[AI] Books unlimited

Viraj vkafle at gmail.com
Thu Feb 21 08:40:57 EST 2008

The Hindu : Opinion / Editorials

                  Books  unlimited 

Nobel laureate Toni Morrison thinks it's a huge advance. It helps her carry several books on her travels, choose and download more books, read in the yard
or on the beach, and increase text size for clarity. The object of her fascination, Amazon's Kindle, makes it possible wirelessly to download books, magazines,
and newspapers over a high-speed telecom data network. Whenever, wherever, within the United States (at this stage). The first generation of e-readers
- the Kindle, Sony's Reader Digital Book, iLead, StareBook, Jinke, and the soon-to-be launched Readius - promises to redefine reading and the way books,
newspapers, and other content are delivered. Digital technologies tend to get more hyped than adopted initially but their uptake is bound to rise as prices
fall. Interestingly, when Amazon launched its $399 Kindle e-reader for the U.S., it sold out in five hours. The credit for this extraordinary reader response
should go equally to the display technology such devices use - a black and white e-ink-based electronic paper screen that comes closest to printed paper
in readability - and fast access on the go ("buy a book and it is auto-delivered wirelessly in less than one minute"). Then there is the bonus of being
able to pack 200 books in a very portable 285-gram device; a facility to annotate text; music to heighten the reading experience; a built-in dictionary;
SD card memory expandability; and good battery life. 

The design goal for an e-reader is to enable the book lover to become absorbed in the story and the device to 'disappear.' Portable computers may facilitate
e-book downloads but the e-reader is differentiated by e-ink. It has no backlighting and can therefore be read even under bright light; as a downside,
however, the most popular devices do not yet offer colour and cannot handle video. But books and newspapers can do without either, and a strain-free reading
experience adds to their appeal. That is not to say that these features will not appear in the future; some companies are working to add them and have
demonstrated the capability. If the Kindle has persuaded publishers to launch over 100,000 book titles, 170 newspapers, and over 250 popular blogs on the
new platform, it is due to its ability to reach a wider audience - and new readers - with a different experience. Some may be tempted to see in all this
the impending end of print, but as author John Seely Brown cautioned, that would be erroneous 'endism' produced by blinkered euphoria. Printed books and
newspapers will continue to exist, even as itinerant bibliophiles and people of the 'always-on' generation immerse themselves in e-ink content.


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