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Old 01-31-2007, 08:06 AM   #1
yvanleterrible
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Post Ebooks in Sci-Fi

Yesterday while reading Isaak Asimov's 'Prelude to Foundation' (1988) I came across these bits that really made me laugh because they look so much like what many of us are living through.

Take note that this scene takes place in about 2000 years, between two scholar researchers.

Quote:
….“The Book! True, there’s the Book. Let’s see it.”
Seldon produced it and Dors thoughtfully hefted it.
She said, “It might not do us any good, Hari. This doesn’t look as though it will fit any projector I’ve ever encountered. That means you’ll have to get a Mycogenian projector and they’ll want to know why you want it. They’ll then find out you have this Book and they’ll take it away from you.”
Seldon smiled. “If your assumptions were correct, Dors, your conclusions would be inescapable, but it happens that this is not the kind of book you think it is. It’s not meant to be projected. The material is printed on various pages and the pages are turned. Raindrop Forty-Three explained that much to me.”
“A print-book!” It was hard to tell whether Dors was shocked or amused. “That’s from the Stone Age.”
“It’s certainly pre-Empire,” said Seldon, “but not entirely so. Have you ever seen a print-book?”
“Considering that I’m a historian? Of course, Hari.”
“Ah, but like this one?”
He handed over the Book and Dors, smiling, opened it--then turned to another page--then flipped the pages. “Its blank,” she said.
“It appears to be blank. The Mycogenians are stubbornly primitivistic, but not entirely so. They will keep to the essence of the primitive, but have no objection to using modern technology to modify it for convenience’s sake. Who knows?”
“Maybe so, Hari, but I don’t understand what you’re saying.”
“The pages aren’t blank, they’re covered with microprint. Here, give it back. If I press this little nubbin on the inner edge of the cover-- Look!”
The page to which the book lay open was suddenly covered with lines of print that rolled slowly upward.
Seldon said, “You can adjust the rate of upward movement to match your reading speed by slightly twisting the nubbin one way or the other. When the lines of print reach their upward limit when you reach the bottom line, that is--they snap downward and turn off. You turn to the next page and continue.”
“Where does the energy come from that does all this?”
“It has an enclosed microfusion battery that lasts the life of the book.”
“Then when it runs down--”
“You discard the book, which you may be required to do even before it runs down, given wear and tear, and get another copy. You never replace the battery.”
Dors took the Book a second time and looked at it from all sides. She said, “I must admit I never heard of a book like this.”
“Nor I. The Galaxy, generally, has moved into visual technology so rapidly, it skipped over this possibility.”
“This is visual.”
“Yes, but not with the orthodox effects. This type of book has its advantages. It holds far more than an ordinary visual book does.”
Dors said, “Where’s the turn-on?--Ah, let me see if I can work it.” She had opened to a page at random and set the lines of print marching upward. Then she said, “I’m afraid this won’t do you any good, Hari. It’s pre-Galactic. I don’t mean the book. I mean the print ... the language.”
“Can you read it, Dors? As a historian--”
“As a historian, I’m used to dealing with archaic language--but within limits. This is far too ancient for me. I can make out a few words here and there, but not enough to be useful.”
“Good,” said Seldon. “If it’s really ancient, it will be useful.”
“Not if you can’t read it.”
“I can read it,” said Seldon. “It’s bilingual. You don’t suppose that Raindrop Forty-Three can read the ancient script, do you?”
“If she’s educated properly, why not?”
“Because I suspect that women in Mycogen are not educated past household duties. Some of the more learned men can read this, but everyone else would need a translation to Galactic.” He pushed another nubbin. “And this supplies it.”
The lines of print changed to Galactic Standard.
“Delightful,” said Dors in admiration….
And this one… Familiar?

Quote:
….“I couldn’t sleep. I’m sorry.”
“But why read in here?”
“If I had turned on the room light, I would have woken you up.”
“Are you sure the Book can’t be illuminated?”
“Pretty sure. When Raindrop Forty-Three described its workings, she never mentioned illumination. Besides, I suppose that would use up so much energy that the battery wouldn’t last the life of the Book.” He sounded dissatisfied…..

Have you ever come across some futurology that concerned ebooks in some text written a good while back?

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Old 01-31-2007, 09:18 AM   #2
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Heinlein used to write about "spools" and "projectors," back in the late '50s and early '60s, but I think he was thinking of a variation of microfilm. (Maybe not, though -- the hero of one story carries a secret message magnetically encoded onto a microscopic piece of wire.) The incredibly dense book/library in Frank Herbert's Dune also used optical analog technology, rather than electronics. James Schmitz had a portable law library (in the Telzey stories) with an unclear storage technology, though again microscopic spools of some kind were involved. I'm trying to remember the name of the author and book that had the ereader device run a test as you started reading to determine your maximum intake speed, and it would adjust to compensate. I think I read it in the early '90s. It's probably in a box in the basement.
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Old 01-31-2007, 10:08 AM   #3
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Old 01-31-2007, 01:46 PM   #4
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Wow! I had forgotten how good that book was. Like nekokami, mine is in a box in the basement. I think I'll pull it out this weekend and see if I can still read from paper. As I remember you have to turn the pages by hand as there are no buttons to push. Also I'll need bandages for the paper cuts that are bound to happen.
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Old 01-31-2007, 01:57 PM   #5
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Old 01-31-2007, 04:08 PM   #6
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Thanks, I wasn't sure.
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Old 02-08-2007, 01:46 PM   #7
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Don't forget the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy... that was clearly an e-book.
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Old 02-08-2007, 07:43 PM   #8
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I still want a Young Lady's Primer. (Though I'm no longer young, and never was much of a lady.)
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Old 02-09-2007, 10:21 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Jordan
Don't forget the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy... that was clearly an e-book.
Lol, I bought the Sony Reader because I thought "if ever there was a device on the market today that screamed to have the letters 'DON'T PANIC!' inscribed in large friendly letters on the cover, this was it".
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Old 02-09-2007, 11:03 AM   #10
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Something like this , perhaps?
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Old 02-09-2007, 02:55 PM   #11
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Yeah, nice!
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Old 02-14-2007, 09:50 AM   #12
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And going to the extream, In Clark's 3001: The Final Oddessy, everyone had a brain net that allowed them to download info to/from a storage tablet.
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Old 02-14-2007, 11:03 AM   #13
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Do we count eBooks (or their equivalent, rather) in fantasy? I'm thinking of the famous quote by Arthur C. Clark, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." In that case, I'd like to submit Glinda's Great Book of Records:
Quote:
Of all the magical things which surrounded Glinda in her castle, there was none more marvelous than her Great Book of Records. On the pages of this Record Book were constantly being inscribed, day by day and hour by hour, all the important events that happened anywhere in the known world, and they were inscribed in the book at exactly the moment the events happened. Every adventure in the Land of Oz and in the big outside world, and even in places that you and I have never heard of, were recorded accurately in the Great Book, which never made a mistake and stated only the exact truth.
I should mention, though, that in a much earlier Oz tale, the Book only contains information discovered by Glinda or her spies:
Quote:
"I have in my library a book in which is inscribed every action of the Wizard while he was in our land of Oz—or, at least, every action that could be observed by my spies."
Evidently there was a software upgrade between The Marvelous Land of Oz and The Lost Princess of Oz.
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Old 02-14-2007, 11:22 AM   #14
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Or she had two books in her library.
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Old 02-14-2007, 11:26 AM   #15
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Well, yeah, but the one would seem to render the other redundant. Unless she were to regard the one about the Wizard as easier to use because it's indexed and restricted to a specific subject. It does seem to me that the Great Book of Records could be rather difficult to find a specific entry in. Maybe most of the rest of her library consists of books that are really specific subsets of the Great Book of Records (which would, after all, include all fiction written thus far).
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