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Friday, August 27, 2010

Electronic Books (eBooks)

I'll take a days break from writing about how to start a novel and give you an update on what I've learned about electronic books (ebooks).  My wife has a Kindle and all my books are available in Kindle, Nook, and the generic format put out by  I played with the Kindle, Nook, Sony, and iPad devices.  I just bought an iPad. 

I invented the eBook in 1984 (you can read about it in my book A Season of Honor below).  I also sent the idea to a company in 1984.  They reviewed it, liked it, but thought the technology of the day would not support it--oh well.  I didn't have a patent because I didn't have a working model.  If someone wants to make an earlier claim, they have to have some proof on a date before 1984.

Back to the iPad--it's just like the eBook I envisioned in A Season of Honor.  The only difference was I still thought we would be using mechanical drives for data storage.  Here is what I wrote:

On the fourth night out, Shawn was on guard. He sat in the main room and read from his e-book. The e-book was a small, light, pocketbook-sized box. The entire front was a view screen that was now illuminated in perfect black text on a sharp white background. Concealed along the sides were small controls and connection ports. Inside, one of Shawn’s many book disks rotated in perfect silence, the only clue to its motion was the slight inertia he felt when he moved the device suddenly. The gyroscopic motion of the disk enabled the book to stay in a comfortable position, balanced by a single hand or on a knee. A single book disk could hold more than a thousand volumes, and some of Shawn’s fiction libraries contained around ten thousand. The e-book also recorded, so he could share his volumes with anyone. It could double as a computer, a very good one, depending on its cost and the options purchased.  Shawn’s e-book was a very powerful computer. It contained two disk drives for the small silver, laser-read/write disks, connections for a
keyboard, and a hundred other modern refinements. For almost a thousand years this was the shape and hardware of the standard book, personal computer, stereo, and video device.

Today, the book disk was still the most popular, though e-books were also manufactured with permanent memory chips. Chips were less hardy, less elegant, no smaller, and didn’t balance on the knee as well.  Also, the laser disk, an ancient invention, could hold its data through millennia. The book disks recorded a thousand years ago worked just as well as those made today. A memory chip would theoretically last as long, but electrical abnormalities, the proximity of any modern nuclear engine, or for the military man, a single nuclear blast, could render the chip completely unreadable. The small, beautiful laser disks could only be damaged by physical abuse.

The sole problem with either media was cost. Because books, music, movies, and computer programs were so easily traded, the cost of royalties was generated through the price of the recordable disks. The permanent disks were not as expensive because their price was based on a set royalty for the works on the disk, and these could vary in size and composition from a single best-selling volume to a huge library of thousands of older works. The same was true of computer programs, video, and musical recordings. The recordable disks, empty, cost much more than the e-book itself. They were some ten times the cost of
permanent disks and their price varied according to the amount of data they could hold. The e-book was a beautiful, refined part of society and encouraged the easy spread of knowledge.

There you go.  The book was first published in 2008, so a little old, but right at the cusp today of the eBook.  I even had the name right!

The iPad is perfect and exactly how I envisioned the eBook.  It will never replace a computer because unlike a computer, the iPad is not a productivity device.  It is an entertainment and personal device.  It combines all your media into a wonderful small package that is delightful to use.  A computer is for useful writing, computing, and mathematical operations.  It is for productivity.  An iPad is not a writing or a computing device.  It could be used for research, but that isn't what makes it so useful.  The wonderful and useful purpose of the iPad is to read those books, watch those videos, browse the net, read your email, check your calendar, read the WSJ (Wall Street Journal), read your Manga (graphic novels).  That is the purpose of the iPad.  Another piece of information, the screen on the iPad is obscenely beautiful.  I have never seen a clearer or more perfect picture.  It makes my websites look incredible.  It makes my books and pictures look like a glossy magazine.  I have nothing negative to say about the device.  Perhaps, if I were picky, I might mention is could be a little lighter (it's still not heavy) and the battery could last longer (it will give you a good 24+ hours on a charge).  I bought the model with 64G but not with the 3G network on it.  I don't think I'll have a problem with connectivity.  I should mention that I have the Kindle, iBook, and Nook apps (all the apps I have were free!).  To get a book, I don't have to do anything but push a button to browse the books I want (on any of the formats), I select the ones I want and they download right into the iPad.  I bought a couple of books, but most of them I downloaded for free!  I took some from my wife's Kindle account.  I also put my own books from pdfs right into the iBook library.  This is like candy and whisky all in one.  So, time to get an eBook--I recommend the iPad.  I tried all the others, and I like this one the best.

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