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What are Digital Books?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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Digital books, also known as electronic books or e-books, are texts that are created and offered for sale as an electronic document. Books of this type can be downloaded to a hard drive and read using a personal computer or one of several different types of handheld devices known as digital book readers or e-readers. While the first uses of digital books was limited to particular interest groups, the easy technology that goes into creating the electronic books has made the format popular with people of all ages and backgrounds.

Most formats used for digital books require the use of a specific type of software program to open and read the contents of the book. Most of these formats are configured to prevent readers from altering the text in any way, a fact that helps to preserve the integrity of the document. Fortunately, many e-book producers prefer to use a secure format which can be opened using software programs that can be downloaded at no charge. Anyone who receives an e-book as a gift has only to locate and download the right software, and he or she can begin reading at once.

The applications for digital books today range from use as educational materials to publishing electronic copies of popular novels and other types of books. An increasing number of educational institutions, such as high schools, are making use of digital textbooks as a means of keeping expenses lower. Students at colleges and universities can often obtain a digital copy of a required textbook for a fraction of the cost of buying a hardbound copy. When added to the fact that the document can be loaded onto the hard drive of a full sized laptop or a netbook, it is possible for the student to house all of his or her textbooks for an entire quarter’s class load on the device. This helps to eliminate the need to keep up with textbooks that are often heavy and somewhat awkward to carry around campus.

Non-profit organizations have also come to rely on digital books as well. A number of Christian denominations make use of e-books to provide local leaders and members with materials for worship services, including outlines for orders of worship and materials for use in various Sunday School classes. Associations that seek to raise funds for research into different diseases also often use e-books to provide interested parties with information about the diseases. Applications of this type make it easier to avoid the expenses of printing brochures and softback books, as well as forgo the expense of mailing the materials to recipients.

The most popular application of digital books has to do with entertainment. Consumers can purchase and download the books with relative ease. It is possible to obtain electronic copies of great literary classics, the latest best sellers, and even specialty books related to niche markets of readers. Online books in this format have been especially helpful for authors who choose to bypass a traditional publisher and offer their works through a publish on demand or POD service. With no printing costs involved, the amount of profit made on each e-book sold is much higher, even though the unit price is much lower than that of a hardbound copy.

In recent years, some tension between traditional publishers and businesses that offer digital copies of popular works has developed. Often, this has to do with copyright issues, although other concerns are sometimes involved. Still, digital books have become an invaluable part of the publishing world, opening up opportunities for many people to obtain the books they want, without taking up space at home or spending a great deal of money building a home library.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGEEK, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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