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What if:book has the answer to eBook?

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This piece of spam made it into my mail box this morning and made we wonder: Who actually reads eBooks, and if so, what kind of content? According to this ad - and trusting its marketing strategy- most popular ebooks are non-fiction titles on debt consolidation, mortgage and yoga. Two of three reflect the current mortgage crisis and America's fear of an upcoming recession. However, equally puzzling is the desperate attempt by this lousy little scam factory that proudly offers over 300 (sic!) book titles to target a wider audience with ebooks or in this case mere over-priced text files. Delivered by Lady Lifestyle, multitasking in her kitchen: eating apples, while listening to music AND apparently taking a peek into the cool eBook, probably the one on debt consolidation - all in the marble-cladded mortgage-eating kitchen while squatting most awkwardly on a bar stool. From the adjacent kitchen wall a kryptonesque blue radiation- a giant eBook, no, wait a paper book, but with glued in semiconductors that remind us that something must be digital.

Which brings us to the next hocus pocus, called Kindle by Amazon, and the big disappointment of eInk which -fresh out of MIT- boasted some years ago to develop a LCD mesh embedded in real paper. Nada. Jeff Bezos laid a flat egg, what probably makes it truly hip is its really bad Star Trek look - and its potential to become the iPod for intellectuals. Also, at least Amazon has over 80,000 book titles . However ultimately it remains locked to Amazon, like the iPod reports to Apple store.
Since four+ years Bob Stein (NY) Chris Meade (London) among others research around this and many related questions in their Institute for the Future of the book.(if:book)

Already a year ago Ben Vershbow from if:book recognized the key problem of what now appears (again) with the arrival of the Kindle: "Ebooks, at least the kind Sony and Amazon will be selling, dwell in a no man's land of misbegotten media forms: pale simulations of print that harness few of the possibilities of the digital (apparently, the Sony Reader won't even have searchable text!). Add highly restrictive DRM and vendor lock-in through the proprietary formats and vendor sites made for these devices and you've got something truly depressing. Publishers need to get out of this rut. The future is in networked text, multimedia and print on demand. Ebooks and their specialized hardware are a red herring."
This is probably the very, very last moment where companies successfully advertise a new gadget that is a truncated computer as most our laptops are already small and light enough to replace the eBook. What remains is the problem of proprietary software - and that is what if:book is addressing. And speaking of networking, make sure you check out if:book's SOPHIE project.

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Sitting in the living room

For Thanksgiving we invite friends to our country home in the mountains of Pennsylvania. Generally people are there for four days. One afternoon four people were sitting in the living room. The TV was off but all four, including me were on laptops either working on projects, doing email or surfing the web. It was a reading activity but very poignant.

The book as a vehicle for ideas is a specific form. It has been perfected. Everyone knows about the smell of paper, the feel of the book in your hand, the type setting, the cover art etc..

How do you improve on something that is perfect?
Going to a bookstore is a physical experience as is browsing titles in libraries etc. One of the problems with the electronic age is that it reduces physical experiences on the one hand or it creates highly controlled marketing experiences that are totally dreadful and lacking in life.