Cybernaut 

Digital libraries

Personally, I see too many pixels on an average work day, thousands of lines in tens of millions of colours. I don’t wear glasses yet, but I figure it’s just a matter of time with the strain I put my eyes through.

As a result of pixel overexposure at work I sometimes try to limit my pixel exposure at home, keeping the television off and only using the computer to check e-mail and do a few minutes worth of surfing. Sometimes I give in and watch television, throw on a movie or play Xbox 360, but the idea is basically the same — less screen time, more time in the real world.

That applies to reading as well.

Although Amazon (www.amazon.com) did a pretty amazing job creating a screen that looks like paper with their Kindle (which is an average but expensive piece of hardware for the most part), and Sony (www.sonystyle.com) did a decent job with their Reader Digital Book device, reading ebooks is a concept that’s still very much on the fringes.

You can also download books and read them from most laptops and desktops, and there are ebook plug-ins for devices like the iPhone (www.apple.ca) and BlackBerry (www.blackberry.com), but I’ll bet that most people haven’t used the software.

Part of it is psychological — we all grew up with paper books, and we like the look and feel of black text on white stock. For most of us picking up a book is like taking a holiday, a welcome change of focus that allows us to block out the white noise of the world. Nobody curls up with a laptop on a rainy day, or reaches for their iPhone when they’re in pajamas and need a little help getting to sleep.

At least not yet.

The next generation of readers might not have our fondness for the hardcovers and paperbacks, our love of bookstores, our time spent in libraries researching school papers, or the need to collect our books and browse the book collections of others.

The next generation of ebook reader technology may also be better, with better screens, longer battery life, and more features that appeal to the reading public.

For ebooks to really take off I’d like to see the following features included:

Colour — The new Kindle screen may be the closest thing to paper, but seeing book covers and illustrations in colour would bring a lot of books, magazines, and other printed materials to life. Apparently they’re working on a colour screen as low impact as the Kindle but I’ll believe it when I see it.

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