For the time being, electronic books or simply ebooks are going mainstream in a massive way. In spite of the fact that the history of ebooks is relatively short, they have already proved to be rather efficient and advantageous in practical usage. As a result, the existence and usage of the conventional books has been called into question nowadays.
Fundamentally, ebook is referred as the electronic version of text that may be read by means of electronic devices. Due to the fact that the development of modern electronic technologies was the most remarkable in the 2000’s, history of ebooks is also relatively new. Interestingly, the Declaration of Independence was the first electronic book, which appeared in 1971 when the first digital library called Project Gutenberg was launched by Michael Hart. It contained books from public domain, which were available for free download to users from all over the world. E-text was considered to be a completely new medium in the field of communications technologies.
Since the 1990’s, development of the global wide web of Internet contributed greatly to the distribution of the newly edited books. However, at that time, only several titles were published electronically. In the 90’s large American and European libraries were creating their own websites that contained online library catalogues and electronic versions of a limited number of books (Lebert). Initially, they mostly contained the technical and scientific editions, which usually had a small audience. Only by 2003, electronic versions of popular fiction and non-fiction editions became available.
Since then, many mass-market and academic publishers have been using widely electronic books along with the printed editions. For example, many modern printed newspapers and magazines have the digital alternatives, available online on their websites or libraries. Besides, booksellers started selling books online not only within the boundaries of their home countries, but also abroad. The first main online bookstore Amazon.com was created in 1995. Nowadays, ebooks are widely used for personal needs, but also in the educational institutions. According to Amazon, in 2010 electronic books sales exceeded the sales of regular books. However, nowadays there are numerous websites and Internet resources that provide a great number of ebooks available for free download.
Ebooks Reading Devices
Initially, ebooks were used on computers and the small netbook style devices; however, very soon new dedicated e-book reading gadgets, which were more flexible and portable, have been developed. The first ebook reading devices, made by Rocket eBook and SoftBook, appeared in 1998 (“Development of the Ebook Reader”). SoftBook developers equipped the device with a leather cover, which made it look and touch as a real book. The device made by SoftBook provided its readers with an opportunity to make notes and annotations. In addition, the reading devices were equipped with the wireless technology, which meant that the reader was able to download electronic books directly from Internet into their devices. In spite of the fact that it is a common practice now, it used to be a real breakthrough at that time.
Since then, reading devices have improved dramatically. Modern devices dispose of the increased flexibility and higher functionality. For example, such devices as tablets or smart phones are widely used today not only to read ebooks, but also to listen to music, watch films and surf in the Internet. Additionally, they have the improved color and touch-screen displays and are equipped with the Wi-Fi technology and the adequate software programs and applications. 2010 was marked with the appearance of the famous Apple iPad, which became a real breakthrough in mobile computing.
Nowadays, there is the abundance of manufacturers’ companies that offer a great choice of electronic devices suitable for ebook reading. They include iPads, Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes&Noble’s Book, Sony e-readers, iPhones, and many others (“Seven Things You Should Know about E-Books”). Such a fierce competition between e-readers developers often results in the prices dropping. Therefore, the abundance of modern devices provides everyone with an opportunity to find a gadget that would perfectly suit one’s personal needs and requirements.
Usage of Ebooks in the Group Activities
When used properly, ebooks and other electronic editions such as enewspapers or emagazines may become the effective learning and teaching tools, which would involve students in the learning process by making it more interactive and, therefore, efficient. Adequate electronic resources may also be used to illustrate basic and specific concepts in any subject area. Ebooks may be used for individual work, but also when conducting group activities in class.
Particularly, electronic books may appear to be especially efficient and convenient in usage when dealing with the assignments related to reading, comprehension and text analysis. Working with text, students may highlight key passages and phrases, search for the specific information or facts through a book by a keyword, find the translation or definitions of the new words in the built-up dictionaries, make notes in a book, and jump from page to page when solving problems and coping with different issues together step by step.
Ebooks may also be used as the center of a classroom activity by putting them on an interactive whiteboard. It is an effective way to capture the attention of the entire class and illustrate concepts in a particular area of subject; for example, to demonstrate the examples of a sentence structure (“Using Follett eBooks”). Along with students a teacher may determine and highlight key passages or words when reading together, make notes during class discussions and indicate the correct answers with the whiteboard drawing tools. It must be said that being able to make notes and change a text itself, students develop their composition, writing and editing skills.
Additionally, using e-storybooks in the childhood classrooms is another growing tendency. High quality interactive storybooks are used in order to enhance children’s essential literacy skills such as reading and comprehension. For this purpose, different reading techniques and digital features such as animation and word pronunciations are used (Moody). Such techniques help engage children into the learning process, enhance their understanding of the story and support basic vocabulary development.
Reading in the Nearest Future
All things considered, the popularity of e-books is expected to grow for a number of reasons. Firstly, electronic books are more transferable and portable comparing to the paper books. Therefore, many printed mass market books and periodicals nowadays are usually available in the electronic format, which allows the publisher to reach a larger audience of readers (“Turning the Page. The Future of eBooks”). Moreover, publishing a book electronically calls for fewer costs and expenses regarding printing, storage and mailing. Besides, online marketing tools are less expensive than the traditional ones. That is why, many authors, who cannot afford to publish the printed edition of their works or whose works were not accepted by publishers, often resort to self-publishing in the Internet.
Ebooks are predicted to replace the traditional books in the nearest future. It may seem reasonable as, for instance; many educational institutions are already using ebooks as the effective learning and teaching tools (“Seven Things You Should Know about E-Books”). It can be explained by the fact that digital alternatives of the printed editions do not require high costs, and are simple in distribution comparing to the traditional paper books. Therefore, due to the rising costs of traditional paper books, usage of electronic resources will only increase in the academic circles as well as in the other fields. Besides, the great variety and affordance of modern multifunctional ebook reading devices will also contribute considerably to the popularization of the ebooks.
On the other hand, there are many true connoisseurs claiming that reading a real book cannot be compared to reading the electronic one; therefore, a real paper book will never be totally replaced by the newest technologies. Besides, working for a long time with a computer or other electronic devices may cause eye strain and headache, which does not make reading ebooks a relaxing activity. Overall, during the next 10 years we may expect a constant increase in ebooks usage for multiple purposes. Therefore, usage of the traditional paper books will considerably decrease, but hopefully it will not be totally eliminated.
To conclude, usage of the electronic books is an increasing tendency now. The development of the Internet technologies and dedicated ebook reading hardware contribute greatly to the digitization of books and other printed editions. As long as ebooks proved to be more efficient and convenient in practical usage, they are actively replacing the traditional paper books. Besides, they are used as the versatile and user-friendly learning and teaching tools in the educational institutions. Ebooks are often predicted to become the fully-fledged substitutes of the paper books in the nearest future, but this issue is still controversial.