Data instead of paper and ink: E-books growing in popularity

Monday, 29 September 2008, 11:39 Hrs   |    3 Comments
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Frankfurt: Relaxing on the couch and browsing through a weighty tome - for many, that sounds like paradise. Trying to drag that book along in your pocket is however less fun. An alternative to this is the e-books that until now have enjoyed a niche existence. That might be about to change.

"Reading devices developed especially for e-books should provide a pleasant reading experience," says Gudrun Bolduan from the German Publishers & Booksellers Association. The problem: only a few of the devices have been widely available to date, and with prices of around $500, they were anything but cheap.

Experts predict that e-book readers like the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader, currently on sale in the US, will also soon be available on markets around the world, Bolduan says. One indicator of this was Sony's presentation of its Reader at Berlin's IFA electronics show this past August. However, the company did not name a price or a precise release date.

Until then, the PC will remain the prime platform for electronic books. Those who prefer a more mobile approach can often also reach for their PDA, Smartphone or even Nintendo's DS mini-console. Users should check the website of their e-book provider to see which book will work with which player.

At least there's no lack of places to get e-books. Many online sellers like or sell nothing but electronic books. Yet "traditional" online booksellers now also offer paper-free variants.

"Many e-books are also offered directly from the publisher's website," Gudrun Bolduan notes.

Bookworms unsure whether reading on a computer or mobile device is worth a try can visit Mobipocket, a Paris-based e-book seller and software maker. Readers can also visit to peruse a variety of downloads in different languages.

E-books are offered in several formats. PDFs are generally the easiest to use, says Werner-Christian Guggemos from All that's needed to read PDF files is Adobe Reader, available for free download from Adobe's website. For e-books not available as PDF files, readers need some extra software, such as the Mobipocket reader or eReader. E-books are sometimes cheaper than their printed variants - in some cases, by as much as 20 percent.

The bulk of the e-book catalogue currently consists of textbooks and scientific publications. "That's because scientific publishers have been moving to electronic texts for some time now," Bolduan says. One reason for this is the authors' vested interest in seeing their work distributed worldwide. The target audience tends to be download-friendly as well. Novels and lifestyle books remain less frequent, although their ranks are growing as well.

Most e-book providers work directly with the publishers. There are exceptions, however. "Private authors can also enquire with us about distributing their e-books on the platform," Guggemos says. Half of the profits then go to the author, the other half to the company. The seller, in turn, advertises the electronic titles not just on its own home page but on partner sites as well.

"If, however, an author has already assigned copyright to a publisher, then the text cannot then simply be offered privately," says professor Thomas Hoeren from the Institute for IT, Telecommunications, and Media Rights at the University of Muenster.

Many amateur authors are not focused on earning money through their stories and books; they simply want to put them out on the web. They are well advised, however, to take certain precautions to ensure that nobody else steals their work and publishes it under their own name. This can be achieved with a free Creative Commons licence.

"The Creative Commons Web site ( provides a licence toolbox for establishing usage rights," says Markus Beckedahl from the non-profit organization's Berlin office.
Source: IANS
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