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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2001, MCB UP Limited
A Wider Literary Space
Is the paper and ink book the most worthy medium for literature? We who have been nurtured by paper books, and who love good books are often of two minds. We are appalled by the thought that paper books might be replaced by e-books. At the same time, we are uncomfortable with the fact that paper books consume forests of tree pulp, and with the knowledge that paper limits the scope of books because publishers are not willing to chance a heavy investment in paper, printing, warehousing and shipping for new titles that are directed to special, limited audiences.
The scope of paper books is also limited in the sense that, once published, the paper book is a world closed between its own covers. While there is some satisfaction in closing the cover on a rich reading experience, any book is only a segment of the whole human world of literary thought and feeling. E-books and related digital media promise to open up a wider literary space in which individual books can help their readers to converse more directly with other writings, other voices, thoughts and visions.
E-book growth is now taking place mainly through niche specialized markets where e-books have a clear edge over paper books. By winning readers through these niche markets, e-books are moving into a position where they can contend for a larger share of the broader book marketplace.
E-book Travel Guides
New travel resources appear rapidly, and existing resources often change hands or become unavailable. This means that printed guides quickly become obsolete, and this creates an ideal niche for e-book travel guides.
Frommer's Travel Series guides will be available in e-book form to users of the Franklin ebookMan reading device under an agreement between Franklin Electronic Publishers and Hungry Minds, owner of the www.frommers.com Web site. E-book travel guides for over 70 destinations are initially available for downloading at $9.95 per destination from the Franklin Web site (www.franklin.com/ebookman). Additional destinations are expected later in 2001. Trip planning, sightseeing advice, and critical reviews of hotels and restaurants are featured in the guides.
Rough Guides has made over 20 e-book versions of its travel guides and dictionary phrasebooks in Microsoft Reader format. Travel guides for major US and international cities were prepared for use in Microsoft's Mobile Experience Tour, a nationwide series of demonstrations of wireless computing technology. Rough Guides is also planning to convert added titles into e-book format.
The Amazon.com e-book store (www.amazon.com/ebooks) currently lists over 80 travel titles. Most of these titles are supplied by Publications Unbound (http://rp.drmserver.com/publicationsunbound) a Calvary-based e-book distributor that represents over 100 travel guide publishers and currently has 344 e-book travel titles available at its Web site.
Unlike printed books, e-books can be almost instantaneously updated, revised and appended. Republic.com by Cass Sunstein is the first example of revisable e-books being published in Microsoft Reader format by Princeton University Press Digital Books Plus. The book is about the impact of the Internet on democracy. Mr Sunstein took part in discussions about the book on www.salon.com. In May, he made a 6,000 word formal reply to the online discussions. The reply is now available for free downloading from www.amazon.com as a supplement to the e-book. Are further revisions on the way? Critics want to know how much discussion about an e-book is too much.
E-books for Mobile Professionals
With increasing numbers of professionals using handheld and portable computers, a niche market appears to be opening up. Adobe Systems (www.adobe.com) has announced that over 200 e-books in PDF format are now available to meet the needs and tastes of mobile professionals. Typical titles include The Wall Street Journal Guide to Business Schools, 52 Weeks to Financial Fitness, and You're 50, Now What? The publishing concept is to provide e-books for consumers who need information on the spot, wherever they are, to solve a problem, do their jobs better, or catch up on important reading at their convenience.
Rare and Valuable E-books
Scholars, historians, students, and collectors can now view and own exact reproductions of rare, out-of-print books and other historical documents in e-book formats. DSI Publishing Group (www.digitalscanning.com/pubgrp.html) is planning to make its collection of early American history reproductions available online through www.ebrary.com when that site is launched. Ebrary plans to sell access to its online collection of one page at a time. DSI Publishing, which is also planning its own PDF Library site, owns rare historical items such as the 1904 edition of The Original Journals of Lewis and Clark, and George Catlin's North American Indians. The titles are said to be reproduced in digital formats that retain the look and feel of the original works.
E-book renditions of original editions of Shakespeare's poems, and works of Newton, Galileo, and Copernicus are among e-book editions now available in PDF format. Texts worth thousands of dollars can be purchased and viewed for $20-$75 each recorded on CD-ROMs. Each book or manuscript includes complete English translations, bibliographic descriptions, expert commentaries and essays. High precision cameras are used to scan the originals at resolutions up to 10,600 by 12,800 pixels. Four dozen works are now available and titles are being continually added. The publisher is Octavo (www.octavo.com).
Picture E-books for Children
With the notion that coming generations are likely to be much more receptive to e-books than their parents, publishers are moving to make children's books available in electronic formats. The Time Warner Web site www.ipicturebooks.com now offers about 200 e-books for ages six months to ten years. Included are interactive Time Machine titles and e-books that let children name the main characters after themselves.
Random House has released ten e-books starring Elmo and other Sesame Street characters, as well as e-book titles from their Jurassic Park series. Simon & Schuster is releasing e-book versions of Newbery Medal winning young adult titles for $6.99 each.
Digital Rights Management Foibles
Digital Rights Management (DRM) software is designed to prevent users from freely acquiring and passing along e-books and other digital content. DRM is employed by publishers to ensure that they receive payment for all uses of their products. One problem with DRM techniques is that the protection they provide may cause considerable frustration and inconvenience to readers who have no intention to gain illegitimate access. For example, when a user gets a new computer, their Adobe e-book 2.1b Reader software can be transferred to the new computer, but books stored in the old computer cannot be read when they are transferred. This puts users in the position of having paid for e-books they can no longer read.
Microsoft Reader software suffers from a similar shortcoming. This software is activated by using a Microsoft Passport, but Reader software can only be activated twice by a given Passport. If users move to more than one new server computer (as often happens in corporate networks) they will find that they may be unable to read e-books purchased while working on a previous computer.
DRM software is based on encryption techniques the can be defeated by clever users. For example, the encryption methods of the Gemstar REB-1100, one of the most widely sold e-book reading devices, have been publicly exposed and defeated, allowing users to create plain text versions of e-book files encrypted for this reader. Gemstar has not yet explained how it will react to this exposure. If a new version of the reader, with improved DRM capabilities, is released, users will not be able to use it to read e-books purchased for the older device.
E-textbooks and the Campus Environment
Video E-textbook Lectures
Take a look at the www.thinkwell.com Web site to view a sample e-textbook that represents e-textbooks from Thinkwell, Inc. that are being used at over 150 US colleges and universities. Each Thinkwell e-textbook contains over 150 video lectures that run 10-15 minutes each along with graphics animation and text material. Students can access these e-textbooks on the Internet or via CD-ROMs. Included are online exercises that check the students' work and provide a report on student performance for the instructor. Believing that the key to successful e-textbooks is the quality of the material, Thinkwell seeks out dynamic instructors and has them each spend three or four weeks recording their lectures. A total of 13 of the e-textbooks are currently available and several more are scheduled to appear before the end of 2001.
In January, ABC-CLIO (www.abc-clio.com) began releasing its reference titles as e-books. Currently, 150 reference e-book titles are being sold to schools, libraries, colleges and universities. The newest offering is the Encyclopedia of the American Civil War. Many of the ABC-CLIO e-books are offered on a site license basis. School reference collections are also available from ABC-CLIO in online versions. World Geography, State Geography, and American Government cost $499 each. American History and World History sell for $599 each. These Web subscriptions include searchable databases of historical essays, biographies, primary source documents, maps, and photographs.
Over 100 e-book titles from CliffNotes are being offered for downloading to Franklin eBookMan reading devices. Each CliffNotes literature title summarizes the plot of a book, describes the characters, and explores aspects of the author's life and times. The e-books are sold for $4.95 each at the www.franklin.com/ebookman Web site.
E-book Hardware and Software
Educational E-book Reading Device
The goReader, designed for college students, is being sold by the Douglas Stewart Company through its network of over 3,000 university bookstores. The device has a 7.3 by 9.7 inch color screen. It is said to be able to store over 350 textbooks.
Developed by Korea e-Book, the Hiebook reading device has a 5.6 inch diagonal screen and displays e-book text and images in 16-tone gray-scale. The device also plays MP3 audio files and provides voice recording, bookmarks, an address book, and a personal organizer. It connects to computers via USB cables and will sell for about $229. The Hiebook format is different from that of previous e-book readers, but conversion of existing e-book files is said to be relatively easy. The Electronic Publishers Coalition, an association of about 50 small e-book publishers, is said to be cooperating in translation efforts.
eBookMan Now at Retailers
The eBookMan reading device is now being sold at retailers such as CompUSA, Best Buy, J&R Electronics, and Electronic Boutique as well as at Staples, and via www.amazon.com on the Internet. Franklin Electronic Publishers, producer of the reading device, offers three models: with 8MB storage ($129.95), 8MB storage with backlighting ($179.95), and 16MB storage with backlighting ($229.95). The eBookMan device is now available worldwide.
E-books on Mobile Phones
By the end of 2001, users should be able to download e-books on their third-generation (3G) mobile phones. Sprint and other wireless carriers have announced plans to offer 3G wireless networks with data download speeds of over 200,000 bits per second, making transfer of e-books feasible. Versaly Games, Inc. (www.versaly.com), a Seattle-based company, is working with Fictionwise.com, an e-book vendor, to allow Versaly subscribers to download the e-books. These e-books will be read with Microsoft Reader software on a large mobile phone screen. Currently, the www.fictionwise.com Web site offers over 500 e-books, mostly science-fiction titles.
Comic Book Reader
An e-book reading device prototype, developed by Toshiba, NTT Data, and E-Book Initiative Japan, was exhibited at the 2001 Tokyo International Book Fair. The display of the prototype device is a 7.7 inch screen with resolution of 150 pixels per inch, designed to support Microsoft ClearType text display and to approach the text quality of printing on paper. Design plans call for a two-year effort to get the device to weigh about three-quarters of a pound and to operate for six hours on its battery. The prototype is designed for comic books, with two adjacent displays provided to give continuity of images from one page to another. It is primarily targeted to the Asian marketplace where comic book reading is widespread.
Last month we noted that Phillips Components expects to have e-Ink devices ready for consumers by 2003. Now Bell Laboratories and E Ink Corp. have announced a prototype e-Ink display that shows text and graphic images while the display material is being flexed. This display runs for several months on a small battery pack, according to a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Circuits for the display are manufactured by a simple, inexpensive process called microcontact printing. No date has yet been mentioned for release of consumer devices using this technique.
Acrobat E-book Software
Acrobat e-book Reader 2.1 software is now available. It can be used by Mac and Windows users to view any PDF-based e-book. Users click on any word to get a dictionary definition. With permission from publishers, one Reader 2.1 user can lend e-book titles to another user. The Reader 2.1 software is available for downloading from www. adobe.com, www.amazon.com and www.bn.com