May 1, 2023

Everything About Ebooks

I do a lot of ebook formatting. Mostly because I enjoy it, but also because there are other authors and publishers who know they need an ebook version of their book, but have no idea how to put that together.

I’ve seen this perspective a lot: I don’t know what exactly an ebook is, but I know I need one. I currently do most of my reading on my little Kindle Paperwhite but recognize that a lot of readers have never even seen an ebook.

In the past decade, ebooks have become an increasingly popular alternative to print books, offering readers a more portable and customizable reading experience. At their most basic definition, ebooks are digital versions of printed books that can be read on electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, e-readers, or computers. They’re built to be flexible, and reading one can feel similar to reading an article on your phone or computer. Hardcore ebook fans use a dedicated ereader, which can elevate the experience of reading ebooks to that of a physical book with their sturdy construction, paperlike screen, crisp e-ink technology, and built-in booklight.

History of Ebooks

Ebooks have actually been around for a while. In the 1970s, Michael Hart founded Project Gutenberg, the world's first digital library, which aimed to make books available to everyone. The first ebook was a digitized version of the United States Declaration of Independence, which Hart physically typed into a computer. Project Gutenberg has made numerous public domain words available for free download and is how I personally get copies of fabulous classic works, including everything Sherlock Holmes and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. If you haven’t already, check out the collection here.

The current and most popular ebook format, the EPUB, came about in 2007. This standardized file type made it easier to create and distribute ebooks across different devices. Now, ebooks are a multi-billion dollar industry and a popular format for both traditional and self-published authors.

Devices for Reading Ebooks

One of the benefits of ebooks is that they can be read on a wide range of devices, including smartphones, tablets, e-readers, and computers. Some of the most common types of devices for reading ebooks include:


These are specialized devices designed specifically for reading ebooks. The most popular ereader is the familiar Amazon device called the Kindle. Ereaders have a black-and-white e-ink display that mimics the appearance of ink on paper. They’re easier on the eyes than backlit displays and can easily be seen even in strong sunlight. Some models include a booklight to aid reading at bedtime. In addition to the Amazon Kindle, popular ereaders include the Kobo, and the Barnes & Noble Nook.


Tablets are a popular choice for reading ebooks, as they offer a larger screen than e-readers and can also be used for other purposes, such as web browsing or video streaming. Tablets have the additional benefit of being able to display color and handle multimedia and interactive ebook features that dedicated ereaders cannot. Popular tablets for reading include the Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, and Amazon Fire.


Many people also read ebooks on their smartphones, as they are portable and always with us. The smaller screen size can make reading for extended periods of time more difficult, but you can’t beat the convenience.


Ebooks can also be read on desktop or laptop computers using specialized software or apps. While not as portable as other devices, computers offer larger screens and more options for customization.

Paper Tablets

There's also a new breed of ereaders entering the market, which have the functionality of a tablet, but the easy-to-see e-ink display of a traditional ereader. These ereader tablets shine when it comes to notetaking and annotating text. They include the new Kobo Elipsa 2E, Kindle Scribe, and Remarkable 2—all devices I’ve been secretly pining over.

It's important to note that not all ebooks are compatible with all devices, and some devices may require specific file formats or software to read ebooks. When choosing a device for reading ebooks, it's important to consider your personal preferences and needs, as well as compatibility and ease of use. On the plus side, ebooks don’t limit you to a single device. You can read a few chapters on your smartphone, then pick up your Kindle at home, which will automatically sync and let you continue reading where you left off.

Benefits of Ebooks

I personally do most of my reading using ebooks because there are so many benefits to reading digital versions of books.

Customizable Reading Experience

First of all, ereaders give you a lot of options to customize your reading experience. You can pick which font you read, the space between lines, the width of the margins, and even the font size. My vision is absolutely terrible, so I find it much more comfortable to make the text on my Kindle a bit larger to ease make things easier on me.


One of the top reasons I love reading ebooks is their portability. When I take a vacation, I don’t need to pack a bunch of paperback in my suitcase as long as I bring some sort of device I can read on. And ebooks don’t take up a lot of space, so I can store literally hundreds of books on my Kindle.


Although I’m a collector and have a living room full of bookcases, there’s no way I can display every book I’ve read in my home. Instead of using countless trees and requiring tons of paper, ebooks provide a more environmentally friendly way to enjoy stories without exhausting resources.

Also, not every book has an audio-book version, but with many ereader devices and apps, the ereader can read the book aloud for you. Yes, it will be a computerized performance and lack the nuance of a human narration, but it’s a great feature for people who need or prefer audiobooks and podcasts.

Limitations of Ebooks

Of course, like everything else, ebooks aren't perfect. There are some limitations associated with them as well.

Limited Formatting Options

As much as publishers strive to make their ebooks as similar to the print version of the book as possible, the very flexible nature of ebooks necessitates limits on the formatting options. Things like font styles, sizes, and spacing, are dictated by the reader, not the book. Similarly, books need to be easily readable on a screen as small as a phone, making sidebars and detailed graphics impossible.


There’s also the drawback of distractions being readily available on the devices most people use to read ebooks. Enticing apps, social media, and sending messages all on the same device as the book can draw a reader's attention away from reading their ebook.

Lack of New Book Smell

I’ll also dissent that reading on a piece of technology takes away the enjoyable tactile sensations of reading a physical book. There’s something about the feel of the paper under your fingers as you flip pages, the smell of the ink, and the satisfying sound of the binding cracking as you open to a fresh page. Some people don’t want to give that up—and that’s totally fine.

Indie Authors Should Always Make an Ebook Version of Their Books

It can be hard to tell the difference between ebooks from large publishers and those from self-published authors. There will be differences in what’s included on the copyright page and the front matter of the book, but ebooks typically jump straight to chapter one, so readers may miss all of that stuff. The biggest discrepancy will be the price—Publishers put a lot of money behind developing and marketing their books and therefore charge a premium for ebooks. Indie others, on the other hand, don’t have the overhead costs of a publishing company and get a much more generous royalty share for their word, so they are able to price their books much more competitively.

Cost-effective publishing

For new writers starting out, publishing ebooks is a cost-effective way of starting their author career. Although print-on-demand also eliminates the upfront cost of printing physical books, there’s still the time and cost associated with formatting the manuscript for print and putting together a professional-looking cover. Authors on a super tight budget may choose to publish ebook versions only of their work. Also, certain types of books—like shorter works—may not be feasible for print, but there’s a big demand for them in digital format.

Access to a wider audience

Indie authors have the ability to distribute their ebooks on all the major ebook platforms, giving them access to the same audience as traditional publishers. With tools including Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, Barnes & Noble Press, Kobo Writinglive, and more, indie books are available in all the largest booksellers' online stores.

Increased discoverability

Online retailers do a lot of the work of putting new book suggestions in front of potential readers. Marketing is hard—but knowing that my book will show up when someone searches for similar books on Amazon makes getting my book in front of potential readers so much easier.

Easy distribution

Gettin ebooks to readers couldn’t be easier. For most book purchases, the new book is immediately downloaded to the reader’s ebook reader of choice, whether that be their computer, phone, or Kindle device. Ebooks can be sent between people via email and lending libraries. Since they’re digital, all you need is the correct file to start reading—there’s no physical object that needs to be printed and mailed.

Final Thoughts

Ebooks are a wonderful vehicle for sharing and distributing the written word. In some ways, they’re more limited than their print counterparts, but in a lot of ways, they’re much more flexible and convenient.

If you’ve never read an ebook, I highly recommend giving one a shot. You can get a free book from Project Gutenberg right now or download my free short story “Jennifer 2.0.” For writers interested in publishing, familiarize yourself with ebooks and their capabilities so you know what to expect when you turn your own manuscript into an ebook.

I hope you’ve found this post informative! If there’s anything you think I missed or if you’d like to share one of your experiences with ebooks, feel free to drop a comment or reach out to me on social media.

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