What Are eBooks?  

The Impact of eBooks on the Publishing Industry

In most cases this is your first experience with electronic books, and you will not have heard the term ebook. As the little “e” to the left indicates, this is an electronic book.  Or better yet, a book that can be read electronically either on your computer or an electronic reading device.

While it may be too early to tell, it can be argued that the ebook may have as much influence on the publishing industry as Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press. Gutenberg allowed the creation of inexpensive, mass-produced books at a time when a single volume would literally be printed by hand by a single individual. Depending on the complexity, this process could take months if not years to complete.

Like Gutenberg, the ebook has the effect of lowering costs for the consumer as well as production costs. A combination of ebook technology and the Internet is allowing more and more voices to be read. Thousands of quality writers that were not being read are now finding a venue through ebooks.

eBooks also seem to be acquiring a visage of legitimacy among the literary world. For example, on March 14, 2000 Stephen King released Riding the Bullet exclusively as an ebook. In the first day alone he sold over 40,000 copies. As another example, the Frankfurt Book Fair established seven book awards for ebooks with a total of $100,000 in prizes.

eBooks are a new frontier that is still in the process of being born. There are presently no standards for the design of an ebook, or implementation of the technology that it is dependent on. Since the form of the ebook changes and will change with the development of the technology that “presents” it, there is in reality a fluidity that must be taken into account and accepted until some type of standards are created.

The Promise of eBooks

As you may have guessed, an ebook brings with it a number of advantages over the traditional paper book. In a nutshell this would be readability, usability, multimedia capability, changeability, portability and availability.

  • Readability – eBook technology now allows a person to change the font size, type or color of print. A person can display the type on a single or double page, and in most cases have the text displayed on an illuminated background. Gone are the days of reading your favorite comic book under the covers with a flashlight!

  • Usability – The ebook also allows for added functionality such as built -in dictionaries for easy lookup, electronic bookmarks to return to your previous spot, and the ability to keep notes

  • Multimedia capability – Depending on the reader device, you can now have ebooks with sound, music or video. All this is meant to enhance the experience and make reading more enjoyable. One reader device even has the ability to read the ebook to you if you have a sound card installed on your computer.

  • Changeability – While this is not a feature that is desirable from a reader’s point of view, it does have benefits for the publisher.  It seems that no matter how much time and care is spent editing and proofing a book, a “typo” always seems to be discovered by the reader.  With the ebook it is now a simple matter to correct and redistribute. Publishers can also update ebooks whose content is dependent on being timely.

  • Portability – eBooks are portable, and in most cases fit in your breast pocket (e.g., a personal digital assistant, or PDA) or briefcase.

  • Availability – eBooks are easy to acquire. There are thousands of publishers producing quality works in all genres. Amazon now carries ebooks, as do Barnes and Noble, WHSmith and Borders. You can purchase an ebook from an airport terminal, or download one onto your computer or laptop.

Another advantage of ebooks over the traditional paper book is cost. You will find that fiction ebooks normally cost between $3.00 and $5.00, with nonfiction ebooks normally priced higher. And since a tree wasn’t killed to print the book, you are also helping the environment.

Purchasing eBooks

The first step in purchasing an ebook is to find a reputable publisher that produces quality work within genres that you have a general interest in. One way to do this is by using the search engine Google. Type in “ebook publisher,” “ebook directory” or your favorite genre, such as “science fiction ebooks,” and you’ll be on your way.

As you browse through ebook selections, you’ll notice that they are made available in a variety of formats. Each format is specific to the type of device you wish to read the ebook on, and will require that specific reader software is installed on either your reading device or computer. Here is a list of formats and reader software:

Format Type

File Extension

Reader Software

Reading Device

Adobe PDF


Adobe Acrobat Reader




Microsoft Reader




HieBook Reader Software


Palm Doc


Palm Reader


Rocket eBook


Rocket eBook Software

Rocket e-Book/ Computer

Something that you will quickly learn is that all the reader software is available for free from the manufacturers. You can read a detailed explanation on each device as well as find corresponding links for all software at: http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/software.html.

The Practicality of eBooks

The format you decide on will depend on the device you wish to use to read the ebook. Reading devices can fall into two categories: dedicated (e.g., Rocket e-Books) and non-dedicated (e.g., PDAs).

Devices that are dedicated to reading only ebooks have a number of advantages and disadvantages. Perhaps the main advantage is that these devices have been designed specifically for reading and will be tuned for this use. In most cases the screens may be bigger and brighter, the fonts clearer and the controls positioned in such a way as to give ease and comfort.

Non-dedicated reading devices on the other hand will also help you with your scheduling, phone numbers and addresses, and perhaps allow you to play a game or two. The obvious advantage of a non-dedicated reading device is that you may already have one, or may be planning to buy one and haven’t considered reading an ebook with it.  Personally I have a Sony Clie for my business and personal needs, and carry a number of ebook titles on it. Since I carry this device with me everywhere I go, it also means that I always have a number of books available at my finger tips that I can read when I get stuck waiting for extended periods of time.

But this isn’t to say that a dedicated reading device doesn’t have its place or function. I own two Rocket e-Books that I keep in the house or take on vacation with me. Given the choice I prefer the Rocket e-Book when I am taking it easy and reading for pleasure. The device itself is smaller than a trade paperback (5.5 by 7 inches) and the type can be switched between large and small. I set the small type to be about the same size as that found within a regular paperback novel; the large type is about the size of the print found in a children’s book.  I can now carry 60 to 100 full size paperbacks, and read at night with the lights off because the Rocket e-Book has an adjustable white backlit screen that doesn’t wake my wife.  She appreciates this more than me I think, since I read every night.

Putting It All Together

Now remember, an ebook is simply “software” for your reading device…so there is nothing magical about it. But you must use the correct ebook format with the corresponding reader software.

Still unsure? Here are a couple of suggestions.

If you choose to read on your laptop or desktop computer, use the Adobe PDF format and Adobe Acrobat Reader software (it’s probably already installed on your computer). This format will give you the best possible reading “experience” because the fonts are clear, the page is white and full color illustrations may be included at no extra cost.

If you want to read your ebook on a Palm device (m500, Sony, etc.), I would use the Palm Reader software. While you’ll only get a text representation of the ebook, you’ll find that the fonts are clear and controls easy to use with one hand.

If you are using a Window CE device, then MS-Reader is your choice. I have no personal experience with this software, but I know that the desktop version of MS-Reader is clear, easy to use and comes with a cool reading plug-in that allows the computer to read the book to you if you have a sound card and speaker.

At this point I hope you are able to read your ebook! If you have further questions I can be reached at Publisher@double-dragon-ebooks.com.

Deron Douglas
CEO & Publisher, Double Dragon Publishing



Double Dragon Publishing is a small Canadian press that specializes in bringing to print exceptional authors that would otherwise not be read. With this in mind we have just announced The Draco Awards for unpublished or self-published titles in the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror genres. Each year we will be inviting established authors in their field to act as Finalist Judges. For the 2003 awards we are lucky enough to have Piers Anthony, Mike Resnick and Mike Arnzen. All are recipients of multiple awards as well as being well respected in their field. The winner in each genre with be offered a hard back and ebook contract, but more importantly we will be returning all score sheets to the authors so that they can learn from the comments offered by our 10 Preliminary Judges and 3 Finalist Judges. You can read additional information about The Dracos Awards at: http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/draco/draco2003.html.


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