Ebooks are growing in popularity and have become accepted by the book buying public. At the moment, Amazon is selling more Kindle books than paperback and hardback editions combined. Barnes and Noble has also reported a marked upswing in their digital book sales for the Nook reader.
Ebooks have been around, in one format or another, for some time now. There’s some debate as to when the first ebook appeared on the scene. Some claim that the earliest example appeared as early as 1940. What’s certain is that the Adobe PDF (Portable Document Format) has been available since 1991 and has, until recently, been the most common ebook format.
It is still very widely used, the main problem is that, until fairly recently, you would have needed to get your notebook out to access a PDF file. Today you can use a tablet computer if you like – but even those have a battery life which is measured in hours.
The thing that has catapulted ebooks into the mainstream book publishing sector is the development of dedicated ebook readers – such as the Kindle reader from Amazon and the Nook from Barnes and Noble. These have a couple of major advantages over even the most modern and portable tablet computer.
Firstly, they use a special e-ink technology display. These displays are an absolute joy to read on – if you haven’t tried one yet, prepare to be pleasantly surprised. Reading on an e-ink display is as near as makes no difference to reading normal text printed on paper. After you’ve been using a reader for an hour or so, you won’t even be aware of the technology – you’ll be too busy enjoying your book.
E-ink displays are not back-lit – so they produce much less eye strain than reading on a color LCD computer screen. They also use much less power than either a tablet or a notebook since e-ink displays only draw power when the screen is being refreshed.
That’s the second big advantage which ebook readers enjoy. They can go for weeks between battery charges. Both Amazon and Barnes and Noble claim that their readers will do up to 8 weeks on a single charge – based on a daily average of half an hour’s reading.
The price of ebook readers has fallen dramatically over the last couple of years. There are now several available for less than $ 100 – which is significantly lower than the average price of tablet computers.
Ebook reader owners can also make their readers self financing by taking advantage of free, out of copyright ebooks. Amazon has over 1.8 million free ebooks available for the Kindle. Other sites, such as Project Gutenberg for example, have free ebooks in a variety of different formats for different readers (and for PCs if you prefer).
All things considered, it seems as if ebooks are now very much a part of the publishing landscape. It would seem reasonable to suppose that they shall increase their percentage share of overall book sales in the near future.