What is the future for the e-reader?

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The e-book remained something of an enigma to me, until recently. I decided it was time to ask Santa for one. So I wrote my note and posted it to the North Pole, and made a mental note to leave a glass of milk for the thirsty reindeers for their festive visit to number fifteen. I knew Santa’s elves would have to build the blasted contraption, and I could visualise the frustration on their faces as they grappled with this new technology. After all, it’s a far cry from the wooden toys that the elves work on over the year.

For the lay person, the e-reader is a digital media equivalent of a conventional printed book. There are a range of models from the Sony reader to the Amazon Kindle…in fact the list is endless. But is the battery-powered device better than the printed word? I say no, some say yes.

My recent purchase of the new Iphone 3GS (note to authors – takes up vital writing time!) revealed there are ample e-book applications which can be downloaded. I went forth into ‘cyberphonespace’ and obtained ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ which was free via an application. Most books are available at a cost and the e-book application works through the itunes facility. But while reading, I struggled with eye strain, and I kept having flashbacks involving sitting at my office desk. I felt I was working, rather than relaxing and enjoying reading as a past-time.

My main gripe with the e-reader is the loss of the feel of the actual book. It now becomes a mere image on the screen, and if you are an author, you will undoubtedly feel that you can’t hold the ‘baby’ as such, in the way you would with a book proper. But one positive fact is that voracious readers can bring hundreds of books on holiday with them – just think how much space that would take up in luggage terms if you had the printed versions (100 cases maybe?) Reading in the sun though may be a problem given the glare that will affect the screen.

And what will a future library look like? A mass of small portals attached to walls where you select what book you want to read (year 2030 perhaps?) and you sit there for hours. Or will a library simply be an online facility?

I’ve read a lot of reviews of e-readers and one point which seems to get the critics going is that the e-book is ‘sexier’ than a traditional book. Yes, this is the word they use. Not sure how they reach this conclusion, apart from the fact the electronic device is probably more slimline than the size 18 War and Peace.

Publishers are churning out the content and consumers are buying them, but I want to see my book printed on paper and I want to be able to hold it. A surprising fact I found out while researching this is that the Gutenberg Project (a mammoth effort to digitalise works, all of which are in the public domain) was formed in 1971! Before I was born. Wow. And I thought the e-book was a ground-breaking 2009 thing!


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