Caslon Analytics elephant logo title for Publishing guide
home | about | site use | resources | publications | timeline   spacer graphic   Ketupa

overview

past & future

economics

studies

delivery

formats

monographs

dissertations

fiction

e-journals

newspapers

directories

film

music

webcasts

interactive

editing

business

education

government

culture

e-texts

devices

libraries

digitisation

on demand

rights trade

UGC

DIY

CMS

landmarks






related pages icon
related
Guides:

Intellectual
Property


Censorship

Design

Accessibility

Information
Economy







related pages icon
related
Profiles:


Print &
the Book

Blogging

Digital
Paper

section heading icon     e-Texts

This page considers electronic texts: what is read on a personal computer or other device rather than the nature of those devices

It covers -

The following page considers specialist devices (such as the Rocket eBook and the GlassBook) for display of electronic texts.

     overview

Although there has been much hype - typically with announcements of "a publishing revolution" or the imminent demise of print - and recurrent product launches (with the latest for example being the iLiad E-reader and Sony Reader in 2006 and Amazon's Kindle in 2007), e-books have not made a significant impact on the market.

As noted earlier in this guide, media attention has focussed on high download figures for a small range of atypical authors, rather than whether the downloaded texts are actually read and whether anyone (apart from journalists) is making money from them.

For publishing a starting point is the study by Andersen Consulting for the International Publishers Association on The Future of eBook Publishing: publishers should be courageous, develop standards as quickly as possible ... and presumably hope for the best.

Our assessment is that the future lies with e-texts, rather than e-books (ie with standard formats for presenting electronic versions of print rather than particular items of hardware using proprietary software that's tied to particular retailers or publishers). The Myth of the Paperless Office (Cambridge: MIT Press 2001) by Abigail Sellen & Richard Harper includes an incisive critique of claims by e-book manufacturers. There is a more philosophical treatment in Scrolling Forward: Making Sense of Documents in the Digital Age (New York: Arcade 2001) by David Levy.

Academics and nonprofit groups have been publishing electronically for the past decade: e-text as such is not new. However, the proliferation of personal digital assistants (PDAs) such as the Palm have encouraged marketing of electronic readers that look much like a book, including a leather binding on some products. 

Those readers have not gained significant market acceptance and we note that several developers such as Librius, after hyping their products, have abandoned the hardware in favour of creating and marketing e-texts. A perspective is provided by Electronic Books & ePublishing: a Practical Guide for Authors (London: Springer 2001) by Harold Henke.

In 1999 Microsoft's Dick Brass proclaimed that "We are embarking on a revolution that will change the world at least as much as Gutenberg did". The following year saw online publication of Stephen King's Bag of Bones, greeted by one e-publisher as "He's done for e-publishing in one week what it might have taken us years to accomplish."

     bodies and projects

The 'breakthrough' meeting on electronic books was Electronic Book 98, a major conference organised by the US Department of Commerce and the Video Electronic Standards Association. We recommend looking at the papers from the conference and material from the Kent State 'FuturePrint' symposium mentioned below.

The E-Books Organisation is an industry-dominated body with an information clearing house and promotional function. Electric Book is a website with information about electronic books and online newspapers, journals and monographs. Kent State University is hosting ongoing "virtual symposia on the future of print media", with presentations by hardware/software vendors and publishers.

The Xerox Affordances of Paper project explores why we continue to use what one wit described as "dried tree-flakes encased in dead cow", particularly large documentation systems such as those found in hospitals and the armed forces. Interestingly, Amazon.com will sell you everything from petfood and hardware to antiquarian books but is not actively flogging e-books.

The E Ink Corporation, as the name suggests, is investigating 'electronic ink' projects, in particular devices that have the flexibility of a sheet of newspaper. Call us party poopers, but we expect to be wrapping our garbage in copies of the non-digital Financial Review for some time to come. For those seeking more information about 'digital paper' and 'electronic ink' proposals we've provided a separate profile on this site.

From a less visionary perspective Xplor International (these days you're apparently not serious in the digital publishing game unless there's an 'X' in your moniker) provides a venue for information exchange under the umbrella of the Electronic Document Systems Association in competition with the Collaborative Electronic Notebook Systems Association (CENSA).  

The more narrowly-focussed EBX Working Group is an ad hoc body developing a standard - closely aligned with Glassbook - for electronic book exchange.  

     standards 

EBX operates in competition with the Open eBook Authoring Group (OEB), aligned with the Rocket eBook and similar devices in developing an XML- and HTML-based specification for use by publishers and hardware developers. The Group recently released version 1.0 of its .

The Open eBook Forum (), now part of the OEB, is seeking to encourage PDF-based standards.

Of potentially greater impact is Microsoft's announcement of ClearType, proprietary font display technology claimed to significantly increase screen readability, and new Reader software for PCs and handheld devices. 

ClearType has been criticised as too rubbery, providing insufficient protection against unauthorised copying/redistribution - perhaps the major impediment to the growth of the electronic book market. 







     next page  (devices)



this site
the web

Google

 

version of November 2007
© Bruce Arnold
caslon.com.au | caslon analytics