E-books are many things to many people. In their simplest form, they are text in an electronic file, designed to be read on an electronic device... anything from a computer to a cellphone.
In the real world, they are a bit more complicated. E-books come in different software "formats," meaning they can only be read by a device whose software can read those formats. For example, an e-book might be in the form of an Adobe PDF file, meaning only a device with a PDF reader like Adobe Acrobat can open and display the e-book.
Fortunately, we have progressed over the years from over half a dozen dominant formats, to just three, and software is available for most electronic hardware to allow most or all of those formats to be read on the majority of devices.
Like printed books, e-books can be as simple as chapters and paragraphs of text... or they can include graphics, multimedia and animation. Though literature is presently the most popular of e-books, textbooks are being brought into the e-book arena, and someday most students may study from e-books instead of printed books.
And the people creating these e-books also run the gamut, from professional and well-established authors working with traditional publishing houses, to independent writers, some of whom have never been published in print, but are taking advantage of the new avenues for self-publishing and promoting their books. Some of the independent authors have done well enough to land contracts with traditional publishers; others are content to work independently, and some write just for the experience of writing and offering their books to the world.
The pages in this section will provide more information about e-books' history, advantages over print, their place in the market, and various dedicated devices that can be used to read e-books.