An e-book is basically just a computer file, and can come in many file different formats according to where and how you intend to use it.
The simplest option is the .pdf (portable document format), which is used for all types of documents, not just e-books.
Let me explain.
Suppose I write a short story for learners of Italian, add a couple of exercises, some glossaries, answer keys, and so on. To make it look nice, I choose a font I like and style the headings. I even design a cover, just like a real book.
I do all this with LibreOffice Writer, which is a FREE alternative to the expensive Microsoft Office suite of applications (check it out here, we use it throughout our business and highly recommend it!)
I save the file in whichever format I prefer – Microsoft’s .doc is a common choice. But the default for LibreOffice Writer is .odt (stands for ‘open document text’), so I’ll use that.
Suppose further that I e-mail you my draft and say, ‘Hey! Take a look at my e-book, will you? And e-mail me your thoughts?’
When you click on the file attachment, your computer, tablet or phone will choose an application capable of assembling the data in the file into something you can read.
Good smart-phones or tablets usually have an application that can read document attachments, but it’s not guaranteed: you might just get an error message.
If you’re using a computer with Microsoft Office installed, you’ll find that you won’t be able to see my file either. That’s Microsoft being a deliberate pain-in-the-ass.
But let’s assume you manage to open my file. Whatever application opens it will interpret the code and display the results according to the resources it has available.
Not every computer has the same library of fonts, for example. So what you see might be very different from what I intended, which could in turn affect the way the pages display, the positioning of images, and so on.
Basically, my hard work in trying to make everything look professional is very likely to have been wasted. Unless you’re using the same sort of computer, and the same application as I am, what you see will be different from what I see.
Which is where the portable document format (.pdf) comes in.
As I finish my masterpiece, I save the file. But I don’t send it to you like that. First, I export my file into .pdf format – it’s a bit like taking a photo of my file, so that everyone who looks at it will see it exactly as I intended.
At its simplest, an e-book is just a computer file, which can be something specific to a certain type of device (like Amazon’s Kindle), or something more general, like a .pdf.
We use .pdf because just about EVERYONE can open a .pdf on whatever sort of device.
It’s far from being the fanciest option, but you can save, make backup copies, even print it, if you hate trees that much.
Got a question about e-books? Or just can’t figure out all this modern technology? Go ahead and leave a comment on this article and I’ll try to help.
But the best way to understand new things, as any child knows, is to have a play.
You’ll find plenty of examples in our our online shop. There’s usually a link to download a free sample chapter, which is an excellent way to find out
- if your tablet, smart-phone or computer will let you read it, and
- if the material is suitable for your level in Italian
Here are links to our simplified Italian readers. Click away!
- ‘Il ristorante‘ (romance, level A1/A2) – download free sample chapter
- ‘Il fu Mattia Pascal‘ (literature, level A1/A2) – download free sample chapter
- ‘Il campo di papaveri‘ (romance, level A2/B1) – download free sample chapter
- ‘Il fazzoletto rosa‘ (crime, level A2/B1) – download free sample chapter
- ‘Un avventura tra i ribelli‘ (adventure, level B1/B2) – download free sample chapter
- ‘Un furto ad arte‘ (crime, level B1/B2) – download free sample chapter
Comments, as always are welcome. Click this link to view this article on our website, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and complete the comments form.
So, what’s it to be?
Dead mashed tree? Or portable document format?
Can’t wait to hear your views!