Open Your Mind

6/16/2005 3:30:17 PM

Open Your Mind

Chris Nahr writes

There's no way I'd read an e-book for anything not computer related -- a physical book ist just much more comfortable to use, and allows me to get away from the computer. Even computer literature that isn't purely a reference for programming I'd rather read without a screen. But computing references are mostly free, so that leaves e-books as a solution that's looking for a problem.

I wonder how much of the desire to read bounded books is due to familiarity and habit. When we look at the video game market, it was largely confined to young players in the 1980’s open to new lifestyles. Over time, the average age of video game consumers climbed as those young players grew into adults.

There are certainly several advantages that e-books have over regular books, now or in the future, in usability:

  • E-books don’t take any shelf-space, and thousands of titles can be store on one portable device, which may even take less space than a book. One can envision such a device shaped and folded like a book.
  • The clarity of text of such a device may even eventually exceed that of a printed book. In addition, the font face and size—even the entire stylesheet—may be adjustable.
  • E-books, combined with wireless capabilities, can contain links to external content, commentary, or be dynamically updated over time. Collaboration is also another possibility.
  • E-books can be easily annotated and such annotations can be easily removed.
  • E-books have several navigational possibilities — dynamically generated table of contents and indexes, text searches, document outline, panning, bookmarking.
  • E-books can also more easily support the use of text-to-speech and braille technologies, so you can listen to your book as you commute.
  • E-books can contain rich media such as color, images, video, animations, and three-dimensional content.

E-books will also be more available than traditional books. Your favorite books may only be available as e-books.

  • Free electronic books are already and abundantly available; books generally are not free. This is just a consequence of zero cost of publishing and copying an e-book.
  • A wider selection of content will only be available as e-books. Only limited supply of books (the Short Tail) can be accommodated by traditional channels because of printing, marketing and distribution costs.
  • Services will exist to print and bind e-books; however, will it be worth an extra amount of money to view books in printed form? Some e-books may not even be convertible to books, even those with changeable electronic paper, because of rich or dynamic content.

I look at the future of e-books, and I see a versatile technology that will wipe out nearly every advantage of printed books. Some of the biggest issues with e-books such as readability and rights management will be resolved within the next few years. The resolution of readability issue depends on software and hardware manufacturers replicating the positive experiences of reading a book while maintaining the unique advantages of e-books. The resolution of the rights management issue is required before major titles will become available in electronic form.







Net Undocumented is a blog about the internals of .NET including Xamarin implementations. Other topics include managed and web languages (C#, C++, Javascript), computer science theory, software engineering and software entrepreneurship.

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