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Finding E-books: A Guide

Devices and Formats

Tape-punching equipment for the automatic message accounting system devised by the Bell Telelphone laboratories for use in telephone billing
Ticker tape is no longer a commonly used format for information sharing.
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The wide variety of file formats, devices, and dedicated e-readers can be overwhelming. Here is a guide to the range of devices used to access e-books and an outline of common file formats. The list of file formats also includes compatibility with specific devices, where applicable.

Devices Used to Access E-books
E-readers
File Formats

Devices Used to Access E-books:

Desktop & Laptop Computers
Depending on the file format, many e-books are available for use on a personal computer. Some are displayed within a browser; others may be downloaded in an e-book format such as PDF (.pdf) or ePub (.epub).

Digital Audio Players
Digital audio players can be used to listen to audio books if they are format-compatible. MP3 (.mp3) files are a ubiquitous audio format compatible with most digital audio players. Other audio file formats include AIFF (.aif), OGG (.ogg), and WAV (.wav).

E-readers
E-readers are designed specifically to obtain and access e-books, some of which have their own proprietary file formats. More information is below in the E-readers list.

Handheld Mobile Devices
Smartphones and other handheld mobile devices such as the Android, BlackBerry and iPhone can be used to access e-book collections online or through applications.

Tablets
Tablet computers such as the iPad and Xoom can be used to read e-books via applications that present content to users. Tablets may also be used to browse the World Wide Web, where many e-books are available for viewing and downloading.


E-readers

E-readers are devices that enable downloading, storing and reading e-books; however, a variety of handheld mobile devices may also be used to download, store and read e-books. The following list contains a selection of e-readers about which the Library of Congress has fielded questions.

Amazon Kindle

The Kindle is a dedicated e-reader; it is designed just for e-books. Amazon.com's Kindle ebooks External Link Web site contains more information about e-books, sharing policies External Link, borrowing from libraries External Link, and apps External Link for mobile devices. Library of Congress publications are available for free download to the Kindle from the Internet Archive External Link.

Apple iPad

The iPad can be used as an e-reader via apps such as iBooks, which support both ePub (.epub) and PDF (.pdf) formats. Both formats are available from the Internet Archive External Link. With additional free software, the iPad can also display ebooks designed for the Kindle, Nook, and other devices. The Apple iPad has other functions, but is commonly used as an e-reader.

Barnes & Noble Nook

The Barnes & Noble Nook External Link is a dedicated e-reader; it is designed just for e-books. Barnes & Noble's Web site contains more information about e-books, sharing policies, and apps External Link for mobile devices. Library of Congress publications are available for free download in ePub (.epub) format, which is compatible External Link with the Nook, from the Internet Archive External Link.

Sony Reader

Sony Readers are e-readers that come in various sizes. E-books can be obtained through Sony's e-Book Library, but the device also supports ePub (.epub) and PDF (.pdf) formats, available from the Internet Archive External Link.


File Formats

.AIFF
Audio Interchange File Format. An audio format developed by Apple. Compatible with Apple devices.

.AZW
Amazon Kindle Format.  A custom format for the Amazon Kindle, this e-reader file format is only usable on a Kindle e-reader.

DAISY

Digital Accessible Information System Format External Link. A format that is text and audio-enabled that allows visually-impaired users to ‘navigate’ a text, rather than listening from one end to another, as with conventional audio books.  DAISY files can be used on stand-alone players or run virtually through computer software.  Limited use is possible with standard digital audio players.

.DJVU

DjVu Format External Link. High-compression rate for high-resolution documents. Web-browser, desktop and mobile-device compatible. An alternative to the PDF.

.EPUB

Electronic Publication Format External Link. An e-book standard maintained by the International Digital Publishing Forum, designed for ‘re-flowable’ content, meaning that text will adjust to the device’s screen size for optimal viewing. Epub texts do not support images or embedded content such as equations at this time.  The Nook is epub-enabled.

.HTML

Hypertext Markup Language Format. A computer programming language that many texts are formatted with; these texts are intended for viewing as part of a web page.

.MOBI

Mobipocket Mobile Format. An Amazon format for e-books that is compatible with mobile devices such as the Blackberry, Palm OS, etc.

.MP3
MPEG Layer 3 Format. An audio format developed by the Motion Picture Experts Group. Compatible with most digital audio players.

.OGG
Ogg Format. A free and open-source format that can be used for audiovisual files. Compatible with a variety of free and proprietary media players.

.PDF

Portable Document Format External Link. Made by Adobe and compatible with their free Acrobat Reader (http://get.adobe.com/reader/), the Portable Document Format is widely used.  PDF files are scanned images of printed pages or converted digital documents from other formats.  PDF files are fixed-layout, meaning that their scale may not be suitable for very small screens.

.PDB

Plucker Format External Link.  Software that can be used on a handheld mobile device to choose content that is converted into a readable file from the web.  Plucker files are stored in the mobile device used to view the material.

.TXT

Plain Text File Format. A text file is readable by most basic desktop word-processing programs.  Not compatible with all dedicated e-readers.

.WAV
Waveform Audio File Format. An audio format used mainly in Microsoft and IBM computers.

Others

Other formats exist for individual devices; e-readers, tablets and web-enabled phones may have their own e-reader applications or software.  Consult manufacturer’s Web site for further information. A few popular devices are smartphones, tablet computers, and e-readers.

 

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  September 23, 2011
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