Interesting ebooks article

Will Hochman alerted the readers of tech-rhet to this article from last Sunday’s New York Times book section, “An Idea Whose Time Has Come Back” by Sarah Glazer. According to Glazer, ebooks are the fastest growing segment of the publishing market and are catching on with people who are used to reading stuff on cell phones, PDAs, laptops, and other computer screens.

Two things that occur to me with this article:

* Glazer talks a fair amount about libraries that have started to use ebooks. Both the EMU and the U of M libraries have some ebooks, and personally, I hate them. You have to be online to read them, which dramatically limits where you can read them, and because you read them with a simple browser, there’s no good way to annotate them. Icky.

* There seems to be some good evidence that suggests that the next generation of devices for reading ebooks is just around the corner. Glazer writes about some of what I had read in other places about improvements in displays and “electronic ink,” technologies that would allow a display that could be rolled up or folded like a newspaper. But ebooks have caught on (to the extent that they really have “caught on”) as things to be read on devices that do other things, too. Like Glazer, I used to think that we’d have stand-alone ebook reading devices; now I think what we’ll see in a year or two are devices that do a bunch of things, like a reader that also had PDA software, or maybe a cell phone with some kind of expandable reading screen. Maybe it’ll be a sort of iPod device with an attachable backlit display, something bigger than that little window. That’d be cool….

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