Thursday, November 11, 2004

Digital content: E-books

I am always intrigued when a discussion of new technologies arises. We tout tools such as e-books, but many people don't use them. In fact, many people don't even try them.

An e-book could be a book that has been digitized and then made available electronically in a book format, or an e-book could be something that is only published in an electronic format. There are several e-book formats and e-book readers available, with some allowing bookmarking, annotating, and highlighting. Some also allow for the font size to be changed, making it easier for people who don't want to squint at small fonts.

E-books can be read on a PC, laptop, e-book reader, PDA or even a high-tech cell phone. I keep a book on my PDA to read when I'm waiting for a meeting or when I'm traveling. Since I read only occasionally, it does take me a while to get though a book, although sometimes the book is SO good that I find myself curling up with the e-book in order to get done. (The Hacker Crackdown was such a book, available in plain text and e-book formats.)

But why don't people try e-books, especially those in the information industry who should be trying out new information technologies (like librarians)? I can only guess because it takes effort to use an e-book. You must decide on what reader to use, then find a book for that reader. People might be turned off by the cost of an e-book, although you can find free e-books. (I use the free reader software from Peanut Press and always read free e-books. You see a list of e-book titles here.) People take about not being able to do the same things that they do with a hardbound book and not being comfortable curling up with an e-book. However, are people missing an opportunity to carry and read an e-book when it not be as easy to carry a regular book? Whatever the excuse, if people in the information industry don't try e-books then they won't be able to relate to those people who are using the technology. They also won't be able to recommend e-books, when appropriate. And they won't know how to recommend changes to the technology that would make it more desirable for everyone else.

Anf for those involved in a digitization project, if the suggestion is made to digitize content and use it to create e-books, will you know enough about e-books to be able to contribute to the discussion and decision-making process?

Something to think about.

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