e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

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mrgoat
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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby mrgoat » November 11th, 2004, 3:06 pm

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
Well, your response doesn't make sense: "There will never be an ebook reader that is not a PDA or a laptop - ie a dedicated,standalone ebook reader won't exist."
THEY ALREADY EXIST! They currently cost too much and are bit too large, but technology will take care of that sooner than you think.
While nothing will replace the smell of your copy of Greater Magic, once schoolchildren start reading text books on "readers" instead of hauling around 15 pounds of large clunky textbooks every day, the end of the printed book will be a done deal. Those kids will grow up without the nostalgia or attachment you feel for a physical book. Their attitude will mirror those who have an Apple iPod: who wants to carry around 30 CDs and a clunky player when I can have a tiny iPod that does the same thing?
And they'll be right.
And you'll be left eating your words.

AFTER NOTE: I just reread my post and it sounds quite harsh. Didn't mean it to be.
My words will not be eaten. You seem to be getting a bit confused. I am saying that a stand alone, dedicated, (ie IT DOESNT DO ANYTHING ELSE) eBook reader will never happen. That's all.

I don't know where you got me predicted the demise of ebooks from. I never said that. Reread my posts.

All I am saying is a one trick pony of a handheld device that has no purpose other than to read ebooks won't happen.

That's all.

Hope that's clear.

And I bloody love the smell of my Greater Magic!

:)

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby CHRIS » November 11th, 2004, 3:22 pm

Clay,

with small size I didn't mean the individual ebook or font. I meant that I can have a 10,000 or 100,000 volume library on one silver disc. I would think that this is in general a desirable thing. Anybody that has moved his library knows. If you travel, you can't take your library with you. But you can take your e-library with you. I have customers for whom this is the reason they switched to ebooks. They travel a lot and having their ebooks with them is very important for them. No matter how nice or beautiful books are, ebooks for them are a lot more valuable, because it allows them to do something they couldn't do before.

One other comment to the paperless office that is said has not materialized. This has to do with habit and how we have grown up. Widespread computer useage is only a few years old. The internet started to kick in 1993 - that is 10 years ago. Computers started about 10 years before that (seen on a large scale). So it is less than a full generation. I think that in another 20 years you will see in many places the near paperless office. More and more people learn to work with digital documents without printing them out. Printing is actually very expensive. Managing large amounts of paper documents is tough. Again, it needs a generational change to make this happen. It is very hard to learn to do this. It is easier to grow up doing it. One simple example. I had colleagues about 20 years older than me, who printed out every email they got. I don't print out every email I get. I might print one out for a special purpose, but in general I don't. Future generations will print less and less because it will be much easier to deal with documents in digital form.

Chris Wasshuber
Lybrary.com preserving magic one book at a time.

Bill Hallahan
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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Bill Hallahan » November 11th, 2004, 3:24 pm

mrgoat wrote:
And I bloody love the smell of my Greater Magic!
My copy of Greater Magic makes me sneeze. :) I think I have to put it in the sun for a few hours!

After all my ramblings in my posts above, I am glad I have a hardcover edition of that book! Still, I consider this an irrational feeling. At least I think it is.

Now I'm contemplating the idea that one cannot prove one's own sanity. Hmmm... :)

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magicam
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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby magicam » November 12th, 2004, 3:11 am


CHRIS
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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby CHRIS » November 12th, 2004, 7:59 am

Clay,

I fully buy your argument that in certain aspects e-books cannot match books and so for many e-books are not the preferred choice, and maybe never will be. Also let me say a big thank you to you and everybody else who is joining into this discussion. In every post I learn something valuable.

However some of the things you wrote are factually incorrect. Let me try to clarify them:

1) The reading device that I am planing to build will cost $100 or less. Eventually this could drop to $50. Regardless of if I succeed or not, this is bound to happen in the next 10 years.

2) What Bill was suggesting is not to buy for each e-book a reading device. I think what he meant was to buy three or four or five such devices to increase your screen area the same way one has several books open. Each reading device can display any of say 100,000 e-books. So you can switch each device to a new e-book if you wish. No need to buy dozens of reading devices. I personally think that flexible screens (foldable, rollable) will help to solve the screen size problem. Flexible screens that can be rolled around a pencil exist TODAY. They are not yet commerialized to a point where we see them in off the shelf products, but in a few years we will have them. It is not science fiction to assume that in 10 - 20 years we will have large flexible high resolution screens.

3) Amazon has scanned in 100,000 books. Google is gearing up to do one million books or more. Lybrary.com has done >200 books only in the magic area. Assuming there are about 20,000 magic books we have done 1%. My friend in Switzerland has developed a fully automatic book scanning machine which can scan in any book in a few minutes. Everything is automated (page turning, scanning, curvature correction, ...). This is a very expensive machine, but some libraries are buying these and are converting hundreds of books every day. I predict that in less than 20 years essentially all historical books will have been scanned. I have no doubt whatsoever. It is already happening. If we can pull together the right people in magic we could digitize the complete magic written record (books and magazines) in three years. There will be more content available than you ever wanted to have. You have my word.

4) Handwriting recognition, speech recognition are all technologies which are already around. I use a PalmPilot with handwriting recognition and it works very well. No keyboards necessary.

Let me close with an insight by a person much smarter than myself: Clayton Christensen. Clayton is one of the most distinguished professors at Harvard Business School (the rival school of MIT Sloan which I currently attend :-). He gave a few weeks ago a talk about innovation and how new technologies emerge and displace existing technologies. He has studied dozens of industries from the steel industry to semiconductors, healthcare, a.s.o. He knows that stuff and he knows what is going on in the market place.

One of his insights is that new technologies do not penetrate a market at the high end, but at the low end. When I apply this to the e-book discussion then I would conclude the following. Most of the argumentation against ebooks is based on a comparison to books. E-book readers don't have a screen that is as good as a book looks. They need batteries and so don't last as long as I can read a paper book, a.s.o. All the arguments we have heard and discussed. And not to draw out the discussion for too long, one can say, yes, e-books in many respects do not match the quality of books. But the point is that that is not necessarily the battle ground. The battle ground is books you currently cannot have, which you could have electronically. To make this more concrete let me give you an example:

How many have a complete file of The Sphinx? Only a few privileged ones. Say a few dozen at best. If you are really desperate you might be able to buy one for ~$5000. Then you still don't have the guarantee that it is really complete (from experience I know that most have pages or part of pages missing). And who can really afford to put down $5k to have a complete file at home?

E-books have lowered the bar to $395. That means many more are able to have and read a complete Sphinx file. So it is not about is the e-book better or more convenient or not. It is a matter of having it or not. Of yes or no. Of zero or one. For people who do not have a Sphinx file, even having a 'crapy' one for a reasonable price is better than not having one at all. This will be the market e-books are going to penetrate first (they already do). In the meantime technology will get better and will slowly start to eat into the regular book market piece by piece, niche by niche. And sooner or later we will find ourself in a situation where books could be limited to the very high end: high glossy large format beautiful books. The Albo books if you wish or the Robert-Houdin books. Nobody argues that e-books will anytime soon challenge these books. I leave this market segment to the book people. Everything else will be digital in my life time.

Chris Wasshuber
Lybrary.com preserving magic one book at a time.

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magicam
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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby magicam » November 12th, 2004, 11:11 am

Chris W. wrote:
1) The reading device that I am planing to build will cost $100 or less. Eventually this could drop to $50. Regardless of if I succeed or not, this is bound to happen in the next 10 years
Chris, I hope you succeed, despite the nay sayers (including me of course) on this thread. My concern remains with the trade-offs necessary to get this screen in that price range (i.e., resolution, battery life, color, size, etc.). But this may only be a time concern.

Chris W. wrote:
2) What [I think].. .Bill [meant] was to buy three or four or five such devices to increase your screen area the same way one has several books open...so you can switch each device to a new e-book if you wish. No need to buy dozens of reading devices. I personally think that flexible screens (foldable, rollable) will help to solve the screen size problem. Flexible screens that can be rolled around a pencil exist TODAY. They are not yet commerialized to a point where we see them in off the shelf products, but in a few years we will have them. It is not science fiction to assume that in 10 - 20 years we will have large flexible high resolution screens
It just seems expensive to have to purchase several screens and then not use most of them most of the time, thats all. And it still does not contemplate how real people work by spreading out far more than a half-dozen books when they do research. The idea of a flexible screen sounds promising, but I wonder about integrity of reproduction. Wont there be wrinkles or bends in the screen?

Chris W. wrote:
My friend in Switzerland has developed a fully automatic book scanning machine which can scan in any book in a few minutes. Everything is automated (page turning, scanning, curvature correction, ...). This is a very expensive machine, but some libraries are buying these and are converting hundreds of books every day. I predict that in less than 20 years essentially all historical books will have been scanned. I have no doubt whatsoever. It is already happening. If we can pull together the right people in magic we could digitize the complete magic written record (books and magazines) in three years. There will be more content available than you ever wanted to have. You have my word.
Well I hope youre right! But keep in mind that many historical books are rare books. Do you think that a library will let a machine scan its copy of the Constance Missal from ca. 1444? I tend to doubt that. In addition, there are books which are so fragile (e.g., pulp paper books) that a machine would likely damage them. Also, with all this expensive machinery for efficient scanning, it sounds to me like somebody is going to have to recoup their money at some point. So how much are these scans going to cost? If its the kind of pricing currently charged for e-books, then the hope of selling disks full of books is a pipe dream. I wonder if pricing (especially in a developing market) will be a bigger problem than you anticipate.

Chris W. wrote:
One of his insights is that new technologies do not penetrate a market at the high end, but at the low end. When I apply this to the e-book discussion then I would conclude the following. Most of the argumentation against ebooks is based on a comparison to books. E-book readers don't have a screen that is as good as a book looks. They need batteries and so don't last as long as I can read a paper book, a.s.o. All the arguments we have heard and discussed. And not to draw out the discussion for too long, one can say, yes, e-books in many respects do not match the quality of books. But the point is that that is not necessarily the battle ground. The battle ground is books you currently cannot have, which you could have electronically.
I agree on where the current battleground is, but your hopes for e-books, Chris, are clearly more ambitious than that. In which case, as we move out of e-books as an alternative to no alternative at all, I would think that there would be increasing market resistance to the shortcomings of e-books (real or perceived). And one of my points above was that technology no matter how advanced can only go so far in terms of satisfying the complete range of reasons why people read books.

Chris W. wrote:
In the meantime technology will get better and will slowly start to eat into the regular book market piece by piece, niche by niche. And sooner or later we will find ourself in a situation where books could be limited to the very high end: high glossy large format beautiful books. The Albo books if you wish or the Robert-Houdin books. Nobody argues that e-books will anytime soon challenge these books. I leave this market segment to the book people. Everything else will be digital in my life time.
With all due respect, Chris, if you are saying that within your lifetime, the only way most books will be published is electronically (everything else will be digital), I have a hard time swallowing that one. Moreover, I lament the day when that happens. And Im pretty sure that there are plenty of other Luddites out there who share this feeling (but dont worry, we wont go around smashing up e-readers).

Clay

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magicam
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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby magicam » November 12th, 2004, 6:17 pm

One (brief) thought to add: I was speaking with a well-established (smallish) publisher today and mentioned this thread to him and the pros and cons being discussed. If I understood him correctly, he said that e-books have led to a resurgence of interest in the "art" of the printed book.

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Bill Hallahan » November 12th, 2004, 6:57 pm

Magicam,

If you read my second to last post, at the top I was writing what I believe will happen eventually, so what can exist now isn't really relevant to my previous arguments.

Chris responded to many of your points. I'll address some of your other points out of context.

First, a typical city library has at most about 100,000 books. Very few libraries have more than this.

E-books will exchange information wirelessly in the future, so you won't have to have the book on all readers to read it on any reader, or even have several people read the same book at the same time.

Electronic paper resembles real paper. It's actually it's a flexibly polymer. It's an unknown amount of time off, perhaps forever depending on how expensive it is to manufacture. Don't hold your breath.

e-books dont hold a candle to real books from a functional and human needs standpoint and I dont see that changing for a long, long time if ever.
Well, all of your previous usability points were addressed one-by-one.

The only issues that remain are content availability, battery life, ruggedness, and cost.

The issue of copying will be of concern to publishers. There are ways of dealing with that. You might have to have concurrent licensing to allow how many copies of a book can be viewed at a time, i.e. how many readers a book can be on at once. Assigning a book to a single reader will probably be the initial design, but that will have to change someday. Those who don't do this will lose to those who do. That's one of the ways technology advances.

Chris,

I was not aware of the huge amount of content being converted to electronic form by Amazon and others. Wow.

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magicam
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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby magicam » November 12th, 2004, 8:05 pm

Okay, Bill. Either you're in no mood to argue or you thought my posts were too harsh. If the latter, my sincere apologies.

Bill wrote:
Well, all of your previous usability points were addressed one-by-one.
I'm not sure they were. In any event, all these discrete technical issues are fodder for the biggest issue, addressed when I wrote:
Chris, I believe you very perceptively captured the essence of the comments when you wrote: If we want to distill it down to one reason, then is it fair to say that the major drawback of ebooks is the reading experience? And thats my ... biggest point. The biggest drawback is the reading experience. But with a real book, what else is there but the reading experience?
It's this huge shift in the reading experience which causes me to doubt that e-books will become more popular than real books, and that point was not addressed. In fairness, perhaps there is no answer. And if there is no answer, then a huge future presence of e-books probably only remains a hope for some, not an eventual reality based on technological advances.

Another point that was not addressed was Brad Henderson's observation regarding retention of information, which I tend to view as a symptom of the aforementioned "shift" in the reading experience. If what Brad was told is true, that's a huge problem. And if it is true, what does that mean for the future of e-books?

Another point that was not addressed was the observation that the strengths of an e-book (searchability, and the ability to carry around 10,000 books at a time) only cater to a very small percentage of the population. Most people read for other reasons and dont care if they can search text (who really does that with a novel?) or carry thousands of books on their persons at the same time. Thus, where is this future huge market going to come from? Im just having a hard time seeing it.

The size of a local library is not relevant if the prediction (or hope) is that only deluxe books will be produced in hard copy. That still begs the question of how all of the tens of millions of existing books will find their way onto disk. Nor does it address how all of the rare and precious books will be scanned in at an economical cost. Nor does it address who will pay for all of this.

Finally, I remain intrigued by the idea of electronic paper, although Im not sure what use it would be unless it could produce images and text, which is why I asked if it was nothing more than a really cool monitor.

Ill stress again that this is not a personal attack on anybody who is a proponent of e-books. Its just that, for the reasons Ive been discussing, I dont see e-books as having the same or greater presence in a future economy.

Clay

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Dave Egleston » November 12th, 2004, 9:57 pm

Originally posted by Chris Wasshuber:
Clay,

I have customers for whom this is the reason they switched to ebooks. They travel a lot and having their ebooks with them is very important for them.

Chris Wasshuber
Lybrary.com preserving magic one book at a time.
You see, Mr Wasshuber, this is probably why you get so many heated arguments.

I think you meant to say: I have customers who've ADDED ebooks to their library. By saying "Switching" you've inferred exclusion of printed material, in my opinion.

As I've stated on numerous occasions - ebooks are convenient if you've got a file to research or you're cramped for space on a trip.

I'd love to use ebooks once they are usable to idiots like me.

I just want to open a book and read - Not boot up, wait until the book loads, find a place that is dark enough to see the screen without glare, then try and figure out how to turn pages and flip them back and forth

Of course - Like so many folks - I HAVE to use ebooks on a daily basis - maybe that is why I sometimes take exception to your bubbly exuberance when you extol the virtues of ebooks

I do plan on buying lots of stuff from you someday - but not until you've got an easily workable reader available-- In fact as a hater, of ebooks - I would be glad to do any beta testing for you while your reader is in development and give you honest feedback.

finally:crappy is spelled with two "p"s

Dave

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby CHRIS » November 13th, 2004, 8:54 am

Dave,

you are correct, most buy e-books in addition to books and my choice of word 'switching' was misleading. However, I do have some customers who truly _switched_ to ebooks. They have sold off their books and rebought the electronic version. One actually told me how much money he made in the process because the electronic versions were cheaper than what he could get selling his books.

But this is the exception. I don't want to imply that many choose to do so. This year I have started myself to sell books in my library which I have electronically. There are two very practical reasons for it. i) I mostly use the version on my hard disc and not the one on my shelf. ii) Moving my books from Texas to Boston taught me a painful lesson. I just don't want to move with 11 palets stuffed into a 27 ft truck.

Clay, one further info on the automatic book scanner my friend developed and sells. You questioned that nobody in is right mind would put a precious book into this machine. One reason this is such an expensive machine is that it can handle the most precious books. It uses sophisticated airflow engineering to turn pages. The pages are therefore barely 'touched'. The library at Stanford University has one such machine. The director of the library sent his two most conservative and critical librarians to Switzerland to test and evaluate this machine. They gave it the highest marks and stated they would put their most precious books into this machine. This scanner is that good. So yes, this machine can handle nearly anything.

Regarding the price per page. Since the fixed cost is high one has to scan a lot. Once you scan more than 1 million pages this machine is the cheapest method of scanning in existance.

Chris Wasshuber
Lybrary.com preserving magic one book at a time.

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby magicam » November 13th, 2004, 12:49 pm

Chris, the information on this high-end scanner is very interesting indeed! I hope it overcomes the objections of other curators as it would be a great thing indeed, for our little world, to have rare magic books from The Huntington, Princeton, etc., scanned and made available to the public. I think it's a big mountain to climb, but maybe it can be done. I still think books printed on pulp paper present special problems - in some cases, the pages can not even be bent without breaking them. Robert Ganthony's Random Recollections is the best example of this that I can think of, where even the act of turning the pages imperils them. Is there a web link you could post to allow us to see and read more about this scanner?

Finally, despite the strong skepticism that I and others have expressed on this thread, I want to commend you on your even-handed and classy responses to all of us. You have demonstrated that you are willing to face the consequences of your questions (not all people really want to hear honest answers/opinions to their questions, you know), and for that you deserve kudos. Only time will tell which of the doubts, opinions, and predictions expressed on this thread prove true, but in the meantime, keep up your enthusiasm and belief in what you are doing, for that is the only way progress will be made with e-books. If there are two things an innovator needs to have, it is fortitude and belief in what he/she is doing, and you seem to have those in abundance. As time goes on and as a bona fide doubter, like Dave Egleston, I would be happy to privately address any issues/questions you have as you press on with your work. As I hope my Magicol review of the Roterberg CD-ROM demonstrated, despite my skepticism, I have an open mind on the subject of e-books. You know how to reach me.

Sincere good luck to you as you continue your work.

Clay

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby CHRIS » November 13th, 2004, 7:42 pm

for more info on the book scanner go to http://www.4digitalbooks.com

The first book scanned with this machine was a magic book from my collection :-)

Clay, and everybody else who contributed to this thread: I honestly appreciate your efforts and detailed posts to try to make me better understand your motivations, your thoughts and your insights. This is extremely valuable for me. I enjoy these engaging discussions with you guys. I hope I wasn't too defensive about my point of view. A little controversy is good for a discussion and sharpens the argument. Again, a big thank you to everybody. I will be announcing any progress on my efforts in my newsletter and also here on the Genii forum.

Chris Wasshuber
Lybrary.com preserving magic one book at a time.

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Bill Mullins » November 14th, 2004, 11:31 am

Originally posted by Bill Hallahan:
First, a typical city library has at most about 100,000 books. Very few libraries have more than this.
????
Huntsville, AL is a medium sized city (~160,000). Our library's main branch has 530,000 volumes.

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Bill Hallahan » November 14th, 2004, 2:17 pm

I expect you are correct that my figures are low. Thanks for the correction.

I was responding with figures recalled from my youth. My Dad was the director of libraries in two cities. Both cities were smaller than Huntsville. Perhaps he said "...on the order of 100,000 books."

I was responding to the quotation:
magicam wrote:
And one small problem has been glossed over here: how long will it be before the contents of several libraries will be electronically available and text searchable? Were talking probably over 100 hundred million books.

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Bill Mullins » November 14th, 2004, 4:02 pm

Originally posted by Chris Wasshuber:

3) Amazon has scanned in 100,000 books. Google is gearing up to do one million books or more.
Perhaps you mean Project Gutenberg? I wasn't aware that Google was in the book scanning business.

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby CHRIS » November 14th, 2004, 5:11 pm

Originally posted by Bill Mullins:
Perhaps you mean Project Gutenberg? I wasn't aware that Google was in the book scanning business.
Trust me, I have very reliable information that Google is scanning, or starting to scan shortly, millions of books.

Project Gutenberg is typing in books. They have so far typed in close to 20,000 books.

Chris Wasshuber

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Guest » April 18th, 2006, 11:28 pm

Darren,
A PDB is a Palm/Pilot Data Base file. Used by Palm handheld computers.

If you bought one and you don't have a Palm model hand held you bought the wrong product... like buying Macintosh software for your PC.

I'm sure Chris will take care of you if you contact him directly.


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