Ebook Presented Digitally
The ebook is a digitally presented format of any printed conventional book which can be read through a personal computer or through a hardware device called a book reader. The inception of such an innovative idea dates back to 1971 when the pioneer Michael Hart, in U.S.A., decided to create through computers storage, retrieval and scanning of texts available in libraries. This resulted in the origin of the first ebook, a copy of the `Declaration of Independence` which later evolved into `Project Gutenberg`. Today it contains over 20,000 free texts and over 100,000 books.
Every month over 3,000,000 books are downloaded. Ultimately this reached mammoth proportions with ebooks flooding the web because of its easy storage on hard drive or disk. Production of ebooks is carried out generally by document scanning or by using robotic book scanners.
Initially the ebooks were confined to specialty topics which were documents, technical manuals or articles on manufacturing techniques with cutting edge hardware. Such ebooks did not create much impact in the market as there was no consensus on packaging, selling or reading. A number of diverse specifications, supported by leading software companies or by independent programmers, proliferated which catered to readers following multiple formats resulted in further fragmentation of the market. At this stage ebook was not a mainstream item.
This, however, did not stop ebook from spreading its domain. It surfaced in the underground markets wherein the ebook publishers distributed those books which were not readily available in the market. Similarly, authors whose books did not find any publishers started offering their books on-line so that viewers were exposed to the literature. Even unauthorized and unofficial catalogues were available in various web sites. And in this manner ebooks began to circulate on-line. Romantic novels were the first successful ebooks as they catered to a large clientele who bought them on-line and enjoyed reading them in privacy.
These incidents caught the attention of major publishers. Around mid June 2001, the acclaimed publishers started delving into this medium and tried to gain from the ebook formats. This led the publishers to establish on-line stores and partnerships with e-reader manufacturers. Today, the electronic hardware manufacturers are also working in tandem with ebook readers to capitalize on the on-line ebook market.
This upsurge of activity by the reputed publishers, electronic companies and independent operators resulted in the development of new selling models. Simultaneously, a more simple and homogeneous format with better reading hardware was created to achieve a global distribution for ebooks. This has unleashed an array of new publishing houses. Today, electronic manufacturers are wooing the ebook readers through new designs while software engineers are developing new reader application for portable electronic gear ranging from hand held computers, smart phones and game consoles.
The twentieth century readers, unaware of the concept of ebook, are now being gradually exposed to this electronic phenomenon. Commuters read ebooks on laptops, hand held computers or on cell phones. Such is the craze of ebooks in Japan that mobile phone novels have evolved where books could be downloaded and read on the cell screen. Sales which were negligible a few years back has crossed 10 billion yens annually (The Economist). At present, consumers can easily access books of their choice ranging from best sellers to new authors or which ever type suiting their reading pattern.
Ebooks reading are advantageous as it is a space saving device of book storage. One CD / DVD can, approximately, store 500 ebooks and are never out of print, which is a common occurrence in conventional books. For researchers such digitized versions are ideal as they display excellent choice of formats enabling speedy cross references. Readers can adjust their reading convenience by adjusting fonts and text sizes and use back lit facility which allows adequate visibility in low light. Unlike traditional books and paperbacks, ebooks need not be hand held, can be reproduced cheaply and are generally inexpensive as it does not consume paper, ink and other resources used in conventional printing.
The basic disadvantage of ebook is that it requires electronic devices for display. The software may not be readily available or free or compatible with the existing computer configuration. Sudden hard disk drive failure or power disruption causes disturbing interruptions. eBook storage mediums are fragile, the devices are costly and replacement charges could be prohibitive. Finally, and particularly for some publishers, hacking is a perennial danger.
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