This, and the fact that PDF documents can be optimised for screen reading, makes it natural to include PDF in our concept of e-books. E-book retailers like Amazon. Adobe and PDF demonstrate that it can be difficult to distinguish e-books - documents mainly made and meant for reading on screen - from other documents, like files developed in word processing applications and desktop publishing programs.
On one hand digital objects that are meant for print, such as documents intended to be printed on demand, like PDF files, will in many cases be called e-books, mainly because they are distributed as digital objects, often read before they are printed locally. On the other hand, narrowly defined e-books, files meant for handheld devices or PC reading applications, in many cases have the technical capability of being printed and reproduced like traditional books and documents.
E-books, both in the narrow and in the Adobean sense, are distributed via Internet and sold in many ways. Some authors are selling their own e-books from their Web sites, such as Stephen King. Some e-book stores have specialised in selling e-books of one format only or books of one specific genre. Other complete e-bookstores, like Amazon. In the e-book trade there are many different business models, but there are commonalities: they all use the Web and online payment systems and they usually include some kind of copy protection scheme.
E-books are produced by many kinds of electronic publishers, from bestseller publishers to university presses and multinational publishing conglomerates. Most traditional publishers are moving gently and cautiously into the e-book business.
For example, in Norway and Sweden Aschehoug and Bonniers have stared to sell a limited number of e-book titles online. In the U. In the mean time the rest of the world's book industry is waiting, watching and asking: When do we have to act? When will e-book reading and sales of e-books take off? How fast or slowly will e-book technology diffuse and become a widespread way of reading? Today there are two factors working against e-books and hindering diffusion. These factors include the overall poor quality and high prices of reading devices and the lack of proper and interoperable digital rights management DRM systems.
The quality and prices of devices critically influence consumers; proper DRM systems cool the eagerness of publishers to take on the costs of producing e-books. E-books in some way will compete with traditional books. The developments of writing systems, script and printed books are, in spite of new technologies, among the greatest achievements of mankind.
Traditional book technology has evolved over five centuries and has reached a very high level of performance. Even if we all take it for granted, the book is a highly developed and extremely complicated technology [ 36 ]. The readability of a book is the result of many interdependent factors and features that affect the rhythm of reading - page size and layout; font face and size; inter-character and inter-word spacing; word shapes including kerning and ligatures ; line length, hyphenation and inter-line distance leading ; the use of margins and indents, paragraphs, headings, chapters, footnotes, page numbers, pictures, graphics, charts and tables of content; and, the quality of paper and print.
All of these factors are based on the knowledge of typographers, book designers, editors and publishers [ 37 ]. E-books cannot yet beat traditional books as reading technology. E-book reading devices and software applications of today are far from being competitive in terms of legibility - and the main problem is the display.
Even if LCD screens of handheld devices did not have the same problems of flickering and glare as typical displays of personal computers, LCD screens are by no means optimal for reading. They are often too small. If they are large, then they are too heavy, reflect light too easily and can't be used as reading devices in outdoor daylight.
Most importantly they don't have the resolution needed to properly render highly legible serif typefaces like Times and Garamond. Even sans-serif types, like Arial, are not very well represented on screens today. In the use of pictures, illustrations and sophisticated layout, e-books are not even close to the possibilities and qualities of printed books.
The problem of resolution is not likely to be solved in the near future. Reading devices today have display resolutions from dpi; at least dpi is an acceptable level of character representation. The development of LCD screens has been surprisingly slow and there are no indications that commercial dpi screens will be available in the next several years [ 38 ]. New and different screen technologies are being developed.
In five to ten years there can be great improvements in the readability of screens.
Other improvements will also occur with handheld technology in terms of processors, memory cards, batteries, materials, wireless connectivity and software, all of which will make these devices easier to use and less expensive. Even if the readability of handheld devices will not match traditional books in many years, there will be millions of devices and mobile terminals around that could be used for e-book browsing and reading [ 39 ].
Parallel to the development and spread of hardware, new e-book reading applications will optimise legibility. Both Microsoft and Adobe have developed font-rendering technologies based on the characteristics of LCD screens ClearType and CoolType , improving representation of letters as compared to letter representation on traditional monitors. Microsoft, and probably Adobe, will design new typefaces exploiting the possibilities of ClearType and CoolType.
In addition, the underlying parameters controlling the rendering of texts on screens will be optimised for screen reading.
Screen rendering will no longer be influenced by print parameters as they are today. The research and development of screen-reading applications has only just begun and great improvements of these applications can be expected in the near future. These efforts will not only benefit anyone reading e-books on handheld devices but also those reading books on personal computers using word processors and Web browsers. The development of the e-book technology has put a new and fresh focus on display reading.
Even if e-books cannot beat traditional books yet, these collective efforts will improve the legibility of e-book devices and make e-book reading more tempting for larger audiences. Readers will also consider the benefits of the e-book technologies such as potential lower unit prices, immediate access, large storage capacities, highly developed search functions, hyperlinks to both internal and Internet resources, adjustable fonts and sizes according to individual preferences , speech generating plug-ins and the combined use of e-book readers with PDA functions, e-learning applications, music and video playing, and mobile telephony.
As Winston and others have demonstrated, diffusion is not only a matter of technology.
Diffusion correlates to cultural and social needs [ 40 ]. Even if e-book technology improves remarkably within the next three to five years, it will still meet a lot of resistance. There is no reason to assume that e-books will replace traditional books in the near future or that readers will abandon paper for handheld readers.
Groups most inclined to start reading e-books are those that are interested in new technologies and devices, for example those naturally using computers, networks and cell phones. Rapid diffusion is likely to be dependent on how quickly schools and universities take advantage of e-books, how fast e-books become a natural part of network-based e-learning and on how fast e-book reading devices are established as indispensable lifestyle items among really serious readers.
It is not a very daring guess to say that this will take some time. Diffusion of e-books among readers is also heavily dependent on publishers. For a technology to be widespread, there must be a great and varied number of e-book titles available. It will be up to publishers to bring this variety to the market.
There will be resistance since publishers have, after all, built their businesses and fortunes on the production of traditional books. The major concern among publishers is a reliable copy protection system that protects the publishers' investments in new technologies [ 41 ]. DRM systems distribute rights among participants in an e-book transaction and provide a secure distribution of e-book titles, protecting copyright against unauthorised duplication or reproduction.
A DRM system is both an encryption and distribution system.
These are proprietary systems closely related to their own Web servers and their own particular types of reading devices. Specific devices contain a hardware-based unique identifier that allows content retailers to encrypt each purchased title uniquely for download to that device. Other systems designed for a broader use are being developed; both Microsoft and Adobe have their own DRM systems. The main problems of DRM are not technical, but social and cultural.
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Authors, readers, booksellers, libraries and authorities all claim their cultural and legal rights and some of these rights and interests are in conflict [ 42 ]. A customer thinking of buying an e-book may want to keep her privacy and resist being registered in a remote database in Ohio or Paris. As the owner of an e-book, she may also want to give the book away, lend it to a friend or to make a copy or two for her own personal use, all of which may be in conflict with the terms a publisher wants to offer when selling the book.
The publisher on the other hand does not want to lose sales due to perceived illegal copies of an e-book in circulation.