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December 05, 2007



Good thoughts about it. The practical issue I continue to have in the very inflexibility of the medium itself. Until bookmarking pages can be graphically represented even as we dog-ear or tab pages for future reference; until the medium is as durable as paper that can withstand the rain, sun and dust that we expose books to in a variety of reading situations; until we can write on the screen with as common and ubiquitous an object as a pen; the value of its storage capabilities is useless. It needs to be a medium to promote active reading and engagement with the text and right now it continues to be hopelessly passive. Tablet PC's are simply too fragile to be of any use. Digital paper was a failed experiment as well...

To this end, digital books are just as useless to me since I read everything but the work of fiction (which I do not read that often) passively as the medium dictates you process the material.

Nigel Warburton

Thanks for the comment. Not sure I agree about e-books' promoting passivity: hyperlinks and use of Wikipedia and Google while reading together with note-taking tools are all now possible. Paper can only give us the last of these. I take your point about durability though - you can get away with dropping books on a hard floor...

Carol A

I don't know why current ebook devices are fragile (or are they?). My MP3 player seems almost bulletproof, and would need to be with me as an owner! It also has a screen, albeit rather small, with an extremely scratch resistant facing and a metal back plate - perhaps a slightly larger version of this (it's a Sandisk Sansa) would be a good design?
As for royalties - I think the book industry is going to have to move to a similar model to that used by the music industry. Or perhaps we need a complete redesign of the royalties and copyright laws, a global model rather than a country by country system.

Matt M

I doubt that e-books will replace the printed word any time soon - habits are hard to break and there's a certain aesthetic quality to reading a book. But if they could get the price down and come up with a decent screen (my eyesite is already pretty knackered from staring at computer screens for too long) I'd give serious thought to one. My suitcase is always weighed down with books when I go on holiday and an e-reader would be great for all the out-of-copyright books on the net as well.

Nigel Warburton

You might be interested in the Google Book project. They are making out of copyright books available free. See the description and links here:


You might be interested in http://www.booksinmyphone.com they give away public domain and creative commons books packaged up to be read on regular dumb cell phones (java capable). You can install OverTheAir or via PC. The screen size is small but very functional and enables the ultra portability of adding books to something you carry in your pocket anyway.

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