The Future?

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Just in time for the Christmas season, Sony has introduced their newest product that gives people high hopes for another revolution in the technology department. The Sony Portable Reader is the latest in a long line of attempts to “update” the book industry. At 9 ounces, it will put a $400 dent in your pocket.”…and equipped with a six-inch screen that displays black type on an off-white screen and uses flash memory for digital storage. The idea is that a consumer will buy formatted copies of published books from Sony’s Web site or load up Word or Acrobat pdf documents. The big innovation? A new kind of screen technology called E-Ink that lets words be displayed in high-res (like a laser printer output) without using much power.” adds Dan Farber at ZDnet. It looks like a high-tech paper tray, to be honest.

Didn’t they try this only a couple years ago? Why is Sony (and I have $5 saying Apple already has something up their sleeve) even bothering? Books require no batteries or charging cords, They’re user friendly, and if I want a “digitized” book, I’ll go down to the local library for Borders and get a book on CD, thanks. And I highly doubt this Portable Reader is as resilient as a book. I have found books crumpled and flexed into places that no piece of technology should go. (or could go). If you drop this 9 oz. piece of hardware, you’re out of literary luck until you can pay for repairs!

Thats another thing!! I can’t highlight or flag or write notes in the margins of a digital book. There is something comforting to us bookworms about being able to hold something of substance. I’m not so busy that I need to squeeze in a part of a book in between meetings and kids and who knows what else! I’m not going to curl up with my eReader and a hot cup of tea on a snowy evening. I want a book.

Now, Amazon.com has their own version, Kindle, that I find a bit more appealing simply because it works with newspapers (NY Times, Washington Post) as well as personal word and picture documents (.JPG, .GIF, .BMP, .PNG) and Amazon has their own Kindle-friendly digital books. This is one step closer to practical.

The Mother in me cant help but hit the pause button and think “what will this do to our eyes?” If people are already having problems from staring at computer screens all day, what is staring at an almost-real! digital-paper screen for 400 e-pages do? So many questions flood my mind; Are we moving slowly into an age of pirating books? And what is to become of those simple paper treasures that so many have come to value? One of my Fairy Godmothers once said that “every book has a soul”. Are we trying to isolate humankind by making that with which we surround and entertain ourselves immortal? Whose job will it be to rescue abandoned books? Will coveting the physical shells of knowledge become a sign of senility or status? Will book readings and book signings become a thing of the past? This is a future I don’t want to see.

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Published in: on November 23, 2007 at 6:42 pm  Comments (4)  

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  1. Why is Amazon’s Kindle different? It boasts connectivity independent of wireless hotspots and access to many other features, including Wikipedia, documents, newspapers, and periodicals — in addition to the 200 books you can have in memory. It also boasts a screen resolution akin to reading a printed page. Will I buy one?

    On the other side of the coin, what does this mean for us as ‘lovers of books’? I know you have the same infatuation with the printed book — the weight, the feel, the smell…the ownership of the author’s words. I have to admit a certain comfort being surrounded by all the books and stories that have taken me to so many places.

    Back to my question…will I buy Kindle? Probably not, yet anyway. Although I love the idea of having an entire library in a device that is portable with many more capabilites, I see some negatives. Granted, my opinion is uneducated — I have not seen or tried the Kindle. My hesitation would be based on the proprietary nature of the product. It will only display/store books that you have purchased in that [Amazon] format you can’t transfer the books to your computer or other format, and you can’t upload ebooks that you already own. As other applications move to open-source format, this seems (initially) to be another dedicated environment. Secondly, my hestitation would be based on monetary considerations — the $$$. Hm-m-m… $399 (for the device) plus $2,000 (200 books @ $9.99 each) plus $30 (for all the blogs I like to read)… So far, that’s more than I’m willing to spend! We’ll see as the price of the technology falls and consumers embrace it or shun it for more “open access” formats.

  2. I agree with you whole heartedly. I see no point in having books digitized in the way that they are doing. And besides, if I got one of those to read a book on I wouldn’t be able to read it. I’m near sighted enough as it is, I don’t need to shove that thing in my face so that I can see tiny little letters. All Hail the Bookworms!!

  3. Ah for the love of books! I could never take one of these machines with me to one of my favorite reading spots (the hot steamy bubble bath or hot tub)! There is something about opening the pages of a book;I echo Flora’s sentiment about the feel and smell of a book. Also, I so agree with you my dear Noveldame about tagging and highlighting and writing in the margins. Is this not how we find our way back to favored passages and thoughts? And so I will cling to the book and forsake the inovation of the hand held electronic reader.

  4. I’ve tried reading electronic books, and it can be darn hard on the ol’ eyes! It may have its place, not as a replacement, but as a compliment to our well-loved hard bounds. One situation I’m sure I would like a device with several books stored on it is on long trips, when you don’t want to lug around heavy things. I’ve been on trips of 2-4 months around the world when it would have been great to have some electronic searchable travel books stored, as well as novels written by local authors.


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