The term eBook has several definitions, but in many cases, it is an electronic version of a previously published and printed book. Usually, readers can download one using one of several free programs or purchase a CD or DVD copy to be downloaded. The book can then be read off a computer screen, a laptop, eBook readers, or smartphones. Some computers offer programs to make the experience more like reading a book, and they feature the ability to “turn pages,” as one would with a regular book.
Not all eBooks are free. Some libraries, particularly college libraries, offer free access to numerous texts, but in general, contemporary popular novels or popular works of non-fiction need to be purchased. This type of book is also not necessarily in the public domain. A person may gain access to reading them, but must still use citation methods if quoting them, or may need to ask the author if the book can be cited or reproduced.
Sometimes, books are written specifically for the Internet, and they may contain helpful features like word or subject searches, and hyperlinks to other sites or other sections of the text. In fact, some authors have found the eBook to be the perfect way to self-publish. They cut out the middlemen like agents and publishers, and can offer their novels or non-fiction for a small fee to interested readers.
There are, however, publishers who market to beginning writers and do take a share of the writer’s profits, sometimes a large amount. Such publishers may seriously enhance the amount of available fiction, or they may ask for upfront fees from the writer, akin to the many vanity presses that will publish an author's book for a price. Usually, advertisement is left up to the author.
Occasionally, a well-adapted eBook from a print source may also include search features, or may include hyperlinks. Some fledgling authors may also publish their work without charging for downloads. When this is the case, it is highly advisable that authors copyright their work prior to offering it, since theft of original work remains a problem on the Internet.
Before purchasing an eBook, consumers should make certain that they cannot get a copy for free. Buyers are most likely to be able to access material in the public domain, where works from classic authors like Shakespeare or Chaucer can be found in abundance. Readers will probably not find books by popular novelists for free, however. It's also a good idea for anyone who has not read this type of book before to try out a free one first. Some people find the format easily adaptable, while others miss the comfort of thumbing through the well-worn pages of a beloved book, or the crisp fresh smell of a new novel.