WELCOME TO eBOOKS EXPLAINED
This site is part of the A.S.Kline network which includes Ovid and Others, Dante and Others, eBooks explained, and the free online literature archive Poetry In Translation. To navigate between sites use the buttons on the top frame or click the links.
The purpose of this site is to advance the concept of electronic books, and provide support information for the other sites in the A.S.Kline network.
Electronic books, or "eBooks" are texts designed to be read solely on a computer screen using proprietary hardware devices, or multipurpose fixed or portable PCs, or palmtops. They can often be read using familiar Browser, or Word Processing software, while in addition purpose built "Reader" software is available that attempts to recreate the look of a traditional printed book whilst also enabling electronic multimedia enhancements.
Electronic publishing is a concept still in its relative infancy - partly due to the technology barrier that needs to be overcome by many prospective users. The idea that paper and ink should be forsaken for handheld computers and internet-distributed texts is enough to make readers give an almost Luddite shudder. How can any cumbersome electronic device approach the ergonomics and durability of a good quality book? Replacement however, is not the point. Electronic books and texts are set to progressively work their way into our culture as a complement to the printed word, rather than a successor. In many ways it's already happened. Witness the massive success of CD-ROM based encyclopedias which provide a shelf full of texts on a single disc. Instead of the occasional illustration, you receive rich, multimedia presentations. In place of the laborious cross-referencing between volumes, you are only ever a couple of hyper-links away from the information you desire.
eBooks provide texts that take up no space beyond that on the hard-drive you store them on, and can be transmitted through a network, hence they have miniscule physical replication and distribution costs. They have an amazing potential for enriching the books we read both in the provision of accessory media, and also in their capacity for providing cross-referenced, relevant information at the press of a button. The new free translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses which can be found at Poetry In Translation is an excellent example of the benefits provided by an eBook. Within the PDF edition of this text are fifteen illustrations from the 1640 George Sandys translation of The Metamorphoses - made possible by the online archives of Vermont University. The fifteen volumes of the work are hyper-linked to a complete mythological index which is in turn linked both to itself and the main text. In total over 12,500 hyperlinks are present. Think of the number of pages you'd have to turn to cross-reference anywhere near the same amount of information. And then ask yourself if you'd even bother. Not only can you read an accessible version of one of the greatest works of literature ever written, but you can also get up to speed on Greek Mythology with minimum effort. Try it, you may be pleasantly surprised.
This site describes software and hardware designed specifically for electronic books, and though some of the information here will rapidly date due to the speed of development of product sets it will give you an idea of the approach taken. Hardware products continue to appear, generally with a proprietary publishing format aimed at locking the reader in to a chargeable publishing mechanism, requiring purchase or rent of the electronic book content. This is a short-sighted approach, and the devices tend to create a small niche before perishing, since they cannot address the vast amount of free content already available via the Internet, and do not offer a wide range of other functionality. A more promising direction has been taken by the mobile and palm-top open device manufacturers, who provide PC compatibility, and versions of the familiar reading software described on this site. If I were making an investment in a device other than a standard fixed or portable PC, now, I would almost certainly buy a palmtop, probably an HP iPAQ (Colour screen devices are now available at under $300 basic) where I would find the familiar reading software (For WORD, Adobe or Browser HTML files) bundled or available as an add-on. If you wish to investigate the fast-changing world of mobile and palm-top devices further, please try the excellent information offered in the product review pages at infoSyncWorld, and also please note the review of µBook Software, a fine new eBook reader for PocketPC's reviewed here on this site.
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Updated 01 Mar 2005 Pro-Leagle