An electronic book (also called an e-book, ebook or digital book) is a book in digital form. E-books can be read on computers or other electronic devices such as e-book readers. E-book readers, such as the Amazon Kindle, are devices which are dedicated to showing e-books.
The first e-book might have been the Index Thonisticus, prepared by Roberto Busa in the late 1940s. However, this is sometimes not not called an ebook because the digital text was (at least at first) meant to develop an index and concordance, rather than as a published edition in its own rights.
Despite the extensive earlier history, it is commonly reported that the inventor of the e-book is Michael S. Hart. In 1971, Hart was given extensive computer time by the operators of the Xerox Sigma V mainframe at the University of Illinois. Seeking a worthy use of this resource, he created his first electronic document by typing the United States Declaration of Independence into a computer.
One early e-book was the desktop prototype for a proposed notebook computer, the Dynabook, in the 1970s at PARC: a general-purpose portable personal computer capable of displaying books for reading.
In 1992, Sony launched the Data Discman, an electronic book reader that could read e-books that were stored on CDs. One of the electronic publications that could be played on the Data Discman was called The Library of the Future.
Early e-books were generally written for specialty areas and a limited audience, meant to be read only by small and devoted interest groups. The scope of the subject matter of these e-books included technical manuals for hardware, manufacturing techniques and other subjects. In the 1990s, the general availability of the Internet made transferring electronic files much easier, including e-books.
After Hart first adapted the Declaration of Independence into an electronic document in 1971, Project Gutenberg was launched to create electronic copies of more texts - especially books. Another early e-book implementation was the desktop prototype for a proposed notebook computer, the Dynabook, in the 1970s at PARC: a general-purpose portable personal computer capable of displaying books for reading. In 1980 the US Department of Defense began concept development for a portable electronic delivery device for technical maintenance information called project PEAM, the Portable Electronic Aid for Maintenance. Detailed specifications were completed in FY 82, and prototype development began with Texas Instruments that same year. Four prototypes were produced and delivered for testing in 1986. Tests were completed in 1987. The final summary report was produced by the US Army research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences in 1989 authored by Robert Wisher and J. Peter Kincaid. A patent application for the PEAM device was submitted by Texas Instruments titled "Apparatus for delivering procedural type instructions" was submitted Dec 4, 1985 listing John K. Harkins and Stephen H. Morriss as inventors.
In 1992, Sony launched the Data Discman, an electronic book reader that could read e-books that were stored on CDs. One of the electronic publications that could be played on the Data Discman was called The Library of the Future. Early e-books were generally written for specialty areas and a limited audience, meant to be read only by small and devoted interest groups. The scope of the subject matter of these e-books included technical manuals for hardware, manufacturing techniques, and other subjects. In the 1990s, the general availability of the Internet made transferring electronic files much easier, including e-books.
As e-book formats emerged and proliferated, some garnered support from major software companies, such as Adobe with its PDF format that was introduced in 1993. Different e-readers followed different formats, most of them specializing in only one format, thereby fragmenting the e-book market even more. Due to the exclusiveness and limited readerships of e-books, the fractured market of independent publishers and specialty authors lacked consensus regarding a standard for packaging and selling e-books. However, in the late 1990s, a consortium formed to develop the Open eBook format as a way for authors and publishers to provide a single source-document which many book-reading software and hardware platforms could handle. Open eBook as defined required subsets of XHTML and CSS; a set of multimedia formats (others could be used, but there must also be a fallback in one of the required formats), and an XML schema for a "manifest", to list the components of a given e-book, identify a table of contents, cover art, and so on. This format led to the open format EPUB. Google Books has converted many public domain works to this open format.
In 2010, e-books continued to gain in their own specialist and underground markets. Many e-book publishers began distributing books that were in the public domain. At the same time, authors with books that were not accepted by publishers offered their works online so they could be seen by others. Unofficial (and occasionally unauthorized) catalogs of books became available on the web, and sites devoted to e-books began disseminating information about e-books to the public. Nearly two-thirds of the U.S. Consumer e-book publishing market are controlled by the "Big Five". The "Big Five" publishers include: Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster.
US Libraries began providing free e-books to the public in 1998 through their websites and associated services, although the e-books were primarily scholarly, technical or professional in nature, and could not be downloaded. In 2003, libraries began offering free downloadable popular fiction and non-fiction e-books to the public, launching an E-book lending model that worked much more successfully for public libraries. The number of library e-book distributors and lending models continued to increase over the next few years. From 2005 to 2008 libraries experienced 60% growth in e-book collections. In 2010, a Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study found that 66% of public libraries in the US were offering e-books, and a large movement in the library industry began seriously examining the issues related to lending e-books, acknowledging a tipping point of broad e-book usage.
However, some publishers and authors have not endorsed the concept of electronic publishing, citing issues with user demand, copyright piracy and challenges with proprietary devices and systems. In a survey of interlibrary loan librarians it was found that 92% of libraries held e-books in their collections and that 27% of those libraries had negotiated interlibrary loan rights for some of their e-books. This survey found significant barriers to conducting interlibrary loan for e-books. Demand-driven acquisition (DDA) has been around for a few years in public libraries, which allows vendors to streamline the acquisition process by offering to match a library's selection profile to the vendor's e-book titles. The library's catalog is then populated with records for all the e-books that match the profile. The decision to purchase the title is left to the patrons, although the library can set purchasing conditions such as a maximum price and purchasing caps so that the dedicated funds are spent according to the library's budget. The 2012 meeting of the Association of American University Presses included a panel on patron-drive acquisition (PDA) of books produced by university presses based on a preliminary report by Joseph Esposito, a digital publishing consultant who has studied the implications of PDA with a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Although the demand for e-book services in libraries has grown in the decades of the 2000s and 2010s, difficulties keep libraries from providing some e-books to clients. Publishers will sell e-books to libraries, but they only give libraries a limited license to the title in most cases. This means the library does not own the electronic text but that they can circulate it either for a certain period of time or for a certain number of check outs, or both. When a library purchases an e-book license, the cost is at least three times what it would be for a personal consumer. E-book licenses are more expensive than paper-format editions because publishers are concerned that an e-book that is sold could theoretically be read and/or checked out by a huge number of users, which could adversely affect sales.
Dedicated hardware readers and mobile software
An e-reader, also called an e-book reader or e-book device, is a mobile electronic device that is designed primarily for the purpose of reading e-books and digital periodicals. An e-reader is similar in form, but more limited in purpose than a tablet. In comparison to tablets, many e-readers are better than tablets for reading because they are more portable, have better readability in sunlight and have longer battery life. In July 2010, online bookseller Amazon.com reported sales of e-books for its proprietary Kindle outnumbered sales of hardcover books for the first time ever during the second quarter of 2010, saying it sold 140 e-books for every 100 hardcover books, including hardcovers for which there was no digital edition. By January 2011, e-book sales at Amazon had surpassed its paperback sales. In the overall US market, paperback book sales are still much larger than either hardcover or e-book; the American Publishing Association estimated e-books represented 8.5% of sales as of mid-2010, up from 3% a year before. At the end of the first quarter of 2012, e-book sales in the United States surpassed hardcover book sales for the first time.
Until late 2013, use of an e-reader was not allowed on airplanes during takeoff and landing by the FAA. In November 2013, the FAA allowed use of e-readers on airplanes at all times if it is in Airplane Mode, which means all radios turned off, and Europe followed this guidance the next month. In 2014, the New York Times predicted that by 2018 e-books will make up over 50% of total consumer publishing revenue in the United States and Great Britain.
Some of the major book retailers and multiple third-party developers offer free (and in some third-party cases, premium paid) e-reader software applications (apps) for the Mac and PC computers as well as for Android, Blackberry, iPad, iPhone, Windows Phone and Palm OS devices to allow the reading of e-books and other documents independently of dedicated e-book devices. Examples are apps for the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, iBooks, Kobo eReader and Sony Reader.
- Ángela Ruiz Robles patented in Galicia, Spain, the idea of the electronic book, called the Mechanical Encyclopedia.
- Roberto Busa begins planning the Index Thomisticus.
- Doug Engelbart starts the NLS (and later Augment) projects.
- Andries van Dam starts the HES (and later FRESS) projects, with assistance from Ted Nelson, to develop and use electronic textbooks for humanities and in pedagogy.
- Michael S. Hart types the US Declaration of Independence into a computer to create the first e-book available on the Internet and launches Project Gutenberg in order to create electronic copies of more books.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series launches (novel published in 1979), featuring an electronic reference book containing all knowledge in the Galaxy. This vast amount of data could be fit into something the size of a large paperback book, with updates received over the "Sub-Etha".
- Roberto Busa finishes the Index Thomisticus, a complete lemmatisation of the 56 printed volumes of Saint Thomas Aquinas and of a few related authors.
- Judy Malloy wrote and programmed Uncle Roger, the first online hypertext fiction with links that took the narrative in different directions depending on the reader's choice.
- Project Gutenberg releases its 10th e-book to its website.
- Franklin Computer released an electronic edition of the Bible that was read on a stand-alone device.
- Eastgate Systems publishes the first hypertext fiction released on floppy disk, "Afternoon, a story", by Michael Joyce.
- Electronic Book Technologies releases DynaText, the first SGML-based system for delivering large-scale books such as aircraft technical manuals. It was later tested on a US aircraft carrier as replacement for paper manuals.
- Voyager Company develops Expanded Books, which are books on CD-ROM in a digital format.
- F. Crugnola and I. Rigamonti design and create the first e-reader, called Incipit, as a thesis project at the Polytechnic University of Milan.
- Sony launches the Data Discman e-book player.
- Peter James published his novel Host on two floppy disks and at the time it was called the "world's first electronic novel"; a copy of it is stored at the Science Museum.
- Hugo Award and Nebula Award nominee works are included on a CD-ROM by Brad Templeton.
- Bibliobytes, a website for obtaining e-books, both for free and for sale on the Internet, launches.
- C & M Online is founded in Raleigh, North Carolina and publishes e-books through its imprint, Boson Books. Authors include Fred Chappell, Kelly Cherry, Leon Katz, Richard Popkin, and Robert Rodman.
- The popular format for publishing e-books changed from plain text to HTML.
- Online poet Alexis Kirke discusses the need for wireless internet electronic paper readers in his article "The Emuse".
- Project Gutenberg reaches 1,000 titles.
- Joseph Jacobson works at MIT to create electronic ink, a high-contrast, low-cost, read/write/erase medium to display e-books.
- E Ink Corporation is co-founded in 1997 by MIT undergraduates J.D. Albert, Barrett Comiskey, MIT professor Joseph Jacobson, as well as Jeremy Rubin and Russ Wilcox to create an electronic printing technology. This technology is later used to on the displays of the Sony Reader, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Amazon Kindle.
- NuvoMedia released the first handheld e-reader, the Rocket eBook.
- SoftBook launched its SoftBook reader. This e-reader, with expandable storage, could store up to 100,000 pages of content, including text, graphics and pictures.
- The Cybook was sold and manufactured at first by Cytale (1998–2003) and later by Bookeen.
- The NIST released the Open eBook format based on XML to the public domain, most future e-book formats derive from Open eBook. and on XML.
- Publisher Simon & Schuster created a new imprint called ibooks and became the first trade publisher to simultaneously to publish some of their titles in e-book and print format.
- Oxford University Press offered a selection of its books available as e-books through netLibrary.
- Publisher Baen Books opens up the Baen Free Library to make available Baen titles as free e-books.
- Kim Blagg, via her company Books OnScreen, began selling multimedia-enhanced e-books on CDs through retailers including Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Borders Books.
- Joseph Jacobson, Barrett O. Comiskey and Jonathan D. Albert are granted US patents related to displaying electronic books, these patents are later used in the displays for most e-readers.
- Stephen King releases his novella Riding the Bullet exclusively online and it became the first mass-market e-book, selling 500,000 copies in 48 hours.
- Microsoft releases the Microsoft Reader with ClearType for increased readability on PCs and handheld devices.
- Microsoft and Amazon worked together to sell e-books that could be purchased on Amazon and using Microsoft software downloaded to PCs and handhelds.
- A digitized version of the Gutenberg Bible was made available online at the British Library.
- Adobe releases Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 allowing users to underline, take notes and bookmark.
- Palm, Inc and OverDrive, Inc make Palm Reader e-books available worldwide and offered over 5,000 e-books in several languages; these could be read on Palm PDAs or using a computer application.
- Random House and HarperCollins start to sell digital versions of their titles in English.
- Sony Librie, first e-reader using an E Ink display was released; it had a six-inch screen.
- Google announces plans to digitize the holdings of several major libraries, as part of what would later be called the Google Books Library Project.
- Amazon buys Mobipocket, the creator of the mobi e-book file format and e-reader software.
- Google is sued for copyright infringement by the Authors Guild for scanning books still in copyright.
- Sony Reader PRS-500 with an E Ink screen and two weeks of battery life was released.
- LibreDigital launched BookBrowse as an online reader for publisher content.
- The International Digital Publishing Forum releases EPUB to replace Open eBook.
- Amazon.com releases the Kindle e-reader with 6-inch E Ink screen in the US and it sells outs in 5.5 hours.
- Simultaneously with the Kindle in November, the Kindle Store opened that initially had more than 88,000 e-books available.
- Bookeen launches Cybook Gen3 in Europe, it could display e-books and play audiobooks.
- Adobe and Sony agree to share their technologies (Adobe Reader and DRM) with each other.
- Sony sells the Sony Reader PRS-505 in UK and France.
- BooksOnBoard becomes first retailer to sell e-books for iPhones.
- Bookeen releases the Cybook Opus in the US and in Europe.
- Sony releases the Reader Pocket Edition and Reader Touch Edition.
- Amazon releases the Kindle 2 that included a text-to-speech feature.
- Amazon releases the Kindle DX that had a 9.7-inch screen in the US.
- Barnes & Noble releases the Nook e-reader in the US.
- Amazon released the Kindle for PC application in late 2009, making the Kindle Store library available for the first time outside Kindle hardware.
- In January 2010, Amazon releases the Kindle DX International Edition worldwide.
- Bookeen reveals the Cybook Orizon at CES.
- Apple releases the iPad bundled with an e-book app called iBooks.
- Kobo Inc. releases its Kobo eReader to be sold at Indigo/Chapters in Canada and Borders in the U.S.
- Amazon reports that its e-book sales outnumbered sales of hardcover books for the first time ever during the second quarter of 2010.
- Amazon releases the third generation Kindle, available in Wi-Fi and 3G & Wi-Fi versions.
- Kobo Inc. releases an updated Kobo eReader, which included Wi-Fi.
- Barnes & Noble releases the Nook Color, a color LCD tablet.
- Google launches Google eBooks offering over 3 million titles, becoming the world's largest e-book store at that time.
- PocketBook expands its line with an Android e-reader.
- In Canada, The Sentimentalists won the prestigious national Giller Prize in 2010. Owing to the small scale of the novel's independent publisher, the book was not widely available in printed form so the e-book edition became the top-selling title for Kobo devices that year.
- Amazon.com announces in May that its e-book sales in the US now exceed all of its printed book sales.
- Barnes & Noble releases the Nook Simple Touch e-reader and Nook Tablet.
- Bookeen launches its own e-books store, BookeenStore.com, and starts to sell digital versions of titles in French.
- Nature Publishing publishes Principles of Biology, a customizable, modular textbook, with no corresponding paper edition.
- The e-reader market grows in Spain, and companies like Telefónica, Fnac, and Casa del Libro launches their e-readers with the Spanish brand "bq readers".
- Amazon launches the Kindle Fire and Kindle Touch; both devices were designed for e-reading.
- E-books sold in the U.S. market collects over three billion in revenue.
- Kbuuk released the cloud-based e-book self-publishing SaaS platform on the Pubsoft digital publishing engine.
- Apple releases iBooks Author, software for creating iPad e-books to be directly published in its iBooks bookstore or to be shared as PDF files.
- Apple opens a textbook section in its iBooks bookstore.
- Library.nu - previously called ebooksclub.org and gigapedia.com, a popular linking website for downloading e-books - was accused of copyright infringement and shut down by court order on February 15.
- The publishing companies Random House, Holtzbrinck, and arvato get an e-book library called Skoobe on the market.
- US Department of Justice prepares anti-trust lawsuit against Apple, Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group, Penguin Group, Macmillan, and HarperCollins, alleging collusion to increase the price of books sold on Amazon.
- PocketBook releases the PocketBook Touch, an E Ink Pearl e-reader, winning awards from German magazines Tablet PC and Computer Bild.
- In September, Amazon releases the Kindle Paperwhite, its first e-reader with built-in front LED lights.
- In April 2013, Barnes & Noble posts losses of $475 million on its Nook business for the prior fiscal year and in June announces its intention to discontinue manufacturing Nook tablets, although it plans to continue making and designing black-and-white e-readers such as the Nook Simple Touch, which "are more geared to serious readers, who are its customers, than to tablets".
- The Association of American Publishers announces that e-books now account for about 20% of book sales. Barnes & Noble estimates it has a 27% share of the U.S. e-book market.
- In June, Apple executive Keith Moerer testifies in the e-book price fixing trial that the iBookstore held approximately 20% of the e-book market share in the United States within the months after launch - a figure that Publishers Weekly reports is roughly double many of the previous estimates made by third parties. Moerer further testified that iBookstore acquired about an additional 20% by adding Random House in 2011.
- Five major US e-book publishers, as part of their settlement of a price-fixing suit, were ordered to refund about $3 for every electronic copy of a New York Times best-seller that they sold from April 2010 to May 2012. This could equal $160 million in settlement charges.
- Barnes & Noble releases the Nook Glowlight, which has a 6-inch touchscreen using E Ink Pearl and Regal, with built-in front LED lights.
- In April, Kobo released the Kobo Aura HD with a 6.8-inch screen, which is larger than the current models produced by its US competitors.
- In May, Mofibo launched the first Scandinavian unlimited access e-book subscription service.
- In July, US District Court Judge Denise Cote finds Apple guilty of conspiring to raise the retail price of e-books and schedules a trial in 2014 to determine damages.
- In August, Kobo released the Kobo Aura, a baseline touchscreen six-inch e-reader.
- In September, Oyster launches its unlimited access e-book subscription service.
- In November, US District Judge Chin sides with Google in Authors Guild v. Google, citing fair use. The authors said they would appeal.
- In December, Scribd launched the first public unlimited access subscription service for e-books.
- In early 2014, Amazon launches Kindle Unlimited as an unlimited-access e-book and audiobook subscription service.
- In April, Kobo released the Aura H₂0, the world's first waterproof commercially produced e-reader.
- In June, US District Court Judge Cote grants class action certification to plaintiffs in a lawsuit over Apple's alleged e-book price conspiracy; the plaintiffs are seeking $840 million in damages. Apple appeals the decision.
- In June, Apple settles the e-book antitrust case that alleged Apple conspired to e-book price fixing out of court with the States; however if Judge Cote's ruling is overturned in appeal the settlement would be reversed.
- In June 2015, the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals with a 2-1 vote concurs with Judge Cote that Apple conspired to e-book price fixing and violated federal antitrust law. Apple appealed the decision.
- In June, Amazon released the Kindle Paperwhite (3rd generation) that is the first e-reader to feature Bookerly, a font exclusively designed for e-readers.
- In September, Oyster announced its unlimited access e-book subscription service would be shut down in early 2016 and that it would be acquired by Google.
- In September, Malaysian e-book company, e-Sentral, introduced for the first time geo-location distribution technology for e-books via bluetooth beacon. It was first demonstrated in a large scale at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
- In October, Amazon releases the Kindle Voyage that has a 6-inch, 300 ppi E Ink Carta HD display, which was the highest resolution and contrast available in e-readers as of 2014. It also features adaptive LED lights and page turn sensors on the sides of the device.
- In October, B&N released the Glowlight Plus, its first waterproof e-reader.
- In October, the US appeals court sided with Google instead of the Authors' Guild, declaring that Google did not violate copyright law in its book scanning project.
- In December, Playster launched an unlimited-access subscription service including e-books and audiobooks.
- By the end of 2015, Google Books scanned more than 25 million books.
- By 2015, over 70 million e-readers had been shipped worldwide.
- In March 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear Apple's appeal that it conspired to e-book price fixing therefore the previous court decision stands, which means Apple must pay $450 million.
- In April, the Supreme Court declined to hear the Authors Guild's appeal of its book scanning case that means the lower court's decision stands; this result means Google is allowed to scan library books and display snippets in search results without violating US copyright law.
- In April, Amazon released the Kindle Oasis, its first e-reader in five years to have physical page turn buttons and as a premium product includes a leather case with a battery inside; the Oasis without including the case is the lightest e-reader on the market.
- In August, Kobo released the Aura One, the first commercial e-reader with a 7.8-inch E Ink Carta HD display.
- In September 2016, Perlego released an online platform that provides e-books to students under a monthly subscription fee in Europe.
- By the end of 2016, smartphones and tablets both individually overtook e-readers for ways to read an e-book, and paperbook books sales were higher than e-book sales.
- In February 2017, the Association of American Publishers released data that shows the U.S. adult e-book market declined 16.9% in the first nine months of 2016 over the same time in 2015 and Nielsen Book determined that in 2016 the e-book market had an overall total decline of 16% in 2016 over 2015, including all age groups. This decline is partly due to widespread e-book price increases by major publishers, which brought the average e-book price from $6 to nearly $10.
- In March, The Guardian reported that sales of physical books outperform digital titles in the UK, since it can be cheaper to buy the physical version of a book when compared to the digital version due to Amazon's deal with publishers that allows agency pricing.
- In April, it was reported that the 2016 sales of hardcover books were higher than e-books for the first time in five years.
Writers and publishers have many formats to choose from when publishing e-books. Each format has advantages and disadvantages. The most popular e-readers and their natively supported formats are shown below:
|Reader||Native e-book formats|
|Amazon Kindle and Fire tablets||AZW, AZW3, KF8, non-DRM MOBI, PDF, PRC, TXT|
|Barnes & Noble Nook and Nook Tablet||EPUB, PDF|
|Apple iPad||EPUB, IBA (Multitouch books made via iBooks Author), PDF|
|Sony Reader||EPUB, PDF, TXT, RTF, DOC, BBeB|
|Kobo eReader and Kobo Arc||EPUB, PDF, TXT, RTF, HTML, CBR (comic), CBZ (comic)|
|PocketBook Reader and PocketBook Touch||EPUB DRM, EPUB, PDF DRM, PDF, FB2, FB2.ZIP, TXT, DJVU, HTM, HTML, DOC, DOCX, RTF, CHM, TCR, PRC (MOBI)|
Digital rights management
Most e-book publishers do not warn their customers about the possible implications of the digital rights management tied to their products. Generally, they claim that digital rights management is meant to prevent illegal copying of the e-book. However, in many cases, it is also possible that digital rights management will result in the complete denial of access by the purchaser to the e-book. The e-books sold by most major publishers and electronic retailers, which are Amazon.com, Google, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Inc. and Apple Inc., are DRM-protected and tied to the publisher's e-reader software or hardware. The first major publisher to omit DRM was Tor Books, one of the largest publishers of science fiction and fantasy, in 2012. Smaller e-book publishers such as O'Reilly Media, Carina Press and Baen Books had already forgone DRM previously.
Some e-books are produced simultaneously with the production of a printed format, as described in electronic publishing, though in many instances they may not be put on sale until later. Often, e-books are produced from pre-existing hard-copy books, generally by document scanning, sometimes with the use of robotic book scanners, having the technology to quickly scan books without damaging the original print edition. Scanning a book produces a set of image files, which may additionally be converted into text format by an OCR program. Occasionally, as in some projects, an e-book may be produced by re-entering the text from a keyboard. Sometimes only the electronic version of a book is produced by the publisher.[examples needed] It is possible to release an e-book chapter by chapter as each chapter is written.[examples needed] This is useful in fields such as information technology where topics can change quickly in the months that it takes to write a typical book. It is also possible to convert an electronic book to a printed book by print on demand. However, these are exceptions as tradition dictates that a book be launched in the print format and later if the author wishes an electronic version is produced. The New York Times keeps a list of best-selling e-books, for both fiction and non-fiction.
All of the e-readers and reading apps are capable of tracking e-book reading data, and the data could contain which e-books users open, how long the users spend reading each e-book and how much of each e-book is finished. In December 2014, Kobo released e-book reading data collected from over 21 million of its users worldwide. Some of the results were that only 44.4% of UK readers finished the bestselling e-book The Goldfinch and the 2014 top selling e-book in the UK, "One Cold Night", was finished by 69% of readers; this is evidence that while popular e-books are being completely read, some e-books are only sampled.
Comparison to printed books
In the space that a comparably sized physical book takes up, an e-reader can contain thousands of e-books, limited only by its memory capacity. Depending on the device, an e-book may be readable in low light or even total darkness. Many e-readers have a built-in light source, can enlarge or change fonts, use text-to-speech software to read the text aloud for visually impaired, elderly or dyslexic people or just for convenience. Additionally, e-readers allow readers to look up words or find more information about the topic immediately using an online dictionary. Amazon reports that 85% of its e-book readers look up a word while reading. E-books apps often have built-in features like search and cross-references, links to hypertexts, tags, annotations, underlining, multimedia objects and interactive tools that are helpful for students in a learning environment.
Printed books use three times more raw materials and 78 times more water to produce when compared to e-books. While an e-reader costs more than most individual books, e-books may have a lower cost than paper books. E-books may be printed for less than the price of traditional books using on-demand book printers. Moreover, numerous e-books are available online free of charge on sites such as Project Gutenberg. For example, all books printed before 1923 are in the public domain, which means it's free to obtain e-book versions of them.
Depending on possible digital rights management, e-books (unlike physical books) can be backed up and recovered in the case of loss or damage to the device on which they are stored, a new copy can be downloaded without incurring an additional cost from the distributor, as well as being able to synchronize the reading location, highlights and bookmarks across several devices.
There may be a lack of privacy for the user's e-book reading activities; for example, Amazon knows the user's identity, what the user is reading, whether the user has finished the book, what page the user is on, how long the user has spent on each page, and which passages the user may have highlighted. One obstacle to wide adoption of the e-book is that a large portion of people value the printed book as an object itself, including aspects such as the texture, smell, weight and appearance on the shelf. Print books are also considered valuable cultural items, and symbols of liberal education and the humanities. Kobo found that 60% of e-books that are purchased from their e-book store are never opened and found that the more expensive the book is, the more likely the reader would at least open the e-book.
Joe Queenan has written about the pros and cons of e-books:
Electronic books are ideal for people who value the information contained in them, or who have vision problems, or who like to read on the subway, or who do not want other people to see how they are amusing themselves, or who have storage and clutter issues, but they are useless for people who are engaged in an intense, lifelong love affair with books. Books that we can touch; books that we can smell; books that we can depend on.
While a paper book is vulnerable to various threats, including water damage, mold and theft, e-books files may be corrupted, deleted or otherwise lost as well as pirated. Where the ownership of a paper book is fairly straightforward (albeit subject to restrictions on renting or copying pages, depending on the book), the purchaser of an e-book's digital file has conditional access with the possible loss of access to the e-book due to digital rights management provisions, copyright issues, the provider's business failing or possibly if user's credit card expired.
E-book Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.