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Old 04-13-2010, 03:17 PM   #1
Falbe Publishing
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How to make a new word: ebook, e-book, eBook?

The digital revolution triggers new words all the time. Usually, the new digital inspired words arise from the need to describe a new noun or verb in the digital landscape or to label a digital version of a long established item in the analog world. The electronic book is a current example of a digital item seeking a new name. Most people verbally refer to them as ebooks, but, when written out, I have seen three predominant forms: e-book, eBook, and ebook.

The hyphenated form e-book is a logical approach. The "e" emphasized by its segregation with the hyphen makes it clear to the reader that the defining element of this book is the "e" that stands for electronic. Although a reasonable way to write e-book, I do not like it. Hyphens are always cumbersome to type. Sometimes I hit the = instead and have to start over. I remember in the 1990s when email became a well known word. I often saw it as e-mail back then, but the hyphenated version quickly was dropped by the masses who no doubt decided that typing hyphens all the time added work instead of meaning. The form e-mail is very rare now, if used at all.

The next form eBook is the one I dislike the most. Since when do we capitalize the second letter of a word? I suspect that Apple inspired this form of the word with its style of naming its products with a lower case first letter followed by an upper case second letter: iPod, iPad, iPhone, iBook. Other companies do this with various products and services too in an attempt to add distinctiveness. I suppose that's OK for the branding schemes of a company, but should this style really be applied to a basic noun? What would be the special reason for it? I know that the English language is often criticized for not making sense, but the capitalization of interior word letters has never been among its confusing habits before, and I doubt it is an element that would be beneficial to adopt. What if you need to start a sentence with the form eBook? Do you type EBook? Do you always use the form eBook even at the start of a sentence? Will we just start dropping the capitalization of sentences and make all text look like the lazy musings of a semi-literate text messenger? oBviously I vote "nO" on eBook.

The form that I prefer is ebook. It is easy to type. It has contains no random and nonsensical capitalizations. It communicates the meaning, which is a book in electronic form. I believe that ebook is the ultimate usage that will become the standard, just as email became the standard form of that word. Ebook provides the path of least resistance while effectively communicating its meaning.

Language is a matter of shared opinion. Opinions vary but usages tend to emerge as varying opinions are gradually eliminated. Language changes too over time. Maybe ebook will disappear entirely and people will call it something else and restart the confusion and creativity until people collectively narrow down the nonsense to a new accepted usage. When making a new word, people appear to fumble through various usages before settling on forms that convey meaning but don't require too much work to say or write.
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Old 04-13-2010, 03:25 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Falbe Publishing View Post
The digital revolution triggers new words all the time. Usually, the new digital inspired words arise from the need to describe a new noun or verb in the digital landscape or to label a digital version of a long established item in the analog world. The electronic book is a current example of a digital item seeking a new name. Most people verbally refer to them as ebooks, but, when written out, I have seen three predominant forms: e-book, eBook, and ebook.

The hyphenated form e-book is a logical approach. The "e" emphasized by its segregation with the hyphen makes it clear to the reader that the defining element of this book is the "e" that stands for electronic. Although a reasonable way to write e-book, I do not like it. Hyphens are always cumbersome to type. Sometimes I hit the = instead and have to start over. I remember in the 1990s when email became a well known word. I often saw it as e-mail back then, but the hyphenated version quickly was dropped by the masses who no doubt decided that typing hyphens all the time added work instead of meaning. The form e-mail is very rare now, if used at all.

The next form eBook is the one I dislike the most. Since when do we capitalize the second letter of a word? I suspect that Apple inspired this form of the word with its style of naming its products with a lower case first letter followed by an upper case second letter: iPod, iPad, iPhone, iBook. Other companies do this with various products and services too in an attempt to add distinctiveness. I suppose that's OK for the branding schemes of a company, but should this style really be applied to a basic noun? What would be the special reason for it? I know that the English language is often criticized for not making sense, but the capitalization of interior word letters has never been among its confusing habits before, and I doubt it is an element that would be beneficial to adopt. What if you need to start a sentence with the form eBook? Do you type EBook? Do you always use the form eBook even at the start of a sentence? Will we just start dropping the capitalization of sentences and make all text look like the lazy musings of a semi-literate text messenger? oBviously I vote "nO" on eBook.

The form that I prefer is ebook. It is easy to type. It has contains no random and nonsensical capitalizations. It communicates the meaning, which is a book in electronic form. I believe that ebook is the ultimate usage that will become the standard, just as email became the standard form of that word. Ebook provides the path of least resistance while effectively communicating its meaning.

Language is a matter of shared opinion. Opinions vary but usages tend to emerge as varying opinions are gradually eliminated. Language changes too over time. Maybe ebook will disappear entirely and people will call it something else and restart the confusion and creativity until people collectively narrow down the nonsense to a new accepted usage. When making a new word, people appear to fumble through various usages before settling on forms that convey meaning but don't require too much work to say or write.
It depends on what you like. I think e-book works best when discussing p-books and e-books as it makes the differences easier to catch the eye in long paragraphs. However, if I'm just discussing ebooks, I drop the hyphen.

I think I'd only use eBook/e-Book if that were part of a specific marketing strategy, kind of like iPod, iPhone, iPad, iBook, iMac...

Derek
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Old 04-13-2010, 06:39 PM   #3
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We have, and have had for a few hundred years, a name for those things with printed marks on paper (that, once bought one has the right to sell, give away blah blah...), we call them books and and so I'm not sure we need a new word for them. There doesn't really seem to be any need to capitalise or hyphenate the "e" in ebooks - given that there's no need to start calling printed paper books "Pbooks" or "p-books"or anything else other than books.

PS. What about those languages in which the equivalent of the English word "electronic" doesn't start with an "e" - Icelandic has "rafræn" and Filipino has "de koryente" (at least so Google Translate tells me).

Last edited by TGS; 04-13-2010 at 07:10 PM.
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Old 04-13-2010, 06:52 PM   #4
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Whatever form of e(-)(b|B)ook is chosen, the second law of thermodynamics will ensure that it will end up as ebook.
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Old 04-13-2010, 08:02 PM   #5
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Whatever form of e(-)(b|B)ook is chosen, the second law of thermodynamics will ensure that it will end up as ebook.
Actually, in this case I think it will be the first law of typodynamics that does it
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Old 04-14-2010, 12:31 AM   #6
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I think it'll settle down as "ebook" for the same reasons that we now use "email" instead of "e-mail" or some of the other early variants some of you may remember.

And that's fine with me.
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Old 04-14-2010, 10:41 AM   #7
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"Ebook" makes sense to me, too, in this light. The only question is: When does it happen? (And do early adopters get brownie points? )
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Old 04-14-2010, 12:42 PM   #8
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I tend to use ebook except when beginning a sentence, in which case I use eBook.
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Old 04-14-2010, 01:08 PM   #9
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If, like me, you read a lot of 18th and 19th century novels, it's easy to see this process of separate words first becoming hyphenated, and then joined. Eg, "down stairs" became "down-stairs" and then finally "downstairs". "To morrow" became "to-morrow" and finally "tomorrow".
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