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What does the future hold for e-books?

By hubie in News
Fri Jul 07, 2000 at 12:11:31 PM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)

I came across an article from last month in The Chicago Tribune regarding the uneasy feeling booksellers have towards e-books. This article, along with Saturday's highly publicized and anticipated release of the latest Harry Potter novel got me wondering whether e-books could really threaten their paper and ink counterparts.

(Forgive me if this is an old or tired topic (and if it is, please vote it down), but I am fairly new to this site and I couldn't find anything on e-books in the archives.)

I can understand why the traditional booksellers might be anxious because of the uncertainty of the future, but I really don't see e-books dramatically replacing print books. Although e-books have some nice advantages including storage capabilities for holding multiple books, or the ability to change the font size to accomodate degraded eyesight, their biggest drawback in my opinion is their viewscreens. You just can't skim and browse easily using a screen, even one as large as the monitor on your desktop (let alone something the size of your Palm screen). It may look cool on Star Trek, but I just can't see myself reading a technical report on a little handheld. Then there is the whole screen readability (contrast, viewing angle, etc.) and battery life issues, though presumably these things will certainly improve over time.

I can see these things filling a niche market such as being readers for pop novels and other "lite" reads, or to have a hand-held dictonary/thesauras/encyclopedia/etc, but for anything that requires one to flip back and forth between text and graphs or endnotes, these things just wouldn't fit the bill (unless there are some major advances made in GUI layout and design). I figure that books, newspapers, and magazines have been around for 400 years without any significant changes, so there must be something about their design that people like. Do I share a common view, or am I just not as optimistic about the promise of every technological device that comes along?


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What does the future hold for e-books? | 27 comments (27 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
e-Book future (3.50 / 2) (#1)
by hattig on Fri Jul 07, 2000 at 11:22:07 AM EST

The current e-book devices are not that great, sure. I don't want to read a book on a 160x160 greyscale screen, or even on a 320x240 colour screen. The DPI is too low. Major advances are eing made in display technology though, such that 200dpi+ displays will be available in the next couple of years. Imagine an e-book about the same size as a paperback book, with a nice flip-back front cover to protect the screen. Maybe even two screens facing each other inside - to make it look like a book. Inside, there should be a paper white high-contrast 200dpi greyscale display, which would be more than adequate for viewing e-books. At a size of around 7inches by 4inches, that is a resolution of 1400 by 800 pixels, in greyscale. That seems quite readable to me, with decent font-smoothing technology - look at an 800 pixel wide pdf, it looks nice.

And there will be the better points - sound, video, pictures, interactivity. Remember those Ian Livingstone adventure books? (Basically a text adventure in book format, there were hundreds of different locations and outcomes, and a set of options at each turn, and they were damned hard because of the RPG aspect) They could be done so effectively in this format! Games as well. The daily newspaper could be a matter of going into a newsagent, your choice of newspaper is uploaded into the e-book via Bluetooth, and a micro-payment is made for the transaction.

You can also zoom into the text if you have bad eyesight, change the layout, font, etc. There will be easy buttons to facilitate movement through the book, and per chapter highlights in case you stop reading a book for a while and need a recap.

Then think about all the PDA functionality that will be built in as well. These would be killer devices in anyones opinion.

The price? Initially quite expensive, even for the monochome versions, as the screen will be quite large. But over time the price will drop, and in 5 years time you will probably be able to pick up an e-book as described above for 200. If an e-book costs 3 instead of the 6 for a paperback, then it will pay for itself in 66 books purchased. Not to mention the other facilities are great anyway, and make the device the main computing device for anyone who has one.

Re: e-Book future (1.00 / 1) (#2)
by fluffy grue on Fri Jul 07, 2000 at 11:37:32 AM EST

I personally believe that "e-paper" (whose site currently seems to be borked, though I might just have the wrong URL), the Media Lab spinoff, is very promising for electronic books. Books don't exactly need a really high refresh rate. :)
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: e-Book future (3.00 / 1) (#3)
by hubie on Fri Jul 07, 2000 at 11:40:20 AM EST

I agree with all of your comments about the features that can and should be incluced, and what you have described is right along the lines of the mini-browsers that are being worked on for PDAs, cell phones, etc. And I agree there is a good market for this (text, games, news, etc.). However, I still see this a augmenting the market and not significantly threatening newspapers, books, and magazines (unless the threat comes not from the public but from the industry, such as that Steven King novel that was only released in electronic form because in that instance it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy).

I just look at my computer screen and if I am reading anything longer than about two screenfuls, I will print it out instead of using the conveniences of my browser. Even though I have nice screen size, resolution, and whatever, I would much rather print out the PDF version and go sit in a corner so that I can flip back and forth between pages. Even if I could curl up in a comfy chair with my big computer screen, I just can't comfortably take in the information by flipping back and forth between screens and such.

[ Parent ]

Re: e-Book future (2.00 / 1) (#4)
by hattig on Fri Jul 07, 2000 at 12:20:57 PM EST

Yes, but that is because lugging a huge monitor to bed with you is not the most easy way to read a book at night! e-books are not PCs, they are little devices, the size of a book, that can be used like books. Anyway, pdf is a nightmare to read on a monitor, scrolling inside a page, and then having to go to the next page, and then scroll again... annoying.And I hate wasting paper.

Can you imagine reading an e-book that looks like a book and acts like a book, but you don't have to worry about breaking the spine? :-)

Instead of a huge 1000 page paper back novel that is pretty chunky, I will one day have a 1 or 2 cm thick e-book, with all my favourite books on it. Bye bye bookshelves at long last.

[ Parent ]

Re: e-Book future (2.00 / 1) (#7)
by mezzo on Fri Jul 07, 2000 at 01:37:21 PM EST

Well, to me, the most important aspect is being able to curl up in some soft and comfy chair and read. If a good ebook can allow me to feel comfy, then I will use it as well. Though there is one thing to note, when I have an option between getting files in plain text, or pdf, or xxx with all sorts of animation, I would prefer plain text. And I think, when you read a book, you are not after a movie (otherwise, just watch a movie), nor are you after some sort of amazing interactive experience (otherwise, just buy a game). Despite all the multimedia, people still read books. And I think, people always will.

"The avalanche has started, it is too late for the pebbles to vote."-- Kosh
[ Parent ]
I love my Rocket eBook (5.00 / 2) (#5)
by mahlen on Fri Jul 07, 2000 at 12:59:22 PM EST

Simply put, I wish almost all of my books were available on my Rocket eBook.

The screen is twice the size of a Palm, the backlight is MUCH better, the resolution is higher, and the battery lasts 17 hours with the backlight on. And this is a device I got in November 1998. The book emits it's own light, it lies open on a table with no hand to hold it open, and the lower memory one holds ten texts in it easily.

Novels read quite well; anything with a straight linear style (the vast majority of the written word: fiction, non-fiction, white papers, essays, howto's) is a easy fit. The author is correct that scanning around a page is not ideal, nor do tables render well due to the screen size. On the other hand, you can search for text and have multiple paragraph level bookmarks, so perhaps less scanning is needed. Plus you can pull arbitrary chunks of HTML into the Rocket; since much of what i read is online, and screen space is at a premium in the world, I pull docs into the Rocket and can read it anywhere, or as an adjunct to the main screen I'm using/typing into.

Try one before making any judgements about their usability. I'm not predicting the death of paper, but most paper-based text could be improved by conversion to an eBook.

Some URL's:

The Rocket eBook

The Rocket Library, a repository for donated or public domain texts

Ebooknet, the discussion grounds and news page for the entire ebook world

What eBooks Barnes and Noble is selling


"I think a good gift for the President would be a chocolate revolver. And since he's so busy, you'd probably have to run up to him real quick and hand it to him." --"Deep Thoughts", by "Jack Handy"

Re: I love my Rocket eBook (none / 0) (#8)
by YellowBook on Fri Jul 07, 2000 at 04:33:08 PM EST

This sounds really interesting, but there's a lot of issues I'd be concerned about, that I can't seem to find information about online. To summarize:

  • What kind of copy protection is on 'store-bought' ebooks for this reader? Not that I'd want to make copies of books I haven't bought, but I'd hate to not be able to read ones I have bought on someone else's reader, or be unable to make backup copies.
  • Is the file format open? It's nice that you can transfer from HTML, but it looks like it uses a Windows package to do this --- I'd hate to have to keep VMWare around for just that purpose.

That's all I can think of now, but I'm sure there will be more. Also, I can only find a price for the more expensive model now, is the old one unsupported?

[ Parent ]
Re: I love my Rocket eBook (none / 0) (#18)
by stang on Sat Jul 08, 2000 at 12:38:15 PM EST

What kind of copy protection is on 'store-bought' ebooks for this reader? Not that I'd want to make copies of books I haven't bought, but I'd hate to not be able to read ones I have bought on someone else's reader, or be unable to make backup copies.

Store-bought ebooks are registered to your unique reader. You can't pass 'em around, and I haven't seen anything about transferring ownership. Of course, you can make any number of backups -- they're just files you've downloaded onto your hard drive.

Is the file format open? It's nice that you can transfer from HTML, but it looks like it uses a Windows package to do this --- I'd hate to have to keep VMWare around for just that purpose.

I haven't seen any information on the file format. For now, you're stuck with Windows.

My wife got a Rocket e-book for attending some workshop, and I've been playing with it for a while. It's been fun to go back and read the old sci-fi classics (just finished Around the World in 80 Days), but it's got a long way to go before it'll replace my full bookshelves.

200 Quatloos on the newcomer! 300 against!
[ Parent ]
Re: I love my Rocket eBook (none / 0) (#25)
by YellowBook on Mon Jul 10, 2000 at 09:51:47 AM EST

Store-bought ebooks are registered to your unique reader. You can't pass 'em around, and I haven't seen anything about transferring ownership.

Ugh. I won't use any etext reader that doesn't give me at least as much freedom as a paperback. I understand publishers' desires to avoid rampant copying, but it should at least be quick and painless to transfer licenses so that wehn you're done reading a book you can give it to a friend, or trade it at a used book store.

[ Parent ]
What if you lose it? (4.00 / 1) (#6)
by fizgig on Fri Jul 07, 2000 at 01:24:10 PM EST

If I lose my copy of "More Than Human". I'm out a few bucks. If I lose a digital book, I'm out a LOT, most importantly the hardware but also my entire collection of books if they don't get over that whole copy-protection thing (I sure hope they do). But all the electronic paper technology might actually make it feasible. If you had cheap sheets of paper and a more expensive and less-mobile storage and encoder or whatever it's called, then you'd have the best of all possible worlds.

Re: What if you lose it? (3.00 / 1) (#11)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jul 07, 2000 at 09:14:29 PM EST

On the other hand, I just spent $200 (Canadian; approx. $5 American) collecting the remaining 6 books of a series that I enjoyed. The books are about 100-200 pages each (i.e. thin); one of the books cost $40. It is rare and no future printings are planned.

What eBooks (in whatever implementation) will offer is the ability to buy any book, no matter how old. I enjoy reading entire series, and many of my favourite series were written around 1978-92 (it seems; go figure), and are often expensive to buy (unless I chance across them in used bookstores). For me, this is the ``killer feature.''

At $1 an eBook (say, $2 Canadian), it would cost me $12 to buy those books. I could lose them and re-buy them over a dozen times before making up the cost that a little water damage could do to my physical books.

In fact, speaking of water damage, what if water severely damaged my bookshelf? One of my bookshelfs has about 800 fantasy novels in it -- my collection is bigger than most libraries -- most of them rare (due to printing runs) and several of them effectively irreplacable (publishers have gone under). I'll admit, I'm much more likely to lose my eBook than be flooded severely enough to ruin all of my books, but even leaving a window open could damage the top shelf which has about 150-200 books on it. If my basement wall started weeping it could damage my other books (on shelves on the wall) and get about 400. In fact, I did just get flooded (no books damaged, thank god!) so this is a real threat. If I lose those books, I cannot replace them cheaply; maybe not at all.

An eBook has the *potential* to be better. Even if I had to rebuy the novels at full price, at least I *can* replace them. Better yet, the distributor I buy the book from could keep track of which books I have bought and freely provide me with new copies -- or at a significant discount.

I really hope that some form of eBooks do appear, and are reasonable for the consumer. Too many of them currently tie the book to the reader, which I dislike (although it is no worse than water damage on my bookshelf), but the potential of storing the books online is another possibility. For those worried about having their reading tastes tracked, books could be offered in both formats: download once (or install once) anonymously, but pay if you lose it; or, register as an owner of said book.

As for having cheap paper and merely printing out your own copy of the book, this should always be more expensive then buying a pre-printed copy (assuming the book has a fairly large market) due to economies of scale.

[ Parent ]
Already covered... (none / 0) (#15)
by mahlen on Sat Jul 08, 2000 at 02:59:03 AM EST

(I see a lot of misaprehensions about the current state of ebooks here, so I'm endevouring to correct them. Forgive my numerous posts.)

Not true. Yes, your hardware is presumably gone and will need replacing, but the book texts will remain on your hard drive, and can be used by the replacement ebook. The books reside on your hard drive in an encrypted (RSA) state, and are only decoded within the eBook. In fact, Nuvomedia (the makers of the Rocket) will remember what books you've bought (though not HTML you've snarfed in yourself, of course), and will retrieve them for you at no cost. Non-issue.


An infallible method of conciliating a tiger is to allow oneself to be
--Konrad Adenauer

[ Parent ]
Re: Already covered... (none / 0) (#24)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun Jul 09, 2000 at 05:37:33 AM EST

I don't understand it all, but wouldn't you still not be able to access the books anymore? If the books are encrypted so that only the ebook's private key can access them, and you lose the ebook, you still don't have access to the books anymore, do you?

[ Parent ]
From the Rocket eBook FAQ (none / 0) (#26)
by mahlen on Mon Jul 10, 2000 at 11:15:16 AM EST

From the FAQ at www.rocket-ebook.com

Q: What happens if I lose my Rocket eBook? Can I download my titles to a new one?
A: Your titles are never lost. The NuvoMedia server maintains a record of titles a reader has purchased. If a Rocket eBook is lost, you can simply download the titles again using your newly registered Rocket eBook, without having to re-purchase the titles.


"When I found the skull in the woods, the first thin I did was call the
police. But then I got curious about it. I picked it up, and started wondering
who this person was, and why he had deer horns."
--"Deep Thoughts", by "Jack Handy"

[ Parent ]
Problems with eBook acceptance (4.00 / 1) (#9)
by scheme on Fri Jul 07, 2000 at 07:11:25 PM EST

I can see a few significant problems with ebooks that may hurt its acceptance. They are power issues, resolutions, and notes.

Regardless of how they function ebooks need to have a power source. I'm not sure how long current ebooks last but I don't think they'll be accepted by a lot of people unless they can run for at least a few months on their power supplies.

The resolutions that current ebooks support aren't really all that great. I don't really see many people getting a ebook unless they have screens as large as a paperback and 200-300 dpi screens. There seems to be potential solutions to this in the form of epaper but nothing feasible right now.

The third problem that could hamper acceptance is the inability to make notes in the text. This isn't so much a problem with popular novels, but most literature, and technical books tend to acculumate notes as their owners read the books or refer to it.

I can see ebooks becoming popular for things like popular novels or reference books like the CRC, aldrich, or the PDR but I don't think it'll really do that well as a replacement for textbooks or literary works. Another area where ebooks might not do so well are foreign language works.

"Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity." --Albert Einstein

Battery and notes. (none / 0) (#16)
by mahlen on Sat Jul 08, 2000 at 03:06:58 AM EST

The rechargable NiCad battery in the Rocket will run for ~17 hours while using the backlight. It recharges quite quickly (perhaps < one hour) while in the cradle that also is used for computer <-> eBook communication. You can also plug in a little AC adapter if your reading marathon goes beyond 17 hours. Don't know if that's enough for you, but people in the Rocket world never complain about the battery.

In the Rocket, your annotations, bookmarks and such are in fact saved on your computer's hard drive, so that if you reload the book onto the Rocket, the notes, etc. will come with it.


All the parts falling off this car are of the very finest British manufacture.
--bumper sticker

[ Parent ]
What I'd like to see in e-books (4.00 / 2) (#10)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jul 07, 2000 at 07:42:42 PM EST

  • I want my reader to have resident memory plus the ability to read from memory sticks.
  • I want to download newspapers, magazines and short documents into the resident memory, and I want to buy books and novels on re-writable memory sticks.
  • I want to be able to photocopy from the reader. I.e. I want to bring-up any page, lay the reader flat on the photocopier and press the Start button...
  • I want fair copy-protection to let the millionaire execs sleep easy at night. I want the reader to be able to copy contents from memory stick to resident memory, and from one reader to another, but only at a very slow speed. This way the poor student who simply can't afford to buy a book can patiently copy it anyway, but others will pay for the book as a matter of convenience.
  • I want to be able to write and store notes for specific pages, so when I bring up that page again, I see the notes too.
  • I want the reader to be free, or at least very cheap. I want everybody that is more than 4 years old to have one for free. The millionaire execs should be able to easily fund the initial cost and then charge $1 more for each book to make it back (of course they'll keep charging $1 more forever, but what's a single buck between poor consumer and millionaire exec?).
  • Finally, I want people who say reading from a screen is harder than reading from paper to shut up. Both are human artifacts, and just as humans got used to reading/writing on paper, they'll get used to reading/writing on a screen. Just wait for a generation or two and you'll see...

    Of course, college professors will always hate e-books. No matter how hard it will be to copy e-books, students will do it. Why? Because college books cost way too much, a lot more than can be justified, only because they're written by the college professors themselves who want to make a few extra bucks off the poor students.

    -- Anonymous? Yes. Hero? Not by a long shot.

  • man, you bein' harsh! (none / 0) (#12)
    by mcwee on Fri Jul 07, 2000 at 09:34:50 PM EST

    Although I think you make some good points (specifically 4, 5 and 7)-- I rated this post at 3 owing to these points-- I stil think you took an unneccesarily harsh/confrontational stance. <BARRY WHITE> We're all friends here, baby-- no need to be snippy.</BARRY WHITE>

    That said, I think that you're falling unnecessarily harshly on Profs (FYI: I just got finished up at Major Midwestern University, so trust that I totally identify with where these sentiments are coming from-- I spent four years making and listening to the self-same gripes. And, after much consideration, I think they're unfounded.) At the risk of being way OT,

    Of course, college professors will always hate e-books. No matter how hard it will be to copy e-books, students will do it. Why? Because college books cost way too much, a lot more than can be justified, only because they're written by the college professors themselves who want to make a few extra bucks off the poor students.

    is way unfair. No one gets into teaching at the college level for the money-- most profs spend most of their careers with a total income (including grants, stipends, book deals and etc) significantly less than that of a skilled tradesman. The reason Prfs write books, in my experience, is that they feel that the existing texts aren't sufficient, and the reason that they make their text THE text for a class is because they feel it's the best text availible-- if that wasn't the case, then they wouldn't have bothered to write it in the first place.

    Sorry about the rant, but I've supped full of the "rich, greedy college prof" cliche-- it rates up there with "welfare chisseling single teen moms" and "those lazy inner-city blacks" as #1 Myths Promulgated by PorkBarrel Politicians.

    Yet Another Tangent: the folks that I've found, in academia, who are MOST into the e-book and public domain text scene have all been profs and TAs (teacher's assistants-- usually grad sudents), who have constructed syllabi entirely consisting of books availible free online (at www.gutenberg.net and etc.) And the folks I've met who are MOST averse to e-books have been Joe College Guy ("man, downloading XYZ is a pain in the butt" "reading off a computer screen sucks" "i'll just buy a copy from Amazon" "I'm not gonna read the shit anywat" etc.)

    Sorry to keep carrying on. Just sharing my experience.

    The PMjA; it's a whole new kind of Truth.
    [ Parent ]

    Re: What I'd like to see in e-books (none / 0) (#14)
    by poet on Sat Jul 08, 2000 at 02:29:06 AM EST

    Good lord! I have nevery heard such socialistic, anti-capitalistic, failed ideas in my life.

    If you are poor, learn.

    When you learn, apply.

    When you apply, accel.

    When you accel, achieve.

    Just don't whine about it.

    Have you bought your OpenBook today?
    [ Parent ]
    Right-on Komrad (none / 0) (#20)
    by Anonymous Hero on Sat Jul 08, 2000 at 02:30:10 PM EST

    If you don't like what the guy says, just call him names, that'll teach him to express his opinions in a public forum.

    If only all netizens were like "poet"...

    [ Parent ]

    Re: What I'd like to see in e-books (none / 0) (#22)
    by aallan on Sat Jul 08, 2000 at 04:30:20 PM EST

    Of course, college professors will always hate e-books. No matter how hard it will be to copy e-books, students will do it. Why? Because college books cost way too much, a lot more than can be justified, only because they're written by the college professors themselves who want to make a few extra bucks off the poor students.

    Oh for heaven's sake...textbooks cost lots of money because they are, for the most part, specialist items. You don't get a University level text on tensor calculus onto the best seller list, limited print runs, means limited numbers sold, means high cost.

    For instance a colleague of mine wrote the definitive text book for a fairly specialist field. The publishers currently sell it (hardcover only) for around £120, he'd rather it was less but he doesn't have a say in it. As a result, depsite it being the book you have to read if your in the field, few copies are sold (most people borrow someone elses copy), he only makes 50 or 60 pence a quarter in royalties.

    Most professors write textbooks for the love of the subject, we have a job with poor pay (I could easily double my salary if I went into industry) and we do what we do because we love it.


    [ Parent ]
    Look and Feel (2.00 / 2) (#13)
    by thelaw on Sat Jul 08, 2000 at 01:21:09 AM EST

    until e-books can replace the smell of new paper and the feel of turning pages for hours and hours without worrying about battery power, i don't see them as a replacement.

    there definitely is something special about holding a book in one's hand that makes it more personal than an electronic version.

    it's just like the progression of communication: the newer inventions (telephone, email) are always nice and become widespread, but the older forms (face-to-face, letters) become rarer and more valuable. i don't think we'll ever leave them behind, especially since they make such nice additions to any library. what are you going to put on the shelves in there? disks? or maybe just no shelves at all? that's a crappy looking cubicle with no shelves.


    Battery and page turning. (3.00 / 1) (#17)
    by mahlen on Sat Jul 08, 2000 at 03:20:53 AM EST

    As I noted elsewhere, the battery life on the Rocket is about 17 hours. I never worry about battery power (unless I insist on not putting the thing back in it's recharger for days on end.).

    I'd maintain there's something even more special about a book I can hold in one hand _and_ can turn pages with that same hand as well. :) Just a button click right were your thumb rests and the next page is visible.

    At first, it's true, it feels weird to turn pages with a button, and I was very concious of doing it. But there's nothing hard-wired in our evolution that makes reaching up, turning a page, and then continuing to read at the opposite corner obvious either; I just learned to do it too long ago to remember. Within a chapter or two of the first ebook i read i was reading it without even thinking about the mechanism.

    I've read a lot of criticisms of ebooks by people who've never tried them, and there's some interesting themes in the complaints raised. I think people who love books and reading (I count myself among them) are almost afraid that an electronic version of the activity will ruin it, but i cannot figure out where the fear is coming from. It doesn't suck, honest, and it's not like print books are going to disappear overnight anyway. Don't you think that people who never used the Web but dismiss it as porn and mindless chat room blather are out of the loop? Does judging eBooks the same way make any more sense?


    Beware lest you say in your heart, "My power and the might of my hand have
    gotten me this wealth."
    --Deuteronomy 8:17

    [ Parent ]
    Re: Look and Feel (3.70 / 3) (#19)
    by Anonymous Hero on Sat Jul 08, 2000 at 01:35:37 PM EST

    Sorry but I totally disagree with your statements. We've heard the same arguments before about other stuff that have been replaced. Take music CDs over vinyl records... I remember ~10 years ago when the older folks were ranting that CDs can't give you the same feeling of putting a record on the turntable and the needle on the record... they don't require as much responsibility as maintaining clean records and taking care of the needle... and how are you going to show off your CDs anyway?... It's just not the same...

    Same went with telephones before that... Folks who said telephone is just a fad, it'll never replace letters.. a telephone conversation just does not have that same feeling of permanence as a letter... and who wants to carry on a conversation while worrying that every minute costs even more?

    Even before that, I'm sure there were folks who complained that cars would never replace the feel and smell of a well-trained horse...

    [ Parent ]

    Re: Look and Feel (none / 0) (#21)
    by thelaw on Sat Jul 08, 2000 at 04:24:03 PM EST

    you have inadvertently stated my point well. i see e-books becoming widespread, because their advantages are very clear (reuse, storage capacity, etc.). however, they won't DIE, as your comments seem to indicate. the paper letter hasn't died with the advent of the telephone or email, and i don't see it doing so any time soon. my parents are just *dying* for me to write them via snail mail because it means so much more than even a carefully-written email or a long telephone call.

    my point is this: while new technologies may become incredibly widespread and useful because of obvious technological merits, there is a romantic attachment to the old paper book. it is this attachment to tradition that will help keep paper book publishers in business.


    [ Parent ]
    What about existing net literature? (3.00 / 2) (#23)
    by Tatarigami on Sat Jul 08, 2000 at 06:48:42 PM EST

    I'm interested to hear what effect people think eBooks will have on existing forms of literature on the internet. They say the internet allows anyone to become a publisher, they're not kidding.

    There are a lot of unpublished authors posting their work on websites and newsgroups. 99.X% of it isn't worth reading of course, but if you're willing to do a bit of sifting, your efforts are rewarded. And I can't count the number of out-of-copyright classics I've read in the form of text files from BBSes and fan sites. (Well, I probably could, because I've still got most of them -- but you get the point.)

    I've read (and posted) on newsgroups where writers released some or all of their work under a modified version of the GPL which allows free distribution with changes of format (txt, html, etc) but not of the text itself. Admittedly, none of them were trying to make a living by writing, but I have an inkling that very few people manage that trick.

    On the other side of the coin, in the past few months I've heard nervous-making rumours about a campaign for increasing the duration of copyright protection. I have a suspicion the push for this is less about protecting the rights of authors and more about reducing competition. I also have an unhappy premonition that Big Soulless Companies with intellectual property rights are going to start cracking down on fan fiction. They'll probably only manage to drive it underground.

    You know, the idea of outlaw guerilla authors cranking out short stories in windowless basements, semi-automatic within easy reach in case they get raided has a twisted kind of appeal...

    Must flip open like a book? (none / 0) (#27)
    by seth_hartbecke on Mon Jul 10, 2000 at 03:59:57 PM EST

    Why does everybody think that an e-book must open like a book, feal like a book, look like a book?

    I am very gald that present day bound books do not have to roll like a scroll!

    Besides, turning pages is a pain, most ebook readers can auto scroll.

    What does the future hold for e-books? | 27 comments (27 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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