E-Books or electronic books are books that can be downloaded from the internet. The whole book is stored as a computer file and can be read at any time simply by scrolling from one line to another or by printing on a printer which costs money (Michael Woods and Mary Woods Pg .12). E-books can also be described as books in electronic format that is downloaded on a computer and read on a screen, it may have numbered pages, pictures and graphics just like an actual book. This paper seeks to discuss the historical, social, economic and technological progressions of Electronic books.

History of Electronic Books

The idea of electronic books can be traced back to 1945 when Vannevar Bush which is believed to be the first description of electronic books. According to his definition in 1945, he defined the memex as a device that compared a microfilm with a reader together with screens for reading from a desk. It was also possible for the user to store their books, records, photographs, communications, records and other paperwork could be indexed, archived and dynamically updated as required. He intended for the memex to support book functions such as annotation, an index and buttons to facilitate page turning. In 1968, Alan Kay proposed the dynabook which was a computer hardware device for online reading of books. In 1984, the first commercially available version of the dynabook was called the GRID personal computer which was portable and in 1989, Toshiba produced dynabook. The dynabook from Toshiba was one of the first personal computer laptops and was however was not specifically designed to read electronic books (Henke, H. Pg.10-11).

The Advantages of E-books

Various factors have influenced the development of E-books as a favorite tool for obtaining information. Readers for instance have an interest in having expanded access to electronic resources. There has also been an overall increased focus on distance learning programmes, the increase in the number of part time students and their overall expectations. There has also been an increase in the demand for students to access library databases from remote areas. Students tend to choose E-books since it is quite possible to have unlimited simultaneous users for any particular title or for the service overall. E-books also offer unrestricted searching and viewing of the research materials. E-books offer multidisciplinary content and diversity across subject areas. Through PDF technology, it is possible to both view and print materials while still maintaining their original appearance (The Joint Information Systems Committee).

In the fast paced world characterized by corporate economies, e-books are a way to make reading accessible to all. It is easy to get digital files by either downloading straight from the web or by buying a CD with an electric book encrypted in it. It has made it possible to read the work of a particular author without necessarily having to carry with you a large volume of documents. It makes it possible to learn something new while spending less time. Laptops and PDA's which were originally used in the corporate world as tools to work when not in the office, began to be used as a way of sharing and storing valuable information. PDA's which are easy to carry are a great storing device for a new bestseller or an all time favorite. Electronic books not only make life easier for the reader but they also provide a new avenue for authors to present their work in the best way they may want to do it, this is because the author has complete control over how exactly he wants his work to look. Electronic books have revolutionized the reading of books in the modern world, previously people used to read books when they got to bookstores or libraries during their free time but nowadays people are able to read books anywhere and at any time without necessarily going out of their way in order for them to get the latest works (Freeland Sarah).

The Evolution of Social Reading

Books are social and it is common to find someone telling another what he or she has read about. It is projected that in the next five years, social reading may include spinning out conversation alongside content or pushing commentary out to social network. In the recent past there was little online conversation about electronic books apart from reviews. The discussion centered around the posting of responses to a reviewer's thoughts instead of posting comments and thoughts directly on the text. Today, only conversations can be conducted either by posting comments and updates or showing appreciation for the book or the building of conversations right inside the book. Goodreads makes it possible for people to post what page in a book they are on to their friends on face book. Using Twitter, Electric Literature published, "Some Contemporary Characters", a story by Rick Moody and gained about 10,000 followers in three days. It is also possible to integrate book content with conversation; this however requires the content to be accessible and available to those who are interested in discussing it. Kindle has in the recent past begun showing the number of people that have highlighted a passage thereby creating a foundation for book discussion (Johns, Jess.).

The future of Social Reading

In the next five years content will become more dynamic. Technology has over the past twenty years or so continued down a path that is much more open and networked and people have generally come to expect instant knowledge gratification that is networked inside the content that will go on. Open systems will beat out closed systems because people do not want to remain tied to one hardware system, digital rights management forces people into this situation.

Challenges for the Publishing Companies

In the case of international rights, the more networked and distributed a readership is, translates to the more work the publisher has to put in so as to track where his readers are coming from. Once he has this information, he has to adjust the pricing and availability of the material accordingly. The readers will simply expect all their consumers to be able to purchase the same version of a book at the same time. Networks are complex and difficult to build; it also requires an experience (Johns, Jess.)

The nature of reading is what makes it a social experience, when compared to a movie for instance where when people there is no need for them to discuss what they have seen; this is more of a shared experience. Some of the social aspects of books however may not translate well into a form of social interaction based on the internet. A big reason of why people read books is so that they may want to talk to other people about what they have read. Pe3ople may also read the same book but the interpretation may not be the same hence it may be necessary for them to discuss their views and opinions on the book (Fish, T.)

Benefits of using E-Books

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Once a book has been converted to an electric book, it can either be transmitted or stored at minimum costs and the process will not be harmful to the environment. The storage of electronic books does not take as much space as regular books. The storage of paper books takes a lot of shelf space and the updated records can be downloaded and accessed immediately. Storing books the electronic way reduces warehousing and shipping costs. Electronic books can be enhanced with sound, animation, live hyperlinks and simulation capabilities. Readers using the self contained software are able to annotate, bookmark and search the entire electronic book. Electronic books files can be carried and accessed anywhere using a portable personal computer or eBook reading device. Business and leisure travelers are able to download electronic books to their notebook PC's without taking up space in their luggage or adding more weight. Electronic books have turned out to be quite useful for professionals such as lawyers and doctors. Universities, colleges' and schools have taken up the use of electronic books since they have convenient storage capabilities and electronic books also make it possible for one to update and download the most current documents available. Universities, colleges, schools and libraries are piloting content delivery through portable and desktop personal computers with the aim of providing their students with electronic textbooks without necessarily having to add extra weight to their back packs. People with special reading needs can now have access to more reading material such as books and magazines available to them on electronic books, a font size change is able to turn an electronic book into a large print edition. Electronic books have an improved on screen reading quality, storage capability, portability, quick delivery to its readers and current content (Dhir, Amit Pg.395).

Calculating the Environmental Impact of E-Books

Traditional books are mostly made by paper according to The American Forest and Paper Association; paper manufacturing is the third largest user of fossil fuels in the world. Like all physical objects, books have weight and are bulky in nature; transporting them for instance from the manufacture to the bookshop or from the bookshop to the home of the reader or from one home to another, combined with their disposal at the end of their life cycle exacts an energy cost. Digital books are forged from electrons therefore they are almost weightless. A study carried out by The Cleantech Group calculated the upfront production carbon footprint and lifetime operating costs of readers of electronic books, the study found that after 23 electronic downloads which translates to about a years' worth of Kindle's use, the carbon investment in the said device has been recovered, this compared to 23 printed books (Ligtspeed Illuminati).

The low carbon footprint for electronic books has the potential of promoting the widespread use. Printed books have a more aesthetic appeal when compared to electronic books but at this point in time it is better to put aesthetic preferences aside if we want to save our planet. Eco- Libris is a site about electronic books and the environment, the site also encourages readers to plant a tree for every book that they have read. This is done to try and offset the environmental impact of printing books. People are able to read newspapers on an electronic book. It is disheartening to see the gradual decline of the newspaper, especially the huge number of people that will be rendered jobless, maybe in the not so distant future we shall look back and lament on we wasted all tat paper on newspapers, junk mail and the rest of them. Electronic books are better for the environment, as concerns about global warming increase and the price of electronic readers goes down. This will play a big role in pushing electronic books into mainstream publishing (Self Publishing Review).

Impacts of E-Books on the Publishing Market

In December 2010, Aptara, which provides digital publishing solutions that deliver reasonable gains in quality, cost and time -to -market for publishers of electronic books, carried out a survey of over 600 publishers across the professional, trade and educational markets which was intended to showcase the impact of electronic books on the publishing industry. The survey found that there was a widespread inability to calculate the return on investment on electronic books; this was about 62% of publishers. Of those that were able to calculate their return on investment, about 14% said that they had realized a stronger return on their investment from electronic books than print books. Most publishers producing electronic books still had issues concerning electronic reader and compatibility. Publishers are delving into electronic book production in order to meet the rising expectations of digitally savvy readers. The resultant success of some mobile devices like Apple I Pad and the rapid growth of the single function electronic device market such as Amazon Kindle, has resulted in the production of more electronic books; 36% of publishers are distributing their titles for the Kindle, the iPad and the iPhone (Aptara).

EBooks will flop but Print-on-Demand and Digital Textbooks will thrive

In December 2000, Forrester Research Incorporated, a leading independent internet research firm that analyzes the impact of technology change on consumers, businesses and the society, forecasted a slow growth for electronic books and electronic reader devices, this challenged book publishers expectations. It was of the view that an increase in the projected sales of digitalized textbooks and custom printed trade books will consequently force publishers to dramatically restructure their technologies and processes. According to the report, digital delivery of eBooks, text books and custom printed books will account for revenues of 7.8 billion dollars which represents 17.5% of revenues in the publishing industry in five years. Of that total; amount, eBooks and eBook devices will only contribute 251 million dollars. Digital textbooks, custom printing and electronic books will pressure publishers to offer greater consumer choice and new ways to purchase and variable presentations and delivery which authors cannot do by themselves. These results in anew publishing model referred to as multichannel publishing, thereby enabling publishers to manage all from one comprehensive storehouse containing modular structure and book content. In digital books every promotional message is an opportunity to buy the product on the spot as the product starts to exist when it is delivered to the buyer (Forrester Research).


Electronic books have progressed over time and it is quite clear that the future of learning in schools and institutions of higher learning such as colleges and universities will be greatly influenced by this phenomenon. Electronic books have revolutionalized the process of learning in that students are able to access valuable educational material that is current even if they are far away from their schools or colleges. The increasing number of part time students and distance learning students have also benefited immensely from electronic books. It is possible for these students to have a sizeable amount of reading material in terms of textbooks without necessarily adding more weight to their back packs. Electronic books have turned out to be useful in the business world. Executives are now able to quite literary, "work on the go"; it is also quite possible for the same executive to get a copy of his favorite newspaper from wherever he may be working from. E-books as a mode of learning are also advantageous since they don't require shelf space for their storage and they also have a smaller carbon foot print when compared to print books.

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