Ebook Information Web Sites

By O'Leary, Mick | Online, March 2001 | Go to article overview

Ebook Information Web Sites


O'Leary, Mick, Online


If you're interested in one type of ebook information--news, publishers, opinions--you can turn to a single site to meet your needs.

The ebook race is on. They'll soon be at a bookstore or library near you; they're already on your desktop from numerous Web suppliers. The whole situation is thoroughly confusing, due to a frantic jumble of technologies, formats, standards, publishers, and distributors. What we need is an all-around reference, resource, and information portal site that organizes all of this and connects us to the fast-changing ebook world.

What would such a Web site contain? I've worked up the elements of an ideal ebook information Web site:

* Reference information that describes the principal ebook formats, readers, and viewers, as well as a review of the principal publishers and distributors

* Directories, preferably annotated and with links, to the ebook industry, including publishers, distributors, sellers, and manufacturers

* An ebook catalog, with format information and links to publishers

* Up-to-date news about technology developments, company events, new releases, and other important stories, along with a deep searchable archive

* Bulletin boards, for those who enjoy interactive book talk

The good news is that there are several such ebook reference sites; the bad news is that none has all of these elements. The three principal comprehensive ebook reference sites are eBookNet, eBookAd, and eBook Connections. Each has a distinctive but incomplete set of ebook site components. Choosing among them is not a matter of identifying the best one, but rather of matching them against your individual needs and tastes.

Besides their theme, they have other things in common. All began as labors of love by ebook enthusiasts. All are ad-supported, with a modest presence that mercifully lacks popups, oversize ads, or ad-stuffed pages. And all are poorly designed. Each demonstrates numerous examples of bad Web site design--excessively long pages; overcrowded, visually frustrating page layouts; clumsy, nonintuitive navigation; inadequate search capabilities; missing site maps; and inadequate "About Us" identification information. Perhaps you might expect better from book-oriented sites but, because of coincidence or some odd quirk of ebook sites, you don't get it from these three.

EBOOKET

Perhaps the most widely known ebook reference site is eBookNet (http://www.ebooknet.com). It usually surfaces in Web directories and Web search results, and is frequently referred to in articles on ebooks. Glenn Sanders and Alex Pigeon, ebook enthusiasts who found no Web gathering point for their interest, started it in 1998. In 1999, it was purchased by NuvoMedia, manufacturer of the Rocket eBook, a major ebook reader. At that time, the editors vowed to maintain their independence, and appear to have succeeded. News, commentary, and other content covers the entire ebook scene, with no apparent favoritism.

eBookNet's strongest area is news and commentary. It covers technology, books, companies, markets, and issues with a mix of staff reports, press releases, and articles from other Web news sites. It has five to ten stories per week, with an archive back to January 2000. Articles are classified by topic and results can be sorted by date or relevance ranking. Since the underlying search engine is Ultraseek, the advanced search mode allows for Boolean search construction, field searching, and searches on update dates. There is a stable of regular commentators who cover all the major ebook beats. Their remarks are generally well informed and provocative, but each appears only every few weeks or months; eBookNet would be much more attractive if they wrote more frequently.

The other areas of eBookNet are unremarkable. It has a short summary/critique of the major ebook readers and viewers. The only reference information is a short glossary of ebook terms. …

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