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Reading an e-book on an e-reader Woman reading a book on an eReader.JPG
Reading an e-book on an e-reader

An ebook (short for electronic book), also known as an e-book or eBook, is a book publication made available in digital form, consisting of text, images, or both, readable on the flat-panel display of computers or other electronic devices. [1] Although sometimes defined as "an electronic version of a printed book", [2] some e-books exist without a printed equivalent. E-books can be read on dedicated e-reader devices, but also on any computer device that features a controllable viewing screen, including desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones.


In the 2000s, there was a trend of print and e-book sales moving to the Internet,[ citation needed ] where readers buy traditional paper books and e-books on websites using e-commerce systems. With print books, readers are increasingly browsing through images of the covers of books on publisher or bookstore websites and selecting and ordering titles online. The paper books are then delivered to the reader by mail or another delivery service. With e-books, users can browse through titles online, and then when they select and order titles, the e-book can be sent to them online or the user can download the e-book. [3] By the early 2010s, e-books had begun to overtake hardcover by overall publication figures in the U.S. [4]

The main reasons for people buying e-books are possibly lower prices, increased comfort (as they can buy from home or on the go with mobile devices) and a larger selection of titles. [5] With e-books, "electronic bookmarks make referencing easier, and e-book readers may allow the user to annotate pages." [6] "Although fiction and non-fiction books come in e-book formats, technical material is especially suited for e-book delivery because it can be digitally searched" for keywords. In addition, for programming books, code examples can be copied. [6] In the U.S., the amount of e-book reading is increasing. By 2014, 28% of adults had read an e-book, compared to 23% in 2013. By 2014, 50% of American adults had an e-reader or a tablet, compared to 30% owning such devices in 2013. [7]

Besides published books and magazines that have a digital equivalent, there are also digital textbooks, that are intended to serve as the text for a class and help in technology-based education.


E-books are also referred to as "ebooks", "eBooks", "Ebooks", "e-Books", "e-journals", "e-editions", or "digital books". A device that is designed specifically for reading e-books is called an "e-reader", "ebook device", or "eReader".


The Readies (1930)

Some trace the concept of an e-reader, a device that would enable the user to view books on a screen, to a 1930 manifesto by Bob Brown, written after watching his first "talkie" (movie with sound). He titled it The Readies, playing off the idea of the "talkie". [8] In his book, Brown says movies have outmaneuvered the book by creating the "talkies" and, as a result, reading should find a new medium:

A simple reading machine which I can carry or move around, attach to any old electric light plug and read hundred-thousand-word novels in 10 minutes if I want to, and I want to.

Brown's notion, however, was much more focused on reforming orthography and vocabulary, than on medium ("It is time to pull out the stopper" and begin "a bloody revolution of the word."): introducing huge numbers of portmanteau symbols to replace normal words, and punctuation to simulate action or movement, so it is not clear whether this fits into the history of "e-books" or not. Later e-readers never followed a model at all like Brown's. However, he correctly predicted the miniaturization and portability of e-readers. In an article, Jennifer Schuessler writes, "The machine, Brown argued, would allow readers to adjust the type size, avoid paper cuts and save trees, all while hastening the day when words could be 'recorded directly on the palpitating ether.'" [9] Brown believed that the e-reader (and his notions for changing the text itself) would bring a completely new life to reading. Schuessler correlates it with a DJ spinning bits of old songs to create a beat or an entirely new song, as opposed to just a remix of a familiar song. [9]


The inventor of the first e-book is not widely agreed upon. Some notable candidates include the following:

Roberto Busa (1946–1970)

The first e-book may be the Index Thomisticus , a heavily annotated electronic index to the works of Thomas Aquinas, prepared by Roberto Busa, S.J. beginning in 1946 and completed in the 1970s. [10] Although originally stored on a single computer, a distributable CD-ROM version appeared in 1989. However, this work is sometimes omitted. Maybe this is because the digitized text was a means for studying written texts and developing linguistic concordances, rather than as a published edition in its own right. [11] In 2005, the Index was published online. [12]

Ángela Ruiz Robles (1949)

In 1949, Ángela Ruiz Robles, a teacher from Ferrol, Spain, patented the Enciclopedia Mecánica, or the Mechanical Encyclopedia, a mechanical device which operated on compressed air where text and graphics were contained on spools that users would load onto rotating spindles. Her idea was to create a device which would decrease the number of books that her pupils carried to school. The final device was planned to include audio recordings, a magnifying glass, a calculator, and an electric light for night reading. [13] Her device was never put into production but a prototype is on display at the National Museum of Science and Technology in A Coruña. [14]

Douglas Engelbart and Andries van Dam (1960s)

Alternatively, some historians consider electronic books to have started in the early 1960s, with the NLS project headed by Douglas Engelbart at Stanford Research Institute (SRI), and the Hypertext Editing System and FRESS projects headed by Andries van Dam at Brown University. [15] [16] [17] FRESS documents ran on IBM mainframes and were structure-oriented rather than line-oriented. They were formatted dynamically for different users, display hardware, window sizes, and so on, as well as having automated tables of contents, indexes, and so on. All these systems also provided extensive hyperlinking, graphics, and other capabilities. Van Dam is generally thought to have coined the term "electronic book", [18] [19] and it was established enough to use in an article title by 1985. [20]

FRESS was used for reading extensive primary texts online, as well as for annotation and online discussions in several courses, including English Poetry and Biochemistry. Brown's faculty made extensive use of FRESS. For example the philosopher Roderick Chisholm used it to produce several of his books. Thus in the Preface to Person and Object (1979) he writes "The book would not have been completed without the epoch-making File Retrieval and Editing System..." [21] Brown University's work in electronic book systems continued for many years, including US Navy funded projects for electronic repair-manuals; [22] a large-scale distributed hypermedia system known as InterMedia; [23] a spinoff company Electronic Book Technologies that built DynaText, the first SGML-based e-reader system; and the Scholarly Technology Group's extensive work on the Open eBook standard.

Michael S. Hart (left) and Gregory Newby (right) of
Project Gutenberg, at
Hackers on Planet Earth
(HOPE) Conference, 2006 Michael Hart and Gregory Newby at HOPE Conference.jpg
Michael S. Hart (left) and Gregory Newby (right) of
Project Gutenberg , at
Hackers on Planet Earth
(HOPE) Conference, 2006

Michael S. Hart (1971)

Despite the extensive earlier history, several publications report Michael S. Hart as the inventor of the e-book. [24] [25] [26] In 1971, the operators of the Xerox Sigma V mainframe at the University of Illinois gave Hart extensive computer-time. Seeking a worthy use of this resource, he created his first electronic document by typing the United States Declaration of Independence into a computer in plain text. [27] Hart planned to create documents using plain text to make them as easy as possible to download and view on devices. After Hart first adapted the U.S. Declaration of Independence into an electronic document in 1971, Project Gutenberg was launched to create electronic copies of more texts, especially books. [27]

Early hardware implementations

Dedicated hardware devices for ebook reading began to appear in the 70s and 80s, in addition to the mainframe and laptop solutions, and collections of data per se. One 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. [28] In 1980, the U.S. 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 1981/82, and prototype development began with Texas Instruments that same year. Four prototypes were produced and delivered for testing in 1986, and tests were completed in 1987. The final summary report was produced in 1989 by the U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences, authored by Robert Wisher and J. Peter Kincaid. [29] A patent application for the PEAM device, [30] titled "Apparatus for delivering procedural type instructions", was submitted by Texas Instruments on December 4, 1985, listing John K. Harkins and Stephen H. Morriss as inventors.

The first portable electronic book, the US Department of Defense's "Personal Electronic Aid to Maintenance" Personal Electronic Aid to Maintenance PEAM.jpg
The first portable electronic book, the US Department of Defense's "Personal Electronic Aid to Maintenance"

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. [31] 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.[ citation needed ] In the 1990s, the general availability of the Internet made transferring electronic files much easier, including e-books.[ citation needed ]

In 1993, Paul Baim released a freeware HyperCard stack, called EBook, that allowed easy import of any text file to create a pageable version similar to an electronic paperback book. A notable feature was automatic tracking of the last page read so that on returning to the 'book' you were taken back to where you had previously left off reading. The title of this stack may have helped popularize the term 'ebook'. [32]

E-book formats

Reading an e-book on a third-generation Kindle Reading on the bus train or transit.jpg
Reading an e-book on a third-generation Kindle

As e-book formats emerged and proliferated,[ citation needed ] some garnered support from major software companies, such as Adobe with its PDF format that was introduced in 1993. [33] Unlike most other formats, PDF documents are generally tied to a particular dimension and layout, rather than adjusting dynamically to the current page, window, or another size. Different e-reader devices followed different formats, most of them accepting books in only one or a few formats, 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.[ citation needed ]

Meanwhile, scholars formed the Text Encoding Initiative, which developed consensus guidelines for encoding books and other materials of scholarly interest for a variety of analytic uses as well as reading, and countless literary and other works have been developed using the TEI approach. 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. Several scholars from the TEI were closely involved in the early development of Open eBook, including Allen Renear, Elli Mylonas, and Steven DeRose, all from Brown. Focused on portability, 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.[ citation needed ] This format led to the open format EPUB. Google Books has converted many public domain works to this open format. [34]

In 2010, e-books continued to gain in their own specialist and underground markets.[ citation needed ] Many e-book publishers began distributing books that were in the public domain.[ citation needed ] 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. [35] Nearly two-thirds of the U.S. Consumer e-book publishing market are controlled by the "Big Five". The "Big Five" publishers are: Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster. [36]


U.S. libraries began to offer free e-books to the public in 1998 through their websites and associated services, [37] 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. [38] The number of library e-book distributors and lending models continued to increase over the next few years. From 2005 to 2008, libraries experienced a 60% growth in e-book collections. [39] In 2010, a Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study by the American Library Association [40] found that 66% of public libraries in the U.S. were offering e-books, [41] and a large movement in the library industry began to seriously examine the issues relating to e-book lending, acknowledging a "tipping point" when e-book technology would become widely established. [42] Content from public libraries can be downloaded to e-readers using application software like Overdrive and Hoopla. [43]

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has for many years provided PubMed, a comprehensive bibliography of medical literature. In early 2000, NLM set up the PubMed Central repository, which stores full-text e-book versions of many medical journal articles and books, through cooperation with scholars and publishers in the field. Pubmed Central also now provides archiving and access to over 4.1 million articles, maintained in a standard XML format known as the Journal Article Tag Suite (JATS).

Despite the widespread adoption of e-books, some publishers and authors have not endorsed the concept of electronic publishing, citing issues with user demand, copyright infringement and challenges with proprietary devices and systems. [44] In a survey of interlibrary loan (ILL) librarians, it was found that 92% of libraries held e-books in their collections and that 27% of those libraries had negotiated ILL rights for some of their e-books. This survey found significant barriers to conducting interlibrary loan for e-books. [45] Patron-driven acquisition (PDA) has been available for several years in public libraries, allowing vendors to streamline the acquisition process by offering to match a library's selection profile to the vendor's e-book titles. [46] The library's catalog is then populated with records for all of the e-books that match the profile. [46] 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. [46] The 2012 meeting of the Association of American University Presses included a panel on the 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. [47]


Although the demand for e-book services in libraries has grown in the first two decades of the 21st century, difficulties keep libraries from providing some e-books to clients. [48] Publishers will sell e-books to libraries, but in most cases they will only give libraries a limited license to the title, meaning that the library does not own the electronic text but is allowed to circulate it for either a certain period of time, or 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. [48] 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, potentially damaging sales. However, some studies have found the opposite effect to be true (for example, Hilton and Wikey 2010). [49]

Archival storage

The Internet Archive and Open Library offer more than six million fully accessible public domain e-books. Project Gutenberg has over 52,000 freely available public domain e-books.

Dedicated hardware readers and mobile software

The BEBook e-reader E-Reader held up.JPG
The BEBook e-reader

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. [50] 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. [51] By January 2011, e-book sales at Amazon had surpassed its paperback sales. [52] 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. [53] At the end of the first quarter of 2012, e-book sales in the United States surpassed hardcover book sales for the first time. [4]

Until late 2013, use of an e-reader was not allowed on airplanes during takeoff and landing by the FAA. [54] 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. [55] 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. [56]


Reading applications on different devices EReading devices.JPG
Reading applications on different devices

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, [57] Barnes & Noble Nook, iBooks, Kobo eReader and Sony Reader.


Before the 1980s

c. 1949
c. 1963
c. 1965
c. 1979

1980s and 1990s

  • Judy Malloy writes and programmes the first online hypertext fiction, Uncle Roger, with links that take the narrative in different directions depending on the reader's choice. [59]
The DD-8 Data Discman DD 8 Electronic Book Player 1.jpg
The DD-8 Data Discman
Bookeen's Cybook Gen1 Cybook gen1.jpeg
Bookeen's Cybook Gen1
  • NuvoMedia releases the first handheld e-reader, the Rocket eBook. [78]
  • SoftBook launches its SoftBook reader. This e-reader, with expandable storage, could store up to 100,000 pages of content, including text, graphics and pictures. [79]
  • The Cybook is sold and manufactured at first by Cytale (1998–2003) and later by Bookeen.
  • The NIST releases the Open eBook format based on XML to the public domain; most future e-book formats derive from Open eBook. [80]
  • Publisher Simon & Schuster creates a new imprint called iBooks and becomes the first trade publisher to simultaneously publish some of its titles in e-book and print format.
  • Oxford University Press makes 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. [81]
  • Kim Blagg, via her company Books OnScreen, begins selling multimedia-enhanced e-books on CDs through retailers including Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Borders Books. [82]


  • 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. [83]
  • 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. [84]
  • Microsoft releases the Microsoft Reader with ClearType for increased readability on PCs and handheld devices. [85]
  • Microsoft and Amazon work together to sell e-books that can be purchased on Amazon, and using Microsoft software downloaded to PCs and handhelds.
  • A digitized version of the Gutenberg Bible is made available online at the British Library. [86]
  • Adobe releases Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 allowing users to underline, take notes and bookmark.
  • Sony Librie, the first e-reader using an E Ink display is released; it has a six-inch screen. [88]
  • Google announces plans to digitize the holdings of several major libraries, [89] as part of what would later be called the Google Books Library Project.
  • Sony Reader PRS-500, with an E Ink screen and two weeks of battery life, is released. [92]
  • LibreDigital launches BookBrowse as an online reader for publisher content.[ citation needed ]
Size comparison of the Kindle 2 with the larger Kindle DX KDX and K2.jpg
Size comparison of the Kindle 2 with the larger Kindle DX
  • Bookeen releases the Cybook Opus in the US and Europe.
  • Sony releases the Reader Pocket Edition and Reader Touch Edition.
  • Amazon releases the Kindle 2 that includes a text-to-speech feature.
  • Amazon releases the Kindle DX that has a 9.7-inch screen in the U.S.
  • Barnes & Noble releases the Nook e-reader in the US.
  • Amazon releases the Kindle for PC application in late 2009, making the Kindle Store library available for the first time outside Kindle hardware. [96]


  • January – Amazon releases the Kindle DX International Edition worldwide. [97]
  • April – Apple releases the iPad bundled with an e-book app called iBooks. [98]
  • May – Kobo Inc. releases its Kobo eReader to be sold at Indigo/Chapters in Canada and Borders in the United States.
  • July – Amazon reports that its e-book sales outnumbered sales of hardcover books for the first time during the second quarter of 2010. [51]
  • August – PocketBook expands its line with an Android e-reader. [99]
  • August – Amazon releases the third generation Kindle, available in Wi-Fi and 3G & Wi-Fi versions.
  • October – Bookeen reveals the Cybook Orizon at CES. [100]
  • October – Kobo Inc. releases an updated Kobo eReader, which includes Wi-Fi capability.
  • November – The Sentimentalists wins the prestigious national Giller Prize in Canada; due to the small scale of the novel's publisher, the book is not widely available in printed form, so the e-book edition becomes the top-selling title on Kobo devices for 2010. [101]
  • November – Barnes & Noble releases the Nook Color, a color LCD tablet.
  • December – Google launches Google eBooks offering over 3 million titles, becoming the world's largest e-book store to date. [102]
  • May – Amazon.com announces that its e-book sales in the US now exceed all of its printed book sales. [103]
  • June – Barnes & Noble releases the Nook Simple Touch e-reader and Nook Tablet. [104]
  • August – Bookeen launches its own e-books store, BookeenStore.com, and starts to sell digital versions of titles in French. [105]
  • September – Nature Publishing releases the pilot version of Principles of Biology , a customizable, modular textbook, with no corresponding paper edition. [106]
  • June/November – As the e-reader market grows in Spain, companies like Telefónica, Fnac, and Casa del Libro launch their e-readers with the Spanish brand "bq readers".
  • November – Amazon launches the Kindle Fire and Kindle Touch, both devices designed for e-reading.
  • April – Kobo releases the Kobo Aura HD with a 6.8-inch screen, which is larger than the current models produced by its US competitors. [117]
  • May – Mofibo launches the first Scandinavian unlimited access e-book subscription service. [118]
  • June – 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 US e-book market. [119]
  • June – Barnes & Noble announces its intention to discontinue manufacturing Nook tablets, but to continue producing black-and-white e-readers such as the Nook Simple Touch. [119]
  • 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. [120]
A Kobo Aura's settings menu Kobo Aura.jpg
A Kobo Aura's settings menu
  • Five major US e-book publishers, as part of their settlement of a price-fixing suit, are 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. [107] 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.
  • 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. [121]
  • August – Kobo releases the Kobo Aura, a baseline touchscreen six-inch e-reader.
  • September – Oyster launches its unlimited access e-book subscription service. [122]
  • November – US District Judge Chin sides with Google in Authors Guild v. Google , citing fair use. [123] The authors said they would appeal. [124]
  • December – Scribd launches the first public unlimited access subscription service for e-books. [125]
  • April – Kobo releases the Aura H₂0, the world's first waterproof commercially produced e-reader. [126]
  • 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. [127] Apple appeals the decision.
  • 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. [128]
  • July – Amazon launches Kindle Unlimited, an unlimited-access e-book and audiobook subscription service. [129]
  • June – 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. [130] Apple appealed the decision.
  • June – Amazon releases the Kindle Paperwhite (3rd generation) that is the first e-reader to feature Bookerly, a font exclusively designed for e-readers. [131]
  • September – Oyster announces its unlimited access e-book subscription service would be shut down in early 2016 and that it would be acquired by Google. [132]
  • September – Malaysian e-book company, e-Sentral, introduces 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. [133]
  • 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. [134] It also features adaptive LED lights and page turn sensors on the sides of the device.
  • October – Barnes & Noble releases the Glowlight Plus, its first waterproof e-reader. [135]
  • October – The US appeals court sides with Google instead of the Authors' Guild, declaring that Google did not violate copyright law in its book scanning project. [136]
  • December – Playster launches an unlimited-access subscription service including e-books and audiobooks. [137]
  • By the end of 2015, Google Books scanned more than 25 million books. [9]
  • By 2015, over 70 million e-readers had been shipped worldwide. [9]
  • March – The Supreme Court of the United States declines to hear Apple's appeal against the court's decision of July 2013 that the company conspired to e-book price fixing, hence the previous court decision stands, obliging Apple to pay $450 million. [138]
  • April – The Supreme Court declines to hear the Authors Guild's appeal of its book scanning case, so the lower court's decision stands; the result means that Google can scan library books and display snippets in search results without violating US copyright law. [139]
  • April – Amazon releases the Kindle Oasis, its first e-reader in five years to have physical page turn buttons and, as a premium product, it includes a leather case with a battery inside; without including the case, it is the lightest e-reader on the market to date. [140]
  • August – Kobo releases the Aura One, the first commercial e-reader with a 7.8-inch E Ink Carta HD display. [141]
  • By the end of the year, smartphones and tablets have both individually overtaken e-readers as methods for reading an e-book, and paperback book sales are now higher than e-book sales. [142]
  • February – The Association of American Publishers releases data showing that the US adult e-book market declined 16.9% in the first nine months of 2016 over the same period in 2015, and Nielsen Book determines that the e-book market had an overall total decline of 16% in 2016 over 2015, including all age groups. [143] This decline is partly due to widespread e-book price increases by major publishers, which has increased the average e-book price from $6 to almost $10. [144]
  • February – The US version of Kindle Unlimited comprises more than 1.5 million titles, including over 290,000 foreign language titles. [145]
  • March – The Guardian reports that sales of physical books are outperforming 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. [142]
  • April – The Los Angeles Times reports that, in 2016, sales of hardcover books were higher than e-books for the first time in five years. [144]
  • October – Amazon releases the Oasis 2, the first Kindle to be IPX8 rated meaning that it is water resistant up to 2 meters for up to 60 minutes; it is also the first Kindle to enable white text on a black background, a feature that may be helpful for nighttime reading. [146]
  • January – U.S. public libraries report record-breaking borrowing of OverDrive e-books over the course of the year, with more than 274 million e-books loaned to card holders, a 22% increase over the 2017 figure. [147]
  • October – The EU allowed its member countries to charge the same VAT for ebooks as for paper books. [148]
  • May – Barnes & Noble releases the GlowLight Plus e-reader, the largest Nook e-reader to date with a 7.8-inch E Ink screen. [149]


Writers and publishers have many formats to choose from when publishing e-books. Each format has advantages and disadvantages. The most popular e-readers [150] and their natively supported formats are shown below:

ReaderNative e-book formats
Amazon Kindle and Fire tablets [151] KFX, AZW, AZW3, KF8, non-DRM MOBI, PDF, PRC, TXT
Barnes & Noble Nook and Nook Tablet [152] EPUB, PDF
Apple iPad [153] EPUB, IBA (Multitouch books made via iBooks Author), PDF
Sony Reader [151] EPUB, PDF, TXT, RTF, DOC, BBeB
Kobo eReader and Kobo Arc [154] [155] EPUB, PDF, TXT, RTF, HTML, CBR (comic), CBZ (comic)
Android devices with Google Play Books preinstalledEPUB, PDF
PocketBook Reader and PocketBook Touch [156] [157] 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. [158] 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. [159]


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. [160] 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.[ example needed ] It is possible to release an e-book chapter by chapter as each chapter is written.[ example 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 [161] and non-fiction. [162]

Reading data

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. [163] 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. [164]

Comparison to printed books


iLiad e-book reader equipped with an e-paper display visible in sunlight Bouquin electronique iLiad en plein soleil.jpg
iLiad e-book reader equipped with an e-paper display visible in sunlight

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. [165] Additionally, e-readers allow readers to look up words or find more information about the topic immediately using an online dictionary. [166] [167] [168] Amazon reports that 85% of its e-book readers look up a word while reading. [169]

A 2017 study found that even when accounting for the emissions created in manufacturing the e-reader device, substituting more than 4.7 print books a year resulted in less greenhouse gas emissions than print. [170] While an e-reader costs more than most individual books, e-books may have a lower cost than paper books. [171] E-books may be made available for less than the price of traditional books using on-demand book printers. [172] Moreover, numerous e-books are available online free of charge on sites such as Project Gutenberg. [173] For example, all books printed before 1928 are in the public domain in the United States, which enables websites to host ebook versions of such titles for free. [174]

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. Readers can synchronize their reading location, highlights and bookmarks across several devices. [175]


The spine of the printed book is an important aspect in book design and of its beauty as an object. Urval av de bocker som har vunnit Nordiska radets litteraturpris under de 50 ar som priset funnits (2).jpg
The spine of the printed book is an important aspect in book design and of its beauty as an object.

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. [176] 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. [177] Print books are also considered valuable cultural items, and symbols of liberal education and the humanities. [178] 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. [179]

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. [180]

Apart from all the emotional and habitual aspects, there are also some readability and usability issues that need to be addressed by publishers and software developers. Many e-book readers who complain about eyestrain, lack of overview and distractions could be helped if they could use a more suitable device or a more user-friendly reading application, but when they buy or borrow a DRM-protected e-book, they often have to read the book on the default device or application, even if it has insufficient functionality. [181]

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 the user's credit card expired. [182]

Market share

United States

According to the Association of American Publishers 2018 annual report, ebooks accounted for 12.4% of the total trade revenue. [183]

Publishers of books in all formats made $22.6 billion in print form and $2.04 billion in e-books, according to the Association of American Publishers' annual report 2019. [184]


Market share of e-readers in Canada by Ipsos Reid as of January 2012


In 2013, Carrenho estimates that e-books would have a 15% market share in Spain in 2015. [186]


According to Nielsen Book Research, e-book share went up from 20% to 33% between 2012 and 2014, but down to 29% in the first quarter of 2015. Amazon-published and self-published titles accounted for 17 million of those books (worth £58m) in 2014, representing 5% of the overall book market and 15% of the digital market. The volume and value sales, although similar to 2013, had seen a 70% increase since 2012. [187]


The Wischenbart Report 2015 estimates the e-book market share to be 4.3%. [188]


The Brazilian e-book market is only emerging. Brazilians are technology savvy, and that attitude is shared by the government. [188] In 2013, around 2.5% of all trade titles sold were in digital format. This was a 400% growth over 2012 when only 0.5% of trade titles were digital. In 2014, the growth was slower, and Brazil had 3.5% of its trade titles being sold as e-books. [188]


The Wischenbart Report 2015 estimates the e-book market share to be around 1%. [188]

Public domain books

Public domain books are those whose copyrights have expired, meaning they can be copied, edited, and sold freely without restrictions. [189] Many of these books can be downloaded for free from websites like the Internet Archive, in formats that many e-readers support, such as PDF, TXT, and EPUB. Books in other formats may be converted to an e-reader-compatible format using e-book writing software, for example Calibre.

See also

Related Research Articles

Electronic publishing includes the digital publication of e-books, digital magazines, and the development of digital libraries and catalogues. It also includes the editing of books, journals, and magazines to be posted on a screen.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sony Reader</span> Line of e-book readers manufactured by Sony

The Sony Reader was a line of e-book readers manufactured by Sony, who produced the first commercial E Ink e-reader with the Sony Librie in 2004. It used an electronic paper display developed by E Ink Corporation, was viewable in direct sunlight, required no power to maintain a static image, and was usable in portrait or landscape orientation.

Mobipocket SA was a French company incorporated in March 2000 that created the .mobi e-book file format and produced the Mobipocket Reader software for mobile phones, personal digital assistants (PDA) and desktop operating systems.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">E-reader</span> Device for reading e-books

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 digital e-books and periodicals.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Adobe Digital Editions</span>

Adobe Digital Editions is an e-book reader software program from Adobe Systems, built initially using Adobe Flash. It is used for acquiring, managing, and reading e-books, digital newspapers, and other digital publications. The software supports EPUB and PDF. It implements a proprietary scheme of digital rights management (DRM) which, since the version 1.5 release in May 2008, allows document sharing among multiple devices and user authentication via an Adobe ID. Digital Editions is a successor to the Acrobat eBook Reader application.

The following is a comparison of e-book formats used to create and publish e-books.

Amazon Kindle is a series of e-readers designed and marketed by Amazon. Amazon Kindle devices enable users to browse, buy, download, and read e-books, newspapers, magazines and other digital media via wireless networking to the Kindle Store. The hardware platform, which Amazon subsidiary Lab126 developed, began as a single device in 2007. Currently, it comprises a range of devices, including e-readers with E Ink electronic paper displays and Kindle applications on all major computing platforms. All Kindle devices integrate with Windows and macOS file systems and Kindle Store content and, as of March 2018, the store had over six million e-books available in the United States.

OverDrive, Inc. is a digital distributor of eBooks, audiobooks, online magazines and streaming video titles. The company provides digital rights management and download fulfillment services for publishers, libraries, schools, corporations, and book retailers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Calibre (software)</span> E-book management and editing software

Calibre is a cross-platform free and open-source suite of e-book software. Calibre supports organizing existing e-books into virtual libraries, displaying, editing, creating and converting e-books, as well as syncing e-books with a variety of e-readers. Editing books is supported for EPUB and AZW3 formats. Books in other formats like MOBI must first be converted to those formats, if they are to be edited.

Self-publishing is the publication of media by its author at their own cost, without the involvement of a publisher. The term usually refers to written media, such as books and magazines, either as an ebook or as a physical copy using print on demand technology. It may also apply to albums, pamphlets, brochures, games, video content, artwork, and zines. Web fiction is also a major medium for self-publishing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Barnes & Noble Nook 1st Edition</span> First generation Nook e-reader developed by Barnes & Noble

The Nook 1st Edition is the first generation of the Nook e-book reader developed by American book retailer Barnes & Noble, based on the Android platform. The device was announced in the United States in October 2009 and was released the next month. The Nook includes Wi-Fi and AT&T 3G wireless connectivity, a six-inch E Ink display, and a separate, smaller color touchscreen that serves as the primary input device. In June 2010 Barnes & Noble announced a Wi-Fi-only model of the Nook. On June 5, 2018 Barnes and Noble announced support for logging in to BN.com and adding new content to the device will end on June 29, 2018. The second-generation Nook, the Nook Simple Touch, was announced May 25, 2011 with a June 10 release date.

Blio is a free-to-download e-reader software platform created by Ray Kurzweil that was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January 2010. The Blio e-reader preserves typography and supports color illustrations, features that make it effective for certain categories of books not well supported by E Ink, such as cookbooks and children's books. Blio also comes with text-to-speech integration, with support for both a computerized voice and synchronization with professionally recorded audiobooks.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kobo eReader</span> Family of e-book readers

The Kobo eReader is an e-reader produced by Toronto-based Kobo Inc. The company's name is an anagram of "book". The original version was released in May 2010 and was marketed as a minimalist alternative to the more expensive e-book readers available at the time. Like most e-readers, the Kobo uses an electronic ink screen. The Arc tablet series, released between 2011 and 2013, was based on LCD technology instead.

Rakuten Kobo Inc., or simply Kobo, is a Canadian company that sells ebooks, audiobooks, ereaders and tablet computers. It is headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, and is a subsidiary of the Japanese ecommerce conglomerate Rakuten. The name Kobo is an anagram of book.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kobo Touch</span>

The Kobo Touch is the third generation of the Kobo e-reader device designed by Kobo Inc. It was revealed on 23 May 2011 and was released in the U.S. on 10 June 2011 at a price of $129.99.

The following tables compare general and technical features for a number of iOS e-book reader software. Each section corresponds to a major area of functionality in an e-book reader software. The comparisons are based on the latest released version.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">E-book lending</span>

E-book lending or elending is a practice in which access to already-purchased downloads or online reads of e-books is made available on a time-limited basis to others. It works around the digital rights management built into online-store-published e-books by limiting access to a purchased e-book file to the borrower, resulting in loss of access to the file by the purchaser for the duration of the borrowing period.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kobo Aura</span> E-book reader

The Kobo Aura is the fifth generation of E-book readers designed and marketed by Kobo Inc. It was revealed 27 August 2013 at Kobo's Beyond the Book Event in New York City, along with three new Kobo Arc devices. Available for pre-order the same day, it cost $149.99 USD/CAD.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kindle Store</span> Online e-book e-commerce store operated by Amazon

The Kindle Store is an online e-book e-commerce store operated by Amazon as part of its retail website and can be accessed from any Amazon Kindle, Fire tablet or Kindle mobile app. At the launch of the Kindle in November 2007, the store had more than 88,000 digital titles available in the U.S. store. This number increased to more than 275,000 by late 2008, and exceeded 765,000 by August 2011. In July 2014, there were over 2.7 million titles available. As of March 2018 there are over six million titles available in the U.S. Content from the store is purchased online and downloaded using either Wi-Fi or Amazon's Whispernet to bring the content to the user's device. One of the innovations Amazon brought to the store was one-click purchasing that allowed users to quickly purchase an e-book. The Kindle Store uses a recommendation engine that looks at purchase history, browsing history, and reading activity, and then suggests material it thinks the user will like.

Kindle File Format is a proprietary e-book file format created by Amazon.com that can be downloaded and read on devices like smartphones, tablets, computers, or e-readers that have Amazon's Kindle app. E-book files in the Kindle File Format originally had the filename extension .azw; version 8 (KF8) introduced HTML5 & CSS3 features and have the .azw3 extension, and version 10 introduced a new typesetting and layout engine featuring hyphens, kerning, & ligatures and have the .kfx extension.


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