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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.


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    Friday, November 23, 2007

    Does anyone really read in the bath?

    or: "The most amazing thing about e-book readers"

    ... is?

    Yes, you've guessed it - the scared, defensive attitudes of reviewers, almost all of whom say or write "... but would you want to read it in the bath?"

    What?!!

    Listen.

    No one is suggesting that e-book readers will replace paper books. Now, or soon, or ever! No one wants to read them in the bath. No one thinks that they are better than - or even as good as - paper books. No one thinks that bookshelves are doomed to end up on the bonfire. Libraries are not dead.

    e-Book readers are simply another tool of the digital age. Like the iPod. Another way to listen to music; to carry a lot of music around with you. Another way to carry books (well, a small library, actually) around with you... in what is really a very accessible, readable, usable, useful format.

    e-Book readers - Amazon's Kindle, for example - can hold a library of around 200 titles (as well as personal documents) in a format that can be easily used, is VERY portable, and allows the kind of access that computers usually offer - you can search across the entire library, for example, and take notes, and book mark, and highlight text. This is a 'Wow!' product in a pocket!

    Not as touchy-feely as a book: no library-old-paper smell, no beautiful bindings, no beautiful fonts, no holding lovingly... that still remains in the the still-extant paper book. THIS is something else. Consider, for example, students at the beginning of their year loading all that year's readings onto their personal reader. Consider arriving in your public library and collecting a month's readings. One reviewer (Western Mail, 21 November) wrote "But I can't see people using them to store, say, reference books." Short sighted, or what? Of course they will! And they will be able to search for an answer across the whole collection, and read it, in seconds.

    You may gather, I'm a convert! But that is because I have actually used one! Not a Kindle, but the similarly-spec'd but more pricey iLiad from iRex. The eInk screen does deliver a good and non-tiring reading experience. It is a device worth owning, although I have no intention of throwing out all my library of real books. It does one job - particularly when I'm travelling, and they do another.

    The best description of the Kindle can be found on the Amazon site, read it and lust after a Kindle! A pity then that no launch date has been announced for the UK! And one reason for this lies in the wireless puchase of new titles, which does not require a linked PC and offers one-minute downloads of purchased titles:

    Wireless Access with Whispernet

    Whispernet utilizes Amazon's optimized technology plus Sprint's national high-speed (EVDO) data network to enable you to wirelessly search, discover, download, and read content on the go.

    Unlike WiFi, you don't have to find a hotspot. Amazon pays for Kindle's wireless connectivity so you will never see a monthly wireless bill for shopping the Kindle Store. There is no wireless setup—you are ready to shop, purchase and read right out of the box.
    Check Wireless Coverage

    Yes - national - as in US-national. And if you look at the map, even that is pretty patchy!

    So - here in the UK - get real, stop worrying, and hope you can get your hands on one soon! Don't throw out the books, but do think of the possibilities.

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