The difference between digital books and e-books

The difference between digital books and e-books

Most people today do not know the difference between a digital and an e-book. In fact, many people think they are the same. They couldn’t be further from the truth. They are completely different species of the same animal.

Digital books

Digital books, sometimes also called e-books or PDF books, are scanned digital facsimiles of standard printed, published books. You can think of them as enhanced copies of the actual hardcover or paperback books we’ve come to know and love.

When we talk about the digital version of the newer publications, they are almost identical to the original. When we talk about old or even ancient publications, they are much better than any original you would find on the shelf of your local library. Since they are facsimiles of the original print, it really increases the quality and helps overcome the problems of many older books, such as yellowed pages, stains, transparent or flake paper, colored paper, brown inks, etc. They are scanned pages, not “copied” pages, and the print quality is indeed a better quality than printing the original book.

The majority of digital books come in PDF format, although Amazon offers a Kindle edition, Mobipocket offers the MOBI version, then there is a plain TEXT format, as well as many others.

Digital books are usually much cheaper than their hardcover or paperback counterparts, and there are almost no shipping costs unless they are delivered on CD (compact disc).

Electronic books

E-books are also digital books, but they are designed and written for the Internet. Many, if not most, e-books have never been officially “published” at all, unless you count publishing something on the Internet as publishing.

Most e-books were designed to be written quickly, with little or no cost other than eventual distribution. Most are short, almost always under 100 pages, usually under 50 pages. Some ebooks are literally put together in a few hours. Often they are little more than a few short reports strung together.

Many e-books are self-help books or manuals of some kind, although there are some works of history and fiction that you can find if you look for them. Most often they have little or no literary value, their purpose being the dissemination of facts, instructions and/or ideas.

Sometimes you may come across the electronic version of a hardback or paperback book. It will even be called an “e-version” of any book. But if you look more closely, you’ll find that this version of the e-book is almost always far fewer pages than the original. You can also call the “e-book version” an “abridged version” of the book.

Although you will find many eBooks in PDF format, much like digital books, many of them come as various generic interactive applications. But don’t let the initial attraction of interaction fool you. Even if this sounds like high-tech education at first, you’ll find that it doesn’t hold much promise for interaction. This simply disguises the fact that these books are short, technically no more than a few pages, with little or no real practical and even less academic value.

Last but not least, e-books are often free or inexpensive, although you’ll sometimes find some special instructional “programs” costing hundreds of dollars.


E-books are technically digital books, although in practice there is a big difference. Personally, I usually prefer a digital book to its electronic cousin.

By Thomas A. Retherbusch

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