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Introduction:

Many people think of e-books as just another medium of conveying content. To the authorial content that is conveyed comes with several added values. The cumulative effects of these enhancements offer a fundamentally new manner of experiencing content. In the context of libraries, it is becoming increasingly evident that functions like information gathering, harbouring and displaying in physical volumes are decidedly being adapted to the electronic format. Thus,

“while libraries have accommodated themselves to such changes in their traditional profile as the disappearance of physical journals into the digital realm and the shrinking of once-imposing reference collections, the possibility of a sweeping e-book revolution that has been predicted for over a decade presents a basic challenge to the library’s very identity.” (Godwin-Jones 4)

In recent research conducted on e-book usage, it was found that “most of them found that academic users typically search e-books for discrete bits of information, a behaviour summed up by the formula “use rather than read.”” (Staiger)

History of e-books

The earliest and most basic e-book format is the PDF (Portable Docment Format). It is a print-friendly format that shares a few common features with standard word-processing software. The layout is fixed and editing is not possible. It is easy to convert a Word file into PDF format by using the ‘print’ or ‘export’ commands. The next most famous format is the EPUB, which is widely compatible across many devices. Some of the hand features are ‘reflowable’ text, dynamic font size and style. Word files can be saved into EPUB formats. Likewise, programs such as “Adobe’s InDesign, Apple’s Pages, and OpenOffice, have EPUB as a “save-as” or “export” option.” (Brunsell and Horejsi 8)

In recent years diverse array of e-book formats have risen. The major e-book formats as of today include PDF, EPUB, MOBI, KF8, iBook, and others. Though some of these formats are tied into specific devices, they can be easily converted into one another using software programs like Calibre. For example, any of the above formats can be converted into the format compatible with the iPad with a conversion software. Most Android tablets have the capability to read formats used by Kindle, Nook, and Google Play Books. What’s more, these formats can also be read on computers running on conventional Windows or Mac operating systems. For instance, Adobe Digital Editions, which is free to download, allows PCs to read EPUB format. Apple’s own e-book reader iBooks “can display movies, interactive widgets, and movable 3-D objects. When the reading device is held vertically, iBooks has a traditional book appearance. Multimedia extras appear in the horizontal orientation.” (Brunsell and Horejsi 8) The two main advantages of e-books cited by library patrons were “searchability and around-the-clock availability. The most frequently cited disadvantages were difficulty of navigation and loss of ability to perform customary research practices such as perusing and shelf-browsing because of e-books’ lack of physicality.” (Abram 32)

Describe the various devices, past and present, the e-books are read on

The technology behind the design and creation of e-book devices is always undergoing change. Brands such as Nook and Kindle have established themselves as market leaders. Despite their impressive garnering of market share, the market is relatively nascent as the idea of e-book devices if gradually catching on. E-book devices are not competing against conventional PCs and laptops, for the e-books usually read through them are seldom read on computer screens. A prime example are novels and other fiction, which people show little inclination to read off a computer screen. Here, the e-book reading device fills an existing void in the reading preferences of users. Though at this point, it is difficult to predict how indispensible e-books and the devices would become, a few recent research studies point the direction. They suggest that once the general public accepts e-book devices as the norm, then libraries will have to radically alter their infrastructure and operating modes. Yet,

“beyond that there is not much they can do since the future is not susceptible to empirical probing. But the path to such a state of affairs is not direct. Not only are such devices owned by a minority of the population, but in all likelihood e-books would have to be made compatible with a gamut of devices, in other words be rendered independent of particular platforms, before they would present libraries with a feasible channel for provisioning materials.” (Staiger)

Discuss how e-book, newspaper, and magazine reading may become more of an interactive or group activity

Many major newspapers and magazines have also started offering their electronic versions adapted to e-book devices. These electronic versions offer many interactive features that are not possible in traditional publishing. In a clear sign of acknowledgement of the popularity and demand for e-books, Amazon has opened up its Kindle device to library e-books. To elaborate,

“The introduction of the Kindle, the biggest-selling e-reader, opens up library e-books to a wider audience, heightening the fears of publishers that many customers will turn to libraries for reading material. If that happens, e-book buyers could become e-book borrowers – reflecting a profound shift in consumer reading habits…Library e-books are already available on Barnes & Noble’s Nook, the Sony Reader, smartphones, laptops, and other devices, but never on the Kindle, whose users had long complained they were left out.” (Randolph 22)

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