I’ve been reading a lot about ebooks lately, and it’s made me realize that there are really two, entirely separate meanings to the word.
Well, yes, either way, the “e” stands for electronic, as opposed to the “dead tree” edition of books that all of us grew up with.
But as regular usage goes, I’m noticing variations.
First, there are PDF, usually self-published texts that people sell on websites and blogs. “How to Make a Million Dollars in 30 Seconds,” “A Mother’s Guide to Crayons,” “101 Steps to Perfect Fingernails.”
These ebooks are usually written and “produced” by the author. That is, the author creates the PDF on her own. (For some ebooks, the word “author” is a word lightly used, too, since some people create theirs from PLR text that they’ve bought and simply reformatted on their own. Though, that’s fine, if you’re into that kind of thing. I’m not here to judge.)
Obviously, the quality varies greatly from book to book. I’ve read some eBooks that were practically works of art in terms of production value, quality of writing, and outright substance of the content. These are usually from “reputable” writers who make a point of giving lots of value for your money. I have a nice collection of them on my harddrive.
I’ve also read truly crappy ebooks. The kind that are written in a 20-point font and have 4″ margins so that they can eke out a few thousand words of text into a “100 pages of vital information!”
These self-produced ebooks–the bad and the sublime–may be available in a variety of ways. Free. Free with purchase. For $5, $220, $50, or even $100. They may promise riches beyond your wildest dreams, or just a few (hundred) great recipes for chicken.
Second, there are the ebooks that you buy to read on your portable electronic devices. (Kindle, anyone?) These are usually electronic versions of published books. John Grisham’s latest novel. Seth Godin’s most recent brainstorm of inspiration. A romance novel to read on your commute to work.
These are (cough) “real” books, and come primarily as text files that you can download and read. Have you heard of Project Gutenberg?
A Little Confusing, no?
Am I the only one who finds the juxtaposition of the same word for two radically different formats/structures confusing?
The most confusing part is that you can’t discuss one type with the people involved with the other. If you start discussing the “future of paper books” with someone who’s just discovered how to upload text of the latest bestseller on their Blackberry, they’re probably not aware of those ebooks people are hawking on their websites. If you write and produce your own (high-quality, content-rich) ebooks, getting your text onto somebody’s Sony Reader is probably the last thing you’re thinking about … assuming it can even handle PDFs.
How fascinating that–for now at least–we can talk about Electronic Books and have two completely different things in mind. Sure, there’s some overlap, but not enough …
How long before self-publishing and “professional” publishing are interchangeable, thanks to the electronic age?