Ebooks: a quick introduction

In the past few years, the ebooks revolutionized the literary and editorial worlds. Right now publishing a book has never been this easy or this cheap. The future of reading is unclear: will the more traditional printed paper still prevail? Or will the digital? Will there be a balance between these two universes? Experts are divided on this matter, but the ebooks have undoubtedly gained a certain momentum. Will they keep going like this? Will they get better? To all these questions, we do not have an answer yet. However, what we can do right now is trying understanding what an Ebook is, briefly describe its birth and how and in what formats it can be read.

Nowadays almost any computer device provided with a controllable viewing screen (especially a touchscreen) can be used to download and read e-books. Every single laptop, smartphone, tablet or desktop personal computer is, at the same time, an e-books reader. But how did everything start?

The eBook’s journey
The idea of an e-book, namely an editorial publication that is available in digital form, is actually older than the average person would think. Believe it or not, the early implementations of a book that had to be turned into an electronic document took place in the first years of the 70s, while to see the first buyable electronic book reader we have to wait until 1992, when Sony presented one that could read e-books saved on CD. The 90s were fundamental years, because at the time Internet was starting to spread like wildfire.

Of course, different e-readers, and it is not much different right now, required different formats. The support of major software companies was fundamental to the proliferating of the e-books and Adobe, by introducing in 1993 the still so famous PDF format, was a pioneer in this matter. Indeed, it is no coincidence that today is still probably the most popular document format of all time. But the e-book market was still disunited and there was an undoubted lack of consensus. E-books readers were still too limited. Almost ten years later, however, Open eBook was developed, providing this way a format that authors and publishers could use to read and spread on more than one e-book reader. This format led later to EPUB, but we will talk about this later.

We have to wait for the year 2010 to see the e-books being distributed through their own underground and peculiar markets. E-book publishers started distribute literary works that were in the public domain, while at the same time rejected authors used this digital publishing to promote their works. Many statistics show that e-book reading is constantly growing. In 2014, 50% of American citizens had a personal e-reader or tablet.

So which are the most common eBook formats?

We already mentioned this one, it is a so called open format that was designed by the Open eBook Forum and later fostered and advanced by the International Digital Publishing Forum. It is based on XHTML and XML coding, like ODF, the default Open Office format, and DOCX, another XML-based format created for Microsoft Word to open file documents. Anyway, the ePub, at the time, was realized in the attempt to create a source that could be both a file format but also an end user format. It can be read, among other softwares, by Adobe Digital Editions and QuickReader, and almost any kind of computer devices, including the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Kobo Reader, and the Nook from Barnes & Noble, and Sony Reader. It can be read on Android devices as well if you download specific apps to do that.

The Amazon devices, on the other hand, have their own personal format, this is one of them. To put it simple, a MOBI format is a format that has a compression option that is high. Most interesting feature of this kind of format is that, because other Kindle apps have been made available for devices that are not a Kindle reader, AZW files can be used on all sorts of smartphones (iPhone, Android phones, and BlackBerry), whatever kind of computers (Mac and PCs) and on the most popular tablets (Android tablets, iPad and Windows 8 tablets as well).

It is a better format than a regular MOBI one, because that one has a limited amount of devices on which it is supported.

And lastly, the ebook format that was created and developed for the Microsoft Reader software. Unfortunately for Microsoft and all Windows Mobile devices users, the LIT format is no longer being developed starting by November 2011. Downloading of the software itself stopped around the end of August 2012. Of course it can still be used, but you are not able of adding potential new content.

In conclusion
It is safe to say that ebooks came a long way. Nowadays, they are common and they are due to become more and more popular every day. This is not necessarily a bad thing: experts say that the ebooks on the market will not ruin paper books sales, and that is because the two things, even if similar, are essentially different. What the an avid reader can do is pick the solution that matches better their needs. Sometimes not choosing is even better, though.

Our eBook Converter can convert most popular ebook file formats, you can use it to convert any of your eBook files to a format supported by your e-reader.

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