Many of us love reading books and appreciate the feel and smell of physical ink on paper, but sometimes we may wish that there is a way in which we could enjoy our favorite stories and essays while not having to haul around a bunch of pages bound together. Ebooks are perfect for this.
What is an ebook?
As their name suggests, ebooks are e-books—electronic books. An ebook is a file which can be opened with a dedicated “reader” app and it contains the text of a book. They are books that you read on a screen, be it your phone’s, computer’s, tablet’s, or dedicated e-reader’s screen.
When people think of reading electronically, most of them think of PDFs, and while some ebooks can be said to be in PDF form, most of them are something different. The main difference between an ebook and a PDF the possibility of text reflow. In a PDF, the text is essentially stuck the way it is—as if you had taken an actual book and taken photos of each individual page. Ebooks, on the other hand, usually have reflowable text which can be adjusted to fit the screen of whichever device you are reading it on. This makes the whole reading experience more comfortable. It should be noted that some ebooks do not have reflowable text. This has been introduced as of the new epub 3 standard, where everything has a fixed position on the screen.
Another big feature of ebooks, one which they share with PDFs, is that they are essentially un-editable. This is important as it protects copyright. Most ebooks, however, do allow for rudimentary note taking which is even necessary for books which are more technical in nature. Although note taking could be argued to be easier with physical books, something which is definitely simplified with ebooks is checking up words in the dictionary. While with physical books you may have to search the word separately in a browser or even a dictionary, with ebooks it is usually just a matter of selecting the word and waiting a split second for the in-app dictionary to start up. This convenience extends to things like hyperlinks between chapters, which makes tables of contents a piece of cake to navigate.
Although ebooks have been around for a long time, it is not until Amazon launched their trademark e-reader, Kindle, that the industry truly blew up. Nowadays, ebooks are quite the contested field, with the Kindle now competing with big names such as Kobo and Nook (at least in the western markets).
While there are dedicated devices to read ebooks on, nowadays there is less incentive to buy them as any phone, tablet, or computer can serve as an e-reader with the right software. You might prefer an e-reader, however, if instead of LED screens you prefer the e-ink display which most e-readers have. E-ink makes the display mimic ink on paper, and is much easier on the eyes, enabling you to read longer and more comfortably. This is not even to mention the improved visibility in direct sunlight, allowing you to take your books to the beach with you.
Let us now discuss the formats in which ebooks come in. .txt (Plain Text) files are still fairly common when it comes to ebooks, as it is the most widely accepted. The features it offers are limited to simple, reflowable text, but for a lot of ebooks that is more than enough. Amazon Kindle works with the .azw and .azw3 formats which are Kindle-exclusive and support reflowable and fixed layout texts while handling DRM and interactivity smoothly. .epub is perhaps the most widely accepted format, especially after its third major update, because it can do everything that the Kindle format can while being available across the board for many different devices. It supports the embedding of images, sounds, and videos, and is perfect for making things such as textbooks and interactive children’s books. It also handles foreign languages and non-latin scripts effortlessly. .mobi (Mobipocket) is a format that was used by Kindle when it first launched and it can be read by almost any device save for Nooks and Sony Readers. And, finally, while not an ebook format per se, .pdf files are what most people are familiar with, as they are easy to print and share across platforms. PDFs, however, are not accepted by any major ebook stores.
If you wish to read ebooks on devices which are not dedicated e-readers, then there are many apps that enable you to do so. Calibre is probably the most popular cataloging and reading software for the PC, while apps like FBReader or Moon+ Reader work on Android phones. It should be noted that both Android and iOS come equipped with reader apps—Google Play Books and iTunes respectively. You can either download them from online or even ask your local library for some.
There are a lot of benefits to ebooks, including:
- Convenient: Easier to carry around than physical books.
- Easy to use: Easier to take notes and look up books.
- Customizable: You can set your ebooks to look exactly how you want.
- Price: They tend to be cheaper and you can get many for free.
- Environmentally friendly: No chopping up trees to make them.
Some readers may prefer the smell and feel of a real, physical book.
Why should you buy ebooks?
Ebooks are a great way to enjoy your books without having to haul around physical pieces of bound-together paper. Although they may not smell as good, they make up for that in practicality and eco-friendliness.
Most ebooks are cheaper than their physical counterparts and many are available for free from sites such as Project Gutenberg.
Ebooks are a great option for readers who have grown tired of traditional, physical books. If you are someone who travels a lot then you will definitely appreciate their easy-to-transport nature, and nothing beats being able to customize your reading experience exactly the way you want it. If having access to an entire library at your fingertips sounds appealing to you, then definitely give ebooks a try.