October 09, 2008

Defining the e-book

Over recent years there has been considerable confusion over the use of the term ‘e-book’. A new article by Chris Armstrong entitled Books in a virtual world examines the variety of definitions used to date while proposing a definitive construct. Beginning by examining the definitions of ‘book’, the paper moves on to consider the essential element of a book – the content, and to examine publishing and structural aspects of e-books, as well as their place in libraries, before arriving at a final definition. The definition and its derivation embrace all of the issues that affect the way in which e-books are understood and used today. In conclusion, the article looks at both the genesis of e-books, and the stage of acceptance and adoption that they have reached, with brief reference to 3rd-generation e-book readers available at the time of writing.

Two quotes from the paper:
The conceit of an e-book seems entirely appropriate and yet ‘e-book’ remains a term of which people are unsure, which is defined variously, and which is still, after some years, struggling for acceptance. Given that codices – manuscript volumes which were the prototype of the modern paper book – were in common use by the sixth century and we still have variations in understanding of the term ‘book’ in the twenty-first century, it is hardly surprising that e-book has no universally accepted definition after so few years.
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So we arrive at a definition. An e-book is:
any content that is recognisably ‘book-like’, regardless of size, origin or composition, but excluding serial publications, made available electronically for reference or reading on any device (handheld or desk-bound) that includes a screen.
Researchers using Alloway Library's catalogue and online resources have access to over 24,000 e-books and e-journals, (however you may define them!)

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