All About eBooks

Editor's Note (May 6, 2009): 
The paper below was last updated in April of 2000.  During that time eBooks were beginning to show some promise becoming a device not just used by techies, but actual readers.  

As 2009 progresses Amazon's Kindle appears to have gained widespread acceptance.  While eBook reader are not exactly a device for the masses, they have moved beyond the early adopter stage. 

This author is on his 2nd dedicated eBook reading device and is particularly impressed with Amazon's Kindle

Check out the summary results of an eBook Survey completed in May of 2009:

Here is an interesting quote from the survey:

"I am old fashioned—I like to hold and turn the pages in a book. Books hold a certain value in my eyes. You can ask the writer to inscribe his/her book to you. You can give a book to a child or read from a book to a child especially taking the time with the illustrations.  With a book - you can write questions or challenge a statement in the margins. Books can have a special scent about that that triggers your memory. We must not forget the beautifully illustrated covers on the books that draw your attention to the book and want to pick it up.  Books and bookbinding are sacred professions that bring an intimacy for the reader and the writer of the book. Too many things in this world have become impersonal and disconnected. No one talk to each other because everyone is plugged into their ipod. I vote for keeping books in the old fashion format."

This section provides information about electronic book (eBook) readers and software.  In addition, you will find information on electronic publishing, distribution and more.  If you have information on this subject, and would like to share it with visitors, please submit it to

This document is also available in the Rocket eBook format, just click here (this website is now defunct, and my Rocket eBook file is gone forever).


Revision 1.05, April 9, 2000

Table of Contents

All About eBooks

What is an eBook?

Content Creation and Publication

The Current State of Publishing
An Author Must Be More Than An Author
eBooks Makes Publishing More Accessible
Authors Decide What Gets Published
Separating the Good from the Bad

eBook Reader Hardware

Glassbook Inc.
SoftBook Press
Everybook Inc.

eBook Reader Software

Many Choices

Converting a Document into eBook Format

1 EB Dedicated Reader
2 Rocket eBook
3 PalmPilot

eBook File Comparisons

eBook Standards

Open eBook Specification
Open eBook Authoring Group
The EBX Electronic Book Exchange



Adobe's PDF
Microsoft ClearType�
Standards Continue to Evolve and Emerge

eBook Trends

African-Americans will Benefit
African-American Authors with eBook Available
The Frankfurt eBook awards
Xerox Electronic Paper
Bell Lab's - Electronic Ink

On-line eBook Resources

netLibrary -- The Next Generation Library
MesaView "The Publisher's ePublisher"
Adobe Systems Incorporated
Online eBook sellers

Recent News Stories

Final Note

All About eBooks

Q: How did you discover the last good book you read?

43% Word of mouth recommendation
24% Display in book store
1% Sales person in book store
14% Online, web site, email
14% Read a book review
5% Traditional Ad, TV, mail, magazine

Source: African American Literature Book Club -

The results of a on-line survey, conducted in October 1999 by the African American Literature Book Club (, showed 61% of those surveyed were not familiar with eBook readers (electronic book readers).

An article in January 2000 issue of Emerge magazine states: "�finding folks in the African-American publishing community who are aware of the technology [electronic books] is like being on a treasure hunt with an outdated map. Calls to Black editors, writers, agents and publishers lead mostly nowhere."

Despite their lack of popularity, eBooks have the potential to radically change, in a positive way, the way we; read, disseminate information, and even define our culture. The goal of this document is to explain what eBooks are, why they are important, how one may benefit from this evolution in technology.

What is an eBook?

The Gartner Group, a Stamford, CT. based information technology consultancy, lists electronic books as one of the top 10 emerging technologies for 1999.

Simply put, an eBook is a special computer file, which contains the text of a printed book. The file may be read on a personal computer (PC), a personal digital assistant (PDA), or an electronic device designed specifically for reading eBooks (eBook reader). eBook readers have many features that are simply not available with standard printed text.

  • It is economically feasible to publish low demand titles
  • No shipping and handling charges when purchased online
  • Books never go out of print
  • Authors have the ability to self publish and distribute their own books inexpensively
  • eBooks may be download quickly at home, or kiosk in store, via an Internet connection
  • eBooks cost less than traditional books
  • Look up words with dictionary software (included with most eBook readers)
  • Search for specific text - find that quote in seconds
  • Annotate or highlight text
  • Teachers may prepare customized e-Textbooks for their students
  • Read in the dark or low light conditions
  • Carry several books in one small package
  • Subscribe to magazines, newspapers, and other periodical content
  • Choose different fonts (text) sizes in which to read
  • Copyright protected through software (prevent unauthorized duplication of eBook content)
  • eBooks may be customized to suit an individual's specific interests and tastes
  • Save eBooks on the Internet or Personal Computer (create your own virtual library)
  • Enjoy content which includes audio and full motion video
  • Create links between multiple eBooks
  • Lawyers and doctors may carry volumes of material in a small package
  • The visually impaired may switch to audio mode and have en eBook read to them.
  • Reduce environmental waste (save trees, and reduce pollution from delivery trucks)
  • Reference material in eBook format may be easily updated
  • Libraries may "Loan" eBooks by setting a time period in which an eBook may be read
  • No expense for overstocking or missed sales from out of stock books

Before eBooks can create literary nirvana and truly benefit the general public, five things must continue to develop and improve; (1) Content creation and publication; (2) eBook software; (3) eBook reader hardware; (4) eBook standards formation; and (5) eBook education, distribution and promotion.

Content Creation and Publication

The Current State of Publishing

Content refers to the original creative work we are all interested in reading. Whether it is in printed or electronic format compelling content is what drives us to purchase reading material. Remarkably the fashion in which written material is packaged has not changed much in hundreds of years. In fact, it can be argued that the quality of both the physical characteristics and content of books has declined over the last generation. Mass market paperbacks have taken the place of leather bound editions, and commercial fiction gets prime real estate in book stores, while the literary fiction collects dust in the rear.

The printing, storage, distribution and marketing of a book makes publishing a very risky business. Understandably, publishers will publish what they believe will sell in large enough volumes to turn a profit. Simply publishing what one believes will be profitable is usually inconsistent with publishing a wide range of quality literature that appeals to a diverse readership. eBooks promise to reduce the financial risk of publishing.

eBooks have the potential to allow the market place to operate in a more rational fashion. In the purest form; an author writes a book which the reader then reads. In today's marketplace many other factors are inserted into the process before a book ever reaches the reader. In fact, more often than not, the book is killed before it can reach the reader's hands.

Even after the traditional book survives the arduous publication process, its life may be limited for a host of reasons. Some of those reasons include decisions that limit; how many copies should be printed; how will the book be distributed; and how long will store keep the book in stock. 


An Author Must Be More Than An Author

Today an author must also be a showman, with the ability, time and desire to tirelessly self promote. Authors need to do this in order to generate enough interest in their book to keep it on store shelves. Imagine requiring a professional basketball to learn brain surgery in order to play on the team. Occasionally we�ll find someone with both skills but it is much easier to find someone with one. Similarly, the skills required to write a great novel are unrelated to the skills required to promote that same novel. In today's environment a writer, especially a relative unknown, is at a serious disadvantage if they don�t have the energy, temperament, time and charisma to sell their book. 


eBooks Makes Publishing More Accessible

With eBooks the cost of book publishing is greatly reduced. One simply has to take the text of a book and convert it into a format useable by an eBook reader. The cost of storage and distribution is negligible. An eBook is simply data stored on a computer.

The only risk associated with authoring an eBook is the time invested in writing it. Today most authors write their books on computers. A eBook can be generated from the original document on the computer in a few minutes. The resulting file may be

"�more than half of all book titles will be sold electronically within the next 15 years."

Dick Brass, Vice President of Technology Development at Microsoft

uploaded to an eBook retailer for immediate availability on-line. The publication decision is left entirely up to the author.

The risk to the reader is less for two major reasons; (1) eBook versions of a book cost less than their paper based counterpart and (2) Typically readers are allowed to download, for free, a chapter or more of the book to read at their leisure. Unlike the trailer for a movie, this is an actual sample of the book, not just the highlights. The reader gets a chance to read the author's material and make a determination of whether or not it will satisfy their need. This is happening today; on-line book sellers provide excerpts (essentially eBook excerpts) for their on-line customers.

Of course one might argue that the current publishing process helps screen out bad books by preventing them from reaching the marketplace. The publishing industry is currently rife with stories of excellent books that can�t get published and poor ones that do. Publication of eBooks moves the publication decision from the publisher to the author. As a result, the reader is allowed to read, not what the publisher decides to publish, but what the author decides to write.  


Authors Decide What Gets Published

One might also argue that the public would prefer for the publishing industry to filter out the "bad" books and make the final determination of what gets published particularly in an eBook environment where virtually anyone can publish and the number of titles available has increased dramatically. Again, the individual reader, if given the opportunity and complete access to information, is much better at determining what will best satisfy their needs. A perfect example of this is the World Wide Web: Today there are perhaps 3,000,000 web sites. Obviously no one has time to visit them all. But good news travels fast online. We learn pretty quickly where to find the good web sites. 


Separating the Good from the Bad

Q: How did you discover the last good book you read?

43% Word of mouth recommendation
24% Display in book store
1% Sales person in book store
14% Online, web site, email
14% Read a book review
5% Traditional Ad, TV, mail, magazine

Source: African American Literature Book Club -

Again, since much of the risk of publication is reduced, with eBooks; we will have a greater number and variety of books from which to choose. It would be na've to think that they will all be worth reading. Today roughly 50,000 to 60,000 books are published a year. As eBooks become more popular, and eBook reader costs come down we can expect the number of eBooks published to escalate dramatically in a few short years. Dick Brass, Vice President of Technology Development at Microsoft says "�more than half of all book titles will be sold electronically within the next 15 years." How will readers determine which books to read when there will be an overwhelming number of books from which to choose?

A recent survey of over 900 individuals determined that the most common way one learns about books they enjoyed is through a word of mouth. As access to the Internet continues to proliferate the "word of mouth" recommendations will be communicated via the World Wide Web. Even today, 14% of those respondents indicated that they learned about their last good book through an on-line source. A few years ago this percentage would have been virtually zero.

"After 130 years or so of paper galleys, Publishers Weekly's Forecasts department has gone digital, reviewing an upcoming nonfiction title using a digital reader to review an electronic galley". Publishers Weekly's Forecasts department has gone digital, reviewing an upcoming nonfiction title using a digital reader to review an electronic galley".

Publishers Weekly (PW), an international news magazine for the book publishing and book selling industry, reviews about 6,000 books a year. By accepting galleys in eBook format, PW will allow authors to submit books, for review, more quickly and in a more efficient manner. PW will also eliminate the need for reviewers to carry around several, often bulky, galleys.

Today there are, an increasing number of web sites, news groups, discussion boards, and email newsletters dedicated solely to the promotion of African-American books. More importantly, one will find web sites that provide information on very specific and narrow genres. These web sites will address audiences and topics that are considered to small or narrow to be addressed by traditional means today. Soon readers will be able to learn about good new books more easily than they do today.

Established book reviewers are already reaping the benefits of eBooks. eBooks will allow reviewers to review more books than they would be able to with traditional paper books.


eBook Reader Hardware

While it is possible to read eBooks from most vendors on your PC or laptop. Purchasing a dedicated eBook reader may be more convenient. The next few vendors sell specialized eBook reader devices and or software. There is quite a bit to choose from in terms of price and functionality which tends to make the selection process.

One important aspect of eBook readers currently available is that, an eBook purchased for use with one vendor's eBook reader may not always be read on a different vendor's eBook reader. For example, an eBook title formatted for NuvoMedia's Rocket eBook can not be read on SoftBook Press SoftBook and vice versa. When purchasing an eBook reader one is committing themselves to that vendor's list of available titles and eBook reader's features. 

The following is a list of some eBook software and hardware vendors.


Glassbook Reader Software

Glassbook Inc.
Waltham, Massachusetts


Pricing information not available

The Glassbook Reader uses Adobe PDF as the preferred content format. Which recreates the exact look of the printed book. The Glassbook EBX reader software will run on any device capable of reading PDF files, like your desktop or laptop PC, Windows CE devices and other hand-held information appliances.

The Glassbook Reader software supports EBX. EBX helps guarantee copyright protection for authors and publishers, while maintaining a consumer's right to give or lend and eBook to another consumer or library. When EBX is implemented, a consumer will only ever have one working copy of an eBook. For example, an eBook produced with Glassbook software may be download it to a friend's computer so he can read it. Simply define a duration for the "loan"; during that time, the original buyer can't use the book.

Glassbook is also developing its own eBook reader called the R2. The R2 will feature a full-color 6"x9" screen and should be on the market in the near future.

Advantages: Format of content design maintained, color display
Disadvantages: Product currently unavailable

Additional Glassbook products include

Library Server

The Glassbook Library Server gives public, academic, and corporate libraries the ability to purchase eBooks and lend them to patrons, while still maintaining the copyright of the book.

Glassbook Bookstore Kiosk

The Glassbook Bookstore Kiosk gives bricks and mortar stores the ability to sell eBooks. Appropriate locations include coffee shops such as Starbucks, bookstores, airport shops and hotel gift shops. It provides eBook browsing and buying from a PC-based kiosk.

Glassbook Commerce Server

Glassbook Commerce Server provides secure Web server-based eBook preparation, storage, distribution, and fulfillment to publishers, distributors, and booksellers. The server is based on EBX providing secure copyright and distribution over the Internet.

The Glassbook Reader

The Glassbook Reader is available now. Click here to download a free copy.

Click here to buy a Rocket eBook reader
Rocket eBook

Mt. View, CA
Tel: (650) 314-1200

Recently acquired by Gemstar International Group Limited (click for more info)

Rocket eBook Rocket eBook (Actual size is 5" x 7�" x 1�, 22oz) Cost $199, with a full refund after 60 days if dissatisfied. Rechargeable battery life 20 to 40 hours.

Rocket eBook gives you the ability to hold up to 41,000 pages of text and graphics in the palm of your hand-that's about 200 books. Weighing in at only 22oz., it also gives you access to over 2,000 free titles plus thousands of bestsellers, lets you make notes in the margins, find specific passages instantly, set bookmarks, underline text and even change font size and orientation. It also comes equipped with a backlight that lets you adjust the intensity, so you can read anywhere.

Scores of publishers including Prentice Hall Press, Random House, Inc. and St. Martin's Press as well as news providers like Bloomberg currently supply content for the Rocket eBook.

Advantages: Market leader eBook
Disadvantages: Low quality graphics, monochrome display

Rocket eBooks available at following web sites:


Other Products

The Rocket eBook System:

A proprietary network infrastructure that allows Rocket eBook end users to purchase and download electronic content from participating Web based retailers.

The community allows anyone to upload content and make it available online visit for more information.


SoftBook Press

900 Island Drive
Redwood City, California 94065-5150
(650) 620-4100 telephone
(650) 632-1801 fax

Recently acquired by Gemstar International Group Limited (click for more info)

6"w x 8"h (9.5"diagonal), 2.9 lbs. grayscale, backlit, touch-sensitive LCD Rechargeable battery life 5 hours

There are two purchase options: A one time payment of $599.95, or a one time payment of $299.95 plus the purchase of a $19.95 per month content package for 24 months.

This leather bound reader does not require a PC.

To purchasing content from the SoftBookstore, simply connect your SoftBook Reader to a phone line to shop their Internet-based SoftBookstore. Once there one may subscribe to many national news and business publications, technology magazines, and professional journals. or buy the latest bestsellers, business books, fiction, and literary classics. Everything purchased is stored on a personal "bookshelf" which may be downloaded at at anytime.

Content is currently being provided for the SoftBook Reader by many prominent news and publishing organizations like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time, and Fortune. Publishers who also provide content, including their best-sellers include; McGraw-Hill, Simon & Schuster, MacMillan Publishing, Warner Books, St. Martin's Press, and Harper Collins.

At no additional charge SoftBook is providing 100 literary classics including 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne; Little Women, Louisa May Alcott; The Time Machine, H.G. Wells; White Fang, Jack London; Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane.

Advantages: Large display, PC not required

Disadvantages: Short battery life, Software must be purchased to generate content for this reader.

Books available from

Other Products

SoftBook Auto Publisher

An application that automates the conversion of magazines, books and other documents from Open eBook HTML into SoftBook Editions for electronic distribution. The primary benefit is dramatically reduced cost of preparing electronic content for commercial publishers and business applications. SoftBook Auto Publisher is a server-based application that allows immediate conversion of documents (text and graphics) from the industry-standard Open eBook HTML format into a compressed and encrypted SoftBook Edition for fast, secure distribution over the Internet without manual intervention.

EB Dedicated Reader

Everybook Inc.
Middletown, PA
(717) 939-3995


Professional Professional (12" x 9" x 1.9") Cost $1,600 available commercially 2Q 2000

Everybook uses existing print files from publishers, and displays them exactly as they would appear in print. Since the majority of publications created in the last 15 to 20 years were composed electronically, Everybook does not violate existing licensing agreements by changing the files to be sold and displayed.

Each EB comes preloaded with a dictionary, a thesaurus and a Bible. Information-intensive professionals may also have their legal or medical collections preloaded on the removable storage cards.

The EB's on-screen toolbar allows for highlighting, annotating and bookmarking, as well as navigation. You can also off-load designated pages to any printer or PC, with a standard USB-port. Publishers will determine which pages print and which do not, according to their copyright and licensing arrangements.

You attach your EB to any touch tone phone line anywhere in the world to connect to the Everybook Store. A three-dimensional virtual reality bookstore, personalized to your choices, appears across the two full-color, high resolution screens. You use the full-page touch screens to wander through the bookcases, pull books off of shelves, and look at covers, tables of contents, and excerpts. You then touch the icon for purchase information and put the publication in your shopping cart.

Once your debit, credit, or e-cash account has paid for the books, you can choose to download them now, or let the EB dial out in the middle of the night for a remote download to your EB.

Features include:
2 pages side-by-side
Full 8" x 11" pages
No scrolling (PDF formatted documents)

A lower cost Personal version will be available Q4 2000 9" x 6" x 1.9" Cost TBD

Advantages: 2 books may be open simultaneously

Disadvantages: Price

PalmOS and Windows CE Devices compatible with many vendor's products is the first electronic book publisher to offer contemporary fiction and non-fiction books, newspapers, and magazines for reading on handheld computers including the Palm Pilot, Handspring Visor, and Windows CE machines. Peanutpress reader software has been downloaded over 1 million times

Bellevue, WA 98004
(425) 454 7557

Originally Librius intended to sell their own eBook reader, the Millennium eBook, but have decided to stay of the fray and have focused attention on developing their own proprietary (non-standard) eBook software designed for the Palm-OS and Windows CE operating systems.

Books available from


Portland, OR
(503) 736-3240

AportisDoc provides the solution for storing documents of unlimited size on your PalmPilot. It lets you read, search through, and annotate documents in an efficient, compressed form, enabling you to carry larger and more documents.


San Mateo, CA 94402
(650) 638-3399

AvantGo currently supports hundreds of thousands of individuals accessing news, sports and weather information from the Internet as well as creating their own Channels using the interactive service.

There are many options for reading eBooks; from existing devices like PDA's and PC's to the newer dedicated eBook reading devices. As more vendors develop products and competition heats up, as in the PC industry, we�ll see prices continue to drop while functionality improves.

Advantages: Uses existing PDA technology (5 million Palm PDA's sold)
Disadvantages: Small screen, poor platform for graphic laden material


eBook Reader Software

Many Choices

Just as there are many options for eBook reader hardware, there are more choices for eBook reader software. From a reader's perspective, once the eBook reader hardware has been made, the software decision is made as well. However, from an author or publisher's perspective the decisions are far from over.

Each eBook reader requires that the text of the book be in a specific, usually proprietary format. That means if an author wants his book to be read on the PalmPilot, SoftBook or Rocket eBook readers, he needs to have it formatted in three completely different ways.

To complicate matters further, the eBook format chosen will also determine, at least today, determine who and how your book will be sold. For example, sells eBooks, but only rocket eBooks. PalmPilot owners must go to or another similar site which sells eBooks formatted for the PalmPilot keep in mind each vendor's eBooks will be formatted differently and will require adding additional eBook reader software. It is very much like the early days of word processing software for personal computers: An Apple PC created document could not be read on an IBM PC. It is likely consumer demand, as in the PC industry, will drive more interoperability between vendor's products.  

Converting a Document into eBook Format

Fortunately, creating eBook documents for the major vendor's platforms, for most books, is relatively easy. This document is available in three eBook formats. Visit to download this document in one of the following eBook formats:

1 EB Dedicated Reader or Personal Computer

Using Adobe Acrobat 4.0 software to convert to a Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) formatted document. PDF is the open de facto standard for electronic document distribution worldwide. PDF is a universal file format that preserves all of the fonts, formatting, colors, and graphics of any source document, regardless of the application and platform used to create it.

2 Rocket eBook

Using the RocketWriter which allows Rocket eBook owners to easily create their own titles in RocketEdition format. Simply save documents as HTML files and "drag" them into the RocketLibrarian�, the software used to download and manage RocketEditions.

3 PalmPilot PDA

Using the Peanut MakeBook Java program, which reads a text file which has been formatted using either the Peanut Markup Language or a subset of HTML, and writes a Palm OS .pdb file which can then be hotsynced to your Palm device for reading with the Peanut Reader.  

The original source file for this document is Microsoft Word 97. It is 22 pages long, over 7,000 words, about 500KB in size, includes about 19 photographs, graphics screen prints or graphics and includes several shaded text boxes.

1 EB Dedicated Reader

Using Adobe Acrobat 4.0 software to convert to this document into an eBook which could be read on the EB Dedicated Reader is as easy as printing a file (see below)

Figure 1
Figure 1


The original word document was simply printed to the Acrobat PDFWriter driver. The resulting PDF file (eBook) could be read on the EB Dedicated Reader or a Personal Computer. The primary advantage of the PDF eBook format is that the resulting eBook document will look just like the original, in this case, Microsoft Word document. The page numbering, colors, position of text and graphics is maintained. The original work is recreated at a high level of fidelity while reducing overall file size.

Adobe's reader software for the PC is free and available via download from Adobe's web site ( Adobe's PDF file format is so ubiquitous, it is the "open de facto standard for electronic document distribution worldwide". The vast majority of people who have read eBooks today have read them on their PC's (see Figure 1). The biggest disadvantage with this eBook format is that it will never really be practical for use with PDA or other very small screen reading device. With PDF files the page is recorded, almost like a snapshot. The resulting eBook page is best read on a device with a relatively large screen, like the larger display eBook readers or an PC.  

A PDF version of this document my be viewed here About eBooks.pdf  The PDF eBook file format is, by far, the easiest process for generating the best results.


2 Rocket eBook

Conversion to the Rocket eBook format requires taking the original document and converting it into an HTML document. Any HMTL editor will do the trick, in fact MS Word comes with an HTML export utility. The most immediate problem with the HTML conversion process is that the resulting file will not look like the original source document. Yes it will be legible, but it will lose a lot of formatting. For simply formatted text the process is simple.  For more complex documents, creating a file with the exact format in HTML may be impossible.  The new HTML source will need to be reviewed carefully to ensure it is acceptable.

Once the HTML source document has been created you may use RocketWriter�and "drag" them into the RocketLibrarian�, the software used to download and manage RocketEditions. The resulting file may be uploaded into the Rocket eBook. Also using the RocketWriter which allows Rocket eBook owners to easily create their own titles in RocketEdition format.

Figure 2 (below) illustrates how font color, background shading, and image quality is modified during the conversion from HTML to Rocket eBook format.

(Original HTML source file is located

Figure 2

Another characteristic of the Rocket eBook format is that the text may be displayed in landscape or portrait, different font sizes may be used as well. The position of the text and pages numbers change to accommodate the different screen sizes.

One may also share their documents on the web site. Importing a web page is as simple as copying and pasting a selected URL into the RocketLibrarian.

Click to download a Rocket eBook version of THIS documentThis document may also be found on; just click here

The least costly way for a publisher to convert the titles into Rocket eBook HTML is to create HTML documents themselves. If a publisher is not familiar with HTML, there are a number of very instructive books on how to construct HTML documents. Since all pages displayed on the World-Wide-Web use HTML, the skills necessary used to "mark-up a document" (a colloquialism for creating a document in HTML), are fairly widely known.  


3 PalmPilot

The program used to convert this document into PalmOS format may be obtained from this site

PDA graphicMakeDocW it is a very simple windows based program which take an plain text file as it's source and converts it into a document which may be read using the AportisDoc software on a PalmOS PDA.

This document (originally a MS Word97 doc file) was converted to plain text prior to conversion to the PalmOS doc format.  The adjacent graphic illustrates the, single step, conversion process to the PalmOS doc format.

The conversion to plain text eliminated all of the graphics from the source document.  For a novel this may not be a big deal, for virtually all of the information is contained in text.  However for a document such as this, which includes tables, graphs, photos, shaded text boxes and screen prints loosing the visual content significantly reduces the effect of this document.   Encyclopedias, magazines, children's books and other visually rich documents are poor candidates for this type of eBook format.  Unless the source document was created specifically for reading on a PDA, this platform will have limited utility in the eBook market, for all except the most avid readers


eBook File Comparisons

The resulting eBook files characteristics are shown below

Type of Document Size of files
Number of files Ease of Conversion
to eBook Format
Accuracy of
Original Word 97 Doc 852 1 n/a n/a
Adobe PDF File 370 1 extremely easy Excellent
(Note: PDF file viewed on PC only was not viewed on actual eBook reader)
HMTL Web Document 852 23 HTML output required many modifications Good
(Graphics were poorly represented)
PalmOS Doc File 24 1 Easy Poor
(graphics not used with this format other format provide support for graphics)

In general, taking an existing document and converting it, with a high level of fidelity, to any of the popular eBook format is not trivial.  Formatting problems were prevalent with all the conversion software used with the exception of the Adobe's software.  The task is even tougher for documents which are not in electronic format.  Optical Character Recognition OCR) promised to make conversion from plain paper into an electronic format suitable for conversion into an eBook reader file much easier.  However, OCR errors often makes it more efficient to transcribe the written or printed work by hand.

The easiest documents to convert to eBook format are the ones which were designed with a specific eBook reader/software in mind.  For example if we were to write a book, we knew was destined to be read on a Rocket eBook; we would not use large, color graphics to convey information -- simply because the Rocket eBook has a monochrome display and can not display color graphics. 

There is still a lot of work which needs to be done to facilitate the conversion and creation of eBooks.  The current state of multiple, incompatible platforms and software may stifle eBook adoption and growth in the short term.


eBook Standards

"By adhering to Open eBook standards, publishers can format the content once and it will be readable on all major eBook devices or with all major eBook software."

Standards, in this context, are the rules which define how eBook files are formatted. In much the same way the English language defines the rules which allow us to exchange ideas with each other verbally, an eBook standard makes it possible for eBook files to be read by any manufacturer's eBook reader.  

Open eBook Specification

"One element of the Open eBook initiative is a specification for eBook file and format structure based on HTML and XML, the languages used to format information for Web sites. The goal of the specification is to quickly create a critical mass of compelling content. A publisher will be able to format a title once according to the specification and the content will be compatible with a wide variety of reading devices.

The purpose of the Open eBook Publication Structure is to provide a specification for representing the content of electronic books. Specifically:

The specification is intended to give content providers (e.g., publishers, and others who have content to be displayed) and tool providers minimal and common guidelines which ensure fidelity, accuracy, accessibility, and presentation of electronic content over various electronic book platforms.

The specification seeks to reflect established content format standards.

The goal of this specification is to provide the purveyors of electronic-book content (publishers, agents, authors et al.) a format for use in providing content to multiple reading systems.

This specification is based on the premise that in order for electronic-book technology to achieve widespread success in the marketplace, reading systems must have convenient access to a large number and variety of titles.

By adhering to Open eBook standards, publishers can format the content once and it will be readable on all major eBook readers.

Standards also help protect the consumer's investment in technology. For example, the Open eBook compliant products will not become obsolete over night. Future enhancements to the Open eBook standard define provisions for backward compatibility. If next model of the Maytag refrigerator, for example, adheres to the Open eBooks standard, you may be able to display Sylvia's or B. Smith's recipes without having to worry which vendor generated the eBook recipe.

Standards also have the negative effect of slowing progress for vendors who wish to introduce enhancements. For example lets look at Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) web browser. IE browsers supports enhanced functionality, which are not part of the current HTML standard. The good part is, web pages taking advantage of the Microsoft specific enhancements can do some really cool stuff. The bad part is that if you view the page using a browser other the IE the page may not display properly even though that browser may adhere to the current HTML standard.

The Open eBooks standard is based upon extensions to HTML 4.0, the very same format used on web pages.. This specification defines a format which allows anyone to create content that will work on all devices that adhere to that format. As discussed earlier the software required to create eBook content is freely available via the internet at no cost.

Today, eBook files come in many proprietary formats. For the purpose of our discussion I�ll focus upon the format promulgated by the Open eBook Authoring Group -- the open eBook 1.0 specification. The open eBook standard was finalized in November 1999. Future version of this standard may provide provisions for multimedia and copyright protection.

Again, vendors wishing to provide additional functionality in their eBook readers, which is not specified in the current Open eBook standard will trade this off for interoperability with other vendor's readers. This will continue, standards notwithstanding, as vendors vie for competitive advantage, in order to garner market share for their eBook readers and software.


Open eBook Authoring Group

There are over 50 companies who are part of the Open eBook initiative. eBook supporting publishers include:


Warner Books

Houghton Mifflin

Franklin Electronic Publishers


Penguin Putnam Inc.

HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

Microsoft Press

Simon & Schuster

Macmillan Publishing

Golden Books



The EBX Electronic Book Exchange

The EBX Standard is the open industry copyright and distribution standard Glassbook is championing. This standard is designed to work with both Adobe's PDF format eBooks and the Open eBook format eBooks. EBX guarantees copyright protection for authors and publishers, while maintaining a consumer's right to give or lend and eBook to another consumer or library. When EBX is implemented, a consumer will only ever have one working copy of an eBook.

Adobe's PDF (Portable Document Files)

Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) is the open de facto standard for electronic document distribution worldwide. PDF is a universal file format that preserves all of the fonts, formatting, colors, and graphics of any source document, regardless of the application and platform used to create it. PDF files are compact and can be shared, viewed, navigated, and printed exactly as intended by anyone with a free Adobe Acrobat Reader. You can convert any document to PDF, even scanned paper, using Adobe Acrobat 4.0 software. publishes content in PDF format.  Read more about PDF file format.

Microsoft ClearType�

Microsoft ClearType font technology improves upon the traditional PC "on/off" pixel rendering by addressing the area beyond the traditional pixel boundary. With ClearType, letters on the computer screen appear smooth, not jagged.   Microsoft's technique includes adjusting the brightness of the red, green, and blue elements within each color pixel. This "subpixel rendering" process smooths the edges of letters that might appear jagged using today's standard anti-aliasing techniques.   These improvements in readability should help accelerate the adoption of electronic books (eBooks) and the overall migration from paper to electronic forms.

ClearType font technology will work with existing systems. Readability will be dramatically improved on color LCD monitors with a digital interface, such as those found in laptops and high-quality flat-panel desktop displays.

Standards Continue to Evolve and Emerge

Each eBook vendor's eBook may be read only on that vendor's eBook. Some standard. The standard is currently implemented by most vendors such that the raw data they require from the publisher/author is, essentially, in standard HTML. The eBook vendor the takes that "standard" raw book file and converts it into a format which is proprietary to that specific vendor's eBook reader.

Publishers may also need to re-license the publications and many of their illustrations because of the major changes made to the original publication during the conversion to eBook format. 


eBook Trends

"Booksellers and their distribution network account for 40% to 60% of the consumer price of any publication. Publishers are forced to pay for all aspects of publication and absorb all of the risk of failure, before the possibility of payment, which is further delayed after the sale of the publication by their distribution agreements."

"By removing the costs of printing, warehousing and the physical distribution of paper books (since returns reach 40%), publishers will realize a dramatic improvement in profit per sale by using eBook. Furthermore, they will substantially reduce the risk involved in releasing new titles. eBook provides publishers a turnkey e-business solution that allows them to focus on traditional sales channels. Librius has secured contracts from 29 publishers for digital content and has identified potential anchor tenants as distribution partners." 

The current book production process is designed to produce a printed page. The output of this process has, for a number of years, been a digital file used either to produce film or more recently as input for a direct to plate system printing system. These files containing the title have been stored for future use.

Until now, these files have only become an asset by taking them back on press. This expensive and time-consuming proposition often prevented a publisher from realizing any additional revenue from an editorial and marketing investment in a title.

African-Americans will Benefit

The publishing industry is underrepresented by African-Americans. Even for those involved, publishing, outside of the independent publishers, is generally viewed as elitist with limited accessibility. There is also a dearth of titles written by African-Americans, that don�t adhere to the popular, usually stereotypical, trends of the day. With the exception of a few stalwarts very few new African-American authors (men in particular) reach any level of sustained prominence. eBooks, because of their ease of publication, promises to help change this trend.

African-American Authors with eBook Available

A number of African-American authors have taken already advantage of the potential of eBooks, and currently have eBooks or other eMatter available on-line. 

Mosaic MagazineMosaic Literary Magazine Mosaic Literary Magazine (past issues available for free download)
African American Literature Book Club
Format: PDF
The opposite sexShonell Bacon and J. Daniels
Luvalwayz: The Opposite Sex & Relationships

Format: PDF, Pages: 356 Format: PDF, Pages: 356

Linda Dominique Grosvenor
Sometimes I Cry

Delores Thornton
author of Ida Mae

Kia D. Sidbury
author of Elect Expressions

T.C. Matthews, author of Reflections
Maxine E. Thompson
author of A Place Called Home

Black Butterfly Press - e-book title
Anita Bunkley
author of TAMA



The Frankfurt eBook awards

The Frankfurt eBook awards will comprise seven awards totaling $160,000, including a $100,000 (U.S.) grand prize for a work published originally in eBook form. The additional awards will be given in such categories as works converted from paper to electronic form, audio books, and technology advancement in the field of eBooks. A panel of judges made up of authors, educators and publishing industry professionals will constitute the awards committee. Chaired by Alberto Vitale, chairman emeritus and former chairman, president and CEO of Random House, the committee plans to begin evaluation of award submissions after January 2000 and announce the winners at next year's Frankfurt Book Fair.

Xerox Electronic Paper

Bichromal beads are
at the heart of
electronic paper idea.

Electronic paper is a reusable display material that has many of the properties of paper: it stores an image, it is viewed in reflective light, it has a wide viewing angle, it is flexible, and it is relatively inexpensive. Unlike conventional paper, however, it is electrically writeable and erasable. This material has many potential applications in the field of information display including digital books [eBooks], low power portable displays, wall size displays, and fold-up displays.

Xerox has not announced a timetable for the distribution of products which utilize electronic paper. The potential for eBook applications are enormous. eBooks will be presented on paper and not behind glass as it is with current eBook reader hardware.

Bell Lab's - Electronic InkBell Lab's - Electronic Ink

The technology has been identified and development is well under way. By the year 2003, we envision electronic books that can display volumes of information as easily as flipping a page, and permanent newspapers that update themselves daily via wireless broadcast. Just as today's books give people easy access to everyday information, tomorrow's books will provide the same easy access to the dynamic data of the information age.

The key elements of electronic paper would be plastic transistors, developed at Lucent's Bell Labs, which have the same properties as conventional silicon chips but are flexible and can be printed, and E Ink's electronic ink. Electronic ink is comprised of millions of tiny microcapsules filled with a dark dye and light pigment. When charged by the electric field created by the plastic transistors, the microcapsules will change color and create images.

To form an Immedia electronic display, the ink is printed onto a sheet of plastic film that is laminated to a layer of circuitry. The circuitry forms a pattern of pixels that can then be controlled by a standard display driver

The main advantages of electronic ink are high visual impact, extreme thinness, lightweight construction, curvability, minimal power draw, and wide viewing angle. The first product line, called Immedia, is targeted at large-area displays for variable messaging. Each Immedia display is controlled remotely, allowing customers to send messages worldwide from a single desktop.

Future generations of electronic ink displays are being designed for applications as broad-ranging as handheld devices, outdoor billboards, and electronic books and newspapers. Ultimately we will permit most any surface to become a display, bringing information out from behind computer screens and into the world around us.


On-line eBook Resources


eBookNet, your source for electronic books and electronic publishing: hardware, software and content. eBookNet covers eBooks, digital tablets, electronic readers, electronic publishing, news, hardware reviews, and forums.

netLibrary -- The Next Generation Library

netLibrary offers the world's largest library of eBooks. You may read eBooks online, search through them instantly and even "borrow" them.

MesaView "The Publisher's ePublisher"

MesaView�s services allow customers to distribute their content to customers in multiple eBook Formats

Fatbrain's eMatter lets individuals and companies publish and securely sell their work in digital format and receive a royalty on every copy sold.   eMatter starts with authors uploading their original content in Microsoft Word, Adobe PDF, Postscript or ASCII text formats. secures those files in an encrypted Adobe PDF format. People can buy eMatter alone or with books, training materials and documents. Once purchased, eMatter is downloaded and secured to an individual's computer. People can read or print eMatter at any time with no strings attached.

mightywords ( new digital content marketplace)
Once you register to publish and purchase eMatter, uploading your individual documents takes about five minutes a piece. All you do is enter information about your document, set your price, and upload your file. You maintain full editorial control and own the copyright.  mightywords takes a 50% commission (you set the price) and charges a $1.00 per month "storage fee". 


A tremendous eBook resource chock full of content. A virtual eBook community.

Adobe Systems Incorporated

Adobe ePaper Solutions, you may take text files, paper documents, or Web sites, and can convert them to Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files with the original appearance preserved. Do collaborative markups, create searchable libraries, or electronically publish any type of document - ePaper Solutions will help you communicate more easily and effectively. PDF files are also a popular format for eBook readers.

Online eBook sellers

IUniverse - - -
EBook Shoppe - -



Recent News Stories

wpeA9.jpg (5537 bytes)
Screen Shot of
Microsoft Reader

Pocket PC OS (Rapier)
By Richard Kettner, Staff Writer,, March 23, 2000
Pocket PC OS (Rapier)
By Richard Kettner, Staff Writer,, March 23, 2000

"Overall, with the new Rapier version I think Microsoft has made a huge improvement to their Palm-size PC Operating System.  They have simplified many of the features, and sped up the software significantly.   Unfortunately until we can take a look at the hardware, we don't really know exactly how each manufacturer's units will compare to their competition in size, speed, or memory.  I think that as long as Microsoft's partners (Compaq, Casio, Symbol, and Hewlet Packard) have a similar level of improvement to that of the Operating System, the Pocket PCs will be regarded as the PDA to own."

Microsoft Reader, which will come pre-installed on color versions of the PocketPC.  The program will also incorporate ClearType.

"Are you a bookworm? Download an entire book and read (or listen to) it at your leisure in brilliant clarity. With Pocket PC's high-resolution display screen, Microsoft's revolutionary ClearType(&mark;) technology closely mimics the printed page..." ~ Microsoft

Click to order Riding the Bullet on-line
Riding the Bullet
(Click to order on-line)

Stephen King and Simon & Schuster to Publish New Story Exclusively on eBook -  March 8, 2000

"Simon & Schuster announced today that a new story by best-selling author Stephen King will appear exclusively as an eBook on March 14th (12:01 AM EST). Riding the Bullet, a story described by King as "a ghost story in the grand manner," will go directly to readers electronically, who will pay $2.50 for the 16,000-word story. The story will be a co-publication between Scribner and Philtrum Press, King's own press, and electronically published through Simon & Schuster Online. The announcement was made by Jack Romanos, President & Chief Operating Officer of Simon & Schuster, Inc., and Susan Moldow, Vice President and Publisher of Scribner."

SoftBook Press and Siemens Austria Develop Joint Electronic Book Pilot Project for Education Market
Austrian Pilot Program to Showcase Electronic Books in Education - February 29, 2000

"...The companies have signed an agreement to jointly convert textbooks into e-textbooks, set up electronic libraries, and use SoftBook Readers for delivering educational materials to students. The test will take place in Austria and other locations yet to be determined. Siemens AG Austria is spearheading the effort and providing program management services.

The purpose of the pilot program is to test a general business case for using SoftBook Press' electronic publishing system and electronic books for educational purposes. Unlike the United States where curriculums are set by local communities, curriculums in many other countries are set nationwide, creating an enormous opportunity to use electronic books for education. The system offers the potential of replacing cumbersome, expensive, and heavy textbooks with the SoftBook Reader, a book-sized electronic device optimized for reading that can hold over 100,000 pages. With a built-in phone or network connectivity, students can download books, lesson plans, assignments, and supplemental texts from the Internet without the need for a PC."

Gemstar Enters Electronic Book Business Through Acquisition Of NuvoMedia, Inc. and SoftBook Press, Inc. - January 18, 2000

PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - (January 18, 2000) - Gemstar International Group Limited (NASDAQ:GMST) today announced its plan to enter the electronic book business through the acquisition of the two leading eBook companies, NuvoMedia, Inc. of Mountain View, California, maker of the Rocket eBook (, and SoftBook Press, Inc. ( of Menlo Park, California, maker of the SoftBook Reader.

Open Electronic Book Forum Formed To Develop Standards For eBooks - January 13, 2000
Open Electronic Book Forum Formed To Develop Standards For eBooks - January 13, 2000

Washington D.C. January 13, 2000 - Representatives from over 30 companies and non-profit organizations met recently with members of the Open Electronic Book (OEB) Standards Initiative Authoring Group to facilitate the next step forward in promoting the growth of the electronic book industry. This meeting, held in mid-December in San Francisco, resulted in the formation of the Open Electronic Book Forum (OEBF).

Microsoft, team for e-bookstore - January 6, 2000

In today's deal, Barnes & Noble will market the new eBook store through various promotional services in all of its retail bookstores, the companies said. The new eBook store will be created on the Web site by the middle of this year. Executives said that, at launch time, thousands of titles will be available electronically to run on Microsoft Reader.

It's Time to Turn the Last Page - Books: Forget paper. Here come e-books�digital bits injected into a handheld device with an ultrasharp display - January 1, 2000

What are the odds of that happening? Let's see. In the last 50 years, we've made computers thousands of times more powerful, while shrinking them from the size of a basketball court to something you can cradle in your palm. All while dropping the price tag from millions of bucks to a few hundred. Does it really seem plausible that sometime next century we can't make a device that approximates the size and heft of a book or magazine, with a screen that's every bit as easy on the eyes as the Modern Library edition of "Sense and Sensibility"? Unless the world's computer scientists suddenly get struck stupid, we're going to get those devices, and they'll probably cost so little that we'll pay nothing for them�they'll be given away by content moguls so that we can buy more 21st-century news, pictures and literature. "The cards have been dealt," says Microsoft e-book czar Dick Brass. "The only difference is how fast people will play the hand."

Barnes & Noble set to print books on demand - December 9, 1999 Barnes & Noble set to print books on demand - December 9, 1999

IBM will provide the technology and manufacturing components for the operation, which will eventually be available at all Barnes & Noble distribution centers, starting at the Jamesburg, N.J., facility before spring.  New York-based Barnes & Noble and will use the technology to print books to order, as the company looks to cut costs and better manage inventory. The book retailer expects the service to be a boon for specialty titles that are out of print because of small press runs.


Final Note

Electronic devices dedicated to solely reading books do not maximize the use of technology. PDA's like 3Com's Palm Pilot are popular because they are miniature computers capable of a vide variety of things including; managing contracts, playing chess, storing photos of the family, or allowing you to read a great eBook all in a package that is 4.5" X 3" and less than an inch thick.

There are already electronic devices that serve as PDA's and cell phones. There are cell phones that can access the Internet. Why carry a cell phone, pager, PDA, laptop computer, and an eBook, when it is technically possible to carry everything in the same device?

We are witnessing the beginning of a point where the function of a device is hardware independent. Meaning as long as a device has certain physical characteristics, you may program it to do anything. A PalmPilot which has an infrared transmitter may be programmed as a television remote control or a "Gameboy" type device for playing games. A cell phone can be programmed to keep track of contact information, A computer may be programmed to be a entertainment center complete with television, graphic equalizer, and database of CD titles. Electronic Devices dedicated to a single function are becoming a thing of the past.

Even devices as common as household appliances will do things unimaginable today. Image the refrigerator of the very near future being connected to the Internet. The door may be a touch screen which allows you to look-up a recipe for Hopping John, check the kitchen for the required ingredients, and then place an order for the ingredients you are don�t have. Of course the "system" looks for the grocer with the least expense products and withdraws the appropriate funds form your bank account. Before any of this can happen, these devices need to know how to work together.

In 1993 more books were sold in the United States than in any year before, $18 billion worth. It is not likely eBooks will dethrone books, as the primary reading platform, in the next few years. However, in our life time eBooks will be come so popular, that they will be referred to, simply, as books.



Revision history
Document creation  1.02, 5 January 2000
3rd minor revisions 1.03, 7 March 2000
4th minor updates 1.04, 13 March 2000 
5th 1.05, 09 April 2000 


Copyright 2000 African American Literature Book Club

Last Updated: Sunday, April 9, 2000

Our website is made possible by displaying online advertisements to our visitors.
Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker.