What you need to know about e-books

As a beginner, it is often difficult to see through the information jungle. Here is an introduction with further information about the e-book

What is an e-book?

An e-book is an electronic book. The word is composed of the English words “Electronic Book”. According to the Duden dictionary, the correct spelling is “e-book” (equivalent to “e-mail”), but other spellings such as “eBook” are also frequently used.We recommend you to try sqribble ebook creator review.

In everyday use, e-books are not only electronic books, but often also other documents in digital form on PCs, smartphones, e-readers, etc. There is no generally valid definition of the length or format of a digital document that makes it an e-book. Different file formats sometimes already allow conclusions to be drawn about the application area of the e-book.

Format (usually) determines the area of application
In general, e-books can be divided into two areas:

  • Files with fixed screen display
  • Files with variable, customizable text display

A PDF file is always a fixed layout that was created by the creator for a predefined display. Especially for children’s books, comics and specialist books, fixed layouts are usually necessary due to contents rich in images and tables. The file formats CBR/CBZ and DjVu were also frequently used for such display formats in the past.

ePub is the open standard for the vast majority of electronic books for the general public, primarily novels, stories etc. Like web pages on the Internet, these are based on the standards HTML, CSS and SVG. The big advantage of this file type is the variable text display. The content of the e-book automatically adapts to the screen size of the reader.

ePub files are used by Tolino, PocketBook and almost every other e-book reader manufacturer. Only Amazon does not support this file format and is instead relying on a further development of the Mobi format. The Amazon files listen to the names KF8, KFX, AZW and AZW3. As a reader, you will not see any difference to ePub files, because they have a substructure and copy protection (see below).

Also ePub and KF files now offer fixed page layouts.

Finally, for the sake of completeness, it should be mentioned that there are also proprietary e-book formats that do not allow direct access to the files by the users. This is the case with some e-book flatrates, for example, which require their own app. The app is used to download, read and return the e-books. In such a case, the user does not notice the e-book format and has no other way of opening the e-book.

Further information about e-book formats
Further information on the advantages and disadvantages of e-book readers

Advantages of e-books

Digital books offer a number of advantages over the printed versions. These include:

  • Public domain titles can be downloaded as e-books quickly, easily and free of charge.
  • The text display can be adjusted including font size, line and margin spacing and font.
  • E-books are usually cheaper than printed books (usually between 15-25% price savings).
  • Electronic books are space-saving. Thousands of titles fit on a single device.
  • E-books can be bought conveniently from home and read immediately.
  • You can easily carry your entire library with you in the form of an e-reader – perfect for holidays and on the road.
  • Many electronic reading devices offer built-in dictionary functions, so you can quickly look up unknown words while reading foreign-language e-books.
  • Interactive set-up is possible, e.g. with audio, video, etc.
  • With the right reader you can read e-books without an external light source.
  • Public libraries offer a practical e-book lending service (called “Onleihe”).
  • There are many great and inexpensive self-published titles that are not available in printed form.

E-books also protect the environment. This is the conclusion of a study by the Öko-Institut.

Anyone who reads ten or more books a year and uses the e-book reader for three years or more is sustainably protecting the climate and environment. “In its production and use, an e-book reader with an eInk display causes around 25 kilograms of CO2; about a tenth of that produced by a conventional laptop and still significantly less than tablet PCs,” explains Andreas Manhart of the Öko-Institut.

In comparison: the production of ten books with 200 pages DIN-A5 from fresh fibre paper causes around eleven kilograms of CO2; the same number of books with recycled paper still causes around nine kilograms of CO2. So if you read more than ten books a year, assuming a three-year service life for the e-book reader, the environmentally friendly and climate-friendly effect naturally occurs sooner.

Disadvantages of e-books

Where there is light, there is shadow – and so e-books also have a few disadvantages:

  • The classic, haptic book feel is lost.
  • One is dependent on a reader and a sufficient battery level (another device that needs to be charged regularly).
  • Copy protection (keyword DRM [Digital Rights Management]) can cause unnecessary complications.
  • The terms of use and license regulations, as well as the copy protection prevent the complete, free possession of the file, which, unlike the book, cannot be sold or given away.
  • Different e-book formats may make a change of manufacturer (e.g. from Kindle to Tolino) complicated.
  • Experiments have shown that readers of e-books were less able to estimate the length of text and reconstruct what they had read with less accuracy than people who had read the same text on paper.
  • It is not possible to set up an extensive library with full bookshelves at home.
  • You cannot (legally) borrow your own e-books.
  • There are many titles available in digital form, but not all of them.

What can you use to read e-books?

The e-book files can be used on different devices. In the following we will take a brief look at what is the best way to read electronic books.

Read e-books with your dedicated reader

Without beating about the bush, it can be clearly said that e-books are best used on dedicated readers with an e-ink screen (electronic ink). These are so-called e-readers (or e-book readers), whose main purpose is to read electronic books. This class of devices is characterized by the particularly paper-like and eye-friendly display and the long battery life.

The most popular suppliers of e-book readers in this country are Amazon, Tolino (Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Mayersche, Osiander, as well as various independent booksellers and subsidiaries) and PocketBook.

By the way: “Kindle” is the brand name of Amazon’s e-reader series and does not generally denote electronic reading devices.

Read e-books with a smartphone or tablet

Smartphones and tablets are digital all-rounders in pocket or trouser pocket format that can do more than just take pictures and play music. They can also be used to read e-books. To do this, you first need a suitable app. The major e-reader manufacturers and e-book shops offer their own programs for Apple and Android devices.

With them you can buy and read e-books almost as comfortably as on an e-reader. However, the disadvantage of the LCD screen (less readable in sunlight) and high battery consumption remain, so that it is rather a solution for in between. In addition, many apps do not offer the same range of possible text adjustments as dedicated readers.

However, it has to be said that interactive content, reference books and illustrated children’s books are of course prettier to look at on tablets than on e-readers.

By the way: It is not only reading devices with electronic ink that are called e-book readers. Occasionally, the term “e-book reader” is also used for apps on smartphones and tablets, because they can also read electronic books.

Reading e-books with a computer

You can also open all file formats on your PC and notebook and read digital books. But the whole thing is even more impractical than on a smartphone and tablet, especially because you usually sit in a “working position” in front of the desk.

First and foremost, the computer pays off as a reading device when, in addition to reading a text, you also have to do research on the Internet and depend on multitasking as seamlessly as possible.

The PC is best suited for managing files (see below), less so for long reading sessions.

Reading and listening to e-books

We dedicate a separate point to audio books. Actually, this is a different narrative medium, but it is also somehow connected to e-books. Amazon in particular has a very interesting connection between audio and digital books.

The whole thing is called Whsipersync for Voice. It matches the reading and listening status of e-books with the corresponding audio books, so that you can switch back and forth between the two media and always find yourself in the right place.

Copy protection

E-books usually have copy protection, also known as DRM (or in full Digital Rights Management). A distinction is made between two variants:

  • Hard DRM
  • Soft DRM

Hard DRM is a copy protection that is designed to ensure that files can only be opened with the necessary permissions. The E-Book Reader must be registered and logged on to the corresponding service. At Amazon, the copy protection runs inconspicuously in the background, as it is directly linked to the Amazon customer account. With Tolino, this is now also frequently the case. Occasionally, however, Adobe DRM may be used here and a separate registration may be required.

Hard DRM is generally not considered user-friendly and has caused some problems in the past. For example, in the event of a server failure at Adobe, purchased content could not be opened in the meantime. In addition, Adobe was the victim of a hacker attack that tapped millions of customer records.

In contrast, soft DRM relies on invisible measures to prevent file sharing. This is done by using a digital watermark that is invisible to the reader, allowing the file to be traced back to the original buyer. Accordingly, e-books with soft DRM can be opened on several e-readers without any problems.

Care should be taken, however, when passing them on, because if a purchased file with soft DRM ends up on piracy sites or file-sharing networks on the Internet and is traced back to the original buyer, liability could become expensive.

Finally, there are of course e-books that do not require such measures and are DRM-free. However, these are less widespread. Unless there is an explicit reference to DRM freedom, it can be assumed that at least soft DRM is used.


Over time, many titles can accumulate, especially if you take advantage of special offers and free e-books. Of course, you can simply leave the files on the e-reader and manage them there, or you can copy the files to your computer and use the free Calibre software.

This is a software especially created for e-book management, which helps to keep the virtual library under control. It also allows you to categorise your digital books and then sort and filter them more easily on compatible readers.

Calibre is a must-have for tidy minds and should definitely be looked at closely. Since the start is not so easy due to the large range of functions, we have created some instructions and tips to make it easier to use.

Getting started

Most e-book readers have built-in shops that you can browse through and buy directly from. This is usually how the process works:

  • Registration in the shop: Before you can get started, you have to register in the built-in e-book shop. How this works can be read or inquired about in the quick start guide or from the supplier.
  • Browse and download reading samples: Just like in the store, e-books can be browsed and downloaded. These can be downloaded directly from the shop at most providers and read immediately on the reader.
  • Buy them: Once you have found the title you want, you can buy it directly.
  • Downloading to the reader: Downloading the file or synchronising the library is usually fully automatic after purchase. The e-book then appears immediately in the list of available titles. Alternatively, files can also be downloaded on the PC and transferred to the reader via USB cable.
  • Reading: After the successful download or transfer to the e-reader, you can start reading immediately. It often takes less than 60 minutes between the first registration in the shop and reading the first e-book. Without the initial registration, the process is completed in a few minutes.