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E-books are downloaded from the Internet directly to a computer through the services offered by virtual book shops and publishers. In order to be able to read these texts on a portable device, e-books are first downloaded from the Internet to a computer and then to the device. Other ways to gain access to these books are diskettes and CD ROMs which are also available from online book shops and publishers, or from conventional book shops.

Digital books can be read through different mediums such as computers or portable devices (or e-book device), however, no matter what medium is used, a reader program is always needed. There are two programs of this type, Microsoft Reader and Adobe Acrobat reader. Generally speaking, both pieces of software allow the reader to improve the typography definition, highlighting parts of the text, make comments, turn the pages, etc.

E-books come in different formats: PDF, LIT, HTML are the most common. Adobe Acrobat reads files in PDF format while Microsoft reads files in LIT format-which conforms to the Open eBook norm. There are also converters which change a file in Word or HTML format to Reader format since many e-books were originally done in those formats.


Adobe Acrobat Reader

Adobe Acrobat Reader 6.0 is the last software version for e-books Adobe has launched. This new version is the combination of both Acrobat Reader and Acrobat eBook Reader. It is available on the Internet for free. This piece of software reads PDF files. PDF is the format most used for e-book reading. This occurs because, generally, computers come with some Adobe Reader version installed. An e-book in PDF is a file in this format with a system to control its dissemination and the easy access called DRM (Digital Right Management).

This piece of software can be used by Windows, Macintosh, Pocket PC or PDAs users. PDF format allows high-quality readability. Apart from enhancing the visualization of typography significantly, allow the underlining and search of words and other functionalities, Adobe has certain tools that allow the reader to look up words in the dictionary by positioning the cursor on the word you want to look up and clicking on the right mouse button. You can also listen to the words by double-clicking on them.


Microsoft Reader

This piece of software is also available on the Internet for free. It can be used by Windows and Pocket PC users, and not by PDAs, Macintosh or Linux users. The program has certain reading features which make the texts optimally legible, thanks to pixels rendering. With MS Reader the reader can underline, write comments, draw, change sizes and fonts and also listen to the texts.

Computer

In order to read electronic books through a computer -desktop, laptop or pocket computer-, a reader program -Microsoft or Acrobat Reader- and a web connection is needed -unless a diskette or a CD ROM is being used.

Portable Devices for e-books

There are different types of portable devices created to read e-books. They have approximately the size of a standard printed book. They have certain tools which allow the reader to put down notes, highlight phrases and other functions. They enjoy good visual quality although it does not surpass printed paper. Among these devices we find:

Rocket eBook:

This device is as big as a pocket book. The LCD is monochromatic and tactile, and it weights approximately 1.3 pounds. It enjoys around 4 Mb (10 books) and 16 Mb (40 books) memory. It is a cordless device which may work for several hours by means of auto-generated light or light from its surroundings.

SoftBook:

This portable device is heavier and more expensive than Rocket eBooks and the umbrella of works that it can hold is smaller. However, unlike Rocket eBook, SoftBooks has got a modem through which e-books can be downloaded, using the telephone line –a computer is not needed. What is more, they have a much larger memory capacity. Just like Rocket eBooks, this device has a monochrome LCD and may operate without needing to be connected by a wire to an outside electrical supply for several hours.

PDA (Personal Digital Assistant o Palm):

This is a handheld device that can be used to create files, watch movies, listen to music, navigate the Internet and read e-books. In order to be able to read these books, a reader program and web connection, or a connection to a desktop computer is needed.


Files Formats

The best-known formats for electronic books are HTML and PDF. However, Microsoft together with a group of companies developed a standard format for digital books called Open eBook Publication Structure. This established the common structure for all electronic books, no matter the reader program or computer that is being used.

This standard is based on web languages (HTML and XML) to make files downloading easier. Many e-books have been already converted into this standard format. Everyday, new programs for protection and transmission of works are developed for people to be able to make good use of the advantages e-books provide. Today, different businesses are using a standard program especially designed to provide protection and for the dissemination of books on the Internet called EBX (Electronic Book Exchange).


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