the most convenient ways to read books.
If you don’t know anything about ebooks, this article is a good place to learn the basics.
Also known as an e-book or digital book, an electronic book is a text and image-based publication in digital form that can be read on computers and other digital devices.
E-book refers to an electronic book as a “publication in digital form, consisting of text, images, or both, and produced on, published through, and readable on computers or other electronic devices.” An ebook varies from an article (which may be up to 1200 words in length) and may be anywhere from perhaps 3000 words and up.
According to the Oxford Dictionary of English, it is “an electronic version of a printed book.” However, that definition is not entirely correct, since there are ebooks that have not been published as regular printed books previously.
Even though ebooks can be read on regular computers and cell phones, they are usually read on hardware devices that are known as e-book readers. Ebook readers are popular because they give users more options when reading – options that mimic the experience of reading a physical paper book. When reading on a reader, users are able to perform actions like make notes, highlight text passages and bookmark pages. The e-readers usually have other great features like built-in dictionaries and options for changing font sizes and styles, which also can add to a person’s reading experience.
Ebooks are usually sold online as downloadable files instead of in some type of physical, tangible form like paper.
The most common formats used for creating and distributing ebooks are PDF and HTML.
What is PDF?
PDF stands for Portable Document Format, and it is a file format that was developed by Adobe Systems. The whole idea behind PDF was to represent documents in a way that is independent of the environment in which it was created and of the output machine on which it will be displayed or printed. The main purpose of the format was to enable users to easily view and exchange the documents regardless of the application software, hardware or operating system that was used to create documents.
Thanks to its main features and numerous advantages, PDF has become one of the most used formats for sending, downloading and uploading files over the Internet.
Opening and viewing PDF files require specialized software. Adobe Systems’ Acrobat and Reader are the most widely used programs for presenting and using PDFs, but there are many alternatives on the market as well, though none are as popular as these that were created by Adobe.
Another important characteristic of PDFs is that they are formatted more like books than web pages, which means that the documents will look the same whether they are printed or on the computer screen. Additionally, they are uniform and will always look the same, no matter what computer you are using, what printer you are printing them on and what software you used to create the PDFs.
PDFs are derived from PostScript, though they do not contain language features such as loops. The fact that they are so easily and uniformly seen and printed regardless of platform makes them ideal for use on the Internet. That is why PDFs are used when creating many different types of files, such as brochures, magazine articles, manuals and books.
Advantages of PDF
PDF documents are readable on all platforms. PDFs can be opened and read on any platform – MAC, Windows, Linux OS or Android. The format is also device and resolution independent.
PDF documents are uniform. Not only can PDFs be opened on any computer and any operating system, they also always look the same.
PDF is an open standard, which means that anyone can write applications that are used for reading and writing PDFs without having to pay any royalties.
PDF files are incredibly versatile. PDF can include any possible combination of text, graphics, images, and even animations, sound and video. Users can get really creative when creating documents and include as much information, details and multimedia as they want or need to. PDFs are also searchable and easily navigated. This is especially useful in the case of ebooks and other long documents that consist of hundreds of pages and info.
PDF documents can be of any size. PDFs can be huge and contain thousands of pages and a plethora of images and colors. On the other hand, they can be simple, single-page, text-based documents. And no matter how large or complex they are, you will be able to open and read them with any PDF reader and see exactly what the creator of the content intended for you to see.
PDF documents are accessible. PDF viewers, such as Adobe Reader, are free. PDF file can be viewed not only in a PDF reader, but also in about any web browser. This feature renders PDF documents even more accessible.
The security features that come with the format are excellent, and with them, you can make sure that only the people who are intended to see your document will be able to do so. This, of course, is a very important feature for many people – especially those who work with a lot of legal documentation or those who send research and sensitive material to others via the Internet. You can secure your PDFs in various ways. Additional bonus is that your PDF cannot be infected with a virus after it has been created and secured.
PDF offers great functionalities for zooming, printing and scaling. One advantage that PDF has over other formats, especially a format like HTML, is that the zooming process is far more sophisticated. When you enlarge a PDF, you are seeing a zoomed in image of the text, but all of the spacing between words and letters and the entire original layout remains intact. That is, among many other reasons, why PDF is the go-to format for page-oriented documents. The quality of the viewing experience will depend on the quality and size of embedded images.
PDFs are optimally sized. Another big reason for the popularity of PDFs is the size. When a PDF is created, the image is being maximized and significantly compressed. But the best part about it is that no quality is being lost. When you convert an electronic document of any other format to PDF, you are compressing the document to 25 percent of its original size, leaving the quality of the document intact.
It is also important to note that the owner and creator of the PDF file can entirely disallow editing of the document. As mentioned before, PDFs are secure and creators can easily control how others view or use their documents. You can not only disallow editing of the PDF file, but also viewing.
With all these great features in mind, it is then no surprise that the PDF is one of the most used formats for uploading, downloading and sharing all types of document files online.
Comparison between PDF and HTML
One thing that PDF and HTML formats have in common is that they are formats that are most commonly used online. Essentially, HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is the main markup language for displaying web pages and other information that can be displayed in a web browser. Plainly speaking, webpage creators use HTML to describe the content they want to put on the web. In order to do that, they use HTML tags and create HTML documents. The web browsers read HTML and show their own interpretation of the HTML document on the screen. This means that when using HTML, you are not guaranteed that what you create will look the same in every single browser. It is a format that allows the created content to be shown according to the preferences of the viewer, not the preferences of the person who has created the content. PDF works in the opposite way.
So if you are creating content that you intend to share, and want to strictly define the content and its appearance, you are going to choose working in the PDF format over working in HTML to get your idea and content across precisely. There are ways to ensure that your content is unchanged in various browsers when you are using HTML, but you would be limiting what the user could do with the content as a result. For example, you can use a raster graphics image to present the text of your content, but if you do that, the viewer will not be able to select the text and use it for something else. Also, when you are creating everything with image files instead of text, you are increasing the file size as well and making a bulkier product.
PDF, eBook Readers and Mobile Phones
PDF files are supported on many e-book readers, like Amazon Kindle, iPad, Sony Reader, Barnes & Noble Nook, PocketBook Reader, Kobo eReader, Bookeen Cybook, etc.
PDF files are supported and readable on smartphones and some more basic mobile phones. Users are offered many alternatives for viewing PDFs on their tablets and cell phones, but the industry standard is still the Adobe Reader mobile app. Adobe Reader is available for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Android and Symbian devices.
eBooks and DRM
DRM stands for “Digital Rights Management”. DRM is a system of solutions designed as a means for controlling the unauthorized duplication and illegal distribution of copyrighted digital media.
DRM technology was created for the publishers of digital works as a means to stop the illegal reproduction and distribution of their products.
DRM technology enforces a restriction on the user in terms of what the user is able to do with that particular file. In many countries, removing the DRM from an eBook is considered to be illegal. Of course, these restrictions have a lot to do with copyright and the illegal copying or distribution of copyrighted material without the permission of the author. In America, the DMCA act prohibits DRM removal. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a United States copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
DRM is actually not a new idea. DRM technology was first introduced back in the late 1990s, but it didn’t really click with consumers at that time, because the software was far too complicated for the average person.
Since that time, software providers have designed a number of DRM tools. Some have had more success than others. DRM technology continues to evolve today and DRM tools that will protect eBook’s effectively are yet to be developed.
The US has introduced several laws on both state and federal levels that deal with DRM technology and call for this technology to be installed on all computer systems and have the technology control the distribution of all digital media.
Privacy and the intellectual property protection are huge issues today, which is why DRM technology has both a lot of supporters and a lot of opponents.
Many people believe that using DRM means more book sales, because there will be fewer pirated copies, but many believe the opposite.
One argument is that bestselling works are less affected by piracy than not so popular and well sold ones. At the same time, it is well known that unestablished or commercially unpopular authors sometimes support piracy because it means that more people will be exposed to their work.
The discussions of the benefits and shortcomings of DRM will continue, just as they continue when discussing any other forms of piracy prevention.
Advantages of Ebooks over Paper Books
It is no secret that technology has changed the way we work, communicate, collaborate and even spend our free time. It has also enabled us to change the way we read. Many book lovers have embraced this new phenomenon called electronic book. It is no wonder as e-books have a long list of advantages over traditional physical, paper books. The most notable advantages are the following:
- Ebooks are instantly downloadable. You can quickly buy and download the book that has awakened your interest only minutes ago. No need to go to the bookstore or waiting for it to be delivered in your mailbooks even days after you bought it.
- An ebook with 200 pages is only 300kb. Therefore you can store thousands on a 32 GB memory card.
- Free downloadable upgrades are offered by some suppliers. Electronic books can help you to save money on the new editions of textbooks, user and professional manuals, or any other writing that you would otherwise need to buy an upgrade to use.
- Ebooks help to conserve paper and environment. Is there really a better reason to give e-books a try?
- They take up no physical space. Having a huge, rich library with thousands of books doesn’t mean anymore that you must have a huge house, with lots of free space to accommodate your books.
- They are more portable and you can have your entire library on finger tips at all times.
- They can include links for easy access to additional information and related websites.
- They are searchable. You can easily search for any piece of information or sections that you want to read again without having to skim through every page of the book.
- There are no postage expenses involved when ordering them online.
- They can be printed if you really miss the feel of words on actual paper when reading.
- Text size in ebooks can be resized to fit your needs. When your eyes get tired and you start feeling the eyestrain, but still have some reading to do, you can easily enlarge the size of the text.