E-books are simply books in electronic format. These books are still in the process of figuring out their place with publishers, authors and readers. The next few years will be focused on defining the role of these books in the publishing world.
E-books have a number of benefits over paper books to offer their readers. Reference books especially benefit from the E-book format. In addition to providing a searchable text, E-book formats can also offer links making cross referencing a lot easier. Another huge benefit is that it takes up a lot less space and is a lot easier to protect from damage as you can create back-up copies.
The publishing world and authors still have not decided what role E-books play in the publishing world. Many publishers are offering E-versions of their paper books free to download. They explain that doing so increases the sales of their paper books. However, other publishers are selling the e-books themselves. In fact, some publishers are publishing a mixture of paper books and books that are only available in E-book format.
One aspect of E-book format that has not been standardized is the software used to create and read E-books. Popular E-book formats today include PDF, and Microsoft Reader formats. However, one this is definite, the format will need to cross many platforms. With Palm Pilots and other portable computing devices publishers will need to make the software compatible with each device.
Though E-books have a number of benefits over the paper book including simple aspects such as the ability to read in a dark room and zoom capabilities, yet paper books still have their own benefits. Many paper books are considered collectors items and the easily replicated E-book will probably never have that dimension. However, the E-book is probably the more economical choice to publishers, authors, and readers.