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The End Of Books As We Know Them? 266

coxjohnson writes: "Ray Bradbury may have been partially correct in Fahrenheit 451 when he wrote that books would not exist in the future. Technology Review recently published a story predicting the demise of today's paper books with tomorrow's electronic paper books." This story about the continuing development of "electronic paper" has a nice overview of the history of the field and a some good info about current technologies under development.
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The End of Books as We Know Them?

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  • They're durable. Books can be burned or soaked, but short of that they're remarkably hard to destroy. Books from centuries ago have been preserved and read, despite the aging fragility of the paper; I can't even emulate computer software that was written forty years ago.

    For the last 100 years or so, most books have been printed on acidic paper that doesn't last nearly so long. Here are some 19th century Dickens novels [] that are already too brittle to read. Apparently alkaline paper is no more expensive [] than acidic paper now, though. The Alkaline Paper Advocate [] appears to have far more information than you could ever want about this.

  • I've seen it, but I don't work there.. I'm too much of a slob to get my documents scanned (yeah, bledin' low-tech'ers still send me stuff on PAPER of all things), so a lot of paper just lies around. Anything that goes OUT of my office however is on disks/CD's or in a mail.

    Where I work, we have all documentation in electronic format, readily available, and a LOT more searchable that a zillion books and little post-its.

    Really it's just a matter of WANTING it enough. Though I still go print the contracts before I read them, simply because it's easier to read that way, but when I'm done, it's to the schredder.

    But hey, don't take my word for it, just look at all the ways to take the peper out of the office. They're there someone is using them, it may not be You. But eventually more and more paper is gone from the offices. Try walking through the halls where You work, how many people still get more regular mail than email ? I'd bet not many.

    Same thing will happen to the books. More and more books sold will be e-books. But it will take a while.

    Take a look at Oticon [] (page is in english) for a company that employs the paperless office, it's kinda cool to see the schredded paper blown through a glass tube in the lobby.

    • Jesus will return to send sinners to hell for all time
    • Books will disappear
    • Moore's Law will cease to be "true" because of physical limits
    • We'll all drive flying cars to work and the mall
    • JonKatz will write interesting articles
    • We'll vacation on the moon
    • Terabytes of data will be stored on a credit card-sized device
    • Robots will do all of our house work
    • CmdrTaco will learn to spell
  • obviously, if ebooks get popular, so will warez'ing them around. 2 megs per book. tell me that won't happen. all people will need then is a good printer or a REALLY good monitor.
  • Statements that we won't switch to ebooks because they just aren't as comfortable or familiar is partially true. People that grew up on paper books are definitely going to resist switching, but if you grow up using both ebooks and paper books, you will probably be very annoyed by how many features the paper books lack. Of course, the ebooks will have to be extremely advanced so the reverse won't be true.
    The last paper printed items to switch will be pulp fiction and fluff magazines, and they may never be completely supplanted. Fiction doesn't really benefit from the ebook format unless you are doing literary research, or you feel compelled to have several books with you at all time. One of the benefits of printing costing money is that it helps filter out crap, not that people don't support a lot of bad printed material no matter what, but if a magazine can afford to be printed, at least you know that it's not just the endeavor of one horrible writer with a website.
    When paper books are dead, it won't be that they are wiped out, but they will be unimportant. People will still have paper books, just like some people nowadays bake bread, knit sweaters, and ride horses. In certain situations, these tasks are actually necessary, but for most of us, ebooks will be much better.
    Ebooks will probably become extremely prolific after a few generations of upgrades creates a huge market of cheap used ebooks. It may still cost $400+ for a new computer system, but you can get an 80486 system for less than $100 with a monitor. Once you can get used ebooks for $10, the licensing issue will be less relavent, since you can actually lend your ebook to someone else, without just copying the data between two, which is the kind of reuse that really upsets publishing companies. Of course, the question is whether we'll actually store that much information in the ebooks then, or if everything will just be wirelessly networked, and all your data will be housed forever on a server, which means that licensing for reading a book may need to be completely different.
  • People are funny about preferring physical goods over electronic or intangible goods. You mention O'Reilly -- they a good example of the strong preference even heavy computer users have for paper. In the past year and a half I have probably spent $100 on software (a Linux distro and BeOS), but several times that much on computer books. In the time I have been dithering over spending $50 on JBuilder 4 Std Ed I have spent several times that amount on O'Reilly Java books (Servlets, XML, Examples).
  • So... What if publishers decide that eBooks are all they're gonna do?

    People may or may not prefer these books for a while. As long as ePaper isn't almost exactly like reading off of real paper -- and even if it is, as long as the book interface/experiences of literal pages and a nice weighty feel is prefered over the slick single page attached to a chip -- people will probably want printed materials.

    However, keep in mind that publishers have every incentive at the moment to go digital. Why? Access controls, and a legal framework that supports them . They can control who reads their published stuff, and charge per read. Say goodbye to ownership, say hello to licensing.

    Not to mention that if they play their cards right, their cost for production and distribution will actually drop through the floor.

    And they can do it all in the name of saving trees. How nice. :)

  • "I can't wait until I can carry around my whole library in my pocket, transmit a book to a friend, and say 'Hey, I think you will enjoy this.'"

    Only if you can pay the $10,000 annual licencing licencing fee for that library.

    And forget about transmitting anything. No way the publisher's would allow that.

    E-paper could be the biggest cash cow the publishing industry has ever seen. They can charge licensing fees for bits that they didn't write that are stored and read of devices thay they do not sell or support.

    E-paper could be a wonderful thing, but not if it's controlled by the wrong people.

    The simplest act of surrealism is to walk out into the street, gun in hand, and shoot at random
  • The problem is legacy.
    We can read the rozeta(sp?) stone, because it was written down by means that we can understand.
    You can read Shakspere(sp?) original plays and understand them, because they were written down.
    Can you say the same for punched cards?
    What about 100 years from now?
    Shaksphere & the rozeta stone would be just as readable, how would those new books? Would I be able (assuming I live that long) to plug my current hard drive to a computer and read the data?
    Would there be tools to interupt the data (after all, the data is just a streams of bytes)?

    If you want to keep something durable, keep it off computers.
    Print if on paper, rock or steel, and tuck it some place safe.
  • Porn will always exist in every media available. In fact, mediums that have excluded pornography have died (laser-discs). Pornography has been the single-most driving force behind the advancements of technogolies from home theatre, to the internet, to the printing press.

    Porn will be available in e-book, paper book, paper magazine, video games, and will sell copies wherever it is. Sex sells. People buy it. Like it or not.
  • by Leon Trotski ( 259231 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2001 @10:42AM (#432502) Homepage
    (face it, your average bourgeois motherfucker has a shelf full of leather-bound, unopened "classics")

    As a matter of fact, I do.
  • Would the Bible be the same had it been written on a microchip instead of parchment.

    The Bible was one of the first books to be touched by the epitome of then bleeding-edge technology: the movable type printing press.
  • michael? hmm that must have been a jon katz article, surely by now he has a patent on the 'end of as we know it, new digital age' article.
  • This claim has been around forever. TV will kill radio. Radio will kill the news paper. The internet will kill everything. Of course it's all crap. And deep down, everyone who's in touch with the world at large knows it. E-books will probably make better text books, and manuals. But anything truly great, I'll want to read in paper. For Whom The Bell Tolls is one book, that needs the texture of paper (others have mentioned this already). The feel, the smell, they both lend something to the experience of reading. Maybe it's the subconsious connection to something older. I suppose I could buy it on CD and have James Earl Jones read it to me. But I don't. Maybe I'm silly and sentimental (if one can be that at 26), but I don't take the experience of reading lightly. Maybe it's because I didn't really find joy in reading until I was 12, I don't know. But what is certain, is that when I read for pleasure, it will always be paper over plastic. Besides, paper has a lot going for it. It's cheap, doesn't need batteries, it isn't shattered if you sit on it, if someone steals it was cheap, and it doesn't crash even if it's got Microsoft on the label. Media formats are only tools for the distribution of information. We'll have a new varient of an old tool, it can join the others in the tool chest and wait to be needed. Not all screw drivers are electric, and not all books will be electronic.
  • I spend a lot of time curled up with a book. Ok I don't have a fireplace, but that part is realy optional.

    As for having commentary along side the text why do you need an e-book for that? I own many books that have commentary along side the text.

    Plus I can read a paper book on Shabbos.
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2001 @10:50AM (#432519) Homepage Journal
    I'm sure publishers are leaning toward E-Books because you can license them. I'm leaning away from E-Books for the same reason. I don't want my technical library to go poof because I didn't pay my yearly technical licensing fee. Lets not go there.
  • by bziman ( 223162 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2001 @09:47AM (#432520) Homepage Journal
    Nothing like curling up next to the fireplace with a 19" monitor and a whirring hard drive...


  • Everyone can argue technical advantages/disadvantages all we want, and wax poetic about our favorite old books, and the wonderful smell of paper, but the deeper issue has not been addressed.

    As we have seen recently in the battle over Napster, DeCSS, etc. the real issue is not content display or transportation but content control, specifically copy protection and licencing. Sure these new e-books can display any information you want, and switch between different books instantly, but what good is that if you don't have control over the content in the book? Unlsee something changes drastically, these books are going to come out with a proprietary interface that guarantees that only approved content from approved providers can be uploaded. And that's not the worst part. they would most likely be pay-per-use items that would only be displayable for a fixed amount of time, unless you wanted to buy a permanent licence which would cost x20, x50,x100 of the temporary licence. I'm in full support of new technology, expecially something that's easier to read than my monitor, but I'm very wary of anything that can put a cap on what I can read and how often I can read it.

    The simplest act of surrealism is to walk out into the street, gun in hand, and shoot at random
  • They haven't figured out how to put a restrictive enough EULA on a book. Once books are electronic, that won't be a problem anymore...


  • Future license:

    This book is not owned by you: you own the medium on which it is stored and/or the reader on which it resides. You may not transmit this book in its entirety or any portion therof to another reader or medium w/o express permission by Harcourt-Brace publishers....

    (that transfering medium clause covers old fasioned paper, folks. And 'express permission' is licenses at $10 a pop... after all, w/o getting properly paid, who would produce books anyway?)

  • this is the first conference devoted solely to the forthcoming transformation of the book world by digital technology.

    This was the main theme of the article, the introduction of e-PAPER is an extention of e-BOOKS and only a small portion of the arguement. The theme of the article is trying to find a replacement for paper, which I argued would never overcome the issues of an electronic replacement for paper.

    Maybe you should open your mind before replying to a post.

  • I've been saying for some time now that ebooks will almost completely take over the regular book market, and this article contains the two sentences that proves it:

    "The book of the future, e-paper researchers like to say, will look just like a regular book. It will have a hard cover and a spine and several hundred thin, white, flexible pages. "

    So everything you just said in support of the lowly print book will be just as true as the ebook with epaper. Only it will also have all the vast advantages of electronics.

    Quit thinking that the future of ebooks = today's laptops and palms. The future is epaper, with resolution and reflectiveness that is as good as or better than today's printed pages. You will be able to fold epaper, scribble on them, underline words, flip back and forth as you wish, and do everything else that paper does now. When you add the electronic advantages, it becomes unbeatable, unstoppable, and ultimately desirable.

  • I think you're missing the point of e-paper.

    The analogy the article suggests is that e-paper is to paper what paper was to vellum.

    It should have all the same properties of read when and where you like (why would e-paperbacks restrict you?), read in any order you like, quote from it like a real book, sell it to someone else, or lend to someone else.

    Most of those things are *implementation* specific, and not technological specific. E-paper should look and behave just like regular paper. The content restriction properties is a very different issue entirely, and is as such a very valid concern.

    If an e-book is designed with e-paper, if power goes out, it should act just like a regular book. Given the right tool, you should be able to mark it up just like a regular book. A little more complex than a pen or pencil, yes, but pens and pencils are themselves special tools specifically for paper. If content management is done correctly, the e-book is no different than a regular book.

    The advantages of e-paperbacks is regular updates, being able to transmit notes and annotations between other e-paperbacks, being able to back up and translate your notes, being able to browse and search and query, being able to 'change' the content without changing the physical book itself.

  • That's an implementation specific issue and not a technical issue.

    If an e-paperback is designed properly/sensibly, publishers won't be able to take away content you paid for.

    The e-paperback has more features than regular paper, which makes it attractive in it's own light, such as updateability, note/data backup and transmission, the ability to 'share' texts among multiple books, and the ability to store multiple books in one e-paperback.

    Content restriction and control is a design issue, and not inherently part of the definition of what an e-paperback is, excepting the fact that publishers may be attracted or repelled to the idea due to device capabilities.

  • I would never use the phrase "Never happen."

    Too much technology is being developed for that. I'd be happy to adopt the new technology, myself, provided:
    • It's as easy on the eyes as reading a paper copy.
    • It's gotta be at least as cheap.
    • I can put in my own unsigned stuff. (Useful for notes, etc. And even though I may not need this to read, it wouldn't be worth my investment of time or money otherwise...
    • Any licensing that is done is easy to use and reasonable.
    • It's gotta be portable and robust enough to stand up to some pretty bad treatment. I've got some books that I love that are barely held together, they've been through a lot.
    If something comes along and meets those requirements, I'll adopt it with no problem. The point is, it's gotta be better than the current system. Simple enough?
  • E-paper will take away none of this functionality.

    In fact, in a properly designed e-book, you should be able to 'email' a book to someone.

    'Hey, I think you'll enjoy this. Let me upload it to you!'

    Of course, this also depends on the content restriction technologies some people are so keen on.

  • I agree with much of what has been said, but I still feel that e-books potentially can offer greater overall utility - I believe they could achieve "killer-app" status.

    But first they need to overcome their disadvantages.

    Portability: Until e-books are literally paper-thin (which it definately looks like they'll eventually achieve) there will be discontent.. I should be able to curl up in my bed or relaxing chair and read with zero additional stress over a paper-back. As for power, it seems to me that future devices will be passive - only requireing juice to change the displayed contents. Thus as with an uploading of a book, you should be able to recharge the book so as to at least be able to read 110% of the book (including back-flips). As for weather resistance, I have a wrist watch that's advertised as 300m water resistance (for whatever it's worth).. The technology is there. Soaking a book leaves you with a sence of loss.

    Ease of use: We're living in an age where people are accepting the difficulties of learning curves.. It's our general nature to adapt and learn.. We have to be taught to drive a car, bike, etc. And you can even argue that we first go to school so that we can learn to learn. So I don't believe it's unacceptible to require a moderate learning curve. Beyond that, highlighting, annotations, book-marking and most importantly searching are the bed and breakfast of e-media. True it expends electricity, and requires some sort of input, which adds to the complexity. But these aren't used in a continual basis. The fact that you can't always highlight a cool phrase in a web page is the fault of the browser, not the computer. Word-files, PDFs and XML allow for very nice annotation / bookmarking capabilities, so long as the browser supports it. Herein lies the Utility aspect of e-media.

    Durability: It is definately true that a book should outlast a desk-top and it's hard drive. I even hear that burned CD's don't have incredible shelf life. But since digital media can be 100% reproduced, active libraries can maintain the data. And it's always possible to use a robust long-term digital storage medium (such as a digital vinal recording which isn't suseptible to E&M or cosmic disturbances). In general, however, I'll give you this one (for hard-backs at least).

    There will, in no way, be a death of the printed page. But I believe that the added utility, plus the idea that we're saving a few trees will assure an eventual migration to e-media for mainstream use.

  • Go ahead. Laugh. Was watching Space: Above & Beyond today. The Chigs had shot up 58th's ship so bad it was barely functional. Minimal power left. And you know what they were using? A sextant... and a spiral-bound PAPER manual. Everybody knows that science fiction predicts things far better than the marketroids do... (No, we're not counting Star Trek... I believe the term is "technobabble"?)

    Naah, I'm not going to haul my entire collection up there; if the e-books go out, I've more important things to do than read Hitchhiker's. But I'm not shaving a damn thing; haven't for over a decade, and I'm not starting now. Besides, I *intended* for Mission Control to need a toothpick. Make them think twice about fscking with the guys with their furry little butts on the cold, unforgiving line of space. And I will have my manuals.

    Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes.
    -- Robbie Honerkamp

  • Of course the optimist in me says "Sure, I'll pay your 'publishing' 'licensing' fee", except that since they don't have a physical medium to control, IE paper and books, I don't see that they will be able to corner the market in the same way.

    All it takes is someone to create an 'unrestricted' book, much like region free dvd players.

  • I just had a house built in Dallas, Tx and couldn't get a builder not to put in a fireplace. They were quite concerned about being able to sell the house if I should back out of the deal. Add to that the fact they all want to put the fireplace in the living room right where any sane person would put the tv. I kept saying to myself, "We're in Texas, who uses a fireplace?"

    Again, it's for sentimental reasons. My wife loves the idea of a fireplace, and yes, it's right where you'd think of putting your TV. People house-shopping look at it and think, "We'll be able to cuddle up on the couch or the rug, sipping wine and talking about our love". They actually think that a fireplace will make them more romantic, and less inclined to watch TV. They don't think about firewood storage, the cost of fireplace equipment, the bother of cleaning out the ashes, etc. After one or two fires, they are back to sitting on the couch, watching TV, drinking beer and eating nachoes. But at an awkward angle, since the fireplace is taking up the space opposite the couch...

    Material objects do not make the unromantic romantic. On an unrelated note, Happy Valentine's Day everyone!.

  • Not e-books, is the issue. If Xerox, EInk and IBM have their way, maybe publishing companies *will* go out of business, because 'paper' presses will no longer be necessary, in the traditional sense.

    It's not that we'll stop using paper, with e-paper, it's that paper will be upgraded to all the advantages of electronic displays.

    The article sums it up pretty clearly when describing e-paper to paper as paper was to vellum.

    The whole idea of good older technology being blown away by newer technology is what happened with vellum and parchment, with stone and clay tablets. Not because the newer, more sophisticated was more expensive (they weren't) but because they were cheaper and more flexible.

    E-paper *should* approach the cost of paper printing, if it uses the same print techniques (you do know, for example, we can use inkjet technologies to fabricate printed circuit boards?)

    So when we can 'print' 'e-paper' from our printers using organic circuit technology, paper will be 'unnecessary' in the same way vellum, parchment, clay tablets, and stone tablets are unnecessary.

  • ...the one i want doesn't exist is because the kind of display that would interest me - very large (at least 8x11"), very high resolution (200dpi or better), full color (24 bit min) and absolutely stable (no flicker,no "viewing angle" issues) would still be an extreemly expensive part. I believe that when a reasonable price point is hit that something like this will quickly become ubiquitous. The palm/ce/e-book units i have seen do not meet the criteria I require for enjoyable reading. Paper does.

    I agree - most opponents to E-books think of reading them on a monitor, or a laptop, or a PDA. My ideal e-book is much like yours, and it is possible that I won't buy one until it looks like that, and is affordable (for instance, a year's book budget).

    Technology is progressing in leaps and bounds, and I think people underestimate how long it will take to get to this stage. I think we will see models like that in 10 years, and they will be ubiquitous in 20. At that point, if a text is more that 500 words, people will be downloading it to their e-book, rather than printing it out. I think monitors and LCD displays will be used for live-motion, high-refresh applications, while e-books will be used for text, slow-refresh applications.

    It's exciting to read Gene Wolfe again, and he makes me think of e-books every time. The vocabulary barrier is significant, and he often expects you to remember on page 200 of book 3 what happened on page 30 of book 1. Being able to search for every instance of a name, or to keep notes in the margins without destroying my copy would be a huge benefit.

  • by Com2Kid ( 142006 ) <> on Wednesday February 14, 2001 @11:02AM (#432566) Homepage Journal
    Hmm, ooh, lets see what E-Books have going for them:

    Batteries: How nice, the book that keeps on taking, buy it once, then pay energizer, yeech, even if they are rechargable, I don't want to have to worry about battery length!

    Priporiatary standards: Remember why we still have ASCII? Its so that people will be able to read documents written in the past, and continue reading documents written now in the future. E-Books, just what we need to leave behind no trace that our civilization ever had the written word.

    Duribility: Books are durible, period. I can drop a book, I can drop a book from ten stories. I can sit on a book, I can put 1000lbs of pressure on a book, books rock, its to the that papery thang they have down so darn well!

    Resolution: Want a high quality book, you just have to pay a bit more for it. Oversized? No problem, a few more cents here and there, but not much. Easy to read? You betcha! Books rock, you can keep reading books for hours on end and actualy get engrossed in the story, instead of ingrossed in a headache like you do with a moniter, yes, even LCD moniters aren't as good as books!

    Vaporware technology: Hey look, e-paper, oh wow, by 2010 you say? Sheesh, its 2001 and we don't all have flying cars yet, and BlackLight Power (yah, theres a reliable source, LOL) said we'd have flying saucers! Zippy, where are they? There have been so many different developments in E-Paper (4 or 5 at last count) that it's getting rediculas, I'm begining to see why the IEEE and ANSI commitee's where formed, will somebody just make up their mind and start production already!

    Flexability: No, I'm not talking about the paper (again) but rather all the different formats regular plain ol' fashion books come in. Full color illistrations, no prob, but don't look for those on a cheap B/W LCD moniter. Inlay's? No prob, maps? Once again, easy as pie. Just get the proper printing house to manage your book. What about a nice decrative cover? Oh wait, E-Books don't have cover art (or if they do, they are only on the web page you buy the e-book from).
    I don't know about you, but getting done with a book and then looking at the cover and now reconizing the scene therein, is a great experance.

    Software: Ickies, need I say more? I don't want to have to reboot my book, or wait for my book to boot up. Not to mention the entire scrolling around thing. Being one of those people blessed with the ability to open a book to almost exactly where I left off, (and feeling horribly dishonerable by saying such, heh:) I kinda like the current interface, you know, turning the page?

  • They're durable. Books can be burned or soaked, but short of that they're remarkably hard to destroy

    Let me introduce you to my two year old daughter. She will give you a new perspective on "hard to destroy" :)

    Though I agree about the longevity of properly preserved paper.
  • This is the first argument I've seen that makes perfect sense why books won't die. I myself *love* my shelf of books. And DVDs. And CDs.
    <BR>Despite the fact that everything in my shelves could be scanned or stored digitally and archived, searchable, browseable, the fact that I have a shelf of stuff gives me satisfaction.

  • Actually I was worried about batteries, but several all day bussiness trips later, I've never run my Palm V out of its recharables, and an hour on the cradle when it gets home fixes them right up, and I've ran it for about 6 hrs straight on the backlight and not run em out. (of course, I have my CPU usage for the reader app turned right down, how many Mhz do you need to write characters on the screen :).

    And I find it just as bad to flip pages when I read :)

    Remove the rocks to send email
  • I take great joy in all these posts. Maybe I'm overloading slashdot.

    Anyway, none of what you argue is without merit.

    But if Xerox, IBM, and Eink/Lucent have their way, instead of a shelf full of paper books, you'd have a shelf full of e-paper books.

    Nothing you want goes away, but you get some of the benefits of electronic technology. Of being able to compare notes and annotations with fellow Asimov or Tolkien fans, of getting regular updates from local fan websites concerning your fav authors booksigning tour, or just browsing email from your favorite book ^^

  • I think we'll see the end of most reference books. Anything where a search function adds significant value will go online.

    Recreational reading will stay paper for a while. Newspapers are vulnerable; so much paper is generated for the amount that gets read. So far, nobody has been able to really move the classified ad business to the web wholesale, but category by category (think eBay) it's going. Once that happens, newspapers will be much more marginal businesses. (Do more people in developed countries now have Internet access than newspaper subscriptions?)

    We're going to see EULA hell. I think we need a political push to cut copyright back to 20 years or so, and make it illegal to use technical means to protect material beyond the limits allowed by copyright law.

  • by JWhitlock ( 201845 ) <John-Whitlock AT ieee DOT org> on Wednesday February 14, 2001 @12:31PM (#432579)
    Plus I can read a paper book on Shabbos.

    I didn't understand the Shabbos reference. I highlighted the word, loaded up the webpage of my online dictionary, and knew in a second that it meant the Sabbath. I know little Jewish culture, but I guessed that it was a time when electric lighting and electronics went unused. I could then do a web search, and find out more about Shabbos / the Sabbath, and learn a bit more about Jewish culture, and perhaps debate you on common ground.

    If I read the same word in a paper book, I may have thought about looking it up, saw there was no dictionary around, and quickly forget about it (along with your comment). If I saw the word more than once, I may ask someone about it, or take the time to look it up, but most of the time I can understand a word enough in context, that I don't really have to know what it means.

    In this case, reading your comment in an electronic format allowed much more than the paper version would have. I argue that this is the case more often than we know, and, with e-books, such cross-referencing would be as intuitive as web searches are now.

  • I've tried that. I just can't stand reading material on the palm. The screen is much to small, and the resolution is very lacking.

    The one nice thing that an e-book has over paper is search. Forgot when a character was introduced in a book, or who they were - search for the name and re-read the intro to them.
  • Your argument that it won't happen seems to boil down to two things:

    1) People prefer paper over anything that's been produced thus far. This is true.

    2) People will always prefer paper over any future technologies. This is extrapolation, and is a mistake. There may very well be something produced that people will prefer. The options discussed in the article have some advantages that other technologies haven't.

    3) People will always have the option to exercise their preferences. Not necessarily so: _publishers_ control distribution here. If they decided to go eBook only at some point, that's how it would be, by and large. Especially as the economy of scale for paper production collapsed and the one for ePaper ramped up.

  • by KahunaBurger ( 123991 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2001 @12:42PM (#432597)
    No, not the camera's everywhere part that some people seem to think is all the book was about*. I mean this.

    Schools may be next, since textbooks are so expensive anyway. Once college kids start using them (trade in my 100 pound textbooks for one cool-looking textpad? Sure), they will slowly make their way into the workplace, then into homes.

    And what happens when those textbooks, including sociology and history can be "updated" as seamlessly as the tech manuals? What about when all periodicals are online and you can only look up back issues in the publisher's central archive? I'll tell you what - we will be a hell of a lot closer to "1984" than a few automatic cameras at stoplights will ever get us.

    It is important to be able to get perspective on how different parts of history have been played up or down. It is useful to be able to remind publishers of what their words were orriginally on an issue that they have now changed their minds on. Its even nice to read the first edition of the Stand and compare it to the "uncut". Paper books going away may save a little space, but I'd hardly call it a good thing.

    *[rant] why the hell do /.ers seem to think that 1984 was all about cameras and farenhiet 451 was all about book burning? Those may be the most gripping and dramatic parts, but each book contained an entire world where the human changes and accomadations was at least as significant as the teasers. Smith's job as a rewriter of history was far more prophetic IMHO than the worry of universal cameras, but no one cares when that comes true. The four wall televisions and creeping impersonality that surrounded the fireman mean more in our world than the crazy idea that all books could be banned, but people read it like a one note screed against censorship instead of a comentary on PEOPLE.[end rant]

    OK, anyway, the reason that there is no paperless office is the very "criticisms" some have made of paper. Its isn't rewritable, you have a long term record of the original mistake as well as the correction. (last nights Law and Order springs to mind)

    Kahuna Burger

  • This article, though well-written, bothers me in several ways.
    1. The technology described in the article is really a display technology. Why should it be limited to so-called e-books? If it can update at a reasonable rate, it ought to replace both CRT and notebook monitors. Long before we can afford several hundred pages of this stuff bound together, I should be able to get a 100dpi 48" x 36" display tacked to the wall of my cube, which is vastly more interesting to me than an e-book. Even if the refresh rate is poor, I could still use it show dynamic load stats for our servers or something.
    2. Why make dedicated e-books when we can make general-purpose portable computers with great displays? Why should you carry a pda with a low-res display and an e-book with a hi-res display? The whole thing is predicated on people being stupid and only accepting objects which have an analog in the past. People aren't that stupid, and they'll prefer the general-purpose device, given a choice.
    3. The author glossed over the social implications of the e-book movement. It is a naked power grab by the intellectual property aristocracy, and the chilling social implications completely dwarf any question of convenience or nostalgia.
      The questions are "just endless," Sheridon acknowledges. "But I think this in the end will bring down the cost of books so much that it will make it possible for more people to have their own personal libraries." Without the costs of printing and distributing, book prices could fall without loss of income to writers and editors.

      This is a very naive idea. Did the price of recorded music fall when the cost of production fell?
      Because an entire book reduces to a scatter of iron oxide particles on a computer hard drive, no text need ever go out of print-it can always sit there, whirling on the hard drive, until needed by the reader.

      I'll be very surprised if the publishers allow this to happen. Rather, I'd expect some type of expiration mechanism, even if it's the de facto barrier of being unable to copy the data to a new drive. The author is again glossing over the key issue of who controls the information.
      Scientific texts could be continually altered to keep pace with research.

      OK, this author is hopelessly naive. Anyone who can mention such a capability without seeing that the potential for abuse vastly outweighs the benefits is more optimistic than me.
  • Semantics, semantics.

    If you redefine books, the whole issue disappears. Print a book with e-paper instead of paper. Is it still a book? Yes. Has books disappeared? No. Have traditional paper-only books disappeared? Indeterminate. But the issue is no longer about books, it's about implementation.

    Same with Moore's Law. If you redefine it to 'prcoessing power' and not 'MHz', I don't think the question is valid any more. We will continue to increase processing power (double every 18 months?) without having to worry about physical limits as concerning speed. Just change the question slightly, and a different answer will be produced.

    As per driving flying cars to work and to the mall... with Telecommuting, the internet, and the electronic office, driving may become much less of an issue as well, even disregarding the fact we don't have flying cars. Though I want a flying car myself ^^

    JonKatz will write interesting articles. There is no spoon.

    We'll vacation on the moon. We're still working on that! Really!

    Terabytes of data will be stored on a credit card sized device. Okay, so that's definitely wishful thinking, right now. But soon, I think!

    Robots will do all of our house work: What, you actually keep your house clean?

    CmdrTaco will learn to spell: Redefine the language to match CmdrTaco, and he spells fine!

  • by Christianfreak ( 100697 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2001 @09:49AM (#432601) Homepage Journal
    I don't think that books will go away anytime soon, they may decrease in popularity but I think that there are enough people out there who absolutely hate reading for long periods of time from a computer screen. Its hard on the eyes for one thing. E-book is an okay idea for some people but I don't think its the same as being free from electronic devices, curling up in a nice warm place with a good book.

    Its sort of the myth of the paperless office. People have been saying we'll stop using paper for years and even though we could do that doesn't mean that we should or will. I work for an ISP and we have paper all over the place. I think the same will be true of books.

    "One World, one Web, one Program" - Microsoft promotional ad

  • by Minupla ( 62455 ) <minupla&gmail,com> on Wednesday February 14, 2001 @11:23AM (#432611) Homepage Journal
    Ya, but consider the numerous disadvantages of books:

    1) lack of backlight. Try reading in bed with someone who sleeps earlier then you. Backlights are your friend :)
    2) wieght. Holding a book in a reading position for hours on end is hard. Esp a hard cover.
    3) availability. I can buy a book from Baen's webscriptions, send it to my palm and have it the day they publish it (or earlier if I don't mind not having the whole thing at one time)
    4) cost. I can buy 4 ebooks from Baen for 10$ or 2.50$/book. (incidentally, the author gets twice as much in royalties from ebook sales through Baen, to compensate for the lower publishing cost)
    5) searchability. As you pointed out, rapidly seaching through an ebook to find out which side of the space opera George was on as he comes charging out of hyperspace is very handy :)

    Against these benifits books have clarity of text (in a well lit environment.)

    For me, the benifits outwiegh the losses. I'm hapy to be a convert :)

    Remove the rocks to send email
  • Wow, I'm impressed. Thank you very much for this reply.

    I just wanted to add that I very much look forward to checking out your product as soon as it hits the shelves. Rest assured that I will evaluate it with an open mind, despite my (obvious) bias towards traditional books.

    Best regards
  • 1-not a problem. I have many rooms in the house and a nice futon couch when my wife goes to bed.

    2-I dunno...that's never been a problem.

    3-true...however I have such a backlog of books to read, that's not an issue. Makes library returns an interesting point though - you must bring your palm back in 2 weeks so we can delete the .pdb :)
    4-Great point there - can't argue it. Do they have anything in place if something wipes out my e-copy? Yes, I can have a paper one burn, but electronic is much easier to lose.
    5-oh yeah!

    Since my last post, I've been trying to find a good document reader for the palm. There seem to be about 20 different possible formats, and a ton of readers. Is there a "one ring to rule them all" that means I either convert the files on a PC or don't need to keep switching readers? Flame me for this, but a Microsoft Reader for the Palm would help too!!!
  • Without colour it won't support Pron. No pron, and it will never be a success. After all, it has driven the internet to its current state... :)

  • Well as a brief summary on Shabbos you are forbiden to do "work" which is defined as one of the 39 catagories of acts required to build the Temple. Writing and lighting fires are amoung them, as are by extention turning electric lights on and off as well as using a computer.

    For a more detailed explanation see this page:
    Jewdism 101, Shabbat page []

    Shabbos and Shabbat are different pronunsations of the same word.
  • Why even bother reading in the future? Matrix style data jacks will be the rage, right? We'll just bypass that annoying low-bandwidth optical interface!
  • The advantages of electronic paper are numerous, to be sure. But it may be a long time before books disappear, if ever.

    People have an affinity for "things", especially in the case of the written word. As much as some of us might want to live in a Bauhaus, minimalist world, there's something warm and reassuring about a shelf filled with books.

    It's an ego thing as well - "see how many books I have!". If we didn't like the physical qualities of books, of having them in our own homes, we'd all use the library a lot more ;-) .

    Finally, there's something pleasurable in a tactile and visual way about a well-designed book. That's why people love coffee-table books about Bavarian castles. It's as much the book itself as the pictures and fluff text.

    Of course, I'd love to have true electronic paper. But I don't see it killing paper books. Remember how the computer was supposed to do away with paper in the office? Maybe we'll see something similar with books.

  • Depending on how its implimented, it will eventually mean the death of publishing. If it were to catch on, then there is no need to have a printing brings publishing to the realm of the author.

    I predict, that if books go away (I don't think they will, partially just because - its nice haveing a personal library of selected books - I have one).

    However, the only functions that will become important are editors (someone needs to proof the book) and marketers. Actual "publishing" would no longer have to be in the hands of people who own presses. Authors could deliver their works directly to sales houses.

  • How come Xerox hasn't made it more visible?

    At least, I haven't heard of it ^^

  • by JWhitlock ( 201845 ) <John-Whitlock AT ieee DOT org> on Wednesday February 14, 2001 @01:04PM (#432627)
    OK, anyway, the reason that there is no paperless office is the very "criticisms" some have made of paper. Its isn't rewritable, you have a long term record of the original mistake as well as the correction. (last nights Law and Order springs to mind)

    Excellent point - one of the strengths and weaknesses of paper is that is not rewritable. This is good for history - can you imagine the Constitution written as a .txt file? Maybe with a little disclaimer at the top, "Version 25, corrected Section X to include Women's Right To Vote"? Important documents will be written on paper for a long time.

    One of the problems is that the number of important documents is skyrocketing. I am expected, for tax purposes, to keep thousands of documents (check stubs, paycheck stubs, etc), most of which will never see the light of day. What's wrong with a cheap, write-once format, that allows all these "documents" to be stored, recalled when needed, but take up much less room that paper? In some ways, it would be more secure than paper - I could make copies, store one at the bank, one at home, and I'd have a duplicate if something bad happened (a fire, for instance).

    I believe document versioning will be an important part of electronic documents, and some things may always be done in paper (or stone - who wants an LCD display for a tombstone?). But, as the amount of paper keeps increasing, more and more should be in an electronic format. I don't need to generate 10 little reciepts every day - just upload them to my Visor, using X-bit encryption or whatever.

    We should keep in mind 1984, and always make updating voluntary and reviewable rather than automatic. For the most part, however, it will probably be a matter of convienince. I won't mind never dealing with a textbook with incorrect examples, or the wrong answers in the back.

    p.s. - I collect old science books. I love to see the state of the ideas, like one turn-of-the-century astonomy book that included a propeller plane ride to the moon, and didn't have Pluto. I also have a book on the New Math, which looks very strange when is was first conceived, and was fairly sexist in its examples. I'd hate to see these go away due to politics or PC revisionism, but they could be preserved in an electronic format - for instance, a History textbook with a command "view Revision 1", with all the Euro-centric ideas still in place, and "view latest Revision", with all the PC parts put in. It may be as interesting as the book itself.

  • Reminds me of another technology I've seen -- DVDs. Think "Special Edition" books, with multiple languages and author's commentary in the margin...
  • On the contrary (to your latter point), it's sometimes easier. Go to something like and count the number of mainstream publishers that are offering sampler chapters of their books for free. When I browse at the bookstore I can rarely do more than skim a few pages unless I plan to go sit in the coffee shop. But if I could download 3 chapters of 3 books and take them on the train with me, I'm much better off.

    Still got a point on the whole dropping thing, though.

  • The Bible was one of the first books to be touched by the epitome of then bleeding-edge technology: the movable type printing press.

    How true. In addition to that I've noted that the Bible is usually one of the first titles avaliable for any new e-book format the other early titles are often foreign language dictionaries. I'm pretty sure that you've been able to but an electronic Bible at RadioShack for at least 15 years now.

  • by Gorbie ( 101704 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2001 @09:52AM (#432633) Journal
    It will be a long time before e-books replace real ones, if ever. If for no other reason than books don't need to be powered, they will always be around. Heck, there are places in the world where paper books aren't really in e-books are very far off for them.

    Think outside the more advanced nations, and the need for paper books is evidant.
  • by tomreagan ( 24487 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2001 @09:52AM (#432638)
    we finish converting to the paperless office. Remember how computers were going to free us from the confines of forms, memos, and various other forms of paperwork? And how now we are up to our eyeballs in paper because computers make it so easy to generate?

    If anything, I buy more books now to keep up to date on emerging computer technologies. So, I guess once again computers are having the opposite of the intended effect.
  • Then I, for one, am not going. When the main computer with all the e-manuals goes tango uniform and all the light we have left is chemsticks, I'm not going to be stuck without my treeware manuals. No books, no Buck Rogers. And if Mission Control doesn't like it, they can kiss my furry little butt.

    News Report - 2055 - Geek Gets Burnt Up By Own Books

    ...UNASA reported that he refused to make the flight without his manuals, and even paid for two extra tickets just for his 500+ kg of paper manuals. The oxygen tank was quickly sealed, but the fire amoung the manuals spread rapidly, and was not so easily extinguished...

    I agree, it would be silly to have all the manuals on one computer. But if you had them on three redundant, self-lighted e-books? You could even turn them all on for ambient light if the emergency lights went out. Even then, you may have the paper manuals on the operation of the ship, like modern planes do. But will your Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy collection really help you at that point?

    Mission Control requests you shave that furry little butt.

  • Oh. I love a shelf full of books too, but the thought is that there's nothing stopping them from being shelves full of e-books, if/when e-paper approaches the price point of regular paper.

  • by Leon Trotski ( 259231 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2001 @09:53AM (#432643) Homepage
    I'm a lifelong technologist who's been on the Internet since the late 1980s. I make my living designing and promulgating services that run on the World Wide Web. I should know better than most that print is dead, the book is obsolete, the future belongs entirely to digital transmission, and the screen's the place for reading.

    But books continue to matter, now and for any plausible future. Not as the only means to transmit information, entertainment, and knowledge--that hasn't been true for more than a century. Not as the dominant force among media--that hasn't been true for decades. But as a vibrant, healthy medium--one that serves a variety of needs better than any alternative and that makes good economic, ecological, and technological sense for the new millennium--the book just isn't going away.

    One absolute article of faith in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s was that the DynaBook, or its equivalent, was just around the corner. This device offers better readability than a book and easier navigation. It is light enough in weight and has a high enough battery life so that it is as portable as a book; with rapid replacement of contents, it functions as a universal book. Every projection I've seen had such a device on the market long before now, at an extremely modest price.
    It hasn't happened, and there's every reason to believe that it won't. Reading from digital devices, whether portable or desktop, suffers in several areas--among them light, resolution, speed, and impact on the reader--and there has been essentially no improvement in any of these areas in the last five years.

    Many futurists have conceded this point. They now admit that people will print out anything longer than 500 words or so. It's just too hard to read from a computer, and it doesn't seem likely to get a lot easier. If every long text is printed out each time it is used, there are enormous economic and ecological disadvantages to the all-digital library: briefly, a typical public library would spend much more on printing and licenses than its current total budget and would use at least 50 times as much paper as at present.

    What ever happened to Sony's BookMan, their portable digital book? Why didn't the DynaBook ever emerge as a real device? Why aren't we all using Personal Digital Assistants for most of our reading? The answers are complex, but the overall situation is clear. The PDAs being produced today and designed for tomorrow aren't intended to function as book replacements: the screens are small, hard to read, and awkward to navigate for lengthy text. It's increasingly clear that the public as a whole has no need for--or interest in-- digital book equivalents.
    Two-thirds of adult Americans, and a higher percentage of children, use their public libraries. Roughly two-thirds of adult Americans purchased books last year. I'd guess that an even higher percentage reads magazines or newspapers. Is it possible that electronic tablets could achieve such ubiquity in the next few years--or even the next couple of decades? I doubt it.
  • The multi-versioning capability you describe is essentially a subset of Ted Nelson's Parallel Textface idea, which is about 30 years old now.

    Imagine a document that had an actual "brightness" control that worked like the old joke about the knob on the TV... that's Parallel Textface in a nutshell - content can be abstracted or displayed in detail at will or to suit the reader's knowledge level. (There's no getting around the fact that this requires complex editing/autohoring, though...)

    To be able to track the development of a document over time, you need an even more sophisticated system - and that's why he invented Xanadu - a brilliant concept that may well outstrip our abilty to realize it for a long time yet...
  • I can't wait until it's easy to download pirated versions of Java/Oreilly books via gnureadster(tm). But seriously:

    I will have a bookcase with real books on it, until someone with guns forcefully removes it from my house. You can't display great works of literature, or get the inspiration from a library, by reading an MP3-style playlist, and double clicking "War and Peace".

    I enjoy not having to crypto-sign a release for a friend to borrow my copy of "1984", or even "Java in a Nutshell".

    I think the only place for this is high-volume, low-cost books/literature:
    etc... etc...

    When Computer books cost $80 or more, and travel books the same size/weight in paper can cost $9.95, it makes you wonder. The cost in publishing, is writing, editing, promotion, and distribution - of which only distribution is made partially easier with e-books.

    I don't think many people would choose to have Java in a Nutshell for a mere $4.95 discount, in e-form only, dependent on electricity, etc...

  • Hacking Exposed is actually one of the next ones on my list, along with the FreeBSD Handbook

    Hacking Exposed is nothing short of AWESOME. I do suggest that you pick up the second edition though, which came out a little while back. (Unfortunatly for me, it came out 2 months after I got the first edition...)

    As for the Free BSD handbook, is that the red hardcover one about BSD 4.4? I have heard good things about it.

    Of course, you are more advanced than I am - I've NEVER built a firewall.

    I would hardly consider myself more advanced than you. The funny thing is that firewalls are far easier to build than you might imagine. Understanding them is the hard part, it sounds like you are well on your way towards that!

    If you have any questions on them you can always mail me (despam my hotmail address) or check out our (very small and humble) message board off of our tiny LUG [].

    I had not checked out before, it looks good, but unfortunatly with the exchange rate between the U.S. Dollar and the Canadian one I rarely shop online. I get a large proportion of my computer books from: [] but this is because it is a Canadian company, and I can drive to the store (6Hrs away...). (Heh, I have spent at least $2000.00 CDN there!) Due to the value of your dollar it should be of benifit for you to check it out too, although the prices at look better I must admit.

    I will add your two books to my "get list"... Just what I need... I was at the grocery store today and they had one of those "discount computer book bins"...

    Java In a Nutshell (O'Reilly) $9.99

    LPI Linux Professional Institute Certification $19.99 (I already have it at $75.00 but I can give this to a friend who needs a copy)

    Apache Server Commentary $19.99

    Learning Debian/GNU Linux (O'Reilly) $19.99
    (Ok, I did not need this last one, but hey, it was an O'Reilly and it was cheap!)

    This book habit is bad. (I suppose it's better than drugs...) I can already hear some of the more recent books of fiction I bought calling me...
  • Dunno. Why is the wrong question. It's a flimsy piece of plastic, with a plastic case and a few printed pieces of art.

    A *similar* feeling occurs for my webpage, so it isn't out of the question that I can adapt.

    But there is something, strangely enough, intangible about things that are tangible. Being able to flip through my comics, my novels, my references. I will want a print copy for sheer ownability, not for utility.

    So if I get a library of e-books, I still may use the services of 'custom' printhouses to print out and store my top 10 fav publications just to sit on my shelf. The same may be true in a few years with my music collection, when over 15 gigs of music are availabe to my PDA, my PC, my notebook, or my car, that my favorite pieces I may still have the albums and cases. I do that with software; keep the boxes for display purposes

  • by Sheeple Police ( 247465 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2001 @09:56AM (#432659)
    The paper medium has survived the "killer apps" of Radio and Television, whose to say it won't survive now? I know I myself enjoying laying in my room reading Asimov, Tolkein, and Faulkner, and the mere tactile feedback of reading a book that is yellowed with age from being from the 70s and before is enough as a reminder that whatever great authors today - Stephenson, Clancy, Crichton - they are merely standing upon the shoulders of the greats who went before them.

    Incidentally, check out this study [] by Xerox/EuroPARC comparing computerized methods of studying versus their paper equivalent. If I recall correctly, they found paper based studying led to higher grades then their computerized equivalents. However, the computer was much more popular for items such as research. Paper and e-Paper both have their roles within society, just as technology and agriculture remain two vitally different but vitally important aspects of human culture.

  • Takes out his purpose built pen, say his fav permament marker, take my ebook, and sign the cover?

    Then I'd just have to turn on 'write protect' and make sure to never dump the contents of my signed e-book.

    Do you see the point? An e-book printed with e-paper will still look and act like a normal paper book!

  • 1 - *grins* I've never been able to get over the attraction of reading in bed. Can't get to sleep without it.
    2 - Well reading a large hardcover in bed (as opposed to sitting at a table) is hard on the wrists for me at least :)
    3 - *grins* sorry, wasn't clear... they publish it as they edit it, I assume, so you get more as you get closer to the publication date.
    4 - Yep, you can go back to your web-library and download new copies (in various formats, everything from html to rtf to microsoft reader, rocket book, or pda compatable formats.) if you accidentaly nuke yours, or it's been a year and you want to reread it because the sequal just came out...
    5 - *laughs* the bane of any space opera fan :)

    I've been using mobipocket. They have a freebie publisher, so I can turn text or html files into mobipocket ones. *grins* I hear you ont he microsoft reader one, but that's never likely to happen as CE and PalmOS are direct competitors, and you've not seen MS Word for linux yet have you? :)

    And Baen supports mobipocket directly which is a plus since I've been buying from them.
    Remove the rocks to send email
  • (I kind of like having debates no one else will look at. Including, possibly, you).

    I'm hoping for a future where space travel is not only regular, but annoyingly regular. Where cross-planet flights often go into orbit, where we regularly visit space-stations in orbit, or travel to the Moon or Mars. Maybe it's a huge corporation, 'cause widgets can be make cheaper / faster / better in space, or maybe it's colonization, or maybe it's just government flights, but we're going up every day.

    At that point, the folks in charge start considering safety vs. cost. It's a dirty little fact that car manufacturers weigh safety recalls vs. projected accidents and consumer opinion, and some occasionally faulty components don't get replaced. It will be the same for space flight.

    What this means is, once components get good enough, they will start thinking about the cost of fuel and space for all those manuals, and start requiring the electronic copy. Maybe two or three redundant copies at first, but eventually just one. And you won't be able to go up with the paper copies, eventually, unless you declare them as luggage and pay for them. Of course, your seat cushion will act as a floatation device, if you happen to survive a water "landing" from orbit.

    Now, that would make an interesting science fiction story...

  • Well in the synagoge we read from a hand written Torah that was created by a scribe. To be kosher a Torah must be written without error with a quill from a bird (usualy a goose I think). As well as a specific ink. It takes a scribe about a year to write out a Torah.

    A Saffer Torah is given special treatment. It is adorned witha velvet cover and a silver crown etc. A Torah is escorted threw the congragation by a procession. When it is no longer in usable condition it buried or otherwise properly stored.

    Now there are printed books that contain the text of the Torah ofcourse, we use those for study. They often contain commentary by RASHI or one of the other Rabbis.

    To my mind the laws of the Torah (All 613 of them) adapt to the modern world very well. In some cases I think the laws as written in the Torah do a lot better than the current practice in many parts of the world.
  • by mav[LAG] ( 31387 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2001 @09:56AM (#432665)
    Rather give me a bunch of plain old printed pages with content that I can:

    • read when I like and where I like
    • read in any order I like
    • quote from for the purposes of research or in the creation of a derivative work
    • sell to someone else
    • lend to someone else
    The new technology may be great but it's how the content will be restricted that worries me.

  • by dingbat_hp ( 98241 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2001 @09:56AM (#432667) Homepage

    e-Books - going to be huge, no question about it.

    Will paper die out ? Well, I still covet first editions in nice bindings, solely because of the aesthetics. Taking a lesser version of that, one-use paper will always be more cute & cuddly than that impersonal info-gadget, so I certainly wouldn't hold my breath waiting for paper to vanish.

    The real difference though is one that this article skated right over. Paper is one-use with pre-packaged content, e-Books are on-line and live. The difference between "The History of..." and "What's Happening to..., Right This Minute" is a very big difference. It's not so big for Tolstoy. It's not even very big for Steven King. But it's enormous for a medical textbook.

    Like the rest of you web-dev geeks, I must read through the whole of the W3C site every few weeks, what with checking the odd snippet ten times a day. Usually it's because of my failing memory, but often it's because some small part was revised last week and I need the current version. Now can you imagine how you'd work with that on static paper ? It's cases like that that will push the e-Book, not some chapter-by-chapter "stop if you don't like it" licensing deal on a new novel.

  • by sid_vicious ( 157798 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2001 @09:57AM (#432670) Homepage Journal
    I think that there are enough people out there who absolutely hate reading for long periods of time from a computer screen. Its hard on the eyes for one thing.

    You're missing the point -- electronic paper (the kind described in the article) is a system where tiny spheres (black on one side and white on the other) are rotated to form words and images. It's not hard on the eyes like viewing a standard monitor -- that's the whole point! The overall experience is supposed to be very much like viewing a real sheet of paper.

  • by mblase ( 200735 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2001 @09:58AM (#432672)'s about the medium. Books will always exist for a few simple reasons:
    • They're portable. An e-book text file may be lightweight and easy to recycle, but if you don't have a reader or batteries, it's unreadable. Paper books can be read anytime, anywhere, in any conditions save soaking wet.

    • They're easy to understand. There's no learning curve for using a paper book. The read-flip-read "book user interface" has been in place almost since the invention of paper, and it actually has advantages that computer files don't. You have an intuitive sense of where you are in a book (near the beginning, halfway through, etc.) that you don't have with a computer file; you can stick a bookmark between the pages or dog-ear the corner; you can highlight important passages; you can scribble notes in the margins. And you can do all this no matter what book you're reading or how old it might be.

    • They're durable. Books can be burned or soaked, but short of that they're remarkably hard to destroy. Books from centuries ago have been preserved and read, despite the aging fragility of the paper; I can't even emulate computer software that was written forty years ago.

    It's not like we haven't heard this spiel before. For years the likes of Lotus and Microsoft have been saying that our offices will be completely digital any day now and paper documentation will become a thing of the past, and all the while companies like Xerox have continued to make money on the simple reality that everyone, everywhere, still needs paper.

    It's natural and obvious that the e-book publishers would be announcing that "that the day of ordinary books, magazines and newspapers was almost over." They, after all, want to make money on its replacement. But there are some things computers just can't replace, and this is one of them. E-books will supplement paper books in the Western world, but they will never replace them.

  • Not to mention: one time I printed out a bunch of documentation on some obscure configuration setting, which included copious info on "what to do when your computer won't boot". Someone saw my stack of dead-tree dox, and in before you can say "Digital DNA", they chucked it and wrote me a nasty email about dead trees and things of that nature.

    You can probably infer what happened. I needed the docs, they were on the computer that wouldn't boot, along with the bookmarks and pointers to said data.

    True story.
  • 1) The article is about making a sort of paper that prints itself.. Would be just as easy to read.
    2) Books are in digital form before they are printed... Often in TeX format I understand... Would be trivial to either distribute that, or some encrypted, compressed form of the same thing...
  • by mbessey ( 304651 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2001 @10:04AM (#432693) Homepage Journal
    I keep hearing every couple of years or so that "books are doomed"

    I don't doubt that eventually, it'll be possible to produce an electronic book that is acceptable to the vast majority of people (as opposed to today's solutions, which are generally not acceptable to most people).

    For those of you following along at home, here are the major issues you need to resolve before electronic books replace the paperback:

    Display resolution & contrast - I see good progress here, maybe in a couple more years.

    Portability - Okay, no problem there

    Batteries - You need either really long life, or solar cells. If I can't read it on the beach when I'm on vacation, it's not a "book".

    Content rights management - I don't want to have to buy a new "e-book" for each novel I want to read, that'd be a waste. On the other hand, the authors need compensation.

    Distribution outlets - Yeah, well, obviously the Internet. But who's going to manage the whole author->reader chain? Traditional publishing houses?

    A reasonable user interface - Take a look at Acrobat Reader for an excellent example of how >b>not to design an interface for reading books. Ideally, you want something that takes advantage of the unique strengths of the medium (hypertext, multimedia, etc)

    And, last but not least, cost. Books are still pretty darn cheap. Any electronic competitor needs to be either far superior, or not much more expensive, to compete.

    On the other hand, anything that reduces the demand for paper has got to be a good thing...

  • marketing gurus decide to tell us that they've got a better replacement for a 1,900 year old technology, (paper) which is still going strong.

    fully replacing paper, or even just physical printed books, will be feat equal to reinventing the wheel.

    Check out the guts of the PENTIUM 4 []
    BWstockphotos []

  • by IronChef ( 164482 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2001 @10:05AM (#432697)
    Its sort of the myth of the paperless office. People have been saying we'll stop using paper for years...

    You have it exactly. Wish I could mod you up.

    The idea that a perfectly good older technology (printing presses, paper) will be blown away by a more sophisticated, more expensive technology is BS. Electronic books may be great for some things, but they will suck at other things -- a LOT of other things -- and printing companies will stay in business.

    Then again, since I am in publishing maybe I am an old-fashioned dinosaur who is going to get modded down.
  • I work for a company that delivers investor communications on behalf of brokers. We have just started to offer delivery of information over the internet, this makes sense to both sides because of convience and lower costs. Even though through my eyes and the eyes of the brokers this makes more sense than the "old fashion" way of delivering paper copies, there still are people out there who prefer a physical copy.

    I am continuously guilty of printing of text from web pages so I can read it. It's easy to say, and it has been said in the past, that paper will dissapear but I haven't seen any evidence of this, at home or at work. The truth of the matter is that the faster we can work with the aid of a computer, the more paper we'll generate.

    It's much more convienient to take a book on a subway, to the park, on a plane, etc. than it would be to plug in a laptop and scroll though one. Why would people want to use up their laptop's valuable power to read a novel anyway? It would make more sense to download the novel or resource material and then print it out to read it.

    But maybe I'm too old fashion.

  • If books don't exist in Farenheit 451, what were the "firemen" burning all the time? Grocery lists?

    Let's keep the stupid (not to mention incorrect and irrelevant) literary references to a minimum, shall we?
  • You should probably read the article before making a comment on it. The whole point is exactly to overcome your issues: e-PAPER will enable e-books. Material that is as flexible, portable, and cheap as paper, but that displays information based on electronic input rather than static ink.
  • Background: I'm in the Air Force, enlisted, I fix mainly vax clusters.

    In our office we have lots of nt4/office machines. I do almost everything on a computer, even though I maintain our mostly paper/fiche library of tech data, I keep all that information in a card catalog type app I wrote. We use ms exchange for keeping track of most apointments, and exchanging messages between shifts. All our data on what we did on each job is tracked on a computer (secured properly of course).

    What I find odd is, with all this technology, and we still go through ALOT of paper. It's not the worker bees doing it either. It's 80% bureaucratic bs. ALOT could be solved if we had digital signatures. Why should I have to sign my leave form? I fill it out on the computer, but I print it out and save my copy, copy for my boss, copy for the main office. Why couldn't this be done with a computer? Why do people feel a need to print emails? In my mind, printing an email falls under FWA (Fraud Waste and Abuse, what the military calls using things the wrong way), there is NO need for somebody to print out an email saying, "This meeting is now at 1300". Why does the MPF (Military Personal Office) need to send me a rip of my current data on paper to check? Why not pgp it and send it to me through email on the unclassified lan? Why do I walk in every day and find a new breifing on something for me to sign? Can't I be emailed this?

    On a good (or sad, depending on your point of view) I think the Air Force has one of the best paperless offices I've ever seen. All our publications/forms are online, in electronic searchable form. I can find the latest regs on what my uniform should look like in a few keystrokes, no trees kill once a year printing the newest version for everybody. Almost all our tech data is going electronic, so I can carry a computer with all I need on it, instead of grabbing a few books/fiche out of our almost half million page library. Having a find key for my data would speed up my ability to fix things ALOT. I can email somebody at another base, or a contractor, and have a response in a few minutes, no need to go through mail/distro/whatever, and no trees killed.

    The bottom line is, if the 'old timers' could get past wanting everything on paper, and people used secure digital signatures, we could save alot of paper.
  • by JWhitlock ( 201845 ) <John-Whitlock AT ieee DOT org> on Wednesday February 14, 2001 @10:09AM (#432709)
    Nothing like curling up next to the fireplace with a 19" monitor and a whirring hard drive...

    You still have a fireplace? Most of the houses I've seen had fireplaces, but they have been bricked up because they weren't built to modern code...

    Most people argue for dead tree versions out of some similar romantic notion of curling up with a good book. But how often do we do this? I read in the morning, to wake up, during the day, for interest or work, and at night, to get to sleep. Never in front of a fireplace, and never in a hammock (just reminds me of yardwork I should do).

    For me, I'd love a good, high-resoultion, light electronic book. I'm reading Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun (all four in one bindind), and loving it. However, it's heavy, hard to hold when in bed, I need a light turned on, and I wish I had a decent dictionary to look up half the obscure words (Autarch? Triskele?).

    A good electronic book could do that. It could use a standard dictionary, and have a special dictionary for difficult words. Translated works could have both versions, and some translator notes. I could use backlight at night, and it would remember what page I'm on. For technical books, I could enter notes in the side, and it could keep track of the ten pages I visit the most. A Shakespeare play could live alongside ten great commentaries, as well as the Cliff Notes.

    Nope, I wouldn't use the 19" monitor either. But it's easy to be flippant, and harder to actually think about it, and how it will be an improvement over paper versions. Do you still use a horse to get to work? Or maybe you grab your self-carved walking stick, and curse urban planners for inventing sidewalks.

  • Will e-paper be as effective at containing messes during housebreaking the dog as the New York Times?

    On another topic, will the e-paper give off toxic fumes when burned? Newsprint makes excellent kindling for the fireplace: it burns fast and hot, is easy to manipulate, and doesn't poison the people settling in for a romatic glass of wine in front of the fire.

    All in all though, it would be nice to have tough, waterproof pages that can stand up to reading and rereading as well as assaults by toddler.

  • by eric6 ( 126341 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2001 @10:21AM (#432711) Journal
    troll troll troll.

    1. i love books too, as i love horses. doesn't mean we still ride them to work.
    2. electronic paper IS something you can hold in your hands. it has all the advantages (clarity far better than CRTs, etc.) without the disadvantages (weight, size).
    3. my favorite part: "Technology can do wonderful things, but it will never replace genuine human communication." i could make all manner of clever comments about "genuine communication" and its relation to technology, but i find most humorous the irony that this was a post on slashdot...


  • Electronic paper just hasn't reached the technology point, yet. Paper works because it is relatively inexpensive, easy to aquire, and the industry is using it. It has many downsides, though - it is not re-writable, it's creation is harmful to the environment, it's heavy, non-portable, non-searchable, etc.

    Electronic paper has disadvantages now, but they are most technological. When they become technologically possible and cheap, they will be quickly adopted. Tech manuals will be first (can you imagine a Linux book that updates with kernel revisions?), because the industry can afford it. Schools may be next, since textbooks are so expensive anyway. Once college kids start using them (trade in my 100 pound textbooks for one cool-looking textpad? Sure), they will slowly make their way into the workplace, then into homes.

    In terms of quality, CDs are inferior to LPs, but they are smaller and easier to keep in good working condition. Eventually, I expect digital formats without physical medium (provide your own) will take over. Paper will go the same way. I can't imagine a future where geeks go to Mars carrying 500+ kg of paper manuals. Mission Control won't allow it.

  • Never happen. Technology can do wonderful things, but nothing can replace the experience of reading a good hardback book. I, for one cherish the experience of opening up a weathered classic and smelling the musty scent of paper and ink. Flipping the pages of an old book is a comforting and relaxing experience that no amount of technology can replace. In my experience, a good read is not based solely upon text and pictures, but the sum of all the readers surroundings come together to provide an almost surreal experience.

    Sadly, some people seem to be under the impression that shiny gadgets can replace age old methods of human communication. Books have been an integral part of human enlightenment for several thousands of years. Would the Bible be the same had it been written on a microchip instead of parchment. Would the works of such great literary minds as Shakespere or Mark Twain have had the same impact on our society if they had been strings of ones and zeros on magnetic media. Would Uncle Tom's Cabin have caused the same revolutionary way of thinking if was something intangible that you could not hold in your hands? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding "NO!" Technology can do wonderful things, but it will never replace genuine human communication.

  • I would have thought so too, but this new tech is NOTHING like what You see today. The advantage of the mylar coated tech-thing they're creating now, is that it's so much more like a "real" book than the ones that are around now.

    I've actually been to my local library to check out an "e-book" in it's present form, and it's not really nice to read on those limited calculator like pads. But that's not what this development is about. This will be so much more like a real book, have the general feel and look of paper end everything, only diff is that You can set bookmarks, make searches, and don't even have to strain Yourself to turn the page.
    In my opinion, the E-book WILL survive, but for the very foreseeable future it will co-exist with the regular book, since As You point out, they're part of our history. Additionally the production costs are a lot bigger at present. But as the E-book becomes cheaper and easier on the eyes, I truely believe that it will eventually become accepted.

  • They said radio would kill books and newspapers, and television after that. You're no dinosaur. Just because paper is an old technology doesn't mean it doesn't kick ass.

    Paper should be made from hemp instead of wood-pulp, though. Making paper from wood-pulp is like making hamburger from racehorses... it's wasteful and not as good.

    The Bible is not my book, and Christianity is not my religion.

  • Books also depend on technology. You can't read them if it's dark, or if it's raining. Assuming that civilisation hasn't collapsed completely, is it easier for me to give you a copy of a book by beaming it Palm-to-Palm, or by photocopying a paper version ? Will a quality-made computing device outlive a cheap paperback on corrosive paper ?

    The digital longevity issue is a good one. I can (and do) read 40 year old data sets, but I often can't read a 5 year old one. The reasons behind most of these happenings is that >20 years ago we defined data formats by doing just that; defining a format as fields, groups, rows etc. Ten years ago we instead would choose "WordPerfect" format -- devolving the format definition to an application vendor. Now it's these application-based formats that are the ones being lost (mainly), not those where the format was explicitly noted.

    Fortunately, the future looks brighter. XML is a good start, but the increasing usage of schema-based formats with simple and commonplace syntaxes can free us entirely from application dependency. Who cares if the last XML parser is lost ? The XML syntax spec is shorter than a French holiday phrasebook, and we can just re-write one from scratch. Schema languages are increasingly self-describing and semantically powerful, so we can re-interpret our data by reading them.

  • i've recently purchased a book from
    first of all, after downloading the book, i realized that the book was in a proprietary format and i was forced to use a proprietary player (which basically sucked because it stuttered from time to time). i was unable to hear the book on my linux machine and had to install a microsoft product just to listen to it. what the hell is wrong with this picture?
    that's like purchasing a book from the bookstore and having to read it with a special decoder spyglass! or how about purchasing a music cd that only plays on Sony CD players?
    this is a serious issue and it needs to be fixed before it gets out of hand.
    for this, i played the book on one machine, and recorded the audio onto another. then, i changed the recorded format to MP3 so i'm able to listen to it on my linux machine. i should make the MP3 available to the public just to spite those idiots...


  • I have a fondness for long novels, unfortunatly they are hard to carry around in a pocket all day, being so bulky, like the Cryptonomicon hard cover I carried around. Lately I've been greading them on my palm pilot. It's perfect, light, backlit, I don't have to carry another thing around with me (since I carry my palm anyways).

    It has all the convience of a book (I can read it in front of the fireplace, etc), and all the convience of a light small device.

    A year ago I would have said no way. Now it's 'bring on the ebooks!'

    Remove the rocks to send email

  • Guess I should go print and read it.

  • Since I just got a Rocket eBook I've had this conversation a few times recently. Something that my friend pointed out is "I can't loan you my ebook after I'm done with it." He's right -- when I buy them, they're hard coded to my device. Unless I loan him the reader, which would be in sticking with the old "book license" methodology that only one person can read it at a time. The problem, of course, is that then I can't read any books while he has my reader. That's no good. Something that's assumed about paper books that's different from ebooks is that paper books have the "reader" inherently installed. Each book is therefore a standalone thing. eBooks, at least for the moment, are not. You have to think of the book and the reader (the content and the display?) as two different things having two different licenses.
  • I recently wandered into a channel called #bookwarez on IRC. Instead of going to Barnes n' Noble to *buy* books the way you're supposed to, you can get them for free in PDF or HTML format. Most of the books I've seen available are tech-related (Teach yourself [language/app/cert] in 21 days), but I've also seen many fiction titles as well. This form of warez is new to me, but the fact that it's out there is kinda interesting. Most of the books I've seen are zipped up pretty good and I'd say 1000 pages = 2 megs. Makes you wonder what *won't* be available for free if you search hard enough. This brings up many ethical issues, and I don't advocate or reccommend that you go out and do this, but it is something to think about.
  • I can't imagine a future where geeks go to Mars carrying 500+ kg of paper manuals. Mission Control won't allow it.
    Then I, for one, am not going. When the main computer with all the e-manuals goes tango uniform and all the light we have left is chemsticks, I'm not going to be stuck without my treeware manuals. No books, no Buck Rogers. And if Mission Control doesn't like it, they can kiss my furry little butt.

    There could perhaps be a window... [and] a hatch with explosive bolts on the spacecraft... and pitch and yaw thrusters so that the astronaut occc... pilot could have some... could have control of the re-entry procedure.
    -- "The Right Stuff"

  • Of course with today's headlines reading:
    Clearly the transition to e-paper won't be a smooth one.

As of next Tuesday, C will be flushed in favor of COBOL. Please update your programs.