Ebooks: the complete broadbandchoices guide

ByDuncan Heaney

Interested in ebooks and e-readers? Our complete broadbandchoices.co.uk guide tells you what you need to know...

What are ebooks?

An ebook is exactly what you might expect from the name - an electronic book that you can read on a computer, tablet, e-reader and other devices.

These digital books have really taken off in the last few years, and there's already a gargantuan library available - novels, biographies, comics, reference material to name but a few of the genres available.

Why read ebooks?

Firstly, ebooks are more convenient than regular hardbacks and paperbacks. With the right device, you can carry hundreds or even thousands of titles around in your pocket. That makes them perfect for travel

There's also the added convenience of being able to get a book whenever you want, without having to leave the house or wait for it to arrive from a mail-order service.

Another big advantage is that, because ebooks don't have any printing costs, they're often cheaper than their ink and paper counterparts.

They can be more comfortable than a physical book too, giving you the ability to change fonts, and font sizes to suit personal taste, instantly bookmark pages for instant access later and more.

Of course, for some people, a digital book will never feel as good as flicking through paper pages. Ultimately, it all comes down to personal preference, but the advantages of ebooks are hard to ignore.

How can you read ebooks?

Ebooks can be read on a wide range of different devices. Just some of the options include:

  • Dedicated e-readers, such as the Amazon Kindle and Nook Simple Touch.
  • Tablets, such as the Apple iPad, Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HD
  • Smartphones - iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry handsets all offer e-reader applications
  • PCs / Macs / laptops - not the most comfortable way to read a book perhaps, but it's still possible to read ebooks this way.
Amazon Kindle


As you can see, there's no shortage of ways to read a digital book. From our perspective, an e-reader is the most comfortable method, as these devices use magnetic ink rather than a traditional screen, minimising eye-strain.

On the other hand, most tablets offer an enjoyable reading experience and have applications beyond books, such as watching TV and movies, listening to music, playing games, working and browsing the internet. The same is true for smartphones, although the smaller screen may be an eye-straining turn-off for some.

How can you get ebooks?

Many companies sell ebooks and there are a variety of ways to get hold of them. Fortunately, almost all of them are really simple.

If you have an e-reader, tablet or smartphone you'll likely have access to an online store that lets you buy ebooks. For example, the Amazon Kindle range provides direct access to that online retailer's vast library, iPhone and iPad users can buy books from iTunes, and Android devices have access to a wide selection of ebooks from the Google Play store.

Elderly man downloading eBook


Alternatively, you can download books from a number of independent retailers, such as WHSmith and Waterstones.

One thing to be aware of is that, depending on where you buy them, some ebooks may be protected by digital rights management (DRM).

DRM explained

DRM exists to protect authors against piracy - a valid concern - but it's not always the most convenient thing for the consumer. For example, some types of DRM, locks your book to a single gadget, while others might limit which types of device the book is compatible with. For example, buying a book from Apple iTunes allows you to read it on iOS devices via the iBooks app.

Man reading ebook on train


Most major ebook sellers will have information about any restrictions and DRM on their websites, so if you're planning to switch between multiple devices when reading books, it's worth checking the small print before parting with any cash.

What broadband package do I need to download ebooks?

The file size of an ebook will vary, depending on the format it's in. Books can range from a few kilobytes to, in rare cases, a couple of hundred megabytes.

For the most part though, ebooks aren't very big, and if you're viewing ebooks over the cloud, the data requirements are likely to be marginal too - fibre optic broadband's not an essential here.

Most people will find downloading ebooks doesn't cut into any usage limits they may have. However, when choosing a broadband package, you'll need to factor in what else it will be used for to determine what exactly you need. Check out our guide to data usage for more information.

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