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What Will It Take For eBook Adoption? 511

Posted by michael
from the chicken-and-egg-problem dept.
zmcnulty writes "Gizmodo has a new weekly feature that appears to be off to a great start: their first 'Feature Creep' writeup (by Sanford May) is an excellent overview of some of the obstacles standing in the way of adoption of eBooks, and more importantly, a handheld device that supports them. We've probably all heard of the Sony Librie's lukewarm reception, but if you're not familiar with the somewhat stunted eBook market, this is an excellent essay to get you on your way."
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What Will It Take For eBook Adoption?

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  • Easy answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mirko (198274) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:15AM (#9830575) Journal
    Good books that people want to read and which will only be ported to this medium.
    • Re:Easy answer (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Short Circuit (52384)
      I doubt any author would want to risk releasing a book exclusively as an eBook. Unless, of course, hardcover and paperback editions were sure to come out later.
    • Good books that people want to read

      More often than not, that's an oxymoron.
    • Re:Easy answer (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SatanicPuppy (611928)
      It'll never happen.

      There will always be a market for GOOD books in paper form. I think, eventually, that's pretty much all we'll be able to buy in paper form.

      My book collection is about 50% "good" books, that is to say, useful, needed, worthwhile books. The other half is mostly genre fiction and other types of pulp. Note this is not the proportion in which I buy books, but space contraints require pulp purges on a regular basis.

      This is where eBooks would come in handy for me. I'd LOVE to condense my pulp
    • Re:Easy answer (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PEdelman (200362) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @10:06AM (#9831095)

      I would have probably bought an eBook reader by now if there was one reasonably priced which could display the content that I want. Most eBook readers allow you only to buy some pre-selected content in a propriety format, but what I'd really want is to read articles, essays and magazines I find or buy on the internet in a convenient matter and in bed or while travelling. If somebody made an eBook reader which could display my content instead of theirs (and which isn't particulary expensive), I'm all for it.

      • Re:Easy answer (Score:5, Insightful)

        by pla (258480) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @01:10PM (#9833287) Journal
        If somebody made an eBook reader which could display my content instead of theirs (and which isn't particulary expensive), I'm all for it.

        I think the problem here stems from the expectations of the eBook manufacturers...

        They hope to get in on the start of a content distribution system similar to a modern video-game console - ie, total lock-in to their chosen format and "branded" titles. All via a hefty dose of two-way DRM (no unauthorized content, and unauthorized viewing of content on other devices).

        I sincerely believe that, and that alone, has caused the failure thus far of the eBook.

        Regarding the screen - An easy-on-the-eyes display would go a long way toward getting people to "snuggle up in bed" with an eBook. But merely creating a display that looks exactly like paper, with the same easiness on the eyes, will not make or kill eBooks. As an example, everyone I know with a Palm (or similar portable) stores at least a few books on it, reading them when they have to wait somewhere (airport, bathroom, boring meetings, etc). If you've ever used a handheld to read anything longer than notes to yourself, you realize they do not make your eyes happy. Yet people will still put in 10+ hours a week reading on one.

        Book-like formats - Nope, these won't save eBooks either. Referring back to people I know who read books on their Palm, they don't use any fancy text layout (at best, HTML-like). They view plain text.


        Overall, this boils down to basically one point... CONTENT! Exactly as you suggest, I require of any potential eBook that I can go and download the entire Project Guttenberg library, and instantly have access to thousands of classic texts. It should, at a minimum, have the ability to process plaintext and HTML, and PDF would help quite a bit as well (though I realize that might involve nasty licensing issues, and could live without it).

        If the manufacturer wants to release their own content optimized for their reader, hey, cool, I have no problem with that. But if they restrict me to what they release, they can consider me a non-customer.


        Two other, lesser points...

        One, battery life. I can read for 8+ hours on an old Palm. If an eBook reader doesn't have a similar battery life, I would consider that a BIG negative.

        And two, physical media... Ideally, an eBook reader would simply use either ISO9660-formatted CDs (and as a bonus, let me listen to music if I so desire it... No point in letting existing hardware go unused), or have the ability to see USB keychain-style drives. I could burn anything I want to CD and/or copy it to my keychain drive, and dump it over to the eBook. No special cartridges or proprietary cables to hook it up to my PC/vendor kiosks... Just keep it simple and well-known.
    • Re:Easy answer (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Chyeld (713439)
      I would contest that the exact opposite is true.

      It's not 'good books' that are needed but good ol'fashioned pulp books. The one dollar, cheesy plot, mass produced, scantily clad hero and heroine, trash books that helped push romance and sci-fi as genre's until real writers and stories could be established.

      If I have a "good" book, I'm more likely to buy it in paper format, because it's a GOOD book. I'll want to make sure that in 10 years, I can still read it. I'll want the 'collectors' version. It's the di
    • Re:Easy answer (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @10:48AM (#9831529) Homepage
      No that really is not the answer.

      Think about the one place where a person is required to have a large amount of very bulky books with them and they need to carry them from place to place.

      That's right. textbooks. If I could at the beginning of a semester go and download the 12 600+ page texts I need for this semester so I can carry them easily in that small textbok sized reader/ annotator I'd do it in a second.

      Here's the problem. Professors that write textbooks are asshats.

      They are busy screwing the students already by "requireing" the latest edition that has no more real content but has things re-ordered a bit to eliminate the used textbook marketability.

      I know of one as UofM that threatened a grad student with expulsion if he kept circulating a page that cross referenced the new edition's chapter numbers with the older version of the text.
    • by BShive (573771) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @11:21AM (#9831885) Homepage
      Right now I find any kind of eBooks woefully inadequate for reading the way one uses a paper book. Right now, nothing even comes close. If someone suddenly dropped a few thousand in my lap and said go design the best eBook possible it would have:
      • High resolution screen, much like IBM's 'Big Bertha' at 220 dpi.
      • High contrast display
      • A 'sunlight' mode
      • Minimum size of 7x4 inches (paperback size), 2nd model 8.5x11
      • Text viewable horizontal or vertical
      • Scaleable text
      • One-button (or screen tap), fast page flips
      • Easy browsing of titles/chapters
      • Bookmarks
      • Search/Index
  • by erick99 (743982) * <homerun@gmail.com> on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:16AM (#9830581)
    I have tried to read ebooks on my desktop, notebook, and Palm Vx. I have a hard time quantifying why I still strongly prefer a printed book. Perhaps part of it is that I find it far easier to flip back in a book to a passage that I want to reread. I also like having a small pile of books on my bed from which I can grab when I go to bed. It is one thing to look at a pile of books and grab one than to go through a directory of titles. However, all of these objections can be reasonably rebutted so perhaps I just have a preference for printed books because I am 46 and I am just too used to paper?

    The common wisdom is that eBooks will have a hard time for two reasons: bad reader devices and book junkies opting only for the hard stuff, the dead-tree form factor.

    There will come a day when there is a generation of folks who use ebooks and consider printed books cumbersome and an anachronism. I'm not part of that generation but I see it coming.

    I do remember doing some research back in the early 80's with kids that had reading disabilities and we found that there was a difference in comprehension when reading from a monitor (more or less direct light) versus a printed page (reflected light). Direct light seemed to yield better comprehension. We controlled for a lot, but not all, contravening variables so I don't know if this is cogent to the ebook debate.

    Cheers!

    Erick

    • Perhaps part of it is that I find it far easier to flip back in a book to a passage that I want to reread. I also like having a small pile of books on my bed from which I can grab when I go to bed.
      "Like most men that have been single for a while I have turned half my bed in to a desk." -Harry Hill
    • by The Ultimate Fartkno (756456) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:46AM (#9830911)

      > There will come a day when there is a generation of folks who use ebooks and consider printed books cumbersome and an anachronism.

      Dear God, I hope not. I think the loss of the book would be a giant leap backwards for civilization. Call me nostalgic, call me romantic, call me old-fashioned, but I think there's something soul-satisfyingly and fundamentally *right* about books. E-books and text files are fine and wonderful for random mail, documentation, technical info, you know - just data. But there's something about writing (and I mean "writing" as opposed to "just typing," to paraphrase Truman Capote) that I think demands the container of a book. It's a statement, I think. It's the physical manifestation of the words inside that somehow says "this is important stuff! Worth killing a tree for, even!" I think that making a book is what sets literature apart from just being data, the same way that a handwritten letter will always mean more than an email.

      E-books mean the loss of the inside cover, which means never opening an old book and seeing a note from that girl you dated in college. And that, my friends, is a vast loss for mankind.

      • Call me nostalgic, call me romantic, call me old-fashioned

        You're an old-fashioned, nostalgic romantic. Does that make you feel better?

        I, and my several thousand books, tend to agree. Though I *do* read ebooks on my Palm, my laptop, my PC, from time to time. I get mine from Baen Books, by the way. Webscriptions is a wonderful thing, and the Free Library as well.

        but I think there's something soul-satisfyingly and fundamentally *right* about books

        "It's the smell." -- Rupert Giles.

        Yes, there IS someth

      • I've had lots of authors tell me the same kind of thing about writing.

        "There's something so inhuman about writing on a keyboard, writing with paper and ink is so satisfying..."

        I'll switch to e-books the day when :
        - there are books available (obviously; and that will take *years*)
        - they have a solid state flexible screen with a "mission to mars" kind of form factor or something equally useable
        - you can add and remove your own data and easily hook the device to the rest of your computing stuff
        - the battery
      • by kieran (20691) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @11:22AM (#9831895)
        You're old-fashioned.

        What you say about books/e-books could easily be said about letters/e-mails. Now obviously letters still have their place, but that place is shrinking - and rightly so.

        The e-book generation will never miss that romantic note on the inside cover, but they will think it sad that their grandparents now have to rely on a couple of dusty letters and photos of the girl they dated in college, whereas they have video clips to do their sighing over.
    • Man, can you imagine the benefits at university alone? A twenty credit hard science book load that can be put in the back pocket? I STILL have mangled vertebrae from that crap.
    • by caswelmo (739497) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @10:13AM (#9831150)
      My problem with eBooks is that it is blaringly obvious when you are using them. When I grab a book & start to read, I want to get lost in the story. When I grab my PDA & start to read, I tend to get lost in the tech. I find myself thinking about scrolling correctly, wishing there was more screen, screen brightness settings, etc. In short, I find myself thinking about everything except the story.

      A traditional book is the simplest technology available to get the job done. It's cheap & "platform" independent. There's nothing to think about. You just pick it up and read.

      The only way I see eBooks taking off, at least for myself, is if my life somehow makes it nice to always have a book available (or multiple books). Say I take a lot of short trips in taxis or I have lots of 5-minutes breaks before meetings. Then it would be great to have a book on my PDA to fill that time.

      Given that situation, I would see eBooks more as an addition than a replacement. For example, right now I'm reading two books. One at home & one at work. If I could add another "anywhere" book on my PDA that might not be a bad idea. But I still wouldn't want to replace the other two because a paper book just works so darn well.
  • An answer (Score:5, Informative)

    by JanneM (7445) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:18AM (#9830597) Homepage
    Cory Doctorow (who reasonably knows a thing or two about electronic publishing) has a pretty good piece disassembling the Gizmodo article here: Ebook column that gets it all wrong [boingboing.net]

    • Why the hell isn't this thread about THAT article?
    • by katsushiro (513378) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @10:15AM (#9831174) Homepage
      I was gonna post up Cory's response as soon as I saw this on Slashdot, but glad somebody beat me to it. I love Gizmodo, but when it comes to knowing about how eBooks will or won't work, I'll take the word of the guy who's been very succesful releasing at least 3 of his books in eBook form, rather than the random technology blogger. I've met Cory, and the man knows what he's about, so when he talks about this stuff, I'm much more willing to give his words greater weight in this debate. It should be required reading for anyone who reads the original article.
  • by Otter (3800) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:18AM (#9830603) Journal
    It will take a new generation accustomed to living its life through handheld electronics and without the level of comfort with heavy paper books that we have.

    I'm going to go to my grave preferring paper, regardless of what technology comes along between now and then.

    • by Em Emalb (452530) * <ememalb@@@gmail...com> on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:23AM (#9830671) Homepage Journal
      there is something to be said for "the old way" of doing things.

      A book is an awesome medium for reading.

      And just like that useless article on the segway, you can build the tech, but if it sucks people won't use it.

      So that's the answer: build technology that doesn't suck.

      Speaking of which, this color scheme is giving me a headache. Seriously. Who's the butthead that thought this scheme up? Can we vote on this?
    • by XNormal (8617)
      It will take a new generation accustomed to living its life through handheld electronics and without the level of comfort with heavy paper books that we have.

      Our old generation got used to cellular phones pretty quickly, didn't they?

      When the price, size, user interface, availability and other factors are right you'd be surprised as how quickly we "old folks" get used to things that seemed like science fiction just a few years earlier.

      The only problem with e-books is that nobody got it right, yet.
  • by wheany (460585) <wheany+sd@iki.fi> on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:18AM (#9830604) Homepage Journal
    I will buy an ebook when I can read it as comfortably as a normal book. High contrast, high resolution, readable in daylight.
    • Yes, exactly. Add to that cheap (as a paper book) and mass-marketed. Essentially, as easy to look at an buy at current venues. This means that unless a person has the same ownership feeling to an e-book as a book, they'll have a harder time embracing the concept. It has to feel semi-permanent, not ephemeral (memory).

      I guess that means someday a Barnes & Noble e-shop may be attached to a Starbuck's.
      • The mass marketing is key - right now, it seems like you can find a few e-books at one site, a few at another, etc. etc. If a download was available as a less expensive option on Amazon, say, I'd be very open to buying ebooks. It just seems like nobody is willing to take the plunge like Apple did on the music side...
    • by mblase (200735) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:34AM (#9830795)
      I will buy an ebook when I can read it as comfortably as a normal book. High contrast, high resolution, readable in daylight.

      Or at night. In addition, I'd like it to be lightweight, durable enough to stick in a backpack all day long, and be hinged with two screens on the inside so I can read it like it were a regular book.

      The universal convenience of the long-established book user interface [everything2.com] cannot be underestimated. In some strange, indescribable way, it's more natural for me to read a paper book than it is to read text on a flat screen, clicking a "next" button repeatedly.

      Maybe it's just that a book is easier and more comfortable to hold in two hands than my Palm is to hold in one. But my point is: eBook readers aren't going to take off if they're confined to the tablet format. Give me a folding device with screens on both halves so I can hold it in my hand and "flip pages" instead of just scrolling text. Do this, make it cheap enough for consumers, and I'll be one of the first to buy it.
  • Readers and Books (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mantrid (250133) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:19AM (#9830611) Journal
    If there was a truly comfortable, intuitive, and usable reader with a wide selection of books then I might be interested. You need to be able to read under any light, and it can't be any more cumbersome than your standard novel. The graphics would have to be print quality.

    And obviously the price would have to be reasonable, probably less than $100.
  • E-books fail for me because I would rather read somewhere else than infront of my computer screen.

    I spend all day at work in front of this screen, why would I want to read a book on it when I can sit in a nice relaxing place without fans humming away or a CRT brightly lit in my face..
  • Simple (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Threni (635302) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:19AM (#9830615)
    It needs to be as cheap, or cheaper than a book. Hardy, so it can survive getting wet/dropped. And readable, like a book, not a flickery CRT or expensive LCD. Let's face facts, it's not going to happen for a while. It's a materials problem, not a software or standard hardware one.
  • by Omegaunit (672138) <`john.courie' `at' `comcast.net'> on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:19AM (#9830621) Homepage
    And I agree with his interpretation from his article: " Ebook column that gets it all wrong Gizmodo has a new column called "Feature Creep," and they kicked it off with an editorial about the future of ebooks that is striking for its complete disregard for the actual marketplace experiences with ebooks. It's full of hoary chestnuts about ebooks that have been emptily mouthed for 10 years ("Call it digital paper or electronic ink, it's the future of eBooks.") and aside from the occassional iPod comparison, there's hardly a paragraph in there that couldn't have been written in 1997 -- nor one that takes note of any of the events since then (well, to be fair, there's also a lot of puffery stuck in there to promote an ebook company called Vertical that probably didn't exist in 1997, but that's beside the point). Take DRM. The author asserts on the one hand that DRM can work, and that it won't be so invasive that it turns readers (whom the author insists on calling "consumers," an odious buzzword that invokes Gibson's description in Idoru, "...a vicious, lazy, profoundly ignorant, perpetually hungry organism craving the warm god-flesh of the anointed") off. This despite the actual marketplace fact that all DRM becomes invasive (ask any copyright policy maker in a country that allows parallel importing how he feels about the "lightweight" region-coding DRM on DVDs that reverses the laws he was elected to enact). This despite the actual marketplace fact that DRM is generally broken within a few days of engagement with the public, often by teenagers, grad students, or people with ready acccess to sophisticated DRM-cracking tools like Google and the sinister Shift key (for more on DRM, see my DRM talk)" http://www.boingboing.net/2004/07/29/ebook_column_ that_ge.html
  • by scaltagi_the_pirate (777620) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:20AM (#9830629) Homepage
    Although a good idea, I dont read e-books because I really cant stand reading large documents on a screen. It is much more comfortable for me to read on a page. Also, who thinks that e-books are such a good idea? We have paper documents going back 3000+ years (papyrus to be exact). But already disks from 10 years ago are obsolete. Electronic storage media is going obsolete so fast that I dont think I trust it to hold a record of humanity.
  • by kingstalemuffins (786246) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:21AM (#9830635)
    Personally, I prefer having a physical book in my hand to page through rather then trying to read something on a screen. An actual book just feels more "solid" and "real" to me. But, there are some advantages to ebooks, especially when used as a reference document. The good old ctrl-F makes finding specific information much faster then looking in an index or table of contents. Also, If you forget your ebook somewhere, it is just a matter of connecting to your home computer to download it wherever you may happen to be.
  • by cshirky (9913) * on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:21AM (#9830642) Homepage
    Cory Doctorow has a fantastic commentary on how wrong this article is [boingboing.net], concentrating especially on the authors credulous assertion that DRM is an absolute requirement for the ebooks market. Says Cory: "But the author goes further and asserts that without DRM, there will be no market for entertainment product ever again ("If publishers stop wanting DRM, it's the end of popular creative arts. Not as we know them, but period.") despite the fact that the software industry got bigger when it abandoned DRM, and despite the fact that no new medium has ever succeeded by appealing to the virtues of the medium before it [...]" Well worth a read.
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:22AM (#9830648) Homepage
    Openness.

    I should be able to buy an E-book and used it on ANY reader, my palm, my Zaurus, My Wince device, I should be able to also read it on the PC,MAC,etc...

    If e-books are not in a standard and universal format then they are absolutely doomed.

    The best ebook reader I had was a Rocketbook. only because I had a program to create my own Ebooks for it from guttenberg texts or other ebooks I cracked so I could convert them.

    Although the device has more technical books in it than anything else.

  • by Kevinv (21462) <kevin@NoSPam.vanhaaren.net> on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:22AM (#9830657) Homepage
    I'm reading Andre Norton's Time Traders from the Baen Free Library [baen.com] using Mobireader on a Palm Zaire 72.

    I'm not thrilled with it, preferring a real book, but it is readable and the ability (if I actually bought a dictionary for my palm) to look up words right there and make annotations is pretty cool.

    Tech books seem more likely, but the convience of having a number of books at no additional weight is really nice, especially when I travel.

    The biggest thing killing ebooks right now? High cost and DRM. I don't want to pay more (or even the same) for an e-book and I want to be able to read it on several devices.

    Audible.com has better pricing (and they have to pay someone to read the thing) so I'm not sure why e-books don't.
  • Interesting. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hot_Karls_bad_cavern (759797) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:23AM (#9830664) Journal
    Well, nothing can match the tactile feel of pages in your hand. It's just something that i will always like.

    Now, for reading docs on a computer screen (ebooks included), i wouldn't have thought i'd ever like it much....until i got dual displays. One for holding whatever i was reading and one for doing whatever i was doing. It's made my life much easier. i still don't really enjoy reading a book on screen though. Just something about it i don't like.

    Maybe it's just me, but when i get a really, really, really tough bug, i'll print out the code and go for a walk, reading the code with pen in hand. Dunno why that helps sometimes, but it sure has solved some very sticky stuff for me in the past. i might be just odd though ;)
  • Easy (Score:3, Funny)

    by jACL (75401) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:24AM (#9830676)
    Just some tweaks to the interface. Every 500 wor words should be displayed on an individual sheet of e-paper (double-sided) with the PGDN and PGUP functions controlled by turning the page. Oh, and it should also be portable, and rely on solar energy for illumination.
  • by CFD339 (795926) <andrewp.thenorth@com> on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:24AM (#9830677) Homepage Journal
    The media is wrong for books.

    What I do see happening with extreme speed is on demand paperback publishing.

    The big publishing companies are presently not in the business of book creation. They are in the business of manufacture and distribution of wood products. Instead of varnish, they cover theirs in ink.

    It makes MUCH more sense store the books electronic at a site, and use a credit card (or cell phone) operated printer that can produce a good quality bound paperback in a matter of ten minutes or so.

    "Bookstore" will be the place you go to get the book. They'll be able to have one or two on the shelves of popular books for browsing and tens of thousands of browseable book jackets as well. You'll also be able to go online and decide what book you want and have it "sent" to that printer or possibly even bring your own home-made or open source book on flash or thumb drive or something and have it printed.

    Wired: Kinkos
    Tired: Borders
    Expired: Using Wired Magazine to sound hip.

    --AP
    • I agree with you about on demand speed paperback publication - I recently ordered a rather obscure US published book on Amazon.co.uk, and was surprised to discover the front cover claimed it was printed in the US, and yet the inside leaf claimed to be printed in the UK.

      That's the way on demand paperbacks should work - I shouldn't even know it's been printed on-demand. Certainly, in this particular book I ordered the quality was what I'd expect from a standard print run paperback.

      That said, I do know of a
  • by musikit (716987)
    easy as soon as the publisher of the book can only authorize 1 person to view the book and only on 1 device then e-books will take off.

    think broadcast flag for reading.
    • Because the ability to lend and swap paper books and sell used copies has completely crippled the publishing industry, of course.
      I agree that piracy is a problem, but ebooks will never succeed if the publishers limit the user's freedoms too much.
      • Re:a readcast flag (Score:3, Insightful)

        by musikit (716987)
        actually more then anything the internet has ruined the publishing market.

        the way i see it there are 3 types of books
        1. story (Fiction and non-fiction)
        2. self-improvement (better sex through yoga, and how to make your garden greener, C++ programming)
        3. reference books (history, dictionary, encyclopedia books)

        how the web has ruined them
        1. read reviews and small portions of the books (to see if you want to buy it)
        2. forums. every hobby and skill has a forum for you to find out information on
        3. web dictionar
  • eBook UI (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    eBook UI is a major problem. Part of the pleasure of reading a book comes from the tactile quality of handling the pages; there's no equivalent for that of reading on the screen. Books are a convenient medium, they don't need a power source, you can curl up with a good book in bed (OK if you're a serious geek you can probably curl up with your laptop in bed also, but you get my point). You can take them on holiday and not be too bothered if they get lost/damaged. Bring back printed software documentatio
    • Re:eBook UI (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hcdejong (561314)
      YMMV. Having to handle pages (e.g. keeping the book from closing while you're reading it, especialy when you're holding the book more or less upright and/or you're outside) annoys me, some books are just plain unwieldy (the LotR three-parts-in-one-volume, 1200 page, 2 kg behemoth comes to mind), books deteriorate (I've got loads of paperbacks that are on the verge of falling apart), and books take up lots of space (making taking them on holiday a drag).
  • What I'd need (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JanneM (7445) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:26AM (#9830698) Homepage
    * A reader that is light, inexpensive, with excellent graphics, that can easily be read in the sun.

    * The reader must allow me to upload any text, not just from its own selection. This includes raw text files, html files and pdf. If I can't use it for papers, references and public domain/copyright expired works, it's not much good for me.

    * The books need to be _mine_, in the same way that dead-tree versions are today. I can keep the copy for as long as I want, I can make backups to my hearts content, and I can sell it on, or give it away if or when I tire of it. No tying it to a particular reader in other words. I would not appreciate having to rebuy my library, just because my reader up and died.

    * Neither books nor reader is to require any kind of interaction with the manufacturer or seller in any way, once I purchased it. I on't want to feel tied down, and I don't want to feel like I'm just borrowing the thing, not owning it.

    I'm waiting...
    • Re:What I'd need (Score:2, Insightful)

      by goldspider (445116)
      "I can sell it on, or give it away if or when I tire of it."

      And how do you sell or give away an eBook? What physical property is transfered?

      The same argument asserting that one can't "steal" music renders other such transactions impossible as well.

    • Re:What I'd need (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Al Dimond (792444)
      I think that's what most people would need; unfortunately, that doesn't seem like the direction that computing is going.

      Of course, it seems pretty obvious; the reader is going to want the full promise of the e-book medium, the true ownership that you get from a book and the easy copying and device interoperability that you get from a computer. However, the publishers want to take the most restrictive feature of a book, the difficulty of making quality full-text copies, and combine it with this "the softwa
    • The books need to be _mine_, in the same way that dead-tree versions are today. I can keep the copy for as long as I want, I can make backups to my hearts content, and I can sell it on, or give it away if or when I tire of it. No tying it to a particular reader in other words.

      This is a pipe dream. Even the iTunes Music Store doesn't let you keep or resell music you buy with impunity unless you transfer it to a physical medium.

      Book publishers have a right to expect the same that the music publishers do.
      • Re:What I'd need (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Overzeetop (214511)
        Why should I be required to spend $x on backup media, when I've already bought the non-transferrable rights to the book? I should be allowed to re-get it whenever and whereever I want. Otherwise, I want first sale rights. You can't have it both ways and still get my business. I own the rights or I own the physical copy - you cut the cake, I choose the slice.

    • Re:What I'd need (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Planesdragon (210349)
      * A reader that is light, inexpensive, with excellent graphics, that can easily be read in the sun.

      * The reader must allow me to upload any text, not just from its own selection. This includes raw text files, html files and pdf. If I can't use it for papers, references and public domain/copyright expired works, it's not much good for me.


      You want a palm. A palm with a better daylight screen. (The Zire 71 has some issues in bright light, but I suspect that's due to the screen cover I have on it.)

      * The
  • by jandrese (485) * <kensama@vt.edu> on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:27AM (#9830705) Homepage Journal
    Check that: If publishers stop wanting DRM, it's the end of popular creative arts. Not as we know them, but period. If you want to run a capitalist economy - many societies are hell-bent on it - and you want quality in your art and entertainment, your artists must be paid.
    So without DRM the entire entertainment industry just up and quits right? I mean it's obviously reasonable to expect your books to delete themselves after 2 weeks (who here hasn't taken more than 2 weeks to read a book?). The author of this article is smoking a bit too much of what the industry is selling. Even the concept of Copyright is a recent invention, and there were certainly entertainers before Copyright came around. Here's a newsflash: people will still buy your stuff even if you don't have DRM on it. More people will pirate it, but most of those people will pirate it anyway if it is popular enough. This is kind of like saying that a few shoplifters are going to destroy civilization as we know it.

    This is a little tainted because the inital DRM efforts, in addition to being almost completely useless, were also extrememly draconian. It's no wonder people weren't buying the readers if the industry is treating them with that much hostility.

    One more thing I'd like to point out. I don't know how well it's doing in the grand scheme of things, but the Baen Webscription Service [webscription.net] doesn't seem to have killed their paperback production, even though their books are completely without DRM.
    • Precisely. I'll consider e-books once they come with the same DRM paper books do.
    • This is kind of like saying that a few shoplifters are going to destroy civilization as we know it.

      Bad comparision. The analogy would be that, if shops had, all of a sudden, nothing to prevent people from walking away with (copies of) their goods, civilization as we know it would not be destroyed, but quite hefty shaken at th very least.

      I do agree with your point that creative arts can live perfectly withou DRM. It's the arts-suffocating business around the arts that would die. Which would be a tremen
  • - Palm-sized handhelds are too small for convenient reading of large amounts of text.

    - Larger LCD screens (say, 6 in. by 8 in, about the size of a paperback book cover) are still too expensive to use in a device intended solely for reading books, magazines and newspapers.

    - Most people will not pay for a device that costs more than US$100 if all they can do with it is read.

    - Making such a device multi-purpose, as a Palm or PocketPC handheld is, would either raise the price too high, make it too heavy to b
  • but I think it's just a flawed concept. I love reading, I like gadgets and gizmos, but I'm not remotely interested in ebooks.
  • by Andy_R (114137) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:29AM (#9830735) Homepage Journal
    Rampant piracy.
  • School texts (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:30AM (#9830742)
    I've always thought that if they could get school textbooks realeased on these things at reasonable prices ($20 instead of $90), there would be an instant market that would nearly guarantee success. It amazes me this hasn't been done yet. It's possibly the ideal market for these devices.
  • To catch on, e-books will need to be neutral as to the medium they are read on, like MP3's. They should be readable on a PC, Mac, Laptop, PDA, Phone, e-book reader, or whatever you have handy. Right now the "official" e-book schemes tie text to hardware in a way that ensures the market stays fragmented. But if you look at the amount of free [memoware.com] or paid [palmdigitalmedia.com] books available for the PDA / PC, it becomes clear that e-books aren't a failure, e-book hardware is.
  • One nice thing about paper books is that they are integrated hardware and software. I can grab one and read. I never have to hunt around for a reader.

    I can give a visitor a book and they can read it without having to remember whether they brought their reader with them, and without worry about DRM or compatability (apple e-books vs M$ e-books vs sony e-books anyone?).

    I can take a book with me and drop it in a puddle and not worry to much because it will probably dry out and still work, and if not it's n

  • I tried reading an eBook on my PDA. Hated it.

    The simple reason was that there simply isn't enough screen real-estate and so I spent the entire time continually scrolling downwards which subtly interrupted the flow of the book.

    When I read a book, I want to sink into the story. However continually flipping the page every 50 words means that you can never get that much into the book before you're jolted out of it because you have to hit the "page down" button.

    I know there are readers which auto-scroll bu

  • by AndyHunt (168956) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:33AM (#9830780) Homepage
    The eBook industry may be stunted for some, but we're doing just fine selling PDF versions of our Pragmatic Bookshelf titles.

    *Many* of our customers choose to buy what we call a "combo pack", that gives them both the dead-tree version and a searchable, non-DRM restricted PDF file. While I think the dead-tree form has the best ergonomics, the PDF is really handy for reading on airplanes, etc.

    Paper is better in some ways and eBooks are better in others. Use the right tool for the job!

    -- /\ndy
  • If you haven't read the Thursday Next [thursdaynext.com] books - you're missing a treat. Not just because the author is a genius (Think the love child of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett) but because the book can be UPGRADED [jasperfforde.com] and has SPECIAL FEATURES [jasperfforde.com]!
    How cool is that!

    I read loads of content on my (black and white) RIM Blackberry. It's fine for casual reading - but the screen needs to be a bit bigger.

    Ebooks need to have all the convenience of "real" books - but address all their failings. Like VHS to DVD.

    Real Book - fixe
  • by Jaywalk (94910) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:34AM (#9830796) Homepage
    I've been reading ebooks on my old Handspring Visor for years. I have two readers -- one for Palm Digital Media [palmdigitalmedia.com] and one for Baen [baen.com] (including free scifi [baen.com]!) -- and don't see the problem. I've got a couple dozen books on my PDA now, including the complete Tarzan series and three or four scifi books I haven't read. Since I'm almost always carrying my PDA I can read any time I want and I don't have to wake my wife when I read in bed; I just turn on the backlighting. If I need room on my PDA I can just erase some books since I keep backups of the digital versions. I've also moved from one PDA to another and took my library with me.

    Maybe I'm just a gadget freak but, frankly, I've never understood the problem. I read paper books and a few magazines as well, but don't much care how the words get in front of my eyeballs.

  • Bye bye publishers? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tod_miller (792541) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:34AM (#9830798) Journal
    Personally, I own two PDA's, including the new Dell Axim X30 high.

    I was shocked at the lack of simple software for e-Books. I tried loading a html book into it. IE slows down more than a sunday driver at a crossing.

    It was painful to use. A pda is not much smaller than a flimsy paperback. I am talking about travel reading, making the most of those flights, taxis, trains.

    We can get content from the web - that is fine. We can read enough news - but some good books wouldn't go amiss.

    I downloaded copies of Terry Pratchets Discworld, all of them. I guess this is legitimate since I have all of them in hard/paperback at home.

    Some are TXT, they read best. Some are .html, which sucks for some reason. (I can play quake 2, but not read a html page > 500kb?)

    I think the real problem is, book reader costs. The cost of that little LCD. Lets get the market adoption of those to a critical mass. People who have them now might not appreciate reading a book via it, and see it as a reminder / toy.

    Common format - I installed Acrobat reader on my PDA, blam, half the screen lines faded out wierd, froze, adn I had to soft reset. Thanks Adobe. *cough*wankers*cough*

    Sorry that was for them handling their PDF encryption the way they did.

    So, I would happily pay money for a book. I am writing my own eBook reader for simple txt and html files. I want 'next page' that cleanly replaces the page. I want to move my eyes to the top, like a book, not fix them at one point (scrolling) and jitter as I 'page down'

    I think moving your eyes as you read is less stressful.

    Also, a simple 'dog ear' function that remembers where you were.

    Oh, and when I read a book, and it makes a reference to a clue before, a quick 'find last reference' of a word might be nice.

    I think footnotes should be placed inside and then replaced with a *, which you can tap to view. (since they are no longer footnotes, we can call them annotations?)

    Of course, when we effectively zero the costs of publishing, what are publishers good for? Of course, they can tie thier writers into thier e-Books if they publish the hardcopies also.

    They could get a small fee for supporting thier site and download bandwidth. But as I see it, 95% at least of the price I pay should go to the Author.

    Then we can see eBooks at very low prices. And the only ones who will loose out are the publishers. Who cares about them?

    Now we need some way of moving music into a computer so we can listen to it on the move... that woudl rule, then we could... no it sounds like a silly idea. You cannot get rid of music publishers.

  • Just my humble opinion and I have admittedly not read the peice yet, but...

    Cost: The reader has to have a reasonable price, it should not cost as much as a PDA, or in fact even a quarter as much as a PDA just to read text for a stright reader. The books themselves should be the cost of a paperback or lower.

    Presentation: The testt should be clear, readable, and comfortable to the eye to read. I have seen a few readers, especially when using a PDA where this is not true. Unfortunately its a trade off, i
  • Using "dead-tree" is getting old.
  • Why emulate a book? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by doktorstop (725614)
    Indeed a nice, informative article. Just a handful of comments, if I may:
    * the way PDAs are evolving, they are the most likely platform for ebooks evolution. Sure enough, no one wants to carry a full-scale laptop just to read in the underground. But what the author suggests, like an IPOD-like device for books is an overdoze as well. Why would I want to carry my PDA, an IPOD, AND a special device to read text, when there is a device that can allow me to do all of that?
    * the biggest mistake made so far by n
  • by carlmenezes (204187) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:37AM (#9830827) Homepage
    1) VERY SMOOTH scrolling with no blurs, no matter how complicated the diagrams.
    2) The ability to control the content with just your hands - no keyboard, mouse or touchpad - you should be able to hold it like a book and read it - maybe a tap on the lower right corner to advance to the next page and on the lower left corner to go to the previous page.
    3) Eliminate the need to sit facing a vertical screen.
    4) Minimize the dialogs. A book doesn't ask you if you want to save the file.
    5) Make the text search work through voice recognition.
    6) Hardly any boot-up time.
    • Aren't most of those present in most eBook readers? Certainly points 2-6 are covered by a Palm+Plucker combo.
      The only problem is the screen - resolution and size. I've still read a load of pluckerbooks on my Tungsten E, though, and am perfectly happy with it.
  • ...include the Ebook in the purchase of the deadtree version. Don't compete co-exist...in time people might start buying the Ebook instead of the dual format if the ebooks price is attractive.
  • by LeiraHoward (529716) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:39AM (#9830840) Homepage
    I like RealBooks (you know the kind with PAPER, etc...) because...

    *Major Reason: Looking at a monitor screen (any screen, LCD, CRT, whatever) for too long tends to make my eyes red and sore. My eyes dry out easily, and I find that I blink much less when looking at a computer screen, so that is going to always be a problem for me.

    * I read VERY fast. (Approx 1,500 WPM). With a book, I can finish a page, switch to the next, turn the page, repeat, while ebooks generally need to be scrolled downwards, (or pageDown) which results in a slight delay while I find my place again.

    *Spacial recognition: Partly due to the fast reading, I don't read word-at-a-time, I read paragraphs at a time, and the screens on handheld readers don't show ENOUGH text- I generally finish the entire window in less time than it takes to tell it.

    *it's so much easier to just flip to where I was- I tend to remember that the bit I wanted to reread was "about halfway through, on the left hand side..." while ebooks make it hard to do the same... "my slider bar was about 2/3 down" can change depending on the size of the window you're reading it in...

    All very personal reasons. I have a few ebooks on my PC, but unless I cannot find the same book in tangible form, I won't sit down and read them.
  • Let's see, Hardback release costs $17.95. eBook costs $17.95.

    Paper back releases costs $7.50 - $8.99, eBook costs $7.50 to $8.99

    For my money, i'd like something I can hold thanks. Plus you can't read an eBook until the freaking plane takes off and is in the air or 20 - 30 min before landing.
  • Let 'em stay on paper. A book printed on dead trees can be re-sold, it can be put on a shelf and read again later, it can be traded in a book club... the possibilities are endless.

    Move books to digital and you'll have the "Intellectual Property" police hounding everyone. They'll want you to pay to read a book once, and you'll forfeit all other rights. Who wants DRM infecting literature?
  • eBooks won't be practical until they appropriately exploit their use of the new technology. Simply as a cheaper means to publish material isn't enough.

    First there is the issue of practicality of the readers. If you don't have impressive battery life, or the reader is more bulky than a real book, or the display isn't as clear, there's no point.

    Then there is the value of the new medium to the consumer. The value to the publisher is obvious, but consumers don't care about that, especially since the greedy
  • not ebooks per say but you get the point. I do prefer normal books though.

    I'd have to say that the reason why I prefer reading normal paper books is that I can see better with them. They don't require recharging, they can be lost in the train/bus/metro without me worried about losing all my personal info or expensive device(Palm).

    Now if the screens of portable devices approached the readability that a normal printed book had I'd be reading way more on them. But as it stands now I can't read an ebook

  • Publishers will resist, but eventually ebooks will take over.

    Things like encyclopedias [slashdot.org] are already doomed. There is simply no way for paper reference material to keep up. The advantages of having digital medium in terms of convience, availablility (never have a book go out of print), and cost make ebooks an inevitability. It is just a question of critical mass for consumer acceptance.

    The problem is that ebooks will eventually drive publishers out of business. At first, publishers will have to wor
  • The global average temperature will have to rise to 451 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • There is only one thing that is holding back ebook from being adopted, and that is the fact that they aren't being introduced as an incentive. An ebook is an afterthought for most people, an unacceptable alternative to a real book.

    If publishers started to give out a CD that had their book on it (the publishing proofs would be best) along a purchased book (along with a nominal fee of a couple dollars tacked on to the price of the book or even free) people would equate an ebook with a purchase and with a re
  • It's been a serious issue that everytime I move I seem to be moving STACKS of magazines for no particular reason! The last time I moved I came across magazines that got moved from the PRIOR MOVE!

    It would be nice if all those National Geo's would vaporize after a set period. My back would certainly feel much better!

  • Why should I pay the same price for a book that has inferior readability, will self-destruct, and doesn't have distribution/printing costs, which I know full well to be 50% of the cost of regular book?

    I have great hope for technical eBooks that I can access from a PDA--I have more than a few 750 page technical manuals that I sure wish I could search for keywords + carry 3 at a time to the crapper. But since there is no cost of printing and no cost of shipping, why in the hell are they as expensive?
  • I probably won't switch to Ebooks until a waterproof reader is developed. I like to read in the bathtub and I frequently fall asleep while doing so (which is why I only buy paperbacks, since a $6.99 loss is easier to take than a $24.99 loss).

    Plus, I like to read while my toddler son plays in the bathtub or in the sprinklers in the backyard. A few drops of water or a wet hand on a paperback book don't send me into a panic, but a wet hand slapping down on my reader screen would probably flip me out.
  • I know that there're definitely flaws inherent in the Palm OS, and the thought of spending $299-399 to read eBooks "decently" may be a bit overboard, but for anyone that's shopping for a PalmOS device anyhow, and wants to consider eBooks, definitely check out a Zodiac. In addition to being a competent gaming machine (at least in hardware, software is desperately needed) it makes a damn good Palm device. The 8M ATI video chip in it does anti-aliasing quite well and makes text quite readable when you use a
  • While it would be really nice to have an e-book reader with a really good display, great battery life, and the rest, I couldn't really see spending money on one unless it had a couple of critical features (one technical, one partly technical and partly social).

    The first one is the ability to load any content that I already have in electronic form. Most particularly, I'd use this for reading Gutenberg public domain e-texts, and for storing and reading webpages offline (e.g., the Python Library Referenc [pydoc.org]

  • by jht (5006) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @10:19AM (#9831222) Homepage Journal
    - When the display resolution is as good as paper.

    - When the contrast of a display in all lighted conditions is as good as paper (current displays are better in total darkness).

    - When battery life is not an issue at all - 24 or more hours on a charge, and less than 30 minutes to recharge.

    - When you don't have to worry about breaking an eBook by dropping it or sitting on it.

    - When replacement cost isn't an issue for your eBook reader.

    - When using an eBook is as easy as grabbing a dead tree book off the bookshelf.

    - When an eBook can be folded up or rolled up and stuffed in a pocket - like a paperback or magazine.

    - When the pricing of eBook content reflects the significantly lower production and distribution costs involved.

    And to sum it up with a simple, one-sentence rule:

    eBooks will dominate the market as soon as a typical user doesn't hesitate to swat a fly with the eBook instead of the paper version.

    That will indicate that eBook readers have finally met most of (if not all of) the criteria I set above.
  • by L-s-L69 (700599) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @10:51AM (#9831566)
    I read a lot (really a lot) on public transport I have an hour long journey through some pretty dodgy parts. If i show i have nice shiney gadgets Im liable to get mugged. However no one is going to steal my tatty paperback + the criminal scum dont read.
  • by Cyclone66 (217347) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @11:02AM (#9831699) Homepage Journal
    I check them out on Amazon once. They cost as much as regular books and there aren't any books that I want to read. What's the point?
  • by edremy (36408) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @11:09AM (#9831758) Journal
    Until I can be sure I can still read the book in 5, 50 or 500 years I don't want it. (Ok, maybe the latter is a bit much...) I've got a preprint first edition (1950) "Effects of Atomic Weapons"- perfectly useable and quite horrifying in how badly long term radiation exposure was misunderstood. My wife has dozens of children's books from the early 1900s- she still enjoys reading them. I've got a chemistry textbook from 1850 that has a proof for the existence of the luminous ether, but is still readable. (And most of the chemistry works fine.)

    Some more professional examples. I just bailed on referreeing a paper for J. Chem Ed in which the most recent reference was Einstein, 1905- most of the rest were ~1850. (My small college library doesn't stock the references, and I didn't have time for a loan) But with time I could have gotten all of them. Our library here has been digitizing an illuminated Qu'ran from ~1500, and we'll do a ~1300 Book of Hours soon.

    Do you have computer data 20 years old? Can you still read it?

  • by ThousandStars (556222) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @11:20AM (#9831872) Homepage
    There are many excellent points in this thread concerning screen quality, digital rights and other factors, and I see no need to repeat them here.

    But I a few important factors haven't been covered, or have only implied.

    1) E-books must be cheaper and more convenient than regular books. That means I can pay $18 for a hardcover (after discount from Amazon), or $8 for the E-book that offers similar functionality (i.e. I can loan it to a friend).

    2) Major authors/publishing houses are willing to provide books, including non-technical books, in an e-book format. I've seen plenty of people peddling their "free" trash novels on the 'net (Cory Doctrow excluded from the this category), but the fact remains that publishers provide a valuable service to the reading public.

    3) Perhaps most importantly, I think the cost of paper/distribution will have to rise considerably for e-books to really take off. That probably means some kind of economic disaster that I cannot totally forsee, such as war with China, sudden ecological change or a sudden, massive spike in oil costs. If the price of printing and distributing books rises high enough, it will drive people toward online distribution systems. And I imagine the trend will solidify for music and movies as well.

    I think my third point would be the most likely to suddenly make e-books attractive, but I hope I never see that day come to pass.

  • by LuYu (519260) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @11:22AM (#9831889) Homepage Journal

    It will take nothing less than the complete elimination of DRM.

    People will not change formats unless the new format is more convenient than traditional books. DRM makes books inconvenient and eliminates the benefits of having electronic versions of books.

    If you cannot cut and paste interesting passages and send them to your friends, why would you give up the smell of paper?

    Why would you want 50 books in your pocket if you knew that you would have to pay a fee every time you accessed one of them?

    Why would you want a dedicated device that did not allow you to move the book to your computer at home or at work (whenever and however many times you wanted)?

    Why would you want a book that would become inaccessible to you the next you upgraded your (MS) OS or when the company that produced your reader went out of business?

    Why would you want something that exposed you to Federal litigation if you tried to access it outside the bounds of a long unreadable license?

    Why would you want a copy of a public domain work with an ominous copyright notice attached to it? (My copy of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica actually has a copyright notice attached to the Constitution of the United States of America).

    There are numerous benefits to electronic formats, but the vast majority of those benefits are eliminated by DRM. I doubt anybody will switch until those benefits are allowed. The publishers need to find another business model... like editorial consulting or something where they would derive their revenue from helping authors and not monopolizing information. But I will definitely die of old age before that happens.

  • My suggestions... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anita Coney (648748) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @11:45AM (#9832214) Homepage
    1. The device itself should be free or nearly free.

    2. The device should NOT be proprietary as it should accept books from all publishers.

    3. The device should display one page at a type, NO scrolling to finish a page.

    4. Backlighting.

    5. No proprietary sealed-in batteries. Allow me the option of tossing in a few AAs if I forget to charge it.

    6. The books HAVE to cost less than print books. I know most of the money goes to the seller, the publisher, and to the author. But since real books essentially last forever they will be a better bargain unless ebooks are cheaper.

    7. No DRM. None. Nada. Zip.

  • Two Things: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cgreuter (82182) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @05:12PM (#9836926)

    Two things:

    First, this article blindly repeats the lie that for artists to get paid, they (or their publishers) need control over distribution. This isn't true; they just need to get paid. Control is one way to do so but there are others. For example, compulsory licenses pay the artists without giving them control over distribution.

    (Cory Doctorow does this better than me, here [boingboing.net]. ObAttribution: This link was stolen from other Slashdot posts.)

    Secondly, the article way overstates the importance of big publishers.

    I'm convinced that the future lies with the small publishers, the ones that can't afford to pay a decent advance but will do a good job editing and make sure that their books are good. Those publishers will embrace DRM-less ebooks because they have nothing to lose. And someday, one of those DRM-less ebooks will be a huge best-seller, and that'll open the door for reasonable ebooks.

    Until then, I'll just use Plucker to read free html ebooks like My Tokyo Death Cult [earthlink.net] on my Visor.

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