A short, incomplete, and possibly inaccurate,

History of eBooks

What is an ebook?

While defining a book might seem like an easy thing to do, when you actually try you tend to develop ever broader and less useful definitions until you end up with something like "a non-abstract thing" (or at least thatís what happens when I try to define anything). For ebooks the term is even more fraught with difficulty, and you might end up with a slightly more specific definition such as "a non-abstract thing that doesn't exist physically" (though even that is fraught with contention)

What is an ebook?(2013)

In their article History of the Ebook: The Changing Face of Books Manley and Holley (2012) discuss how the word "ebook" has multiple meanings, is frequently used ambiguously, and that the definition has changed over the brief period of time the term has existed. They continue, saying that some people attempt to better define the concept by splitting it into e-texts and e-books, but for me this just muddies the waters even further (does an e-text have to have text?).

Wondering what it actually was that I was making a website about I searched out some dictionary definitions, but got contrary descriptions. First, the Oxford Dictionary of Media and Communication (2011) defines an e-book as "A digitized version of a printed book which can be read on a computer or a hand-held electronic device, or a book-length text designed to be read on a screen."

While the Oxford Dictionary of the Internet (2nd edition) (2012) defines an ebook as "A book that is stored on a Web site and can be downloaded to a client, printed and read. Currently such books are out of copyright and are supplied free. However, there are some sites which sell ebooks in a computer readable form.

These definitions manage to be both overly broad, overly narrow, and can't even agree on the proper spelling of the word. Rather impressive for just a couple of sentences.

Reading these definitions brought up additional questions for me, such as "what is a book?", "what is book-length?", "what is text?", "what is reading?", and "what sort of website sells ebooks that aren't in computer readable form and why would anyone ever buy that?".

Created by Matthew Murray in gedit (Linux) and Notepad (Windows). LIBR 500-99A - Foundations of Information Technology

Last updated 2013.03.15