An eBook is an electronic version of a traditional print book that can be read by using a personal computer or by using an eBook reader. (An eBook reader can be a software application for use on a computer, such as Microsoft's free Reader application, or a book-sized computer that is used solely as a reading device, such as Nuvomedia's Rocket eBook.) Users can purchase an eBook on diskette or CD, but the most popular method of getting an eBook is to purchase a downloadable file of the eBook (or other reading material) from a Web site (such as Barnes and Noble) to be read from the user's computer or reading device. Generally, an eBook can be downloaded in five minutes or less.
Although it is not necessary to use a reader application or device in order to read an Ebook (most books can be read as PDF files), they are popular because they enable options similar to those of a paper book - readers can bookmark pages, make notes, highlight passages, and save selected text. In addition to these familiar possibilities, eBook readers also include built-in dictionaries, and alterable font sizes and styles. Typically, an eBook reader hand-held device weighs from about twenty-two ounces to three or four pounds and can store from four thousand to over half a million pages of text and graphics. A popular feature is its back-lit screen (which makes reading in the dark possible).
Some eBooks can be downloaded for free or at reduced cost, however, prices for many eBooks - especially bestsellers - are similar to those of hardcover books, and are sometimes higher. Most eBooks at Barnes and Noble, for example, are comparable in price to their traditional print versions.