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Old 02-03-2009, 05:52 PM   #1
Stuart Young
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The once and future e-book: on reading in the digital age

Arstechnica.com has a very in depth 7 page article written by John Siracusa (ex Peanut Press)

The once and future e-book: on reading in the digital age

A veteran of a former turning of the e-book wheel looks at the past, present, and future of reading books on things that are not books.


Thanks to all those who twittered this link to me.
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Old 02-03-2009, 07:22 PM   #2
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This article from Arstechnica was also linked in post:

http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=37772


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Old 02-03-2009, 11:02 PM   #3
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It's and interesting history more than anything else. He has been around for a while, I have to give him that.

But as for the idea that a smartphone will be enough for most people, I'm not sure. The idea is good, but I think we're probably ten years away from it in the rich world, just because the combination of display size and battery size isn't there yet. Given a rollup or foldup display and a couple of weeks battery life in a cellphone, then it'd be great for a whole range of things, not least reading books. But right now you plug your netbook (display) into phone (network) and brick-sized battery (battery life), hand the whole lot to your assistant (portability) and you're ready to roll.

I've tried reading books on my laptop, but it's much harder than I'd like - I have to lie on a flat surface so the laptop can sit next to me with the display rotated to portrait, and even then the pape-turning is annoying, there's no comfy way to turn pages.

My metric right now is page-turn ratio: how much of my reading time is spent waiting for page turns. With paper books is under 10%, with a Sony 505 it was over 20%. That is enough to be annoying, and make me want something with a bigger screen and faster page turns. So I'm not buying a replacement for my 505 until I can get something significantly better. Even A4 (two A5 pages) with the current one second page turn would be ok, but surely it's going to be faster than that.
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Old 02-03-2009, 11:58 PM   #4
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have you looked at the iRex Digital Reader 1000 with a 10" screen or the Iliad 2nd Gen with an 8" screen?
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Old 02-04-2009, 12:34 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moz View Post

My metric right now is page-turn ratio: how much of my reading time is spent waiting for page turns. With paper books is under 10%, with a Sony 505 it was over 20%. That is enough to be annoying, and make me want something with a bigger screen and faster page turns. So I'm not buying a replacement for my 505 until I can get something significantly better. Even A4 (two A5 pages) with the current one second page turn would be ok, but surely it's going to be faster than that.
Did you try jetBook? It has no any delay to turn pages.
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Old 02-04-2009, 04:13 AM   #6
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He is right the whole way! This is coming from someone who read ebooks since the early 90ies on PCs and a variety of PDAs, starting with a Psion-3.

I am still mainly reading on PPCs with my Nokia 810 quickly behind.
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Old 02-04-2009, 07:21 AM   #7
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Personally, I think there is something to be said about a combination of approaches that I would personally find appealing. Hate to use the iTunes example, but it works really well for me. I have two apple devices, my phone and my old ipod. I listen to audiobooks on both and if I sync between the two the audiobook is bookmarked to the appropriate place when I switch between them.

So what I would like is the ability to read a book on my dedicated device, and to sync that device to my computer, but also to be able to sync reader software on my iphone for example with the same book. This would transfer bookmarks between the two devices. I don't always want to carry my dedicated device with me, but if I am say waiting in the car for my wife at the shops, I will have my phone and would take the time to read a few pages (or perhaps more if certain shops are involved :-) then sync the handset to my computer on returning home. Grab the synched dedicated reader and pick up where I had finished in the car.

I think the media is the key element not the mechanism used to consume it, which is why the whole DRM thing between manufacturers is such frustration.
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Old 02-04-2009, 07:38 AM   #8
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He made an excellent point about ebooks leading to an expansion in what is considered a "reading opportunity". I think that's what addicted me to ebooks in the first place, and it's what keeps me reading on a PDA instead of a newer and larger device. I'd hate for reading opportunities on the go to be restricted to the vanishingly rare occasions when I'm carrying a purse.
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Old 02-04-2009, 08:39 AM   #9
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For anyone following the wizpac thread they may be onto something as it relates to their syncing and social networking concept. I never really though much about the need to sync what I'm reading with paper or other devices, but it would be nice to have the same book loaded up on my phone and ereader with an easy way to sync position across them. When I'm out and without my ebook I could still grab some reading time with my phone and when I'm back with my larger screen device I could sync position and pick up where I left off.

The social network side of what they have would be pretty nice from a school study group, book clubs, group Bible study etc.
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Old 02-04-2009, 10:33 AM   #10
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I think the statement
Quote:
"people don't get e-books."
is the biggest point here, especially if you expand the use of "people" to include publishers, booksellers, authors and software producers. In fact, so much of the discussion about e-books on this very forum ends up being back-and-forth over hardware and hardware issues (which is, of course, where DRM comes in) than over book sources, content, quality, etc.

His suggestion, early on, that it's the book that is ultimately important, and the delivery should be completely incidental, is the one thing that has dragged down the industry for so long. He suggests that fear was a major reason, but he backs off from suggesting that greed was also an issue. (Of course, we don't have that problem around here!)

Finally, he made a point I've reiterated many times: That the upcoming generations will be a lot better with these changes than the older generations, and as they come into power, the options that older gens refuse may be options younger gens embrace. The use of cellphones for more and more personal computing chores is a prime example of that.
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Old 02-04-2009, 11:18 AM   #11
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It's important to remember that Ars Technica in general is very negative. They tend to focus on the bad (with a little smattering of anti-religion and partisan politics thrown in). To whit, their site name means "The Art of Technology" but they've lost sight of that over the years... as their popularity grew, "the art" gave way to "the rag."

Siracusa's article had a bad attitude, I didn't make it past the 5th page (okay their server crashing helped). How much time did he spend on DRM? I lost it after he used the universal "draconian" (can't we think of anything else to call DRM???). Yeah, it's relevant, but not relevant enough to warrant that much space.

Sure, there's a lot to be negative about, but there's a lot to be positive about too. And imho, the publishing industry needs to face the same demons that the music industry, and to a lesser extent, the movie industry, did. After all, iTunes is now moving to a DRM free model on all tracks.

Sure, I agree with a variety of his points. Indeed, people don't get e-books. But reading isn't as universally popular as music (all the cool kids rea...er... own ipods!), so the e-reader market is far slower on the uptake than the mp3 market. And mp3 had their killer app, the iPod itself, that was just so elegant it inspired ... all the cool kids!

Price is a huge factor right now. I received my Sony Store e-mail, with several books being $17.98 or above! Yes, that's following the hardback pricing structure. But DVDs follow the same structure: new releases are far more expensive than the catalog titles. That said, I'm still disappointed that e-books are so expensive -- even the cheap ones are almost as much as their paper siblings.

A change in pricing structure, and universalizing e-book formats so you can pick any e-reader and buy from any retailer would help. Pretty sure that now that DRM is removed from iTunes tracks, you should be able to play them on anything.

Another thing that happened with the iPod: people got it right away so it didn't require as much advertising. Sony and Amazon seem to think that will happen with Readers too. Sorry, but no. They need to start advertising... to educate the masses about the wonders and benefits of e-Ink screens, and digital books in general.

I believe the publishing industry will eventually do these things: Apple removed DRM after all, it was the music industry that had to agree.

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Old 02-04-2009, 11:36 AM   #12
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The article ends on a positive note, Pie.

I agree on your assessment on what Ars has become though.
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Old 02-04-2009, 02:06 PM   #13
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The article ends on a positive note, Pie.

I agree on your assessment on what Ars has become though.
Good to hear!

I imagine the server is back up, though I'm not sure about slogging through the rest of the article.

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Old 02-04-2009, 02:21 PM   #14
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I wish Ars still offered "combine-on-one-page" for multipage articles so I could use Instapaper with them. :/
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Old 02-05-2009, 07:15 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moz View Post
With paper books is under 10%, with a Sony 505 it was over 20%. That is enough to be annoying, and make me want something with a bigger screen and faster page turns.
Anticipating the delay works well for me. I got so much used to it that when I finish the last word on the page, the page turn happens. I just click on the button 2 seconds before I come to the end of the page... For me, it's faster than the paper book.
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