The Ebook reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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An ebook is an electronic (or digital) version of a book. The term is used ambiguously to refer to either an individual work in a digital format, or a device used to read books in digital format. The second usage should be deprecated in favour of the more precise "ebook device".

Though e-texts are available as digitally encoded books and the term is often used synonymously with the term ebook, that usage is deprecated. The term e-text is used for the more limited case of data in ASCII text format, while the more general e-book can be in a specialized (and, at times, proprietary) file format.

An ebook is commonly bundled by a publisher for distribution (as an ebook, an ezine, or a internet newspaper), whereas e-text is distributed in ASCII (or plain text). Metadata relating to the text is sometimes included with etext (though it appears more frequently with ebooks).

Table of contents
1 Formats
2 Comparison with printed books
3 Distribution
4 See also
5 External links and references


The ebook community has available to it a substantial array of options when it comes to choosing a format for production. While the average end user might arguably simply want to read books, every format has its exponents and champions, and debates over "which format is best" can become intense. For the average end user to read a book, every format has its advantages and disadvantages. Formats available include, but are by no means limited to:

Plain text

Published as an ASCII text (or .txt), an e-text in the proper (strict) sense.

Computer-encoded text that consists only of a sequence of code points from a given standard, with no other formatting or structural information. Plain text interchange is commonly used between computer systems that do not share higher-level protocols. ISO 8859 is a group of related ISO standards for 8-bit character encodings for use by computers. These standards are based on ASCII, the most widely used 7-bit character encoding.

Image-file formats

Raster graphic images is a data file or structure that consists of a generally rectangular array of pixels, or points of color, on a computer monitor, paper, or other display device. This is both the raw format that computer graphics hardware uses to project an image on your monitor, and the basis for many graphics file formats. Vector graphics describes the use of geometrical primitives to represent images in computer graphics. It is used by contrast to the term raster graphics.

Graphics Interchange Format

Published as an .gif

Used extensively on the web, but sometimes avoided due to patent issues. Supports animated images. Supports only 255 colors per frame, so requires lossy quantization for full-color photos; using multiple frames can improve color precision. Uses non-lossy, patented LZW compression. This patent expired in 2003.

Joint Photographic Experts Group

Published as an .jpeg

Used extensively for photos on the web. Uses lossy compression; the quality can vary greatly depending on the compression settings.

Tagged Image File Format

Published as an .tiff

Used extensively for traditional print graphics. Lossy and non-lossy compression available, but many programs only support a subset of available options

Rich Text Format

Published as an .rtf

A standard formalized by Microsoft Corporation for specifying formatting of documents. RTF files are actually ASCII files with special commands to indicate formatting information, such as fonts and margins.

Standard Generalised Markup Language

Commonly known as ''sgml

Standardized metalanguage for the descriptiion of markup languages; a set of rules for using whatever markup vocabulary is adopted. This includes the TEI standard.

eXtensible Markup Language

Published as an .xml

A subset of SGML constituting a particular text markup metalanguage for defining markup languages for the interchange of structured data. The Unicode Standard is the reference character set for XML content. XML is a trademark of the World Wide Web Consortium.

Hypertext Markup Language

Published as an .html

The coded format language used for creating hypertext documents on the World Wide Web and controlling how Web pages appear.

Cascading Style Sheets'
Commonly known as .''css

Some ebooks use this extensions to standard HTML that allow designers to control multiple web page styles from a single file. Used to predefine page elements such as font size, color, and style; image placement; and background images, and have the same style applied to a series of web pages.


The TeX format is a popular academic format. A typesetting system written by Donald Knuth, especially for application of mathematics, physics, and computer science communities. TeX can typeset complex mathematical formulas, but, especially in template packages, is now also being used for many other typesetting tasks. LaTeX is a TEX document preparation system. LaTeX offers programmable features and facilities for automating aspects of typesetting and desktop publishing, especially numbering and cross-referencing, tables and figures, page layout, bibliographies. LaTeX was originally written in 1984 by Leslie Lamport and has become a leading method for using TeX; few people write in plain TeX any more. (current version : 2ε)


Published as an .ps

PostScript is a page description language used primarily in the electronic and desktop publishing areas for describing the contents of a printed page in a higher level than the actual output bitmap.

Portable Document Format

Published as an .''pdf

A file format created by Adobe, initially to provide a standard form for storing and editing printed publishable documents. Because documents in .pdf format can easily be seen and printed by users on a variety of computer and platform types, they are very common on the World Wide Web.

Adobe's Acrobat

These are PDF files that are created using Adobe Acrobat, Acrobat Capture, or other Adobe products. To view and use the files, the Acrobat Reader starts automatically whenever you want to look at a PDF files. PDF files are used in magazine articles, product brochures, or flyers to capture embed type fonts, images, and other documents. PDF file contains one or more page images, each of which you can zoom in on or out from. Acrobat PDF include interactive elements such as buttons for forms entry and for triggering sound and Quicktime or AVI movies. Acrobat PDF files are optimized for the Web by rendering text before graphic images and hypertext links. Adobe's PDF-like eBook format is incorporated into their reader.


Published as an .lit

The MS reader uses patented ClearTypeî display technology. Navigation works with a keyboard, mouse, or stylus or through electronic bookmarks. The Catalogue Library records reader books in a personalized "home page". A user can add annotations and notes to any page, create large-print eBooks with a single command, or create free-form drawings in the reader pages. A built in dictionary allows a user to look up words.

Palm Digital Media

Published as an .''doc

The Palm pocket reader is a program for viewing Palm Digital Media electronic books . The reader shows text one page at a time as paper books do. Palm readers support embedded hyperlinks and images.


The Mobipocket Reader has a home page library. Users reading can add a blank pages in any part of a book and add free-hand drawing. Annotations - highlights, bookmarks, notes, and drawings - can be applied, organized, and recalled from a single location. Mobipocket reader has electronic bookmarks (appearing in page margins). A dictionary allows users to look up definitions through a built-in Lookup function. The reader has a full screen mode for the reading experience and has Microsoft ClearTypeî Support


Published as an .exe

ExeBook is a compiler that produces an ebook file that, when executed, produces a simulated book onscreen, complete with page texture. The etext is encrypted as graphic images so that automatic text copying is very difficult. The fear of exe files picking up viruses, however, is hampering its acceptance.


Published as an .exe and .dnl

DesktopAuthor is an electronic publishing suite that allows creation of digital web books with virtual turning pages. Digital web books of any epublication type can be written by this format, ncluding ebrochures, ebooks, digital photo albums, ecards, digital diaries, online resumes, quizzes, exams, tests, forms and surveys. DesktopAuthor packages the ebook into a "dnl or "".exe" book. Each can stand-alone as a single, plain executable file which does not require any other programs to view it. DNL files can be view inside a web browser or stand-alone via dnl reader.

DNL Reader

Published as an .dnl

The small sized DNL reader views dnl ebooks. These digital web books are produced by the DeskTop Author software. DNL files are the data files. Viewing the digital web books in the DNL format allows for a safe viewing experience, it also reduces the file size of the user's document (and the associated time saving spent downloading books).

Comparison with printed books

Ebook advantages

Print book advantages


Of these, the main contenders appear to be HTML, ASCII, PDF and latterly XML. The various distribution formats, HTML, ASCII, PDF and XML are widespread, but are usually used in lowlevel non-critical and non-commercial formats. TeX is usually too complex for general use. Microsoft reader 2.0, Mobipocket reader, the Palm reader, Adobe Acrobat reader, ExeBook, and DestopAuthor are in widespread use. The distribution choice of format, to some extent, depends on the aims of the publisher of the ebook.


Some devices are designed to read ebooks. Many Personal digital assistant (PDA) devices, such as Palm, have read ebooks since their inception. PDAs remain the a popular sector for reading ebooks. Various attempts have been made, and continue to be made, to produce purpose-built devices for reading ebooks. One of the earliest, and probably the most successful of these was the Rocket eBook, and others include the Softbook, Hiebook, the Franklin eBookman and the Sony Librie EBR-1000EP.

The advantage of such devices lies in their portability and capacity for holding large numbers of books in memory. But consumer resistance remains strong against these purpose-built devices, with most readers still preferring the traditional paperback or reading their ebook on personal computers. One apparently insurmountable problem with such devices is cost: manufacturers have seemed unable to produce at a low enough price to make them attractive to large numbers of readers.


Ebook projects generally fall into two camps (ed. though the creators and publishers are often unclear as to which camp they belong):

New Creation : Soley online editions; Publishing online editions, where Reproduction features are unimportant.
Reproduction : Preservation of features by existing paper edition; accurate reproduction of existing paper editions, where it becomes important to preserve features of the original, such as pagination.

Project Gutenberg is a project to create an archive of ebooks, having started in 1971. Project Gutenberg may claim to be the earliest project to create an archive of ebooks. It is a Reproduction project. Many other projects have followed, mostly based on public domain texts (often derived from Project Gutenberg). John Mark Ockerbloom's On-Line Books Page which is hosted by the library of the University of Pennsylvania. It is a Reproduction project. The Internet Public Library Online, the first public library of and for the Internet community, is an experiment trying to discover and promote the most effective roles and contributions of librarians to the Internet and vice versa. It is a New Creation project. The Oxford Text Archive hosts AHDS Literature, Languages and Linguistics. It is a Reproduction project. Making of America (MoA) is a digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction. It is a Reproduction project.

While no single directory of available ebooks exists see List of digital library projects for links to articles and external sites for many digital library projects.

Epublishing ventures

Publishers are producing ebooks and now in the 21st century some publishers are expanding the market. For commercial publication, some publishers belive that digital rights management is all important, and tends to override other considerations in the choice of format. Many publishers are reluctant to produce ebooks over fears of piracy and it wasn't until the 21st century that many publishers considered it a worthwhile forum. Recent history has seen players such as Microsoft and Adobe enter the market with purpose built software which addresses the right management needs of commercial publishers.

Alternatively, other publishers have found that making ebooks available without digital rights management can expand the market penetration of their paper books. Notable in this movement is Baen Books and National Academies Press. Baen and NAP make all their new books available in non-DRM formats, and have made a profit from its e-publshing, and the Baen Free Library is an experiment with making the full text of books available free for download. To date, Baen authors clain that this has increased their sales. Similarly National Academies Press publishes all of its 2,500 books both in free online editions and in priced printed editions and claims that the free editions stimulate sales of the priced editions. (See National Academies Press info site for their rational.) Additionally MIT Press claims that freely downloadable copies of their textbooks have increased paper sales.

The 1988 ebook of William Gibson's Mona Lisa Overdrive is a classic in the world of epublishing, and, on March 14, 2000, Stephen King's Riding the Bullet was downloaded by half a million people (only the first part of the book was free, and King gave up when he couldn't get enough people to pay for the remaining parts). The popular ebookstore and e-tailer,, sells ebooks in the two most popular formats, Microsoft's Reader format and Adobe's eBook format. Fictionwise is also a popular online ebook store that sells ebooks in a variety of formats. Citing profitability concerns, Barnes and Noble stopped selling ebooks in 2003.

The lack of legitimate ebooks has led to rapid growth of the number of unlicensed ebooks being produced, a growth which still continues - most significantly in the genres of science fiction and fantasy. This had resulted in the number of unlicensed ebooks to outweigh the licensed ebooks by several orders of magnitude.

Recent attempts to revive ebooks include ExeBook and DsktopAuthor, these are ebook compilers that produces an exe file that, when executed, produces a simulated book onscreen (sometimes with page texture). The encrypted etext is presented as a graphic image so that automatic text copying is very difficult. The fear of exe files picking up viruses, however, is hampering acceptance.

A press release issued by The Open eBook Forum (OeBF), early December 2003, reports more than 1-million ebooks sold over the first 3 quarters of 2003. [1] OeBF 2003 third quarter analysis, based on data from ebook publishers and retailers, shows strong double-digit growth over the same period in 2002, in three aspects:

Attempts are underway to create a standard format for ebooks, notably by The Open eBook Forum (OeBF)], based on XML/XHTML.

See also

External links and references