Help > Introduction to ebooks and e-reading devices

Introduction to ebooks and e-reading devices

  • What is an ebook?

    An ebook is a file that can contain text, images, or both. It can be read on a computer and on a number of other devices. Although ebooks are often the equivalent of print books, some books are only published in digital format.

  • What are the different formats of ebooks?

    The two most commonly used ebook formats are Adobe PDF and EPUB. Not all books are available in both formats: some books are only available in PDF, others only in EPUB, and some are available in both formats.

    Adobe PDF

    Adobe created the PDF format as a way to preserve a uniform appearance (fonts, images, layout, etc.) regardless of the device used to read the file. This format can be read comfortably on a computer screen and on most multi-function tablets. However, PDF files are not recommended for e-readers or smart phones, because the text will often be too small. Almost all computers and reading devices support PDF files.


    The EPUB format is designed for on-screen reading. Its main advantage is reflowable content, which means that the layout of the text and images will adjust automatically when the font size changes. This format is well suited for on-screen reading on devices such as e-readers and smart phones. However, the EPUB format is not advisable for fixed-layout content, such as comic books.

    The vast majority of computers and reading devices support EPUB files, with the notable exception of the Amazon Kindle.

  • What is DRM?

    Digital rights management (DRM), sometimes called a digital lock, is a protection technology integrated into an ebook. It controls the various uses of the book, including the download, the lending period and the transfer of the book to a reading device.

    DRM is intended to protect the file against copyright infringement, for example the unauthorized copying of the ebook. The type of DRM that Médiathèques de Créteil files are equipped with also manage the automatic return of the book at the end of the load period. All books available for lending on Médiathèques de Créteil are equipped with a digital lock, the Adobe DRM.

  • I don't own a reading device such as an e-reader or a tablet. Do I need one to read ebooks?

    No. ebooks can be read on a number of devices, including:

    • a computer (PC or Mac)
    • an e-reader (e.g., Sony Reader, Kobo)
    • a touchscreen tablet (e.g., iPad, Samsung GalaxyTab)
    • a smart phone.

    However, it is more pleasant to read ebooks on a portable device with a screen adapted for reading, such as an e-reader or a tablet.

Digital Readers Buying Guide

Tablet or e-reader?

You first have to determine which type of device will suit your needs. There are currently two types of e-reading devices on the market: tablets and e-readers.

Tablets, the most widely known probably being the Apple iPad, are multimedia devices that provide most of the same functions as laptops. E-readers, on the other hand, are intended mostly for reading, and offer far fewer functions.

The following chart summarizes the main differences between tablets and e-readers.

Comparative table between tablet and e-reader
  Tablets E-Readers
  • Color
  • Backlighting (can be read in the dark, but much less so in direct sunlight)
  • Can be compared to a laptop
  • Black and white
  • E ink (cannot be read in the dark, but offer a good visibility in direct sunlight)
  • Can be equipped with backup lighting
  • Can be compared to a printed book
Dimensions 7 to 10 inches (18 to 26 cm) diagonally Approximately 6 inches (15 cm) diagonally
Weight Approximately 600g From 150 to 200g
Battery life Up to 10 hours Several days, even weeks (Approximately 7,000 pages)
  • e-reading
  • Internet browsing
  • Multimedia (movies, music, etc.)
  • Applications
  • Games
  • Etc.
  • Mainly for e-reading. Some e-readers offer Internet browsing
Price From 80 € à 800 € From 60 € à 250 €


The second factor that should guide your choice is compatibility. There are many ebook formats currently available, and not all e-readers and tablets can read all formats.

Médiathèques de Créteil offers books in EPUB and PDF format. Most e-readers and tablets support these two formats. EPUB et PDF books are also sold by most online bookstores.

However, some e-readers are more compatible with proprietary, less common formats, one case being the Amazon Kindle, which only reads AZW and KF8 files (sold only by Amazon) and PDFs. The Kindle does not support EPUB files.

If you want to read files borrowed from Médiathèques de Créteil, make sure your reading device is compatible with the EPUB and PDF format, as well as with Adobe's DRM.

For the complete list of e-readers and tablets compatible with ebooks available on Médiathèques de Créteil, refer to our chart of compatible devices and applications.

Reading experience

Finally, you must also to consider the technical differences between the devices available on the market. Each device offers a different reading experience. Some are very fast, while others can be slower when flipping pages. Some offer a 15 cm screen, while others come with a 26 cm screen. The battery life of some devices can last a few weeks; for others, it will run flat after one day.

Nothing beats hands-on experience to help you make the right choice. We recommend that you go to a department store or a bookstore to try different devices. You will then be able to choose the one that best suits your needs.

Also, some libraries lend reading devices. Find out if your library provides this kind of service.