An electronic book (variously: e-book, eBook, ebook, digital book, or even e-edition) is a book-length publication in digital form, consisting of text, images, or both (sometimes even other multimedia elements such as audio and/or video), and produced on, published through, and readable on computers or other electronic devices. Sometimes the equivalent of a conventional printed book, e-books can also be born digital.

The Oxford Dictionary of English defines the e-book as "an electronic version of a printed book," but e-books can and do exist without any printed equivalent. Commercially produced and sold E-books are usually intended to be read on dedicated e-book readers. However, almost any sophisticated electronic device that features a controllable viewing screen, including computers, many mobile phones, and nearly all smartphones, can also be used to read e-books. Some companies, such as Amazon, with their Kindle for PC software, provide an emulator that allows a user to read their format on other platforms.

Amazon Kindle 3, an e-book reader displaying part of an e-book on its screen.
Image: Wikipedia

Common and famous eBook formats include:

  • ePUB (short for "electronic publication): a free, open, and wide-spread format used by many eBook readers, hardware as well as Android apps
  • Mobipocket: Formerly an open format and competitor to ePUB, the reader software was aquired by Amazon in 2005 and had no new open source publications since. The eBook format however remained open; the reader software finally became what we know today as Kindle.
  • KF8 (Kindle): Obviously a successor of the Mobipocket format. Used solely for Kindle readers (and the Kindle app, of course).
  • PDF (Portable Document Format): Introduced by Adobe, this type preserves the original formatting including pagination and positioning of elements, and thus can reflect a specific printed version even for page references. Widely used on computers, there are also reading (and even editing) apps available for Android.

There are many more formats. If you are interested in them, take a look at the comparison of e-book formats at Wikipedia. More details on eBooks can be found in the Wikipedia E-book article.

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