In a recent edition of the Rapidly Changing Face of Computing (an outstanding weekly newsletter well worth the read), publisher Jeffery Harrow discussed some recent advances in electronic book publishing. You may (or more likely, may not) have read my diatribe on electronic books in the electronic version of Gary McGraw’s Securing Java. In it, I say “unequivocally, that the world is not ready for a handheld device … to out-and-out replace the physical book,” but according to Harrow’s article, we may be closer than I thought a year ago when I wrote my piece.
I’ve read some interesting reports of dynamic-ink devices that allow pages to regenerate themselves on a piece of faux-paper. They’re still in the early testing stages of such devices, but if portable solutions like this came along that you could actually read with a decent resolution, the way we read books might actually start to change a bit.
Harrow mentions a study that says by 2009, “traditional publishers will be intermediated out as authors sell their e-titles directly to readers.” A bit absurd, I’d say, but even moreso is the prediction that by 2002, e-books sales will exceed one billion. Yes — one billion… in just two years from now.
Of course, these e-books’ success will rely not only devices, but on a markup standard. Fortunately, there is a standard markup language being developed for e-books (based on XML, of course) that seems to be pretty well underway. As long as we don’t let Microsoft or Netscape design the interfaces for these portable devices and we allow a company with a long-standing commitment to standards (say, like, um, Opera?), e-books may actually have a shot at the mainstream somewhere down the line. Even if we don’t have “e-newsstands” on the streets by 2006. -ram
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