What is an E-Book?
A Brief History
An e-book is, quite simply, a digital version of a book. E-books are sometimes wrongly conflated with e-readers, which are the modern devices used to store and read e-books on. While they are of course two closely related technologies, the e-book predates the e-reader by up to three decades, depending on who you ask. However, it was the introduction of the e-reader in the 90s that made e-books portable enough to compete with traditional print books. In addition, the invention of digital paper and ink allowed for a reading experience which was very similar to what people were used to with print books, making it far easier to read e-books in direct sunlight, for instance. This development made e-books an even more viable alternative.
The e-book market really started ballooning in 2007 however, with the launch of the Amazon Kindle – an e-reader with direct access to Amazon’s vast inventory of e-books. This allowed people to browse, purchase, download, and read books instantaneously, without having to leave their homes. Needless to say, this was an attractive prospect to many people.
Since the launch of the Kindle, the e-book sales have been on the rise continuously. In the UK, e-book sales rose by 5% in 2018, and they now make up around 30% of the British book market.
While their popularity can be partly explained by the convenience they offer readers (as outlined above), e-books also tend to be more attractively priced than their print counterparts, which is obviously interesting to prospective readers. This is due to the fact that there are no production or shipping costs involved when publishing e-books. This has the added benefit of being more environmentally friendly due to the paper and energy being saved. So not only are e-books easier to buy and read, they’re often cheaper too – both for people and the environment.
Of course, if you’ve published an e-book, the cheaper sales price means you’ll be making less money per e-book than you would selling print books. Nevertheless, e-books will give you a higher percentage of the profit per sold copy, as it has to be split fewer ways. Furthermore, the e-books have the advantage of (potentially) global accessibility and convenience, which could help you gain more readers than you otherwise would have. At the end of the day, the choice between e-books and print books may well involve some compromise – but then again, there’s nothing stopping you from publishing in both formats, if you’re so inclined.