An Introduction to Ebooks

(books > ebooks > introduction)


Electronic publishing of books as ebooks was a major development that is still causing changes and ripples in the book publishing industry. Epublishing developed rapidly over the past decade. New companies launched with different strategies and ideas for how ebooks will be delivered. There were initially many different formats and ebook devices. Today, people read ebooks on devices known as electronic readers. People can also read them on computer and laptop screens and mobile devices. The electronic devices known as ebook readers can store hundreds of books at a time. The price for ebook readers and tablets has trended lower over times. Amazon helped pave the way for the embracing of ebook technology with its popular Kindle tablet.

The large potential market for ebooks resulted in a large amount of money being poured into epublishing to develop both the hardware and the software needed to make the electronic transition a reality. Encouraging people to give up their comfortable hardcover and paperback books with dog-eared pages was no easy measure but many people have converted over to ebooks. Some people continue to use only print books. Some people use both.

At first it was new upstart technology companies developing the technology and launching new brands. Then the traditional publishing houses climbed on board and converted their lines of new releases and backlists into the available electronic delivery formats, including both ebooks and print-on-demand technology. Print-on-demand (also known as POD) allows publishers to print a single book at a time and avoid costly print runs of thousands of books. A standard for ebooks was developed by OEBF, an organization of publishers and technology companies. However, Adobe PDF is also a widely used format for ebooks and it competes with the OEB standard. Major companies like Apple and Amazon use yet another ebook format

Because ebook technology is faster and can be implemented without the need for expensive print jobs a growing number of publishers and publishing services that produce electronic books emerged. These companies aimed to compete with the traditional publishers with new product offerings and without the expenses of regular printing. While it is good to see competition in the industry, the epublishers were slow to convert readers to ebooks and they faced increasing competition from traditional publishers who entered the ebook arena. Technology companies, including Microsoft, worked rapidly developing software and hardware to turn book lovers into ebook readers. Even individual authors challenged the style of traditional publishing. Horror author Stephen King was one of the first major U.S. authors to embrace the technology. He published a serialized ebook solely on the Web - The Plant - with early success.

Where Do Authors Fit In?

Authors fit in at the same place as always. They are the most important element of ebooks, just as they are in books. Now the author just has new formats to consider, new publishers to consider and of course, new rights to consider. Just as in book publishing, a variety of electronic publishing styles exist. Some will publish your book for you for a fee (subsidy publishing), some do not charge fees but will only publish a limited amount of what they receive and some fall somewhere in between these two. Authors have to weigh the differences among these new ebook publishers, while also still considering the old publishers when making a decision about where to submit or publish their work. Some authors with technical skills may even avoid publishers altogether and create their own ebooks themselves. Whatever decision you make it is important as an author to familiarize yourself with emerging technology. At a minimum, you should at least be aware of your electronic rights and know what epublishing is.