Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How do you spell ebook / eBook / e-book?

e symbol for electronicMy last blog presented an unexpected challenge. How should I spell the shortened form of electronic book? Is it ebook, eBook, e-book, Ebook, E-Book.... The possibilities continue, but after writing a few versions they all begin to look like gibberish.

Unlike "it" and "it's" or "your" and "you're," all of the spellings mean the same thing. In my online reading, I mostly encounter three forms: ebook, eBook, and e-book. So which is it? As a writer with plans to release a book in electronic format, I really should know.

I tend to eschew the hyphen and capital in favor of ebook, but what do the experts say? Dictionary searches, including the New Oxford American Dictionary on my Kindle, show a preference for the spelling e-book, though some also list ebook or eBook as alternate spellings. The Chicago Manual of Style also favors e-book. News results tend to be split between ebook, eBook, and e-book, with the occasional E-Book or Ebook spelling.

That said, Amazon sells Kindle eBooks, Google has an eBookstore, and Barnes and Noble has an eBook store. Sony also calls them eBooks. Maybe the electronic book sellers have it right.

An interesting Google Awards Experiment, by Richard Adams, on What Spelling of "Ebook" Gets the Highest Response? concluded that Ebook and ebook get a similar number of click-throughs, but eBook received less than half the number of click-throughs. Adams' conclusion:
When using pay per click advertising, if your ad contains the work "ebook" never spell it as eBook
Like e-mail becoming the more popularly spelled email, I suspect that the spelling of ebook is still evolving. For now, I plan to stick with my personal preference, ebook. It's simple to recognize, easy to type, and to the point. What is your preferred spelling?


  1. I vote for e-book. Definetly e-book. 'electricity' is a word. 'ebola' is a word. 'ebook' is not, and as such it should be hyphenated to denote that the 'e' is an acronym or abbreviation of a word apart from the word 'book.'

    But, hey, that's just me.

  2. Doug: Thanks for weiging in! I hope others contribute to the debate.

    It would be interesting to get a sense of the majority among my readers. I would seriously consider spelling ebook the way the majority want to see it.

  3. While I agree, right now, most publishers use the hyphenated e-book term, American English is a language that tends toward simplification. (For example, honour is now honor in American dictionaries.) In the future, I think the hyphen will be entirely done away with when referring to electronic communications.

  4. Amy: Excellently put! American English does tend toward simplification.

  5. Nice to see I wasn't the only one trying to figure this out. Great bit of info on the click through rates of the certain spelling though.

    I just read over something I had written, I used it 3 different ways depending on how I was using the word in the sentences. Is that weird? lol

    That's when I said I need to decide on one way and stick to it.

    Thanks for the post Jimi.

  6. I'm glad that my blog was helpful. Good luck with your own blogging!

  7. Thanks. this was helpful. I was just wondering the same thing. I released my first ebook yesterday. It's a free download. Check it out