What is An eBook? How They Work and How to Make Your Own

The increasing penetration of the Internet in all areas of life is significantly changing reading patterns and reading behaviors, driving the popularity of e-books in recent years.

Purist “bibliophiles” see them as an abomination to the art of reading, while tech-savvy bookworms welcome them with open arms.

Love them or hate them, eBooks are here to stay.

It may seem like they were a product of the digital age, but the idea of ​​creating e-books first came about in the 1930s.

The History of Electronic Books

Seeing the rise of talkies (sound pictures) in movie theaters, avant-garde American author Bob Brown, now considered the godfather of e-readers, published an essay titled Los Listos, which alludes to a portable reading machine.

Brown wrote: “To continue reading at the present speed I must have a machine. 

A simple reading machine, that I can take or move and plug into any old electric light socket and read hundred thousand word novels in ten minutes if I want, and I want.

The First e-book

Fast forward 41 years later and Michael S. Hart created the world’s first eBook: a digital version of the United States Declaration of Independence, which was shared within the University of Illinois shared network.

The United States Declaration of Independence was the first e-book to be published and shared among users at the University of Illinois ( Image Source ).

Hart then proceeded with the launch of Project Guttenberg, which led to digital copies of the Bill of Rights, the American Constitution, and the Bible.

The Beginning of Ebook Marketing

In 1993, the Bibliotypes company began selling e-books online, and in 1999, the publisher Simon & Schuster launched iBooks and began producing books in digital and print formats simultaneously.

Four major events, which will change the trajectory of eBook adoption, occurred in 1998:

  1. The first eReaders were released
  2. E-books received ISBNs
  3. Libraries in the United States began providing the public with free access to e-books
  4. Google was founded

Then, in 2007, Amazon launched the Kindle, forever changing the landscape of the e-book market.

The Growth of e-books: Reading Between the (trend) Lines:

While print book sales still outnumber e-book sales, the growing popularity of e-books should not be overlooked.

According to technology-focused market research firm Technavio, the electronic publishing industry’s compound annual growth rate is projected to reach 7% between 2020 and 2025, equating to a revenue increase of 6.93 million of dollars.

Why should you care about these numbers? 

This question can be answered by looking at the key factors driving this significant growth:

  • Reach early adopters of technology. The great influence of technology among significant segments of the population, more specifically among millennials and Generation Z, can make e-books a significant source of income among younger information consumers.
  • Following the example of large publishers and libraries. Marvel and DC have been offering digital versions of their most popular comics, while the American Library Association has announced that all the titles on its list will be available digitally to improve access. With established publishing companies and organizations leading the way, the e-book penetration rate is likely to continue on its upward trajectory, currently projected to reach 14.1% by 2027.
  • A viable marketing tool. Thin content like short, low-quality blog posts is no longer enough, which is why more companies are turning to eBooks to capture leads, spread customer education, and promote thought leadership. Currently, 30-34% of all eBooks sold on Amazon are self-published titles, a testament to its effectiveness as a sales and marketing tool.

Whether you’re an author, entrepreneur, or content creator, eBooks present an opportunity to reach your desired tribe.

If you’ve been thinking about publishing an eBook, the following sections will provide you with an informative launching pad to equip you with all the essential things you need to know to bring your first eBook to life.

What is An eBook?

An eBook or electronic book is a non-editable, adjustable book (changeable or responsive design to fit any screen size) that is converted into a digital file designed to be read on electronic devices such as computers, mobile devices (mobile phones and tablets), and electronic readers.

Two Essential Characteristics of Electronic Books

It is important to note that text or images in digital format do not automatically constitute an eBook. 

Since a number of digital files can be viewed and read on electronic devices, there are two main criteria that must be met for digital content to be considered an eBook.

1. Not Editable

Just like print books, the content of an ebook should not be editable in any way, shape, or form. 

Since an e-book can be accessed by thousands of people through numerous devices with document processing and editing capabilities, its content must be protected to prevent modification without the author’s permission.

2. Ebbing

Readers access digital content through different devices with different screen sizes. 

True eBooks should be scalable, which means text and images should adjust to fit any screen size, keeping chapters and line breaks, and images are automatically resized to preserve their aspect ratio. 

Think of it as the equivalent of website responsiveness.

PDF files are an exception. 

While PDFs can’t be edited, they can’t be reflowed, so eBooks published as PDFs can lose their formatting integrity when viewed on different devices. 

However, since PDF files are possibly the easiest format to export an eBook to and are widely used among self-publishing companies and authors, they are considered “unofficial” eBooks.

The 3 Most Common Ebook Formats

Just do a quick Google search for “ebook formats” and you’ll see dozens of ebook file types, some are used more than others. 

There is a very small chance that you will use even a quarter of these. 

You only need to focus on 3 of the most common formats used today.

1. EPUB Format (.epub)

The EPUB format is an e-book format that is compatible with almost all devices, including computers, smartphones, tablets, and e-readers (except Kindle), making it the most widely used e-book file type among publishers. 

All EPUBs are protected by digital rights management (DRM), which gives authors and publishers the right to control what buyers of their works can and cannot do.

EPUBs follow a resizable or fixed layout.

  • Responsive EPUBs allow text and images to adapt to all screen sizes. These electronic books follow a flat and linear design, in which the images float along with the texts. There is no option to make overlays or text wraps. It’s the format most eBook readers are familiar with, and it works well with text-heavy materials.
  • Sticky EPUBs are more sophisticated in terms of design. Its fixed layout allows you to keep any format, effect, and image. It also supports javascript which makes it more interactive with additional functionality like animations. Another unique feature of fixed EPUBs is read-aloud, in which words are highlighted while a voiceover narrates the content, making it a popular format for children’s storybooks.

2. AZW (.azw) and AZW3 (.azw3) Formats

Also known as Kindle files, AZW is a proprietary eBook format that Amazon uses for its Kindle eBooks and eReaders. 

It follows the same format as its predecessor, MOBI, but with DRM protection that restricts its compatibility with Kindle readers and devices with a Kindle app. 

Also, AZW eBooks can only be purchased from the Amazon Kindle Store. 

AZW files can store complex information such as highlights, annotations, and bookmarks.

When the Kindle Fire was released, Amazon created a new Kindle format called AZW3, or Kindle Format 8 (KF8). 

It’s the next-generation Kindle format, adding support for HTML and CSS to the older AZW file and giving newer Kindle eBooks more options for styles, fonts, and layouts.

3. PDF Format (.pdf)

As explained in the previous section, PDF files are not necessarily considered true eBooks because they are not reflowable. 

While publishers and content creators can execute great layouts with PDFs, they can be difficult to read, especially when displayed on smaller screens. 

Also, PDF files only have minimal copy protection, which means users can download PDF eBooks and share them for free. 

They also cannot be sold on Amazon or iBookstore.

Despite these drawbacks, PDF is still one of the most widely used digital content formats, especially among businesses and marketers, due to how easy it is to publish one.

Different e-Book Devices

Ebooks can be downloaded and accessed through various devices, which can be segmented into two main categories:

  • General electronic devices
  • Electronic readers (eReaders)

General electronic devices include desktop and laptop computers, smartphones, and tablets. 

Please note that you may need to download specific apps depending on the format of the e-book you want to read (Kindle app for AZW/AZW3, Adobe Acrobat Reader for PDF, ReadEra for MOBI).

On the other hand, Electronic Readers or eReaders are devices created specifically to store and display electronic books. 

eReaders appeal to bibliophiles who want the portability of an electronic device but still retain some aspects of reading a physical book.

Below are 3 of the most popular eBooks available today:

1. Kindle (Amazon)

2. Kobo (Rakuten)

3. Rincon (Barnes and Noble)

The Advantages of e-readers over General Electronic Devices

If you can only download one app using your existing device, why spend on an eReader?

The answer really comes down to preference, but there are advantages to using e-readers over a computer, tablet, or smartphone.

  1. It mimics the experience of reading a physical book. Many readers use a technology called E Ink that displays text and images as if they were printed on paper. This also makes it easier to read e-books on e-readers in bright light conditions.
  2. Great battery life. Most e-readers can last for weeks on a single charge.
  3. Huge storage. When you use your other devices to download eBooks, they will share storage along with your other files, such as photos, music, and videos. This may limit the number of eBooks you can download and store. By contrast, e-readers can hold hundreds of books at any given time.

Where can You Buy e-Books?

The e-book market is booming, evidenced by the growing number of online merchants selling digital content. 

The most popular eBook stores that offer a full list of titles that are compatible with both general electronic devices and eReaders include:

  • Amazon Kindle Store
  • kobo
  • Barnes and Noble
  • Google Play
  • Author’s own website

Main Benefits of Electronic Books

While eBooks aren’t every reader’s cup of tea, they undeniably changed the practice of reading forever, and possibly for the better.

Below are the main advantages of e-books:

1. Remove Physical Storage Restrictions

Not all bookworms are blessed with houses that can accommodate their collection of books. 

With eBooks, hundreds of titles can be stored on a single device, eliminating the need for physical storage spaces.

2. Save Money

For new releases, eBooks are at least 10% cheaper than their print equivalents. 

Older releases and classics come at more affordable prices and bring more savings with them. 

For avid readers, these incremental savings can add up over time, allowing them to save money or have more spending power to purchase more eBooks.

3. Portability

With eBooks, you literally have a library at your fingertips. No more eeny-meeny-miny-moe about what books to take when you go somewhere. 

Pick up where you left off or start reading a new book wherever you are.

4. Instant Access

Ebook readers enjoy the advantage of downloading new titles whenever they are connected to the Internet. 

No more driving to the bookstore and standing in line, which could be a nightmare for the most anticipated books (think of the long lines every time a new Harry Potter book is released). 

Plus, since eBooks are sold in unlimited quantities, you don’t need to reserve or backorder when copies run out.

5. Technology-Enhanced Reading Experience

Change the font size and font style. 

Highlight sections simply by dragging your finger across the screen. 

Easily search for specific content within the book. 

Add annotations. Create bookmarks. 

Get definitions with a built-in dictionary.

It’s the technology that comes with eBooks and eReaders that separates them from their print counterparts.

How to Create an eBook in 10 Easy Steps

Creating and publishing eBooks isn’t just for authors and writers anymore. 

Anyone and everyone with a story to tell and content to share—marketers, professionals, celebrities, and public figures—can publish an eBook, especially since self-publishing is extremely doable because there are no printing costs involved.

Even if you don’t have experience writing books, you can launch your own eBook by following these 10 steps:

  1. Set your goals. Why do you want to publish an eBook? To launch yourself as an author? To generate leads for your business? Position yourself as a thought leader in a specific area.
  2. Pick an interesting topic. Take the time to do your research and get to know your audience. What do you want to know more about?
  3. Give your eBook a title. It should be clear and catchy at the same time. You can have multiple job titles at the beginning. As your eBook takes shape, you can narrow it down to the one that best encapsulates your work.
  4. Make a scheme. Having a structure will streamline your writing process. You can evolve this as you go, but have the pillar components mapped out before doing the actual content.
  5. Write your ebook. Now that you have the main pieces in place, it’s time to write your eBook. If you’re doing this as part of your marketing strategy, you can have multiple team members contribute content. Or, you can hire a ghostwriter if writing isn’t really your forte.
  6. Edit and correct. Nobody likes to read a book that is incoherent, incoherent, and full of grammatical and spelling errors. Edit for clarity and cohesion. Often first-time ebook authors become so attached to their work that the best practice is to get an editor or proofreader.
  7. Add visual elements. All text and no images make an ebook boring reading. You don’t have to use a lot of images, but pay attention to your book cover design and consider adding images to key sections.
  8. Design, format, and layout your eBook. This includes choosing a font style, color, and design treatments. Make sure the design aligns with the content and your brand.
  9. Convert your eBook. The easiest way to do this is to publish your eBook as a PDF, but if you have the resources to do so, consider taking advantage of an external resource that can convert your eBook into various file types.
  10. Publish and promote your eBook. Treat your eBook like a new product or service that you just launched. You need a complete marketing strategy to promote your eBook and reach your target audience. You can create a microsite dedicated to your eBook. Be sure to promote it on social media. You can also leverage influencers or even secure interviews with relevant media outlets.

What are the Best Ways to Sell or Distribute an eBook?

With dozens of eBooks being published every day, selling your work won’t be an easy task, but it won’t be impossible either. 

The key is to be visible and accessible through multiple and diverse channels.

Here are some of the best platforms you can use to sell and distribute your ebook:

  1. your own website
  2. Amazon (just make sure your eBook comes in a supported format)
  3. Other eBook marketplaces like Apple Books, Nook, and Kobo
  4. Promote your ebook to your email list
  5. Constantly link to your eBook in your social media posts
  6. Find relevant influencers to promote your eBook

There are dozens of ways to give your eBook exposure so that it gains traction. 

You just need to explore every opportunity, come up with creative distribution and promotion tactics, and stay focused to make sure you reach your target audience.

TL; DR: eBooks have Changed the Way People Create and Read Books

Along with the invention of the printing machine, the invention of e-books and e-readers can be considered one of the turning points that shaped the publishing industry and influenced the way people read.

The creation involves a series of essential details, from the writing itself to the technical aspects of sales and distribution. 

Ultimately, it provides a launching pad for aspiring authors to launch their first book, whether it’s pursuing a creative passion, furthering expertise, or marketing a business.

Thanks for Reading.

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