eBooks? Benefits and pitfalls
In one sense,
a website is an eBook, and the Web is one huge library of interlocking
eBooks. Basically, an eBook is a way of presenting a collection of information
electronically, with the added power of linking documents and collections
of documents through hypertext links.
power of the Web is that documents can be viewed across a whole range
of computer platforms, from mainframes to mobile phones. The disadvantage
of the Web is that to view the documents you have to be "online".
To many people, this means connecting and paying over a telephone line.
- Once downloaded
(from the Web, a CD ROM or a floppy disk), eBooks can be viewed whilst
offline (although some external links will only work when you are
websites, they can be easily distributed to other users
standalone documents, such as a Word or Excel file, eBooks can contain
a variety of documents and files, all conveniently packaged in
a single file.
paper-based books, eBooks can be easily updated. A eBook can
even have a link to a website which contains the latest downloadable
version of the book.
- The production
cost of eBooks is minimal, a big benefit of you are distributing
them in any quantity, either free or for a price.
- If you
need security, eBooks can be compiled so as to disable printing,
can be password protected and can prevent individual files from being
copied (although no-one has found a way of preventing anything from
websites, many eBooks require the reader to have a particular combination
of software and hardware. Many eBook compiler programs produce books
which can only be viewed on a PC / Windows platform, thus eliminating
Apple Mac users. Some require a particular version of MS Internet Explorer
to be installed (typically version 4 and upwards). This is not a major
disadvantage, since most people can comply with these requirements.
- One exception
is the Adobe Acrobat (.PDF) format. You do need special software
- Adobe Acrobat Reader - which is available free of charge for both
PC and Mac platforms. But is it a big (7 Mb) download, and there are
production disadvantages (see the Software
page for more details).
an eBook involves one more job in addition to producing, say, a collection
of Word documents or web pages. But eBook software is usually quick
and easy to use. More of this in the Preparing
and Compiling pages.
As with all
technologies, it is important that eBooks are used appropriately, and
that their limitations are understood. But even more important with a
technology is to understand their power and what they are capable
of doing. Ebooks are still in a relatively primitive form. But watch this