Friday, April 07, 2006

Is that an encyclopedia in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

It's true, these things come in threes... this is the third Guardian piece in a row I've spotlighted.

Anyway, the story's interesting. Mention is not made, however, of the refusal of both Barnes & Noble and Amazon to carry the Sony Reader. According to that story, "'We have sold e-readers before and they haven't done particularly well,' Barnes & Noble spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating said Tuesday in response to a query from The Associated Press."

Personally, I think ebooks will eventually catch on, if only because it's practical. You use less paper, it takes up far less space, and you can theoretically carry lots and lots of books with you at any given time. The Guardian piece makes the good point that ebooks would be especially beneficial for educational use: it's more cost-effective and it prevents students from having to lug around huge textbooks that could double as barbells.

There are multiple hurdles, however. First is the physical feel of printed and bound books themselves, which for book lovers hold an especially romantic quality. There's nothing in the world like the musty smell of an old bookstore, and the feel of the pages turning in your hands; whenever I buy a brand-new book, at some point I almost always hold the book up to my nose and breathe in deep. Another hurdle is designing typefaces that will read well on a small computer screen; print typography is an art in itself, and it will be a shame to see it fade away. The flipside, however, is that ebooks could open a whole new arena for digital typography; it could be the start of a new art form.

With a lot of legwork and a spot of luck, ebooks could become a new standard, a la DVD. Audio books, for example, have gotten a big boost by the popularity of MP3 podcasts, and it stands to reason that a digital presentation of a new book by your favorite author could have its own unique perks.

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