eBook distribution

Believed to have been first created by the Project Gutenberg in 1971, eBooks are now becoming an everyday media for information societies and they are changing the way that our world is distributing and consuming knowledge and entertainment compared to traditional publishing mechanisms.

eBooks encourage open source formats and challenges conventional copyright laws. This also imposes several challenges for distribution networks as consumers struggle to find suitable e-reader devices which support a wide range of both proprietary and open source eBook formats.

Although the distribution of eBooks is currently limited to communities with access to technologies like the Internet, its existence will encourage distribution companies, governments and academic institutions to work together to close the global digital divide to ensure increasing access to this new distribution channel.


Now, anyone can publish digital content

The era of eBook is promoting participatory culture which encourages open source formats, but one of the most significant considerations when designing media systems that encourage participation is access to content.

  • Participatory design of new media and information systems is based on modifying and adapting technologies to suit particular purposes.
  • This suggests that more people can publish than ever before, but also means publishers must design for access, design for reconfiguration and design for remediation (e.g. converting a movie to a picture book).

Digital publishing unlocks new capabilities

Open source projects contribute to e-reader development and actually promote eProduction:

  • Open source communities have popularised eBooks.
  • There are numerous challenges and considerations for publishers when designing eBooks, but publishing tools are widely available.
  • Digital publication allows an unprecedented amount of features and benefits compared with traditional publishing mechanisms.

However, some things shouldn’t change

With eBooks, the logical structures of traditional books must also be considered and that tables of contents and indexes are essential features. Research by the Electronic Books On-screen Interface (EBONI) at the Centre for Digital Library Research, University of Strathclyde revealed:

  • Readers approach texts in electronic format with expectations inherited from their experience with paper books.
  • There are several complications of eBooks, particularly when incorporating imagery and photography. When creating a picture eBook, the expectation to the user is different from text-based books.
  • Consider a picture eBook as an alternative approach to digital publishing as these are designed to be colourful and engaging.

It’s complex – many platforms and formats

There are numerous file formats and standards for eBook files and devices, some are proprietary and others are open source.

  • The large variety of standards means that certain eBook formats may only be read with specific software or devices.
  • Because these formats are not compatible, it makes it more difficult for consumers as they need to ‘select the formats they want to use and acquire the specific reader software and e-readers’.

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