Reading A Good E-book?

Sony ReaderIt is easy to spot the trends of technology based efficiency and cooler, better products. But in the midst of this race to somewhere ‘better,’ one aspect of our daily lives has not changed much – to read a book, we continue to hold a bound bunch of paper the size of our belly. Considering the practice is over two thousand years old, it remains one of the most enduring customs of our lives. It’s hard to imagine a more convenient and appropriate way to read a book than how we have always done it. Think again. Enter digital books.

It was difficult for me to grasp the concept of visiting E-bookstores and curling up to E-books. The first time I saw a digital book reader was in 1992. Fifteen years have passed and many similar readers have come and gone. No matter how you sliced it, the technology just couldn’t replicate the book reading experience. And while the industry must still overcome that core challenge, recent strides and a new wave of innovation are certainly worth mentioning.

Consider Sony’s Portable Reader System. Reviews were mixed, so I was unsure about the promise of the “ultimate digital reading experience”. But with the reader’s cool E Ink display technology, I think they got the experience quite right. It really looks like paper. The size of the reader is similar to a new hardcover edition. It’s thin and light (unlike traditional tablets). You can read outside and at virtually any angle. I’m determined to read a novel on the reader and I’m actually looking forward to the experience. In addition, there’s the new reader from iRex Technologies that was introduced at The Book Expo in New York City. It has a built-in Wi-Fi, so you can grab online content as your reading comfortably wherever. Who wouldn’t love to instantly hot link to download the latest new release?

On the software side, the emergence of new tools and standards are making it easy to read and manage books online. You can have your own digital library with the new Adobe Digital Editions without having to worry whether or not you will have to build a new bookshelf in the study to hold your new purchases. You can download an early version here. Text is also becoming more dynamic. You can zoom, navigate and change typeface with OPS 2.0 and OCF. I’ll leave additional details to the true tech folks, but I’m sure the experience will beat reading a static PDF. What all this means is the reader may now take control of the digital texture of the reading experience, which will no doubt be attractive to consumers who give this exciting new technology a try.

There may always be a special place in my heart for a classic bound, printed book. But these innovations in digital technology will allow me to grow my book collection in ways much more convenient than is offered in the ‘physical’ world. I noticed during my recent move from New York to LA how great it was not to have to pack up all my CDs because now the music is all on my Ipod. Perhaps before my next move, my bookshelves will disappear into my digital library as I will only need my next generation E-book reader (and a few of my old favorites). As difficult as it may be to imagine a time when traditional books go away, let’s not forget that technology is becoming our nature more and more. So don’t be surprised when you wake up from a nap some day soon to find a computer the size of a book resting comfortably on your pillow, soft and bendable as a paperback.