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An ebook is an electronic version of a physical book. Ebooks are distributed in a number of formats, with conventional ASCII being the most popular, however due to the greater control of layout and manipulation offered, other formats such as PDF by Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) are becoming more used. An attempt was made to market small portable ebook readers, but the cost killed them, as did consumers' reactions that they preferred curling up with a "real" book. Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org) is the most successful ebook publisher, mainly because it produces only pure ASCII ebooks, and gives them away for free. Their approach limits them to public domain works only, however. The publication of ebooks in HTML format, and their distribution as web pages is much used by those who want to get out a message and are satisfied with voluntary contributions.

Many publishers are reluctant to produce ebooks over fears of piracy and it wasn't until the 21st century that many publishers considered it a worthwhile forum, despite some earlier successes such as the 1988 ebook of William Gibson's Mona Lisa Overdrive[?], and Stephen King's Riding the Bullet, which garnered half a million downloads when it was released on March 14, 2000 (only the first part of the book was free, and King gave up when he couldn't get enough people to pay for the remaining parts).

The lack of legitimate ebooks led to rapid growth of the number of unlicensed ebooks being produced, a growth which still continues - most significantly in the genres of science fiction and fantasy. This had resulted in the number of unlicensed ebooks to outweigh the licensed ebooks by several orders of magnitude.

Recent attempts to revive ebooks include ExeBook (http://www.exebook.com), an ebook compiler that produces an exe file that, when executed, produces a simulated book onscreen, complete with page texture. The etext is encrypted as graphic images so that automatic text copying is very difficult. The fear of exe files picking up viruses, however, is hampering acceptance.

See also: e-text, digital library, Project Gutenberg

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