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By Rebecca Walton, Utah State University and David Hailey, Utah State University

ABSTRACT

Once one realizes that eBook formats (and particularly the EPUB3.0 format) are portable websites that can be carried on virtually any digital reading device, it should be self-evident that in the future eBooks may play an important role in corporate communications. This is especially true if one considers that eBooks solve important problems such as website passivity (websites are only useful when readers actually come to the site). Rather than wait for readers to come to them, corporations can send the websites to their readers (e.g., marketing, training updates, contact information, documentation). This may become especially true of the new IPUB3 format.

Because e-reader devices have become so ubiquitous and because most new devices can read most formats, corporations can count on their audiences being able to access the content. This paper examines many of the positives and negatives that eBooks in general and the EPUB format in particular might bring to corporate communication. In the end, corporations will almost certainly adopt some eBook technologies. The questions become which ones, for what uses, and how? This paper addresses these questions. Categories and Subject Descriptors H.0 Information Systems: General General Terms Documentation, performance, design Keywords Ebooks, product documentation, product support, marketing support, marketing documents, IPUB, epub epub3, portable websites

INTRODUCTION

Electronic books, or eBooks, are becoming increasingly popular for pleasure and educational reading. According to a Pew Research Center Survey (Rainie, 2012, p.11), on a typical day in late 2011, there were four times as many people reading eBooks than in 2009– a span of just two years. The number of people reading eBooks spiked after record numbers of holiday purchases of e-reader devices such as the Amazon Kindle, but e-readers are not the only, or even the most common, devices that people use to read eBooks. Of Pew survey respondents who had read an eBook within the past 12 months, 42 percent had read an eBook on their computer, 41 percent on a dedicated e-reader device, 29 percent on a smart phone, and 23 percent on a tablet computer (like the Apple iPad) (Rainie, 2012).

Electronic books have been generating attention for their usage in educational settings for over a decade (e.g., Blumenstyk, 2001; Laster, 2010; Wieder, 2011; Young, 2009, 2010, 2011). In The Chronicle of Higher Education, J. R. Young has reported on a number of electronic textbook access models that U.S. universities have tested (2009, 2010, 2011): for example, having students pay a flat fee per course to access electronic textbooks online, offering eBook downloads for additional costs, and enabling students to purchase electronic readings chapter by chapter, much like music is now frequently purchased online by song as well as by album. eBooks are also becoming more widespread in K-12 school libraries, with almost half (44 percent) of school libraries in the U.S. offering eBooks in 2011, according to a study in the School Library Journal and Library Journal (Whelan, 2011).