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Storage medium
E-book reader
EBook between paper books.jpg
Tablet computer between books with displayed e-book
Launch 1988
predecessor book

EBook (German E-Book ; English ebook , ebook , ebook ) is an electronic book (Engl. Electronic book and refers to works in electronic) book form , on e-book readers or with special software on PCs , Tablet computers or smartphones can be read. With the spread of e-book readers, e-books are increasingly being offered in a format that automatically adapts to different screen sizes (reflowable content).


E-books with a fixed page layout

E-books with a fixed page layout are primarily used in the areas of children's books, non-fiction and textbooks with a complex layout, animations or interactive functions. Until a few years ago, the PDF format was still used for this . However, this has now been almost completely replaced by the EPUB standard for fixed page layout or the Apple Multi-Touch format, which is also based on EPUB. E-books with a fixed page layout in EPUB format enable functions such as

  • Zoom to full format
  • Full format display
  • Integrated audio and video files
  • Animations
  • Interactive functions
  • Embedded reading functions

E-books with customizable screen display (reflowable content)

Most of the e-books produced today are created in EPUB format or in manufacturer-specific variants based on it, which automatically adapt to different screen sizes. EPUB itself is based on the international standards XHTML (in EPUB 2 XHTML 1.1, in EPUB 3 the XML variant of HTML5 ), CSS and SVG . An e-book in EPUB format therefore corresponds in principle to archived documents in these formats, analogous to projects in the network. Just as the presentation of documents in these formats is adapted to the different sizes and resolutions of screens, this is also the case for e-books in EPUB format. They can be used on smartphones, tablets, readers or computers alike.

Another format is FictionBook , which is its own XML format. Common, manufacturer-specific formats are used by Amazon, for example. These are Mobipocket , KF8 and combinations and variations, whereby the latest format KF8 is technically derived in a simplified way with the EPUB program Kindlegen . This can be seen immediately when an EPUB is converted with the laying of children without compression and the source text is viewed. Mobipocket essentially contains an unspecified variant of HTML as an archive format . These Amazon formats are designed so that these works cannot be presented with display programs that can interpret EPUB; conversely, Amazon display programs and devices do not present EPUBs either. Some other dealers or equipment providers offer extensions or variations to the EPUB format.

E-books in PDF format

In the early days of the e-book, these were often created directly on the basis of the layout for printouts in PDF format. The side view of the resulting PDF file can be enlarged or reduced, for example to be displayed completely on a tablet or smartphone screen. In doing so, however, the content is proportionally reduced, so that it is often no longer readable. Before the introduction of e-book readers, tablets and smartphones, this was not a problem, as e-books were primarily read on large computer screens. However, the PDF format no longer plays a role in the production of new e-books. Its use in connection with e-books is mainly limited to the digital archiving of print editions that are not available as e-books.


The electronic availability of works was an early topic of discussion in the emerging information society . Availability was also part of the original conception of the World Wide Web and its markup language HTML , for which certain META specifications were intended , which were intended to identify a sequential sequence of HTML files.

However, these were not taken into account by the web browser developers . The underlying concept of hypertext was initially purely document -oriented and seemed all too contrary to the sequence and dramaturgy -oriented book. Accordingly, e-books in HTML format are usually a single large file that contains the entire content. The navigation options are mostly limited to the scroll bar or simple chapter selection.

The non-commercial Project Gutenberg has existed since 1971, with the aim of offering free , copyright-free literature in electronic form. Initially it was only about offering in unstructured text format, which is why one could hardly speak of “e-books”. Only recently have typical e-book formats such as EPUB or Mobipocket been found . In the German-language Gutenberg-DE project , some texts are also made available as a mobile phone book .

From 1986 the German science fiction author Wilfried A. Hary published his own novels on diskettes, which he offered as "Discomane".

In 1988, the first commercial work that could be read entirely on a computer as an electronic book was published. It was the novel Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson .

In the mid to late 1990s, the conceivable savings for the production and sale of (printed) books attracted many investors. The term “e-book” temporarily became a synonym for portable print files.

A joint project between the Institute for Technical Mechanics at the University of Karlsruhe (TH) and IBM Germany implemented lecture notes electronically at an early stage. Another early example was the 1993 manual for the games Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss and Ultima Underworld 2: Labyrinth of Worlds as a PDF file on the Compendium compact disc . The CD contained the instructions for the two computer games and the DOS version of Acrobat Reader . With this program you could look at the instructions, search through them, leaf through them and print them out.

The printing industry saw no serious danger in e-books for the “real” book as a culture medium for literature , because material properties play an important role in the print medium of books. At the same time, online sales companies specializing in books such as Amazon developed . They radically rationalized logistics and ordering and thus achieved a dominant position in the market in a short time. As a result, they gave the printed book unprecedented editions .

In the following years, e-books remained a niche market economically. A scene emerged in which contemporary literature was scanned, converted into text via OCR , proofread several times, exchanged with one another and finally printed out or read on PDAs - mostly without the consent of the rights holder. Since often only books that were out of print or at least one year old were digitized, the rights holders did not take active action against this because of the low financial loss.

In the mid-1990s, Bertelsmann brought out the BEE-Book reference works in a version enriched with multimedia content on CD-ROM. Further attempts to sell e-books commercially came from 1999–2000 in the New Economy . At the same time, the underground forum eBookz was established, which existed until 2003.

Several publishers experimented with e-books, including O'Reilly with their bookshelf CDs. These comprised a regular book and seven e-books on CD-ROM on a corresponding topic in HTML format.

E-books achieved a market position as electronic book copies based on the Portable Document Format (PDF) in specialist publications. Functions such as full-text search play a more important role there than typical criteria for books such as appearance, feel, dramaturgy, etc. Therefore, half-timbered works are mainly sold in electronic book form.

The specialist book publishers produce electronic publications, the selection is constantly growing. At the Frankfurt Book Fair 2007 it was found that 30% of all half-timbered works are already available as e-books.

Shortly before the 2008 Frankfurt Book Fair, Random House and Penguin had “exponentially growing” e-book sales. German publishing houses such as Droemer Knaur also announced e-books, although reading devices were not yet widely available. The main topics are economics, law, computers / EDP, medicine / health, psychology / pedagogy and politics / contemporary history. Every month around 100 new titles come onto the German book market in this way .

According to GfK, around 65,000 e-books were downloaded in the first half of 2009 - most often, as was the case with printed editions of fiction and advice. They cost between 1.99 and 25 euros; an average of 10.26 euros. According to GfK, sales of e-books increased by 77 percent in 2011 compared to the same period in the previous year. Thus, for the first time, e-books accounted for around one percent of total sales in the book industry.

In the e-book area, there are more and more independent publishers who consider themselves independent from large corporations. Authors who publish with such publishers or self-publishers are called indie authors .

The study by an auditing firm predicts an annual turnover of over 350 million euros in Germany for 2015 in the field of fiction alone , based on e-books, which would correspond to a share of 6.3 percent. According to the study, the market for e-books in this country is developing more slowly than in the Anglo-Saxon region, because the electronic reading device is not as easily accepted in Germany as elsewhere as an equivalent alternative to the printed book.

Legal status

Readers as users of e-books do not acquire a good, but a right of use . Such a usage agreement contains, for example

“As part of this offer, the customer acquires the simple, non-transferable right to use the titles offered for exclusively personal use in accordance with the Copyright Act [...]. It is not permitted to copy the downloads for [...] third parties, [...] to resell them or to use them for commercial purposes. "

In the opinion of consumer advocates, such rights of use put the e-book buyer at a disadvantage because, for example, used resale is excluded. They are referring to a judgment of the European Court of Justice for used software from July 3, 2012 (C-128/11, ZUM 2012, 661) . Accordingly, the manufacturers of software are not allowed to exclude the used sale of their products by such clauses, regardless of whether the software is on a data carrier or has been downloaded. In essence, the question here is whether an online purchase represents a purchase or a mere license agreement, i.e. whether the purchaser is the owner of a copy or a mere purchaser of usage rights.

In 2013, the Bielefeld Regional Court denied the right to resale. The court argued that a buyer of an e-book primarily intended to use it and not resell it. Libraries also argue that these restricted rights of use severely restrict the lending of e-books and thus the right to “freely inform oneself from generally accessible sources” ( Article 5 of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany ).

The judgment passed in Bielefeld was confirmed by the OLG Hamm in the second instance in May 2014 and has thus become legally binding after the consumer advice centers withdrew their complaint against the judgment.

At the beginning of 2016, the Minister of Justice of North Rhine-Westphalia announced that he would proceed against the ban on passing on "used" e-books and audio files. Under the leadership of North Rhine-Westphalia, on behalf of the Justice Ministers' Conference of the Länder, it is to be examined whether and to what extent civil law must be adapted to the "digital age".


In 2014, 24.8 million (2013: 21.5 million) e-books were sold in Germany. This corresponded to a sales share of 4.3% of the world's third largest book market with 9.3 billion euros. The number of e-book buyers rose from one million in 2011 to 3.9 million in 2014. At 59%, the majority were women. Compared to the German book market, the market share of e-books in North America is considerably higher. The share of sales of e-books in the USA, the world's largest book market at 30 billion US dollars, was already more than 30% in 2014. The e-book market in Germany stagnated until 2016, based on the proportion of German citizens who read works electronically (24% in October 2016). This is the result of a representative survey of 2,171 people aged 14 and over on behalf of the Federal Association Bitkom .


E-books are mostly used commercially as electronic and portable copies of an original book. Of the 130,000 titles that Amazon offered in both paper and e-book formats in 2008, e-book sales accounted for 6% of total sales.

According to a survey of 318 German media companies and publishers in the Electronic Publishing Working Group in the Börsenverein, 37% of all new publications appear as e-books, and 51% for half-timbered works. For 58% of the publishers the e-book appears later than the print edition, for 41% at the same time, for 43% at a lower price and for 36% at the same price. For 80% of the respondents, less than 1% of sales are achieved with e-books.

A survey by the Austrian Publishers' Association in 2011 showed that almost 17% of the publishers sold e-books in 2010, and in 2011 the number almost doubled to 32.3%. In 2010, however, 36% of those surveyed stated that they never wanted to position themselves in this segment. There is no information on this for 2011.

Of those publishers who already offered e-books in 2010, between 10 and 20% of the new publications also appeared electronically, based on the backlist it was 1%. 44% stated that in 2010 the share of sales from e-books was below 1%, in 2011 it was 42%. While in 2010 22.2% stated that the share of sales was between 1 and 5%, in 2011 this was 29%. In 2010, 22.2% also stated that they were over 5%. No information is given for 2011.

In 2013, 84% of all publishers also had e-books on offer. The share of e-books in the German book market was 10%.

Acquisition models

In the German-speaking area there are various e-book providers such as Amazon , Apple iBooks , beam eBooks, buch.de , ciando, Hugendubel , Libreka , Libri , Thalia or Weltbild.de . All of them offer both specialist books and fiction. In addition, publishers are increasingly selling their own e-books via their publisher's website.

In the field of fiction, it is mainly older, well-known titles that are being reprinted in this form. Series from the fields of science fiction and horror as well as thrillers are available from e-book publishers. However, since old license agreements often do not yet include e-book exploitation, the so-called backlist is often only very slowly implemented electronically.

The German Gutenberg-DE project sells works whose copyright has expired as e-books. It differs from the American Project Gutenberg with a similar name, which is non-commercial.

The book trade fears fundamental losses from e-books.

Loan or rental models

Safari from O'Reilly offers an e-book rental model. The e-books do not become your own property, but you have the option of purchasing a certain number of e-book slots ( e-book spaces ) per month. You can insert the e-books you want from a selection of over 3000 e-books and then read them. After a month at the earliest, individual / all e-books can be exchanged or left in the slot. For this model, the user must be online, the e-books are not stored on their own computer.

Libraries also offer e-books: In order to make electronically stored books available for a limited period of time, libraries can purchase e-books from these special service providers, e. B. from so-called aggregators, the authorization to use the e-books purchased and stored there (and other e-media such as streaming media) and offer this right to their authorized users. After legitimation as a library user, the end user downloads the e-book from the server of the central service provider. A temporal control of the loan period is carried out by the digital rights management (DRM). After the loan period has expired, further use of the e-book file is no longer possible. Erwin Miedtke: "New trends around e-books for the target group of employees in libraries in the field of electronic library."

Since 2012, providers of e-book streaming have also emerged based on the model of video and music streaming . The reader does not buy any books, but reads the books online via an active internet connection. In order to be able to choose from the provider's range, the customer pays a monthly subscription fee. A free offer for the customer that is financed by the insertion of advertising is also conceivable. Amazon is one of the pioneers with an offer for children that includes books, videos and games by subscription. A German e-book streaming provider started a test phase at the beginning of 2014.

Alternative forms of offer

There are a number of providers who offer works whose copyright has expired for download for free. Some universities or lecturers offer selected books free of charge. The O'Reilly OpenBook Portal and Galileo Press provide a selection of e-books ( Openbooks ) free of charge. The American Project Gutenberg makes literature available as ASCII , HTML or Plucker files license-free. In addition, the e-book opens up new and inexpensive sales opportunities for the publisher-independent author, who can use it to make complex publications available to the public with his own professional competence.

In addition to the purely commercial and free platforms, there are also mixed forms such as Bookrix, which was initially founded for free publication, but now also offers e-books for a fee.

The model project Fiktion , funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation , started in September 2013, which examines new electronic forms of distribution of sophisticated literature and will develop a corresponding reading format.

Technical protective measures

In order to enforce copyright law in practice, a digital rights management (DRM) was introduced for many e-books . Actually intended as protection against unauthorized distribution and use, the limitations in usability compared to paper books are often noticeable in practice. Reading can be restricted to certain devices or reading software installations. “Lending” to other people may include U. not possible. The possibility of using the acquired copy / reading rights can also be lost due to changes in hardware and software. With Adobe Acrobat DRM, for example, the e-book can be linked to the hardware and certain rights (such as printing, duration of use, copy-and-paste functionality ...) can be restricted. Similar phenomena can also be observed with other electronic media (e.g. music files).

A compromise variant between DRM-protected and DRM-free books is the use of digital watermarks in order to irreversibly embed the buyer identity in the e-book file. In this way, private copies could be passed on and lent to friends etc. without hindrance , but distribution via the Internet could at the same time be traced back to the originator. That was u. a. Proposed by the German Book Trade Association and implemented in the Libreka portal .

In principle, DRM should also be user management . However, nowadays it is mainly seen as a restriction of the user's rights.

DRM in German publishers

publishing company First time DRM use DRM deactivation Link shutdown
Bonnier Media Germany ( arsEdition , Carlsen ) ? July 1, 2015 Message on heise
DuMont ? April 9, 2015 Press release
Holtzbrinck ( KiWi , Knaur , Rowohlt , S. Fischer ) ? August 1, 2015 FAQ
Piper ? July 1, 2015 Press release
Ullstein ? July 1, 2015 FAQ

eBooks on Demand

The EoD logo

eBooks on Demand (EoD) is a paid document delivery service as part of the EU project Digitization-on-Demand ( DoD ), which enables the ordering of complete electronic copies of copyright-free books (i.e. books from the period from 1501 to around 1930). A distinction can be made between Standard EOD eBooks and Advanced EOD eBooks :

  • With standard EOD eBooks , the desired book is scanned with high resolution on special book scanners and the individual images are combined in a single file in the PDF. With the appropriate software, you can read the e-book on the screen, print out individual pages or the entire book.
  • With Advanced EOD eBooks , the text is also automatically recognized when scanning. Therefore, the user can then search the full text for terms, copy images and text excerpts into other applications (such as word processing programs) and save the entire text as a text file and continue working with it.

In addition to delivery in digital form, reprints are also offered in digital printing . So far, 35 libraries from 12 European countries offer eBooks on demand . In Germany, this service is currently provided by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek , the library of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin , the SLUB Dresden , the Martin-Opitz-Bibliothek in Herne as well as the university libraries in Greifswald and Regensburg , in Austria by the university libraries in Vienna , Graz , the medical library University of Vienna and the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna as well as the University and State Library of Tyrol and the Vienna Library in the City Hall and in Switzerland by the Swiss National Library in Bern , the Library at Guisanplatz , the Central Library in Zurich and the University Libraries in Basel and Bern .


Since the spread of e-books, self -published book publications have increased sharply. Even with little technical knowledge, the author can create e-books himself and sell them via the large e-book sales platforms. The previously necessary intermediate stages of publishing and bookshops are no longer necessary. The official figures for the book market, which are based on data from publishers and booksellers, did not previously include books that were self-published and sold directly via e-book sales platforms. According to estimates, around 15% of total e-book sales in Germany in 2014 were generated with self-published e-books. A proportion that corresponds to the value given by Nielsen Book Research for the UK book market for self-published e-books.


Many providers have an insight into the use of electronic books through built-in synchronization functions in reading programs or devices. You can z. B. evaluate which places are read, commented or marked how often or not, and how quickly and at what time of day they are read. You can evaluate this information for advertising purposes. Such findings can potentially also have an impact on the writing activity. The FAZ speculated: “How will the literary business change when the publisher knows precisely that twenty-seven percent of readers have put the book aside after halfway through the second chapter, as a likeable marginal figure with the potential to become a heroine suffers a tragic accidental death ? "


E-books can be displayed on a wide variety of devices. Special, proprietary e-book readers have the advantage of being designed precisely for their purpose, ie reading e-books. They mostly use a monochrome, energy-saving display. On the other hand, PCs, notebooks, tablet computers and smartphones can be used universally, but are usually also more unwieldy. In addition, the service life without an external power source is v. a. limited due to the backlight of the color display.

A disadvantage of conventional screen devices compared to e-book readers is that most of the self-illuminating screens of notebooks, tablets and smartphones are more difficult to read in bright daylight. This is because a screen must shine at least nearly as brightly as the ambient light in order to be legible.

The electronic ink displays of e-book readers do not light up themselves like conventional paper, but require a light source to read. They can therefore be read easily even in broad daylight. The 100-dollar laptop from the non-profit organization OLPC is specifically designed as a reading device in that the screen offers a black-and-white display that can be switched on and reproduces the text at 200 dpi, similar to printed magazines.

E-book files

File formats

Before the advent of specialized file formats, file formats that were designed for slightly different purposes were sometimes used, such as Microsoft's help file format CHM (file extension: .chm .). The Portable Document Format (PDF) developed by Adobe Inc. and designed for print output was quite dominant . By disclosing the format developed from PostScript and offering the associated reading software for downloading free of charge, the manufacturer succeeded in setting a cross-platform quasi-standard for formatted data.

Only after mobile reading devices based on energy-saving " e-Ink " display technology had become widespread did a large number of manufacturer-specific, specialized file formats ( BBeB , DjVu , EPUB , FictionBook , LIT , Mobipocket , Plucker , PDB, TomeRaider, etc.) crystallize . ) increasing agreement on open standard formats. EPUB in particular has strong support here and is currently seen as the most promising format next to Mobipocket.

Viewing software

The following programs, among others, are used to display e-book file formats - especially for the EPUB format, see the list there , for PDF see also this list .

Similar issues

  • The mobile phone novel is a text that was first published on a mobile phone rather than on paper.


Web links

Commons : E-Books  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: E-books  - sources and full texts
Wiktionary: E-Book  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
  • Current term - e-books. (PDF; 71 kB) Archived from the original on January 31, 2012 ; Retrieved October 19, 2014 . in the seriesCurrent Conceptof Scientific Services from January 23, 2012, publisher: German Bundestag, author: Otto Singer

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