Originally posted at ouhos.org, the now-discontinued blog of the OU History of Science Collections. Neither this post nor any of its content should be taken as an official communication of the University of Oklahoma.

The New Yorker, May 7, 2012

Why ebooks?

Most publishers now offer ebooks as an option for many of their titles. Amazon and other retailers report that ebook sales have already surpassed the sales of hardcover books and of paperback books.

“Amazon began selling hardcover and paperback books in July 1995. Twelve years later in November 2007, Amazon introduced the revolutionary Kindle and began selling Kindle books. By July 2010, Kindle book sales had surpassed hardcover book sales, and six months later, Kindle books overtook paperback books to become the most popular format on Amazon.com. Today, less than four years after introducing Kindle books, Amazon.com customers are now purchasing more Kindle books than all print books – hardcover and paperback – combined.” Amazon news release, May 19, 2011

Update 5/2012: Pew Research Center, “The Rise of E-Reading”; summarized visually by Online Universities (at bottom of this post).

Book reader of the future, ca. 1935, Smithsonian
Book reader of the future (1935); Smithsonian

Finding ebooks

Millions of free ePub books, including thousands of primary sources in the history of science, are available from the following non-commercial sources:

New to ebooks?

Read ePub books in ebook software for various ereader devices:

All the devices listed above use the ePub format, the open standard for ebooks. For the Amazon Kindle, see note below.

Want more information?

ePub features

ePub logoePub is much more than taking your favorite ebook with you to the pub; rather, ePub is the most popular non-proprietary ebook format (readable by every ebook device except the Kindle). Each ePub text is comprised of a bundle of XHTML files, which ensures that the ePub standard is a long-term, sustainable format.

Enhanced ePub texts may support the following features:

  • Hyperlinked tables of contents, footnotes, indices
  • Text search
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlighting
  • Marginal comments & annotations
  • Embedded images (color and black & white)
  • Resizable text, changeable font
  • Customizable background color and adjustable brightness
  • Hyperlinks to the internet, a dictionary, or Wikipedia
  • Embedded audio, video
  • Embedded metadata

Be on the lookout for enhanced ePub texts to become more common as publishers begin to take advantage of the ePub’s inherent support for these methods of content enhancement.

Some ePub readers, such as iBooks, also offer additional conveniences such as pdf support; instant on; automatic sync between devices; opening to the page last viewed.

Additional nonstandard enhancements to the ePub format are possible for ebooks prepared with the free iBooks Author application for Mac OS X. These books offer immersive, multimedia experiences, along with enhanced features to facilitate student study such as review questions, slideshows, widgets, and capabilities for integrating note taking, flash cards and glossaries (cf. iBooks textbooks). For more information, watch the Apple Education event video (January, 2012).

Note to iOS users:

It’s easy to add ePubs to your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch, either from your computer or directly on your iOS device.

Drag an ePub text into the iTunes window1. From your computer:

  1. Download the iBooks app from iTunes or the App Store.
  2. Go to one of the sources for ePubs listed above and download the ebooks you want to your computer.
  3. Drag your downloaded ebooks onto the library area of iTunes (shown right).
  4. Sync your device with iTunes.

2. Directly on your iPad or iOS device:
Ebooks opened on a website, from Dropbox, or within an email will automatically be added to a “shelf” in your iBooks app. The iBooks app also includes access to the iBookstore. In the iBookstore, you may search for and download tens of thousands of free ePubs from Project Gutenberg directly to your iPad or iPhone. Additionally, ebooks may be linked to from course pages in iTunes U.

Note to Kindle users:

The Amazon Kindle does not support texts in the ePub format. Although a Kindle app is available for non-Kindle devices (such as the iPad, iPod touch and iPhone), Kindle devices and Kindle apps use a proprietary format and do not read ePubs. You can convert a text from ePub to the Kindle format using Calibre, although ePub enhancements will be lost in the process.

Instructions for converting ePubs to Kindle format.


E-book Nation
Brought to you by: OnlineUniversities.com

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