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Old 07-09-2010, 04:06 AM   #1
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Reference Material

One of the advances of an E-book to me is the possibility to have all kinds of reference material at my fingertips. Yet, I find that there is not a whole lot of useful material (Encyclopedias, especially in limited fields, dictionaries etc) ot thre, or am I missing where to look for material like that?
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Old 07-09-2010, 04:24 AM   #2
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I think it might be because ebook devices are a little slow and may have limited search and input functionality. Thus not creating a lot of demand. Also, I read an article somewhere that the epub format is still not quite as good for dictionaries as the mobipocket format, which may also slow down development of reference material. In any case, I think you'd be more likely to find reference material in the mobipocket format.

You're in luck in this case wince you own a Kindle, which uses that format, and if you are okay with removing DRM, you don't necessarily have to buy from Amazon.
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Old 07-09-2010, 07:15 AM   #3
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There certainly is a lot of material in PDF format out there although a lot seems to stem from grey sources.
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Old 07-09-2010, 08:16 PM   #4
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You can find a couple versions of Wikipedia in ebook form, a few atlases, lots of dictionaries, a couple of World Almanac-type pubs...
Most people buy readers for recreational reading more than reference use and the current reader apps aren't really designed with reference use in mind.
It looks like it'll be a while before we see a good textbook/academic-focused reader.
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Old 07-10-2010, 02:54 AM   #5
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Actually, this is what kind of concerned me. I am an academic and the capability to move easily between different materials with basically unlimited bookmarks is heaven sent. When you add the search capability you're closing in on academic Nirvana. However, how the hell do you create an exact citation? In the organic world that is a standardized procedure, in the electronic world it seems rather chaotic.
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Old 07-10-2010, 07:42 AM   #6
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I remember, many years ago, Kuma, reading an article (or maybe fictional short story) that predicted the coming of THE book: A single volume in which so much information is linked and endlessly re-linked that the entire body of recorded human knowledge is within its pages. Seemed a dream at the time, but ... well ... we have the technology; it merely needs to be affordably implemented. Imagine everyone in the whole wide word owning THE book. Yeah, I know; meantime, we have Google. Cheers. Neil
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Old 07-10-2010, 08:55 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by neilmarr View Post
I remember, many years ago, Kuma, reading an article (or maybe fictional short story) that predicted the coming of THE book: A single volume in which so much information is linked and endlessly re-linked that the entire body of recorded human knowledge is within its pages. Seemed a dream at the time, but ... well ... we have the technology; it merely needs to be affordably implemented. Imagine everyone in the whole wide word owning THE book. Yeah, I know; meantime, we have Google. Cheers. Neil
Oh, you mean the Internet?
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Old 07-10-2010, 09:44 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Kumabjorn View Post
Actually, this is what kind of concerned me. I am an academic and the capability to move easily between different materials with basically unlimited bookmarks is heaven sent. When you add the search capability you're closing in on academic Nirvana. However, how the hell do you create an exact citation? In the organic world that is a standardized procedure, in the electronic world it seems rather chaotic.
therein you are right, there is no official "virtual page definition" for e-books so you can only go by part-> chapter ->>paragraph, etc. In addition to that, as a'already have mentioned on the forums, the search, pageflip, and bookmarking speeds are ATM to slow, to make the actual electronic devices fast enough for referencial work. (I used roleplaying rulebooks as an example) when eink speeds go up and tabbing multiple volumes is added we'll be there.
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Old 07-10-2010, 10:22 AM   #9
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therein you are right, there is no official "virtual page definition" for e-books so you can only go by part-> chapter ->>paragraph, etc.
Good point. Very good point indeed.
This means the core problem is in fact file format-based and a solution means, essentially, starting from scratch.

So, to get a proper academic-focused ebook reader we would need a proper XML schema that can directly reference arbitrary passages (or words) plus a standard citation process as a first step. The closest current formats come to this is internal hyperlinks, whereas what is required are links that would lead across multiple volumes or (absent the source material) pop up a quote and enough attribution to make source acquisition viable.
And that's for starters.

The metadata would also need addressing to conform to accepted academic standards and to allow for adhoc reader-based database searches. A metadata embedded search index might be a good start. This alone would increase hardware requirements into PC territory and possiby beyond if we want snappy response to arbitrary queries.

I'm thinking that the current ebook/reader model may not be appropriate for a full academic reader at all. The needs seem to me to argue for a cloud-based service and a high function local client, instead.

I guess we do NOT have the technology nor are we even faintly close to "THE BOOK".

Interesting. Very interesting.

PS I haven't checked recently; anybody know how Berners-Lee is doing with his semantic web efforts? That might lead to a proper academic reader. Someday.

Last edited by fjtorres; 07-10-2010 at 10:27 AM.
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Old 07-10-2010, 03:53 PM   #10
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as i remarked somewhere already, id be enough to add a "virtual page def"* which rreadersoftware has to follow, when referring to "pages" to the epub specs and d' be done with this.

*) 1800 chars as being the max. possible of a typoscript stdpage (30 l à 60 ch) d'be a good and familiar-looking reference

Last edited by Freeshadow; 07-10-2010 at 03:54 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 07-12-2010, 04:09 AM   #11
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Grad student papers

One reason I asked is that part of my duties include reading papers submitted by graduate students. This is partly an effort to tech them how to quote other material in their own work. Not the practical/technical aspect (though some need that as well) but the fair/just part, i.e. is the quote a fair reflection of the authors intention, does it reflect the author's statement.

Hence, I have to look up the original material and first find the passage, and then read "around" it in order to determine that the quote is "fair". Some of my colleagues take great joy in this endeavor, I prefer to spend my time on other tasks. Thus, a capability to look up quotes in other material would certainly enhance academic productivity. Not everyone will be as enthused as I am.
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Old 07-12-2010, 10:26 AM   #12
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This kind of feature would also be useful in Government tech circles (evaluating grants and contracts) and in corporate environments. To say nothing of higher education and research.
It'll come but it will probably be in second- or third-gen etextbook readers.
And seeing the first-gen models aren't even on the horizon...
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