The question can also be flipped: many web sites could just as well be ebooks--they are updated so infrequently.
So indeed, what is the profile of a web site vs. an ebook? It would nice for those of us who work with learning technology to know--so that we can help users decide what kind of content should go on what platform. So this was my attempt at a rough-and-ready set of distinctions.
A web site can:
- be dynamic (responding to users), frequently changing, regularly updated;
- be a hosted conversation, not a fixed monologue or dialogue: it's like a play where the audience talks back;
- collect data about users to track them over time--for their benefit or the site's benefit;
- immediately connect to other resources via hyperlinks so that the site is seamlessly embedded within the internet as a whole;
- be accessed sequentially over a long period, but brief and intermittent random access, skimming, searching and hit-and-run browsing are often assumed.
In short: a web site is a snack or a buffet, where an ebook is a meal or several meals.
- takes a fixed form which can be stable for weeks or months or more;
- does not include an on-going conversation--that takes place elsewhere;
- does not track user behavior (though some reader programs sync across devices for user convenience);
- contains within itself a tightly-bound group of coherent elements and may link more loosely to other resources (through footnotes, hyperlinks and other references);
- is a standalone resource that can be used, read and enjoyed by itself, often over a long duration, often sequentially.
- A web site is potentially casual, sampled in short visits, potentially over time, in a very non-linear fashion, and it may be a form of social interaction.
- An ebook has a longer duration, may be more sequential, and it is a solitary 'conversation' between an author and a reader.
But in the era of hypertext, the success of the ebook should remind us of a few things--four, really.
- That some pieces of information are more tightly bound to each other.
- That kind of tight binding or coherence is what we expect of an author or content creator.
- That not everyone is connected to the web at every moment--nor wants to be nor should be expected to be.
- And that social as we are, we still enjoy solitary, reflective activities--as we have since Gutenberg's invention gave a reasonable price to solitary reading for enlightenment or pleasure.
--E. R. O'Neill