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The e-book reader

For twenty years, the perfect e-book hardware has been 5 years away. We’re now down to waiting for a cheap enough, lower power enough paper-quality display.

Once we have cheap e-books, the medium by which we read will also be a medium by which can write and respond. Reading will cease being a solitary act and will become a social one. You can see this already with blogs.

So, I’ve been assuming that the e-book will mimic the form factor of books: display a page, maybe make a rustling sound as the page is turned. But it’s taking so long for e-books to arrive that they may skip book emulation entirely and be general purpose browsers/composers. They’ll work better for blogs than for books. And this may be the final nail in the coffin of books.

Maybe. (I’d write more, but I have to work on my book…:)

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3 Responses to “The e-book reader”

  1. Format matters a whole bunch more than medium. In the physical world, format (e.g. skinny hardcover, small-print soft-cover, magazine, etc.) gives a whole bunch of cues about type and depth of content. Photos placed in the right spots attract our attention. Formats also tell us a lot about age appropriateness. I don’t see e-books catching on until they really have a format to them. Maybe that makes a bunch of different e-book niches rather than an e-book monolith.

    I’d write more too, but I have to format my book!

  2. For ebooks to become ubiquitous the content prices have to become reasonable (and currently they are not). RCA ebook readers were around for years, but I don’t see people using them on the trains, buses and airplanes. On the other hand, every single friend of mine has one or two of those. Why? Because we all read Russian. And Russian ebooks are dirt cheap (if not free).

    So, yes, in that sence I hope ebooks jump directly to supporting blog-like content, otherwise we might wait another twenty years before the perfect ebook hardware emerges.

  3. For a couple years now I’ve been wishing MS Reader would collect and average people’s highlights for the books I’m reading, so I’ll know the most important parts when I skim. It would probably be interesting data for the author, too. Is anybody writing about this sort of thing?

    I’m at Harvard Ed School right now, and it seems to me that people here would love it, or at least have a lot to say about its effects on metacognitive reading strategies, etc.

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