Whither books?

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Sep 16, 2007 5:11 PM GMT
    I've recently read that a couple of companies are once again rolling out a digital book reader for xmas. It'll be yet another expensive gadget that reads a clunky proprietary format that nobody will support, and the whole thing will be dead and unusable in 18 months.
    However, I have relatively high hopes for digital books. Some people I know say that they could never give up the look & feel of paper books. For me, the content matters more, and I would gladly surrender the tons of mouldering paper in my basement for a practical virtual substitute. (And I could use the space!)
    Here is my list of demands:
    Universal format - not married to any particular hardware or operating system.
    Truly digital - not locked into some ephemeral media that will be obsolete in two years.
    Realistic DRM - I want to buy a book once and have it forever. I won't tolerate any of these greedy pay-per-view schemes.
    Realistic cost. If publishers are doing less and less, they should get over it and accept being paid less and less.
    Has anybody tried reading a full-length digital book? If so, what did you think about it?

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    Sep 16, 2007 5:31 PM GMT
    As kind of a sub-thread, I'd argue that printed periodicals are already dead - they just don't know it yet. I haven't bought a printed newspaper in at least seven years. The WWW can easily replace slick magazines, although someone needs to do a better job of packaging content.
    Many scientific and professional journals have already effectively abandoned print, although there are some disturbing things about that. Most do not distribute the full contents - you can download a PDF of a particular article, (and good luck keeping track of a collection of these!) but if you ever stop paying the annual fee, you loose access to the content that you have already paid for. Secondly, this is making libraries more and more exclusive. For the last couple of decades, I've been working in an academic field, but not in an academic setting. About twice a year, I go to a regional university for a few days, just to do library research. Every time I go, I'm locked out of more and more journals. Increasingly, they're available in digital form only, and only to those who have a university affiliation.
    Well, maybe this is getting a little far-afield from what anybody here cares about. I'm just procrastinating over coffee on a cloudy Sunday morning.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Sep 16, 2007 6:04 PM GMT
    The thing I like about printed books is that the technology doesn't change on you so you can't read them anymore. I have a set of books 149 years old. I can still open them and read them.

    Of course, it wasn't always that way... First IT Help Call
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    Sep 16, 2007 10:01 PM GMT
    For work I often have several books opened up on my desk at once, so keeping it all in a digital box would be a nightmare.

    On the other hand, I think it would be great as an option. I wouldn't mind reclaiming all the shelf space that my fiction takes up.

    I'd add a few more demands to Mindgarden's:

    1. It should be small and light, like a real book.

    2. The battery has to last a long time.

    3. The screen should be easy to read.

    4. Under no circumstances could it ever receive phone calls.

    I've never read a full-length digital book. I usually print out copies of articles and other texts I find online.



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    Sep 17, 2007 4:25 AM GMT
    I'd be interested in one of the readers, but at this point in time I'm absolutely not willing to invest in one for most of the reasons you've just posted. I don't think the digital book market is really fully mature enough yet in terms of how the books are distributed.

    That being said, however, I will never, ever give up traditional paper books. I absolutely love having a physical library of books. There's just something so wonderful about traditional, paper books that could never give them up fully. Books are one of the few things that I don't absolutely crave in digital format.

    Newspapers, however, are another matter entirely. Print newspapers are so cumbersome and clunky compared to the ease of online access. The NY Times print edition doesn't hold a candle to their online offering, especially because they can constantly update stories as the day goes by and I can easily check up on news during the day. Print newspapers are old news.

    As for academic journals, I haven't encountered any problems with their online offering. I haven't, however, been in your situation, Mindgarden, because I have been in school the last five years and have constantly had access. I don't know how I'm going to cope when I'm out of school and don't have easy access to online academic journals like I do now. That's especially true because I can access them even when I'm at home since my school offers off-campus access.
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    Sep 17, 2007 5:41 AM GMT
    I was under the impression digital books meant books on your computer. If it still is, then it would be nice if they just put it in an adobe acrobat type format but one that doesn't slow your computer down. I actually wouldn't use it. With the exception of text books, or journals articles (which i print out anyway), call me old fashioned there is something about holding a book and reading it. Turning a page and reading with a desklight on your nightstand while sitting in bed or curled up on a couch beats sitting in front of your computer or trying to find a comfortable position to put your laptop while sitting in bed.
  • Salubrious

    Posts: 420

    Sep 17, 2007 6:22 AM GMT
    How are you supposed to take notes on a virtual book?
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    Sep 17, 2007 7:02 AM GMT
    Actually, conceptually speaking I could see digital books being much easier to take notes on than regular books. As long as the screen is touch sensitive, it wouldn't be that hard to have a stylus that you can write notes with, and they could be easily linked to a page and have all of them viewable from a central menu. That could be much less cumbersome than writing notes, especially for those of us like me who abhor writing or highlighting in paper books.
  • Salubrious

    Posts: 420

    Sep 17, 2007 11:20 AM GMT
    CD: I suppose.... but I've never like stylus writing... it always comes out chunky. But perhaps I'm just a sentimental ol' English major.
  • DiverScience

    Posts: 1426

    Sep 17, 2007 12:13 PM GMT
    I will never give up my books. I love the look, the feel, the smell of books. I may be the last man on earth with real books, but I will still have them.

    Besides, when the aliens come and destroy all the world's computers with a worldwide EMP, I'll still be able to read my books. Bwahahaha!

    I've read a book via PDF, it was... unfulfilling despite being a good book.

    I dunno about newspapers, not everyone has internet still. And my parents do, and are very tech savvy, but they still pay for a newspaper.
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    Sep 17, 2007 12:24 PM GMT
    I love the tactile sensation of a good book. I have started a small collection of older and out of print books - mostly regional, biographies, or on fishing.

    But for most things these days - especially including newspapers, journals, and technical documentation - I prefer a digital format.

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    Sep 17, 2007 1:29 PM GMT
    Like many of my compatriots, the tactile sense of a book, the mustly smell of yellowed pages, is one of life's greatest pleasures to me.

    However, as an avid treehugger, electronic books are a wonderful alternative. I imagine a PADD-like device (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Padd ). Thin, touch sensitive, stylus and voice-dictation, blue-tooth/wireless capable, linked to your home computer where all of your data is stored with expandable memory cards. You'd have to be allowed to use it on aircraft and the backlighting would negate the use of a booklight.

    This technology is within our grasp. Why don't we have it?
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Sep 20, 2007 7:07 PM GMT
    Digital books may be fine for a textbook, something that gets outdated quickly, but give me a real book anytime! Papers and magazines are also fine in digital form. By their very nature, they are temporary creations.

    But I need real books.

    I love the feel of the page, their smell, the idea that this is someone's work. I love books, I love old bookstores for finding something I didn't even know I would be interested it.

    I can't "cuddle-up" with something that has a screen. And a book deosn't need a battery, doesn't need to be plugged in. If need be, I can read by something as low-tech as a candle.

    I'm proud of the library I've gathered over the years. Nearly 500 volumes covering science, history, philosphy, religion, fiction. Many of those books, I know where I got it from. Some were new, others came from used bookstores, yard sales, library sales. It is something physical I can point to.

    Give me a real book.