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When Will E-Books Become Mainstream?

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 9 years ago | from the too-much-time-staring-at-a-computer-screen-already dept.

Books 350

An anonymous reader writes "IBM developerWorks is running an interesting article dicussing the difficulties faced by e-books and what it might take to help them to 'break out'. What are some other ways to give books a 21st-century facelift?"

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Not first post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13585917)


Can..... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13585918)

an ebook succesfully lick my balls?

Re:Can..... (1)

lc_overlord (563906) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585964)

Perhaps with the correct plugin and peripherals it can.

When will they become mainstream? (5, Insightful)

ctishman (545856) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585923)

When you can roll them up and stick them in a back pocket. When you can sit for six hours under a tree somewhere reading it and not worry about your battery. When you can browse them in a store and load them onto your reader without worrying about multiple formats. In short, when they're as easy to read, carry, buy and keep as a paperback book, and not until.

Re:When will they become mainstream? (4, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585940)

It'd also help if they were cheap (the cost of the book minus the cost of materials, shipping, etc.) and you could still lend them to a friend without lending your actual device and/or account (i.e. no/loose DRM)

Never? (5, Insightful)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585994)

But that's what the $500 reader you have to haul around and babysit is for.

Hmm, adding to the above list, when you can forget your ebook at a bus stop / park bench / other location, and not worry about it because it only cost you $10 (or less). In other words, not for a long, long time.

DRM. (3, Insightful)

matt me (850665) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586114)

Only when you can write notes and deface them. When they're not copy-protected, for sure. When you can lend them to your friends.

When you can publish material without censorship. /19.jpg []

Re:When will they become mainstream? (0, Troll)

yodaj007 (775974) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586137)

When you can burn them!

At the end of each school year in high school, I burned all of my english textbooks. I so hated those classes.

Re:When will they become mainstream? (2, Insightful)

oxnyx (653869) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586156)

I agree, personally I think the biggest thing prevent alot of e only stuff is the format of the files. When people feel in ten years the files will still be readable is when the first-world will start the true paperless office untill then we just created a faster way to copy lots of infomation fast onto paper.

Considering the charm of books ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13585926)

... Do they really even *need* a 21st-century facelift?

YES (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586118)

Books are way too expensive. In addition, the actually writer gets so little of the money, like music artists. By moving to electronic books, it will kill the paper backs. What will remain will be hardbacks and leatherbounds. But they will be nice and will last for eons. In addition, the price of an e-book will be in the range of $2.00, rather than the $8-10 for a paper back that it is currently. But that is due to SOOOO many middleman (publisher, advertiser, distributer, and the endmarketing, being somebody Tattered Cover, Barnes/nobles, King Soopers, or Walmart).

when they (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13585928)

Make them as light, as reader friendly and as durable as normal books...

Re:when they (1)

MyDixieWrecked (548719) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585986)

Make them as light, as reader friendly and as durable as normal books...

Considering you can fit even the largest e-book (no pictures) onto the smallest USB thumb drive, you can. The problem arrises when you want to read it. when you're out and about.

I just bought Victor Hugo's "The Man Who Laughs" from in ebook format the other night.

I was actually forced into buying the ebook version, since the hardcover was over 40$ (even used), and the softcover was overpriced, as well.

The ebook was under 10$ and had no need to be shipped. I just downloaded it. Apparently, it's also available in my Digital Locker on forever, so if I loose the file, I should be able to download it again... assuming doesn't go under.

the damned book weighs in at over 400 pages, so printing it out and taking it with me isn't really an option, and I don't really have so much time to read when I'm home. I popped it on my powerbook and I've been reading it on the train everyday. It's a bit of a hastle to carry around the 15" model just to read a damned story, though.

What the world needs is a portable device with a sharp/ bright enough screen to read large amounts of text like that. the higher end palm devices cost too much $ to make it worth it just for ebooks, and there's no real solution on the PSP or DS, yet.

My dream device for such a thing would be a color iPod with a full-face, high-res, touchscreen LCD with a scroll wheel on the side of it. (needs some kind of clie-like flip cover to protect the screen)

With enough power to play video, enough HD space to hold a dozen movies and a mobile collection of music and huge amount of ebooks (think around 40-80GB), I'd be willing to drop 3-400$ on such a device.

Re:when they (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13586161)

I was actually forced into buying the ebook version, since the hardcover was over 40$ (even used), and the softcover was overpriced, as well.

The ebook was under 10$ and had no need to be shipped. I just downloaded it. Apparently, it's also available in my Digital Locker on forever, so if I loose the file, I should be able to download it again... assuming doesn't go under.

Bloody hell... $10 for an out of copyright e-book. They saw you coming mate... check it out [] .

Re:when they (1)

l3ert (231568) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586170)

Victor Hugo's "The Man Who Laughs" and many other books are legally available for free at [] .

I also made a bookmarklet [] to bookmark a paragraph in any html or text.

Of course this is only a solution for devices that can read html files and plain text and does not offer any special ebook functionalities.

Re:when they (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13586173)

You could have saved yourself 10 bucks.
Victor Hugo's works are all public domain, and as such, are available on gutenberg.

They are in HTML or txt only, but you can also find other sites with them in RTF format etc., and sites which will rerender the html/txt files into other easily read formats :)

Here's a linky. [] The html doesn't look so bad to me :)
(Here's all his other work on gutenberg so far [] )

When? (1, Insightful)

AlexTheBeast (809587) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585930)

When will ebooks become mainstream?

Publishers will more quickly adopt ebooks once someone can not find almost every ebook ever released by forming a proper ebook google search. []

If ebooks are copied this easily without punishment, publishers have no reason to push forward.

Is DRM the answer? (Well, I can't even suggest that on slashdot, can I?)

I buy programming books like candy. I've noticed that recently the quality of the printed texts are going way, way down. More errors in code, more misspellings, cheaper paper, etc. When you combine the decreasing quality with real books along with ebooks features of easy storage and searching, it'll happen.

Re:When? (4, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585968)

I had noticed a few bugs in the code in a PHP book that I owned and discovered that there was no way to report them. The published errata list didn't list those flaws.

One problem I have with ebooks is that publishers want to take all the benefits and push all the negatives on the user, pretty much by cost-shifting to the user.

eBooks require proprietary programs or proprietary hardware, which the user is required to use.

Publishers get away from the costs having to print, package, store and distribute paper, they cut out the middle man of distributors and book sellers and yet, they still often charged 90% the cost of the paper book, and the cost of reading the ebook in a portable fashion is high, one has to own and use a laptop. Laptops still have run time issues, books don't.

Re:When? (1)

theotherlight (904426) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585976)

I buy programming books like candy. I've noticed that recently the quality of the printed texts are going way, way down. More errors in code, more misspellings, cheaper paper, etc.

Actual case of this: I bought WROX's Professional PHP Programming ages ago and was very satisfied in every way with it. Recently I purchased WROX's Professional PHP 5 and my satisfcation wasn't quite as high. The topics were great -- as I'd expect any book on the subject -- but the writing was lacking, I was able to pick out many errors in code, and there is a considerable difference in the quality of paper they've used in recent books.

Re:When? (2, Interesting)

BewireNomali (618969) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586052)

I think a huge factor is generational. My nephew is nine, and even he prefers reading paper books to ebooks on my IPAQ.

Books are integral to human learning and we're extremely familiar with them; our earliest memories have books in them.

When we start reading bedtime stories to our nieces and nephews from tablets and electronic paper, then children will grow up knowing that as the way to be.

Because children growing up now are still being taught from and are used to reading books, it's going to take a long time. Maybe their children, or their grandchildren.

The paradigm changes when your kid reads from an online textbook via a ruggedized tablet at school that allows him totake notes that are stored online. The same tablet allows him to record the entire lecture so that he can listen to it over and over, answering any questions he might have in absentia. That same textbook, with the same notes, is available to him everywhere and anywhere on the web... so he doesn't need a paper copy of the book.

Again, it sounds like its a couple of generations down.

That's one of the really cool things about Japan. They're on new tech yesterday. I think that's where we're headed.

Re:When? (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586054)

Is DRM the answer?

No. Perfect DRM is a mathematical impossibility. Imperfect DRM will be cracked, eventually, if enough people care about it. It only needs to be cracked once and it is then nearly useless.

I buy programming books like candy. I've noticed that recently the quality of the printed texts are going way, way down. More errors in code, more misspellings, cheaper paper, etc.

I don't think quality is declining -- your standards are improving. I recently reread a few of the C / C++ programming books I bought 10-15 years ago. Most of them included program listings that wouldn't compile. All but one recommended blatantly bad practices, such as declaring 'void main(void)' or discussed in-depth how to use nonstandard extensions provided by one compiler vendor or another, with hardly a word of warning about portability implications.

Re:When? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586092)

That's nothing. In first year university we got a Java course in which we used non-standard libraries in order to display a gui which we could used to get input, using simple function calls. The result, in second year, none of us knew how to do input or output in Java. I've seen this same kind of thing at other universities too. They seem to think that and system.out are too hard of concepts to grasp. They cut out the most important part of Java, which is the very powerful API. Why would they teach Java, and leave out the most important feature. This was in the days before .Net.

Personally? (5, Insightful)

LordOfYourPants (145342) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585931)

I'll start buying E-books when the price of mainstream ones is substantially lower than their physical counterparts. Why bother taking risks with proprietary readers and formats when I know my trusty hardcover -- short of disaster -- will be readable 75 years from now?

On top of that, reading in front of a monitor at this point in time is not enjoyable. Maybe (hopefully) e-paper will change that.

For me, when I first heard about E-books I immediately thought "no cost of shipping, no middleman warehouse distribution, no physical cost to print/bind, no brick and mortar store paying electricity, rent, stocking risky books at a premium, they'll be dirt cheap!" I was wrong.

Re:Personally? (5, Insightful)

earnest murderer (888716) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586149)

For me, when I first heard about E-books I immediately thought "no cost of shipping, no middleman warehouse distribution, no physical cost to print/bind, no brick and mortar store paying electricity, rent, stocking risky books at a premium, they'll be dirt cheap!" I was wrong.

That's because the publisher looked at those exact same issues and said "I'll be rich"!

75 years from now? (2, Interesting)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586174)

Most books are printed on wood pulp paper. Wood pulp paper is slightly acid (the process uses sulphur dioxide) so the book will start to crumble appart after a few years of usage, I'm not quite sure how quickly they degrade, but from some experience 75 years seems to be pushing it. (I've had books a lot younger fall appart like they were moth eaten).

Older books (pre UN drug treaty) were printed on hemp paper and can last hundreds of years without too many problems.

Huzzah for Dead Trees! (2, Insightful)

SparksMcGee (812424) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585933)

Frankly, the feel of actually holding a book one's hand, being able to carry it around, pick it up and put it down at leisure, is a lot of what makes books worth reading. Additionally, not having to worry about whether it will actually "work" (let alone trouble from any kind of protection that might prevent you from accessing it short of the language its written in), just makes books a no brainer. There's just something pleasant about having a stack of books (not to mention its easier on the eyes to have pages to flip), and I for one am perfectly happy with the current system and would not mind seeing it continue in perpetuity.

why fix something that isn't broken? (2, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585934)

real books require no power, are cheap, have excellent contrast, great form factor, are durable, and last a long time

why do we even need e-books?

seriously, i'm no luddite, i just fail to see any compelling reason to replace something that isn't broken

Re:why fix something that isn't broken? (3, Insightful)

salparadyse (723684) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585951)

One word. Trees.

Re:why fix something that isn't broken? (1)

daniil (775990) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585967)

Might as well go back to using parchment then -- no trees killed, just calves :7

Re:why fix something that isn't broken? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13586105)

Or papyrus, just reeds.

Re:why fix something that isn't broken? (4, Insightful)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585989)

I thought this - why do we need them? Im a huge reader, buying 6 or 7 new books from amazon every month and a huge library at home anyway. Then I discovered ebooks - 90% of my library was available in ebook format, the vast majority of what I wanted was on sale at so I switched what I read most frequently over to ebooks, bought new stuff as ebooks, got a cheap ipaq as the reader and never looked back. I save roughly 30% on each new purchase, save loads of space on my shelves, and have instant delivery of the product.

I recently went on holiday, and usually I take 5 or 6 books for a 2 week period, and thats rarely enough. This way I was able to take 200 or 300 books, and save on my airline baggage allowance.

Will ebooks replace books? Maybe not for the vast majority of the public, but for me, tehy pretty much already have.

Re:why fix something that isn't broken? (2, Interesting)

Deliveranc3 (629997) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586073)

I have a palm Tungsten E and I love reading E-Books on it.

With the press of a button I can be back where I was, I can turn pages with one hand so I can hold onto the subway, it glows in the dark if I want (Also useful to find way to the washroom at night).

I can read about 50% of a book on one charge (Li-Ion no usb charge)

Before that I had a Palm IIIxe not the greatest but available for $15-30 bucks and can read two books on 2 AA batteries.

I have an increadible selection with me wherever I go and since I'd be carrying an organizer anyway it doesn't affect the form factor I have to carry at all.

Could only be happier if I had internet access to my entire collection.

I'd also like some better OCR software so I can propogate my love of books more easily :)

Re:why fix something that isn't broken? (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586085)

One thing to add to this, my iPod allowed me to take my entire music collection on holiday without having to guess at what I would want to listen to before I went. My iPaq and ebooks have allowed me to do exactly the same with my reading material, so I dont have to limit myself to a preselected range, I can decide when I finish a book. When I go on holiday I take my entire music and reading collections - THAT is what technology is about.

Re:why fix something that isn't broken? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13586119)

the vast majority of what I wanted was on sale at so I switched

You might have noticed already but you forgot to make "" an affiliate link.

"Cheap iPaq?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13586166)

Where did you find a "cheap" iPaq?

Re:why fix something that isn't broken? (1)

daniil (775990) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585990)

The main advantage of e-books over dead tree books is similar to that of paper books over the (more durable) parchment ones: they are much easier (and cheaper) to produce, and also much easier to propagate -- at least in theory (in practice, it seems that we're still not quite "there" yet).

Re:why fix something that isn't broken? (4, Insightful)

aktzin (882293) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586016)

I agree with you that paper books are great as they are. Also the concern about paper is somewhat reduced by the re-planting of trees by lumber/paper companies. But in the "would be nice" category I can see the e-book benefits of a more compact form factor, convenient bookmarking, text search, built-in illumination and maybe someday lower cost.

For example, I'm reading a hardcover novel at the moment that's about 600 pages long. It's so big and bulky (1.5 inches thick) that I can't easily carry it on trips in my laptop bag and it cost $25.95. Unfortunately it's not available in e-book format, and the books that are tend to be in proprietary formats, saddled with annoying DRM and don't cost much less than their paper versions.

Re:why fix something that isn't broken? (2, Insightful)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586062)

why do we even need e-books?

Because on one device, you could carry all your books, instead of lugging hundreds of pounds around with you.

Very useful for those of us with huge college textbooks, for example.

Re:why fix something that isn't broken? (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586075)

real books require no power, are cheap, have excellent contrast, great form factor, are durable, and last a long time

why do we even need e-books?

"Real" books are *not* cheap. Production and distribution costs for a paperback book are typically $3-$5 US. Production and distribution costs of an e-book are almost zero, except that the reader needs a display device (~ $50 production and distribution cost). So if the average reader will purchase more than 10 books there are cost savings to be had.

The problem is, at present, those savings are not being passed on to the reader. That needs to start happening before the public will consider e-books seriously.

They just don't get it... (3, Interesting)

Dark_Link2135 (812614) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585936)

This is completely stupid. The reason I read books is to give my eyes a break FROM the screen, so I can sit outdoors and breath some fresh air. I read so that I'm not sitting in front of a monitor all day, bathing my eyes in radiation and making my eyeglass prescription worse by the second. I think THIS is the point e-book retailers are missing - most people would simply rather sit down outside on their front porch, or maybe just lie down in bed with a REAL book. That's why I never caught onto e-Books. Then again, you have the piracy protection issue. Most you can basically only download on ONE computer, and if something crashes, or you upgrade your mobo and have to reformat and reinstall - too bad. The e-book is tied to THAT particular computer, and you basically have built a new one. Theres $15 bucks down the drain. Theres another point - the price of e-books. You can't sell electronic data for the same price as a real physical object - albiet, prices HAVE gone down on them a bit, but not enough to entice me. Of course, it isn't the price that bothers me, its the first reason I listed.

Re:They just don't get it... (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586055)

1. Use a PDA, the screen is much better on the eyes than a CRT and you can take it outside, on holiday etc.
2. has fairly 'loose' DRM, in that you unlock the book in their reader and thats it. You can download it to as many systems as you want.
3. Most ebooks are actually pretty cheap if you shop around - most of hte ones Ive bought have been at 50% or less than their paper brethrens.

Remember, not all solutions are best for everyone. If you dont like ebooks, fine.

Re:They just don't get it... (1)

Dark_Link2135 (812614) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586130)

Well, the only problem with PDA's is the screen size. That, and battery life. If I could get something with a screen size the size of a normal book, and with infinite battery life, that would be awesome. And that's not impossible - my friends high school science fair project was making batteries that never ran out - they constantly recharged themselves. It was pretty sweet. Of course, you can expect something like that to never go mainstream, considering Energizer and Duracell would throw a fit. Admittingly, they only got around .5v out of them, but considering its just a high school science fair project, it was pretty impressive.

Read? (1)

ziggyboy (232080) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585944)

Who wants to read? What our lazy generation needs are audio books. There's nothing lazy about reading.

hmmm... (1) (745183) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585947)

P2P-"sharing". (Think libPod.) Wonder if Simon & Schuster will go for it...

I do this all the time (2, Insightful)

Dark Paladin (116525) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585949)

Using my Treo, I been reading one book after another on travel - Quicksilver, Harry Potter, Ulysses, etc, etc, etc. Good number of modern books and classics over at

But the main issue is in the reader. So far, they only work with Palm, Windows CE, and I think one cell phone device (not inluding PC readers, which is silly - I want a handheld unit). Most people aren't going to shell out $100 for a "ebook only" device - especially one that just works with cartridges or has a single purpose.

Most PDA's are a good example - if more phones go the PDA style route, that may work as well. Odds are, as we see more "cell phone/internet access devices", and more support on the INternet for these devices (ever try to surf or most sites with a cell phone web browser? Yeah. Pain.), perhaps ebooks will take off.

Until then, they're a side show, a novelty for people such as myself who don't mind looking at a little screen while I read about the Shaftoes and Waterhouses galavanting about the world.

Re:I do this all the time (1)

SheeEttin (899897) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586063)

more support on the INternet for these devices

Ever try the PSP browser? It's actually quite nice--you use a cursor controlled by the pad thingy (I don't have a PSP). Some sites even have PSP-sized pages, like VG Cats [] .

When? (1)

ShyGuy91284 (701108) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585950)

I thought that fad was already gone... Oh well... maybe it'll return.... If that ePaper or whatever it was doesn't feel like a PDA. Because curling up to a PDA isn't like curling up to a good book (iBook included).

Making them as free as books. . . (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585952)

would be a bloody good start.

I actually have quite number of "ebooks." Years worth of reading material, in fact.

Funny thing is they're all, every one of them, public domain ASCII text files.

Kill the DMCA, then we'll start to talk.


How I read ebooks (4, Insightful)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585957)

I have recently started reading a lot of ebooks on my Kyocera 7135 PDA/phone. The first was Burton's Vikram and the Vampire*, which I couldn't find in a print copy. I used iSilo as the reader. It turns out to be a wonderful way to read books. I now do maybe 50% of my reading on the Kyocera. I never thought I would find myself saying this, but I actually prefer it to paper.

*Great story, by the way. King Vikramiditya (Vikram for short) is tasked to carry a vampire a certain distance. Every time he speaks, the vampire goes back to its tree and he has to start again. So the meat of the book is a dozen or so stories told by the vampire in order to get Vikram to react by saying something out loud.

facelift ? (1)

l3v1 (787564) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585958)

If facelift means DRM'd time/copy/read/etc-limited electronic versions, then I don't really want any of that facelift. If it means books would also be available in some electronic form on reauest, with and without DRM, then I'd say probably okay. Generally I think I'd welcome much much more a solution where pritned books would be available as they are now, but a vastly enourmosuly huge electronic library with online access would be made available for a subscription fee where we could lend electronic versions of printed books, should the need arise.

I, personally, would never ever prefer buying an electronic-only reduced rights book over a traditional paper edition.

E-Books Will Become Mainstream when... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13585971)

... when they display PDF documents, when I can easily load all my own PDF documents on them, and when I'm not required to BUY books at outrageous prices to get ANYTHING on them.

I compulsively save web pages to PDF files and I've built up quite a collection over the years. It'd be great to have them on an E-Book. But until the vendors stop with the bulls***, I'm not going to buy.

E-ink, price, rights (1, Redundant)

Noksagt (69097) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585974)

1)They must be comfortable to read. E-ink devices, like the Sony Librie [] can bring this. These devices have high contrast displays, use little power, and work in broad daylight. They are about the size and weight of a standard pocket paperback, but they store far more information.

2)They must be priced competitively. 10 cent chapters. $1-2 books. Free content which is in the public domain or put out by individual authors.

3)They must not be so encumbered by DRM that people find them useless. One major flaw with the Librie was that, like most Sony products, they used a proprietary format developed by Sony. Until recently, it was hard to put your own content on the devices. A lot of the content you could buy also exprired & they were extremely feature-limited (you couldn't copy, search, read on other devices, etc.).

What we need is the iPod of eBook readers. Something which is well-designed & allows us to read PDF, html, and plain text (in addition to any restricted formats.

Re:E-ink, price, rights (2, Interesting)

WinterSolstice (223271) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586129)

I'd say that there are 2 hurdles to ebooks. An "ipod of ebook readers" won't fix either.

1) It needs to work everywhere. No proprietary devices, software, or code. Like HTML... or the printing press. Just print out the book if you like.

2) No DRM. That crap is killing everything, and making me consider moving to the bahamas or something. I wish I'd never heard of it. Well, it is hard to kill music with DRM, but easy to kill books. So we need something like HTML... or the printing press. Just print out the book if you like.

Basically, You're using the best eBook reader in the world right now. HTML is the best format for it. No DRM. No "serious" compatibility issues (ignoring FF/IE/Opera/Etc arguments). It is supported on more devices than I could possibly list. Tons of devices are capable of serving up HTML, even when they have no good reason to.

Oh, and I read about 3 ebooks a week. I use Project Gutenberg and HTML, or PDF when I have to. PDF sucks, but it has the best DRM/Useability tradeoff.


I know this one! (0, Redundant)

bgfay (5362) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585977)

When they are the same shape, weight, and feel of a paperback or a hardback book. When they can sit on a shelf and look great. When they can hold onto the story for the same length of time that a book can. When they can be read over and over, shared with others freely, and take ink from a pen for notes.

In short, ebooks will come of age and take over when they become paper books with ink on them. Or is there already something on the market that can do this?

Seriously, between audio books (which take up no space at all and are completely compatible with both the listening technology and habits of listeners) and actual books (which again fit the habits of readers) where is the niche for ebooks? I'm not saying that there isn't a niche. I just can't think of it.

Of course, I never saw the need for the walkman either. I'm not exactly a visionary.

Biggest Obstacle: Proprietary DRM-Crippling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13585978)

Massachusetts recently figured out that public documents in a certain unnamed company's proprietary formats may not be readable or usable in ten years because the software company has "moved on." Individuals are usually MUCH brighter than governments, and most of us have already figured out that closed formats may not be readable in six months, never mind thirty years. I'm very big on e-books, but I'm open formats only.

When publishers stop trying to "lock ebooks down" they'll be ready for takeoff. I have it on reliable authority that Baen books (open formats only) already makes more money from ebooks than they get from all book sales in Canada, and the ebook sales drive treeware sales as well, even the pirated ebooks.

Never. (2, Insightful) (782137) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585983)

They simply don't work as well as books. Books don't have screen glare. Books don't have DRM. Books can last hundreds of years in the same piece, whereas formats come and go. Books don't need batteries or recharging. If you drop a book it'll be more or less fine, unless you drop it in a puddle or something. Ebooks just seem like a pain in the ass.

Your mileage may, as always, vary.

When they do what I want (2, Interesting)

baomike (143457) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585985)

An e-book should;
  Be light enough to read in bed.
  have a built in dictionary(highlight word, get
  def , in language of choice)
  have built in pronunciation, (highlight word or phrase and hear it, in language of choice)

the OTHER technology... paper + ink (1)

ffflala (793437) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585993)

Technologies with certain characteristics --such as being easily sent over a network-- lend themselves better to distribution.

Paper and ink are so much a part of our culture they are not popularly seen as the technology that they are and their technical advantages --their inexpensice durability-- are thus missed. Aiming for a digital replacement of books is barking up the wrong tree.

When is the electronic book going to be as useable as the old-fashioned kind? How do technologies need to change to bring e-books out of the geeky, early adopter ghetto and into digital bookstalls everywhere?

Answer: as soon as an electronic book will last several centuries in some clay jars in a cave and still be functional.

Why online distribution hasn't catched on... (2, Interesting)

JediLow (831100) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585995)

The problem with e-books is the same problem we've found for any online distribution system - those who own the rights to the content refuse to lower the price. When you buy a physical book, cd, movie, or anything else, what you're paying for (generally) is something which you can copy... and that has physical value. Most of the costs comes in the physical goods (packaging, etc) - when you buy something through an online distrubtion system, you're paying the same price but not getting any of the packaging, etc which is the bulk of the cost - thus vastly lowering the value of the product.

I've used e-books before, and if I ever go back to China to work then I'll probably have to convert to almost entirely e-books. It has a major advantage in the size - you can carry many books with you without having the size/weight being any sort of issue. While I prefer real, physical ones more, the system isn't bad... the only problem is that you don't have any price incentive for buying them - you're just giving the publishers a huge profit margin.

ebooks are erehwon (5, Informative)

yagu (721525) | more than 9 years ago | (#13585998)

Ebook technology is backwards. The article pretty much is dead on (in summary:).

  1. physically uncomfortable to read
  2. not portable
  3. incompatible formats
  4. drm

In addition, ebook readers don't feel like or smell like books. I saw Bill Gates give a presentation probably five years ago and he was hot for ebook technology. He described how ebooks would simulate the look and feel of a book to the extent that would be possible electronically. Virtually none of his listed features have appeared (e.g., the ability to "flip" a page with your finger as if it were a paper book).

As for the above listed reasons:

  1. I purchased an early-on reader, a dedicated device. It was about 8x11 in size and had a four-level grey screen. I figured that would be good. It was horrible. Jagged fonts, poor contrast, after reading only a few pages I couldn't stand it any more. NOTE: the standard for acceptability is not readability, it's comfort! I returned that device the same day I received it.

    A year later I got the new and improved version, same size, higher resolution and in color! Virtually no improvement in the font rendering, I returned that unit the same day also.

  2. Portability is a big issue. While I can't carry 40 or 50 books around in my briefcase at time (a big "feature" of ebooks), I don't generally finding a need to do so. But the books I do want to carry around (usually one or two at a time) I can easily do, and they're pretty much everywhere with me. For the same portability with ebooks you have to manage your portability to the extent the provider will even allow (which may not be much). Not a good start.
  3. Incompatible formats may be one of the most maddening. I can buy books from Penguin, O'Reilly, heck, even Microsoft Press, and they're all compatible, i.e., I don't have to do anything to be able to read them anywhere. Of course they're quite inert, but that's a characteristic people are familiar and comfortable in books, they even expect that! If you're going to start extending into technology with ebooks, you better make the extensions interoperable. People partition themselves in camps in OS and computer technology. In books and ebook technology, that doesn't even make sense.
  4. Last but not least, DRM. That was probably the second most irritating feature of the devices I've tried. I could get cool things like newspapers, magazines, etc. in ebook format, but how I could look at them and where and how many times was in the hands of the provider. I'm just not ready to go there. I hope nobody is (but I fear they do).

Wrong Question (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13585999)

What are some other ways to give books a 21st-century facelift?"

This is the wrong question. Why do books need a 21st-century facelift at all. The form of a book, no power required, any sufficiently bright light (even funny colors), makes it uniquely portable, and gives at a versatility and durability not found in any modern electronic device.

Then there is the issue of format readability. The book format has proved to be readable for millenia.

E-books will be an adjunct, an additional form for static text and pictures in book format where space is at a premium for large amounts (like lots of textbooks and references in one place) in highly technologized places (where power outlets are plentiful and the right phase, frequency, voltage, etc. etc).

But think about it, for reading while commuting, a single novel, such as a Grisham bestseller isn't much bigger than an e-book. There's no initial investment in an e-book reader device required, and you'll still have to pay to get the text, whether electronic or paper (it's probably easier to borrow a friend's paper copy, at that).

Re:Wrong Question -- MOD PARENT UP (2)

drdanny_orig (585847) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586146)

Yep, this entire discussion is useless. Books have lasted for hundreds of years precisely because they're nearly perfect as is. If today you were to see the first book ever printed and assembled, you'd know exactly what it was for and how to use it. The probability of that being true for ebook hardware just a few decades from now aproaches zero. Jeez, there won't even be any batteries for them soon enough.

The fact that a few techno-geeks think that ebooks are better doesn't mean the technology will ever take off (or over or whatever).

Apple jumps in (1)

2nd Post! (213333) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586004)

Probably when Apple jumps into the market.

IE, when there is a profit incentive. By the time Dell jumps in, the market is already "mainstream".

Put another way: Before Apple's iPod, the big player was Creative Labs; mp3s were popular, but I don't think you can use the term 'mainstream'. Then after Apple jumped in, so did Dell.

So wait until Apple jumps in, and creates a really popular eBook reader/format, and you should be okay. It's way past okay when Dell jumps in.

It's the Library stupid... (1)

Duncan3 (10537) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586008)

When you can goto the library checkout an ebook for free. Swap with your friends, and resell. ... on a reader that you can take anywhere, replace a battery on never (solar), and costs about $3.95...

So round about... oh... when hell freezes over and people quit using DRM.

Better media (1)

meckardt (113120) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586009)

Ebooks are pretty good right now, except for the media that you view them on. When I bought a Cassiopea a few years ago, I found it really convenient to have a number of books with me (MS Reader fomat). But I found it really inconvenient when the darn screen cracked (and its nigh on impossible to buy parts for that kind of thing!)

When you can buy a reader that looks, feels, and wears like a paper book, that isn't going to break from rough handling; when you can load new content easily on said reader; THAT is when EBOOKS will really take off.

As soon as paper screens are viable (1)

Loconut1389 (455297) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586011)

These ePaper screens will be a great advantage.. Make eBook readers in various form factors like paperback books, large paperbacks, hardbacks and large hardbacks.. throw a microdrive and some electronics in the back few 'pages' which would be fake, the middle of the book would all be real pages except for the middle pages which would be ePaper.

It might be a little weird, but it would be the closest thing to reading a real book.

Anyone else hate ebooks? (1)

Goalie_Ca (584234) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586013)

About the only thing wrong with physical text books is the missing ctrl-f feature. Index works all right though. I've used a few of these so-called ebooks for university and these online and cd-rom features and it's all useless. I like my physical text book. Nothing beats it.

Re:Anyone else hate ebooks? (1)

Triple Click (898568) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586152)

Stellar. I'm a med student. You can carry around all my dead-tree books around for me when I'm in the hospital, and I'll carry a PDA.

Where can I buy them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13586019)

Seriously. Where? I see _loads_ available on usenet (pdf and chm) but I can't find them to buy.

Personally I love CHM ebooks and would love to buy them. They are so small and light on the system (unlike PDF although I don't really have a problem with PDF).

Can someone tell me where I can buy ebooks in either PDF or CHM?

Price. (2, Interesting)

ltwally (313043) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586023)

What needs to change?

Well, beyond the fact that there aren't many companies putting out E-books as-yet...

  • Price. The price for the few E-books that I come accross is too high for me to accept.
  • Exportability. Who wants to buy an E-book (that costs nearly as much as the paper version) when it's digitally signed/encrypted so that it can't be exported into other formats? It may not bother you now, but a few years down the line it'd really piss you off if that copy of Harry Potter in .lit format couldn't be converted to a format that is still in existence. Hell, some E-books won't even let you print your copy out on paper. WTF is up with that...
Just my 2 cents. YMMV

When E-Paper is commercially availible (2, Insightful)

Lord Haha (753617) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586029)

See the title. Plain and simple when they are put in an e-paper format I can see them being useful but till then they will be more a novelty or not as useful as paper (because of DRM)

printfu anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13586033)

Maybe this is exactly what printfu ( [] ) will either LOVE, or on the other hand HATE!

"Print is Dead" (1)

The Barking Dog (599515) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586034)

1. Get Apple to produce iPrint, or iEbook, or some other product starting with "i" that acts as an ebook reader.

2. Hire Harold Ramis to promote it.

3. Profit!

(Wait, there's not supposed to be a step 2...)

After 50-100 years... (1)

Pao|o (92817) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586040)

One reason most peoplel like paper-based books is because we've experienced it and can make comparisons to eBooks. Once everyone who has experienced paper are gone and the cost of creating ebooks is far below that of a regular paperback then we'll see eBooks flourish. As much as I like electronics the feel of paper is better than an ebook.

Electronic Paper (1)

grayrest (468197) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586057)

I believe that the rise of ebooks will correspond to the development of a device that mimics a real book.

I want a device that is:
Hardback about two inches longer and an inch wider than the standard paperback, 25 plastic pages, Pen input for notetaking. Palm Pilot like battery life. Under $500.

When I say plastic I mean the stuff that's currently used for backpacking maps, feels a lot like paper but basically impossible to tear. I'm assuming that any processor/memory/storage that fits in the hardback cover will be good enough. If apple can do it with the nano then someone can fit the hardware in a book cover.

I've been following the development of electronic paper with great interest since it was first announced in 97. I think it was all the Inspector Gadget as a kid but I'm obsessed with a computer book.

epaper and html (3, Interesting)

StonedRat (837378) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586058)

When we have nice portable epaper to read them on. If epaper really does require little power it could be solar powered.

Also the ebooks need to come in an open format, I personally think semantically correct (x)html would be perfect. Easily restyled to your personally preference.

Blind users would also benefit from that as they wouldn't need to wait ages for the book to come out on tape, assuming it does at all.

Firefox in my pocket is what i want.

Making books '20-th century' (1)

matt me (850665) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586082)

It's NOT about the medium but the content. That said, the book is possibly the only medium we have today that will still exist in X50 years. The book is a rock of a medium. It *is* immortal, since the invention of the printing press.

DVD will be play another format soon enough, and circular optical mediums are probably about half-way through their lifetime. We'll have a different internet and a different web. We can't even speculate. Broadcast media is probably on it's way out. Personalisation of content is in.

The book will live on. For use as recording fiction. Reference, perhaps not. The web is far superior. But nothing we have now or ever is close to as absorbing as a 'good book' (sorry to use cliche).

E-Periodicals Maybe? (1)

celephaix (895533) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586087)

As far as e-books are concerned, the issue is already pretty much dead. However, I do see an awful lot of people carrying unwieldy newspapers with them on the way to work and back. I wonder which is a more valuable resource, trees or the energy used to power the readers?

I like eBooks... (1)

SsShane (754647) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586094)

I think they are the number one best reason to own a PDA. You can carry a library in your pocket! However, the DRM and file format bullcrap is what kills the whole concept for me. I've run into selveral problems trying to read books that, yes, I have bought. Sometimes I can't buy a book because it's only for Palm. When I do buy a book, I run into problems tranferring it to other computers without the DRM pitching a fit. Plus, books in paper form have the obvious physical advantages other than how many you can carry.

For Research not for Reading (1)

bigbigbison (104532) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586095)

As a college student in grad school who is writing lots and lots of papers, I would love it if all the books I have to buy for class were available as ebooks. That way I could cut and paste a quote without having to figure out a way to hold the book open and in a place I can see it while I type it in. Moreover, the ability to keyword search for a word of phrase in a book is invaluable whenever you remember the phrase and can't find it and it isn't listed in the index. I can't tell you how much time I've spent searching for something in a paper bookbecause whoever mad ethe index didn't feel like indexing the term that I just happen to remember. (google print and amazin's look inside the book are helpful in this area, but not every book is in those yet).

How to make e-books mainstream: (1)

Geshem (901676) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586098)

How about printing them to paper?

But seriously - reading books on my screen, although a very good screen, is a real pain -- after a couple of hours my eyes just hurt like hell.
Nothing, these days, can replace the good-ol' ink-on-paper. Perhaps developing a much more easy-on-the-eyes visual device (portable too!) would be the real booster.

eBooks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13586103)

Imagine a beowulf cluster of these!

Ebooks are mainstream (1)

lspd (566786) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586107)

Admittedly, I wouldn't buy an ebook. I might consider it a nice piece of added value if it was shipped with a paperback book, but I wouldn't waste money on an ebook alone. Ebooks do have other valid uses though.

For instance, the Houston Public Library allows you to check out and read certain books online. Rather than hopping in a car and driving around town to find a physical copy of book X at one of the 30 library locations, I can simply fire up a browser and check it out. No need to worry about late fees. If I forget to check the book back in, it happens automatically.

When... (1)

flatass (866368) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586109)

they come in as handy as a real book does when you are camping and run out of TP.

For me, a useful e-book would be like... (2, Interesting)

SpryGuy (206254) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586110)

I've always decided that the main problem with eBooks was the form-factor and display.

Give me an "eBook" that's about the size and weight of a standard paperback. Open it up, and there should be electronic paper on both sides. Visible in normal light and bright sunshine. Minimum 300dpi resolution. The two facing screens should display type much like a paperback does, with a nice mat finish (no shiny stuff). And it should be augmented by touch sensitivity, so I can "change pages" with "gestures"... by swiping across the right hand page (top corner down towards center) in the standard "turning the page" gesture. There should be touch sensitive spots along the bottom that allow me to call up the table of contents, an index (that also allows searches), and tools to allow me to highlight and bookmark passages. When I open the eBook it should open to right where I left off. It should be water resistent, shock resistent, and the screen should be flexible enough that I don't have to worry about breaking the damn thing.

New books should be just a pluggable memory cartridge away. The memory cartridges should also store the bookmarks and highlights and "current position" so I can flip through several books at any time without losing my place in any one of them.

Once an eBook experience is like THAT, then watch out, they'll actually start to catch on. Or at the very least, *I* would suddenly be interested in owning one.

PSP Browser + Gutenburg Project (2, Informative)

JohnnyFnF (915597) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586112)

The browser available with on the PSP makes a fantastic e-reader. Combine it with free books in available in html format from [] and you've got all the classics you can want.

Will e-books become mainstream? (1)

davek (18465) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586124)

Answer: no.

On the bridge of the first real starship enterprise, captian Kirk will say, "Hmm, where are we going today" and he will pull out a notepad and a pen and look at his notes.

The printed word is as much a part of humanity as freedom itself. Paper books will never go away.


When? (1)

InvalidError (771317) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586126)

Give me a relatively inexpensive, rollable, 11x17 display with 200dpi or better resolution, fast updates (at least as fast as flipping pages) and then I might start being interested.

One reason people like paper is for sharp text and graphics. Low-end laser printer do 600dpi while urrent eReader devices use the lowest resolution they can get away with and that puts most of them under 100dpi.

Add the facts that eReader documents can be DRM'd or otherwise uncopiable/undistributable.

Paper simply always works. Until eReaders allow people to do everything they can do with paper just as freely and intuitively, paper will remain a preferred reading medium.

BTW, I hate scrolling and tabbing through indexes... given the choice between a free online document and a $40 printed version of the same, I often go for the printed version after verifying that the book covers enough interesting/relevant topics.

When... paper + digital benefits... (1)

zotz (3951) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586127)

When They give me all of the benefits I get from a paper book now PLUS all te benefits that can come with digital, searchable, shareable text.

Not too tall an order if the players have a mind to give us what we want and not try to force us to accept what they want.

all the best,

-- []

luddites! (1)

urdine (775754) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586138)

The whole "feel and smell of a book" argument isn't a real issue. People that say that are the same people that prefer vinyl over CDs because they're used to the comfort of the medium.

eBooks will get big when there's a compelling reason to use them. What ADVANTAGES do eBooks bring? That's the very simple question that will determine more than the disadvantages, which people are likely to overlook if there's a good reason to use an ebook.

Right now the advantages are - immediate access (don't have to go to the store), if you're taking your laptop/palm/etc anyway you save space, and you can have a trillion pages on your harddrive but not on your shelf. None of those are really great reasons, which is why ebooks aren't really great.

What could change that? How about taking ADVANTAGE of the digital form - share notes with other readers while reading the book, include metadata and links for more information within the book (web-ize it, especially non-fiction with footnotes), dictionary lookup for strange words, etc, etc.

Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13586141)

I have a PostScript printer, I love e-books, just make those printers commonplace, you'll see.

Tried and tried (1)

lagnis (878185) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586148)

I read the paper variety all the time, reading a book on the computer is only for desperate times. I have a couple of eBooks on my Palm for when I'm on the bus or waiting, but no matter how I try it's just not no match against having a cheap pocket book with me instead.

agreed (1)

lagerbottom (704499) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586154)

I agree with the overall seniment...paper books are still superior. However the one killer feature that that I wish ink and paper books had...grep!

Personally, I prefer (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586157)

my books to be provided on a non-volatile storage medium. After the Great Collapse of 2027, with electric power scarce or nonexistent and our vaunted technology useless, at least some of Civilization's hard-earned knowledge will still be accessible to the survivors. You know, books with titles like "Farming For Dummies", "Fishing for Food" and "How To Skin A Wabbit".

when you can... (1)

igotmybfg (525391) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586159)

read them as comfortably as a book. remember that looking at black text on a white screen is like staring at a light bulb. it fucking sucks! also, why even bother, paper books are so much more convenient, cost effective, long-lasting, and personal than an 'e-book'...

when? (1)

namekuseijin (604504) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586160)

when Windows Vista and DRM become common place so there's nowhere to run?

Tungsten E w/ Magicians Nephew (1)

Deliveranc3 (629997) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586163) 0_1.jpg/ [] is what mine looks like and I love it!
Shown is low contrast I usually use somewhere in the middle, and I find that I can read a page and put it away in about 10-15 secs.

Hitting the button on the front set up for book opens to exactly where I was with just one hand.

It's extremely convenient, for long term use I don't mind looking at the screen either using iSiloX text is easily big enough to keep the unit far from my face.

My only problem has been with poetry, I like nice line formatting for poetry or computer code.

I don't want to go back to a book sized format for that though, with my palm I can keep it in my pocket all the time, not so with a book.

Changing Documents (1)

fatman22 (574039) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586171)

Barring physical destruction, the text in a printed document will not change by itself and as long as the document remains in your posession you can be reasonably assured that what was in it ten years ago is still in it verbatim today. Depending on the technology and purchasing scheme, Ebooks allow the author, or anyone else with proper access, to make changes to the content without your knowledge or consent. The power to alter the record of history will be like a magnet.

Idea (1)

Jozer99 (693146) | more than 9 years ago | (#13586175)

Lets put eBooks on some sort of read only memory that is physically DRMed, its hard to copy, and be checked in and out for security. Also, having a contiunuous colum of text is intimidating, make dividers, call them pages, to make the text graspable and easily split into smaller sections for brief reading. Perhaps a convient package small enough to fit into a large coat pocket or bag would boost popularity. Find a cheap material to make them out of, perhaps something biodegradeable. Cheap manufacturing methods should be sought, and today there is nothing cheaper than the lithography method for making complicated electronic devices like this. Perhaps two or more levels of eBook should be designed for budget and top end buyers, call them "paperbacks" and "hardcovers", which would be more attractively packaged. It just might work.
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