UoL Library Blog

Develop, debate, innovate.

eBooks, eBooks everywhere

Posted by selinalock on 22 October, 2010

eBook - Cybook

eBook by PPL 2A on Flickr

eBook discussion are popping up in all areas of my life at the moment, from print vs e on the British Fantasy Society forum, the new Doctor Who book by Michael Moorcock being available on the Kindle, to creating comics for the iPhone/Pad, to students asking about them in inductions, to many friends having just bought Kindles or iPads… so a very hot topic, particularly since the Kindle came down in price recently.

I was kindly allowed to gatecrash the CULN eBook & eReader session being run by the BDRA last week. so, here’s a few thoughts from that session and other things I’ve been reading:

  • What is an eBook? A document that can be read on an eReader?
  • How do you read an eBook?
  • Via computers, laptops, dedicated readers (Kindle, Sony eReader), iPad, iPhone, iTouch? Many different routes, some of which require the eBooks in certain formats.
  • There is now a Kindle app for non-Kindle devices to allow people to buy ebooks from Amazon.
  • eBooks formats: libraries still bound by publishers to use password/IP restricted sites, especially for textbooks, which only allow students to read the texts online rather than download them to their own devices.  The students are generally not impressed with this, nor the copyright restrictions that mean they can’t print much off either…
  • PDF – the favourite of academic journal publishers and still very popular with other publishers as an easy format for them to provide, but not a format that works well on dedicated eReaders.
  • Doc (word docs), txt (plain text), html.
  • Mobi (Mobipocket) format – used by the Kindle.
  • ePub format – used by Sony.
  • Why use an eReader instead of a laptop/ipad etc? eReaders like the Kindle and Sony use electronic paper technology, which mimics what ink looks like on paper. The theory being that tis makes is much easier to read the text and easier on the eyes. (Friends with a Kindle have commented they find it much easier to read than a computer screen).
  • Computer screens are backlit making them much brighter, and possibly causing more eye strain. Are younger readers more used to this technology?
  • Formats like Mobi and ePub are also designed to resize easily to the size of the device and reader requirements than traditional formats.
  • it is very easy to convert a Word document to various eBook formats using free software like calibre. (We have a go, it really is easy!). Calibre can also act as an eBook file organiser. e.g. inplace of iTunes on the Sony eReader.
  • Public libraries in the USA and Hampshire Libraries in the Uk have started experimenting with loaning eBooks using the Overdrive system. However, the Publishers Association have just announced new restrictions that look set to put a stop to a lot of eBook lending options!!
  • Lots of free (mainly out of copyright or creative commons) eBooks out there on services such as Project Gutenberg, Feedbooks and Manybooks.
  • Amazon have a new feature on all their book pages that allows you to ”Tell the publisher, I’d like this book on the Kindle” – is this where the pressure for eBooks will come from in future?
  • Also a very interesting piece by SF&F writer Charles Stross on why eBooks don’t cost much less to produce than printed books.

I’m sure there’s been lots more stuff out there that I’ve forgotten, anyone?

5 Responses to “eBooks, eBooks everywhere”

  1. Matt said

    One thing that I really like about the Kindle is that you can install translation dictionaries on it. I’m currently reading ‘The Mystery of the Yellow Room’ by Gaston Leroux in French at the moment, and I bought a French-to-English dictionary from Amazon (which cost about £4.50) to translate words that I don’t understand. It makes reading French texts an awful lot easier, which means that I’m more inclined to read them in the first place.

    The ability to post notes and highlights to Twitter is great too, but it would good if you could get the Kindle to work with something like Evernote.

    I think that’s the big advantage of e-books: that you can marry them with other types of text, and with other types of software.

  2. Andrew Norman said

    I’ve read much more since I bought a Kindle – partly, I think, because the web browser is so crappy that the temptation to fiddle about on the web goes away.

    Sigil ( is the essential companion to Calibre – you can dump text into it (or HTML), edit it, and then save as EPUB for conversion in Calibre. I tend to do that with Project Gutenberg text files, especially ones I’m going to want to re-read or search, rather than using the automated conversions available on PG, Manybooks, etc.

    One grumble is that publishers are releasing really crappy quality ebooks. I got a refund from Amazon on the Penguin edition of “Leviathan”, which had a couple of mistakes on the first page (obviously generated by running OCR through a spell checker, but that didn’t pick up “peach” being substituted for “peace” for example). There were also no chapter marks – it would take some underpaid intern about ten minutes to go through a book and insert chapter breaks. If publishers are going to sell books which have been on their list for twenty or thirty years for the same price as a new paperback I think they need to pay a little more attention to quality, and the different needs of ereaders.

  3. aqib shehzad said

    very good

  4. bdra said

    Just thought I would add to the mix:
    W H Smith and Waterstones sell e-books online; both have textbooks and in most of the cases I checked, the e-book textbooks are cheaper than the paper version.

    Barnes & Noble — big booksellers in the States, they came out with a very nice e-reader called the Nook last year. There’s even a colour-screen version. They went head-to-head with Amazon in this and apparently have been struggling. Like Amazon, they created a Nook App which is available for all computers, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, possibly others. I downloaded it onto my MacBook and then went to their site to get a free e-book. But their site said I couldn’t have it because I am in the UK. Strange, because I found articles saying I could get these e-books in the UK. Bit of a mystery, that. Bottom line is that Amazon is #1 but many others are trying hard.

  5. melkinny360 said


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