Wednesday, September 22, 2010

E-Books & E-Readers: the Future of Reading?

Today I came across this piece on future directions for e-books and readers and was really excited by it. There are some really neat ideas here linking traditional media with social networks, data visualization, and new types of interaction for users with other devices (smartphones, for example).

While these prototypes are quite interesting, I'm not sure they'd be enough to get me into an e-reader. They've been around now for a few years and I do think that the light-weight device and e-ink are compelling. However, there are a few things that are still dissatisfying with the current offerings:
  • The borrow/lending model is either non-existent or not quite there yet. I want to be able to lend books to my friends, just as I would my real books. I want to be able to do this for any amount of time I choose, and then get the book back. I haven't seen a good end-to-end solution for this yet.
  • I really like the look/feel of paper.
  • I don't usually buy books. This goes to back to point #1, but if I can't borrow any library book I want, I don't really need or want an e-reader.
  • What will be done to ensure the availability of books that are now out of print? There are plenty of excellent books no longer published, and the only way to access them is through libraries, lucky finds at second-hand book shops, or borrowing them from friends. I'm worried that as we move to e-books, our choice will decrease.
Couple these with new findings that reading speed is faster for printed books than to e-books, and one can see that there is still a lot of refinement needed to the consumption models and feature sets currently available. So, at least for the time being, I'll be sticking with tried and true print media.

Have you tried e-books? Do you own an e-reader? What are your experiences with these devices?

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