eBooks are like regular books ... but they're electronic books. You read them using a computer or a handheld device like an iPhone or a Kindle. That's because electronic books are digital. They're computer files. You buy eBooks online — or find them for free, or borrow them from a public library — then you download them to your digital reading device and ... read them!
Here's a picture of a Sony eBook Reader:
Here's another model:
Here's the Kindle 2 reader from Amazon.com:
Here's a side-by-side view of the Kindle 2 and an Apple iPhone using the Kindle for iPhone app:
Note that the Kindle 2 image has been much reduced in size to match the iPhone image's height. The Kindle 2 is actually much bigger than the iPhone — see Kindle eReaders Galore! for more.
But you get the idea. Whether you use a dedicated reader like the Sony Reader or the Kindle 2, or a multipurpose handheld that doubles as an eBook reader as the iPhone does, you can carry not just a single book but a whole library in your pocket or purse. You can read any of your eBooks wherever you are. When you're done reading an eBook, you can remove it from the reader to save storage space, but still have access to it on your desktop computer or online, in case you want to read it again.
And eBooks are widely available today. Virtually every recent New York Times bestseller, for example, is available as an eBook ... for a price way lower than the hardcover edition. Most of the great classics, and many other books as well, are available as free eBooks.
Before I go any further, I'd better admit some of my biases. One is that I simply think eBooks are neat! The whole idea of being able to buy a book — or obtain one for free — and read it on a digital handheld device or on a desktop or laptop computer impresses me as way cool!
Another bias is that I think its even cooler when the handheld device has many other functions, besides reading books. For my money, the iPhone is a better eBook reader, for that reason and for others as well, than the Kindle or the Sony. Other smartphones such as a BlackBerry or a Palm Pre can also serve as eBook readers, so they're part of the same multipurpose-device scene.
Yet I realize that not everyone will agree. Some will prefer a dedicated reader, if only because it has a larger screen. Others, because the dedicated readers use for their screen technology not an LCD but E ink, which is easier on the eyes and also on battery life. So I'll do my best to cover both types of reader, multipurpose and dedicated — as well as the possibility of using laptop and desktop computers as eBook readers — in the posts I'll make to this blog, even though the reader I use is an iPhone.
Also, I'd better fess up to being almost completely Apple-centric. I have, as I say, an iPhone (and also an older iPod Touch which has been pretty much retired). Plus, an iMac 20" desktop computer and a MacBook Pro laptop, all on a wireless (i.e., WiFi) home network using a couple of Apple's AirPort devices as access points (i.e., routers).
So my knowledge of Windows machines and non-Apple WiFi devices is limited. Now, just about anything I can do on my Macs that use the Mac OS, as far as reading and storing eBooks, can likewise be done in Windows. Computer applications for reading eBooks are typically available for both OS's, as well as (often) for other OS's as well. But my hands-on knowledge is in the Apple Macintosh world only.
So, having admitted some of my biases, I'll close by saying: Happy eReading!