Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Shape of E to Come

Reading is going to go completely online predicted Bill Gates at a conference on advertising in Seattle last week:
We believe that as we get the smaller form factor, the screen has gotten good enough. Why is reading online better? It's up to date, you can navigate, you can follow links. The ads in the online reading are completely targeted as opposed to just being run-of-print, where many of the readers will find them completely irrelevant. The ads can be in new and richer formats. In fact the only drawbacks of the digital form are the things associated with the device: how big is it, heavy is it, how many hours of power does it have, how much do I have to spend to buy it? But those are things that once you achieve that threshold, in terms of the convenience and the cost, then you see a dramatic change in behavior. Today, for people who read newspapers and magazines, even the most avid PC user probably still does quite a bit of reading on print. As the device moves down in size and simplicity, that will change, and so somewhere in the next five-year period we'll hit that transition point, and things will be even more dramatic than they are today.
Meanwhile, bibliophile Andrew Marr (right) ponders the tortoise slow arrival of the e-book in the Guardian, and puts it down to the fact:.
.. that traditional books are such good technology, even compared with CDs or newspapers. They are a little larger than the hand, extremely portable, nice to hold and look at and remarkably cheap. Yes, there is an environmental issue but most are made of cheap, sustainable woodpulp. Simple technology that works is unlikely to go out of fashion. Those futurologists of the 1960s who predicted a world of silver jumpsuits and food-pills forgot that socks, buttons and saucepans were simple technology that worked, and the same is true of books.
But given the chance try out one of the latest gadgets iRex's Iliad (left) he comes away pretty impressed. ... Or he would be - if only the manufacturers could make it smell musty like a real book!

I know I've said it before but I can't imagine not wanting to possess physical books ... and there is an emotional aspect to book buying which a download could never fulfill.

But I'd love an ebook too and could think of a thousand and one uses for such a gadget.

Would ... erm ... any manufacturers out there like me to test drive one?

It would be nice to have an i-pod thingy too, I've decided after Madcap Machinist was kind enough to let me have a listen to his. (And you should have seen his face when I asked them if he thought these things would catch on!)


Chet said...

Remember the PDA I showed you over dinner that evening we went to see Jit (please don't hit me, Eliza)? Remember I showed you it can go online and I showed you your blog? Well, that little thing is my entertainment centre - can read books (just started Straub & King's The Talisman on it) and can have music in it, too. No need for separate gadgets to read and to listen separately. One gadget to make Chet happy. Well, sort of - it doesn't make coffee.

You can play with it again tomorrow morning - lil ms d has asked me along for the marmalade thing. Okay with you?

bibliobibuli said...

haha chet! knew you'd be the first to leave a comment and now i'm waiting for leon

of course okay about tomorrow. yes, was thinking of your little gadget too. am jealous. will buy when i can afford.

but wonder how your reader compares to this new one and the sony reader?

Chet said...

I'm comfortable reading from the screen. The dedicated ebook readers are probably better but are limited to just reading books.

What I really like about my PDA is I can go on holiday with a whole library of books inside, so I don't have to lug the actual books with me.

irene said...

I find reading from a screen really tiring and would much rather be reading from a page. Plus, with a real book, you don't need to worry about running out of battery at a crucial moment...

Anonymous said...

i will tell you one good reason why books will never go out of style.

there is a bunch of us in the office who love to come to work, sit at the terminal, whip out a book and put it next to us. when ppl walk by or sit next to us, and ask "hey, what's that book?" we love it!


then there is also another bunch of us who carry a book around everywhere. when we go for tea or a drinking session, out comes a book. it's not like we are going to be doing any reading. when you hang out with friends, you talk and drink and talk and drink. but we love to show off our latest reads.


so screw you, Mr Bill Gates. and dream on, loser!

Moby Viz

Nuri said...

I've nothing against e-books as long as they don't make normal books obsolete, which is unlikely.

There's always something about a book, about turning those pages with your own fingers and breathing in that musty smell you were talking about.

Plus, when I go on a holiday at some seaside resort-- it just doesn't feel right to lug an e-book with me. I go on holidays to *escape* the city, the internet and glaring laptop screens. Reading a normal book feels more natural...more relaxing, even?

cthulhu said...

I guess this technology might help with online reading habit:

VentureBeat » Live Ink offers better way to read text online

The company has developed a product that automatically re-formats text in a way that your brain can more easily comprehend. By breaking complex syntax into simpler syntax, which makes it easier for the brain to absorb the material.

Gette said...

I doubt if I'll ever move on to e-books because I enjoy having a wall of shelves crammed with my books. No electronic thingamajig is going to replace a physical set of my favourite series or my small collection of vintage books.

I don't need to be distracted by links or ads. If I owned one of those electronic readers, I'll keep worrying that I'll lose it or break it.

And I agree with Viz. I'm one of those people who tote a book everywhere and love talking about my latest read.

bibliobibuli said...

irene - yeah ... but a flicker free screen? these damn devices are getting so good

mr viz - are you a poseur?? (but you work in an office with a whole lot of book lovers anyway ...) anyway, that was the use of a book i hadn't thought of, you can't impress anyone with what you're reading on a pda

nuri - yes, well said. and i think i've fallen in love with physical books even more since the conversation about ebooks began

gett - i'd defintely be scared of losing it too as i do all the time with my handphone and camera!

bibliobibuli said...

cthulhu - thanks so much for the link - i found that discussion fascinating and it makes a lot of sense. (i have taught reading skills to students inc speed reading and read q. a lot about how the brain processes words)

but in a way we are so bound by what we're used to. the qwerty keyboard survives through inertia for example, even though it was designed in the (19th to slow the typist down.

Leon Wing said...

Sorry, so late on a morning to come in, Sharon. You know, this is Sunday after all. Like Chet I'm into ebooks too. I have an iPAQ to read them from. Sometimes I scan books I'd like to read again or if I know I cannot buy a copy of locally, to make into ms lit ebooks. But I still enjoy reading from a papered source. Yes, there is nothing like touching, smelling, holding a real book in your hands, now, especially hardbacks. When I'm waiting for a new book to buy at Kino, I'm hoping it's a hardback, even tho it costs a bomb. Recently I got a few: On Chesil Beach, Graham Swifts's Tomorrow. I was a bit dissappointed at first that Toby Litt's Hospital was trade paperback - don't think it's in hardback - but I'm very pleased with it now: very thick, with flaps inside the covers, and taller than normal. Also with Dan Rhodes's Gold, which has unique rounded edges.

Azmi said...

Catching up with technology via e-books is fine but it will be a shame if we no longer have physical Kinos/Borders/Times/etc. That undefinable warm feeling of being physically surrounded by books, titles and covers beckoning and spying sideways to see what the next guy is flipping through and being able to be buried in 10 books in one go!And to be able to exchange books with friends..
I am all for advancement but sounds to me in e-books, the advancement would bear more on the technology rather than the reading habit as a pleasurable hobby. It sounds like have the right gadget, to have the right skills (apart from just reading skills that it) and to be thoroughly dissociated from whatever is happening around. Imagine how many books "Malaysia" will read if all books go electronic and we don't have adequate infrastructure for it...It is "grim" enough as it is, even with mobile libraries, lots of bookshops, 2nd Hand boostores and cheap garage n Xmas Charity bargains. Can't imagine what it will be like if we need a machine(other than our brains..) in order to be able to read "books"! Hope real books wills be around for a long, long time....even as virtual books flood the market...the only win-win I can think of virtual books is if as readers, we can log on to a book, say in Swahiii, and press "translate" and hey,presto, we can read p in Bahasa or English or whatever. Now, that will be swell!

BawangMerah said...

I guess at some point, there'll be electronic books. They'll look like books, have paper pages just like paper books. But the pages will change according to the book you have stored in it. You'd buy physical books, that would have some kind of microchip in it. Then you just download it to your electronic book to read on the go. And perhaps when you're faraway in a hotel room or stuck at some train station or airport, you could just open your electronic book, and browse your own library of books, while you wait for your ride. Advanced technology as they say, is indistinguishable from magic. :)

Anonymous said...


doesnt it hurt your eyes after a while?

Honk! If You're Viz

Amir said...

Just came from Kua Kia Soong's "May 13" book launch. Packed! Hundreds of people. Looks set to be a significant Malaysian book indeed. Am already on page 20 :-)

Anonymous said...

1. Books don't need batteries
2. Books don't break if you drop them or get them wet
3. Books can be read in bed, with the light off. If you drop them when you fall asleep, you can sleep on them and not feel a lot.
4. You can turn the pages

But you know, horses didn't need servicing or or spare parts or gas either.. :P

I still think LPs sound better than anything else in the world.

bawangmerah, you want magic ? remember when Wendy gave her THAT smile, and Mrs Darling goes "Oh, why can't you be like this forever" ? that was magic.

Remember James Joyce in Ulysses, capturing the very essense of female desire ? that was magic.

Rememer Tom Sawyer, and how he got people to whitewash his fence for him ? that was magic too.

Good writing, whatever the medium, is indistinguishable from magic :)

Chet said...

Most of us who love books, especially the feel of pages and their smell, are probably blessed with sight to be able to enjoy reading the traditional way. But even those without sight (or with impaired sight) are able to read - there's Braille and there's also audio books.

For a few years recently, I was unable to enjoy reading the usual way, and was happy to discover ebooks. Reading an ebook was easier on my eyes than reading a traditional book. Things got better - partly because of better indoor lighting and also because of updated multifocals (sheepish grin) - and now I'm enjoying turning the pages of a book again. But I still read ebooks, for the times when I can't get a particular book in print and when I don't want to carry too many books around. But now it seems better lighting might also be the cause of my lupus flaring. I need to ask my doctor at my next appointment.

Can't win 'em all.


Anonymous said...

Chet, I think you've got it... THAT is why people don't read books, the paper quality is bad, the print is small and faded. If they had better paper quality, better print quality and a larger font, I bet more people would be interested.

Leon Wing said...

No, Anon Viz, it doesn't hurt your eyes one bit. My PDA renders characters in a special ClearType font that smooths out craggy edges. and of cos lower the brightness on the display, 4 pete's sake. I see some users of PDAs, mobiles, anything with a LCD display, staring into the brightest screen possible.

And if you are the same Anon, get with the times. LPs are NOT BETTER than CDs. and anyway, CDs are going to be phased out in time, to be replaced by Audio DVDs or some other format, like BluRay.

Anonymous said...

Have you heard an LP leon, it's warm, and sounds human. Everyone on a CD sounds like an Android. There'a a warm, full sound that you will only ever get from an LP.

Leon Wing said...

O yes I used to listen to LPs, in the 80s, when I was moshing to The Smiths. Now, I have them on CDs and they still sound as good as on LP, if not better. And I listen to Pavarotti and Bocelli on CD, too; and they sound as live, as human, as real, as 3-D, as warm, as if they're singing in front of me. For the ultimate sound, check out any DVD Audio. I recommend any of Bjork's.

Anonymous said...

okay now try The Carpenters (especially Karen). Or Tom Jones. Or any recording with a trombone. Tube-amp based turntables are expensive for a reason :D