Basically, eBooks are digital files that are stored in portable electronic appliances that can display on a screen the words you would normally expect to find printed on paper. The concept was based on the theory that anything electronic is better than something that is not. Unfortunately, the initial products that came to market had many a reader recalling the utility of the electric fork which was marketed in the 1960s (tongue-in-cheek) as a companion to the electric knife. So what advantages could technology possibly bring to books? Well it appears that finally technology’s pioneers are beginning to answer.
Pioneer products like the $299 SoftBook, $350 Rocket eBook and $1500 EveryBook are trying to repurpose existing content that simply does better in the form of ink on paper. Early eBook Reader devices all suffer from poor resolution, short battery life, low memory, fragile components, limited selection and high price.
Why would anyone — especially the anticipated target market of professionals and business travelers — lay out another $300 to $1500 for yet another electronic appliance that requires batteries, transformer/recharger, electrical outlet, cables and Internet connection and competes for space in a briefcase with cell phone, laptop, palm pilot and pager?
The advantages that technology ought to bring include wireless connectivity, dynamic content, hypertext cross-referencing, audio, video and multipurpose functionality.
There’s no reason at all the same appliance shouldn’t be able to deliver all the capability of telephone, television, pager, email, calendar, address book and “E-Book” electronic texts.
In fact, there’s no way that E-Book Reader developers will be able to prevent their appliances from evolving in that direction as competition heats up, battery life lengthens, chip memory increases and prices fall. (Indeed, several eBook Readers already come with microphones and speakers that will “speak” text aloud; one already offers a cell phone.)
At the moment the printed Book still wins the 4-B’s Test: can you carry it from Bedroom to Bathroom to Bus to Beach and have it work equally well in all environments?
The moment, however, won’t last very long . Defenders of the book as superior technology need to savor their time on the summit. A new order is coming and the participants behind the eBook movement will be shaping the future of information transfer.
Consider the comments of some of the leading thinkers who shared their thoughts at the National Institute of Standards & Technology eBook conference:
Whether it’s printed on acid-free archival paper stitched into signatures and bound within leather covered boards or stored in a 100-terabit pop-in flashcard it will still be content and content will always be king.
Author: Robin Lind
News Service: WebPointers