Thursday, July 25, 2013

BPN 1648: Google starts e-book sales in the Netherlands (4)

The end of the e-reader

Overlooking the e-book landscape, there are some observations to be made and conclusions drawn. Two of the most dramatic conclusions are that the present e-reader will not have a long life and that the e-book will not remain just a pdf or digital word file with a black and white illustration.

The e-book started out on a mainframe computer as a digital file with words in capitals. E-books have grown along with technology of minicomputers and PCs as well as the (sub)notebooks. From 1985 CD-ROM was seen as a carrier for the digital book file. (The German software company Dataware used the slogan: Goodbye Gutenberg, Hello CD-ROM in 1987). In 1991 Sony started to  store books on minidisks and by 1997 the e-readers were launched amongst others by Franklin with the Rocket eBook. This concept has continued so far, till in 2010 the iPad and Samsung Galaxy tablet came around. This has led to a range of e-book delivery through internet:
- streaming through internet;
- storage of digital file on PCs as well as (sub)notebooks;
storage of digital files on customised e-readers;
storage of digital files on tablets.

Of these four ways of delivery the e-readers look to be losing the game in more than one sense. The e-book has on e-readers a pdf and e-pub format. The e-readers have either an e-Ink  screen or a TFT display. The stored file basically contains static information consisting of text and sometimes illustrations in black and white. In comparison with tablets which can play colour graphics, video and music, these devices are multifunctional. In comparison this means that tablets will be the winners as storage as well as streaming media for e-books (used by Dutch public libraries). So the end of e-readers is nigh.

E-readers are not only at the end of their life cycle because of their limited functionality (storage of digital file, black/white screen, special screen for reading in sunlight). But E-book will also develop from storing static information files into text files with moving graphic illustrations and movie fragments. And for this purpose tablets will be used.

In the World Summit Award competitions we have seen at least three e-book projects of the next generation to come: Hiboo, Rooftops at dawn and Oz Book.

From France comes Hiboo, books to explore. Hiboo is a collection of digital books for teenagers on the iPad. Each book is chosen according to editorial choices based on travel, adventure and fantasy. The approach is to offer tools for reading, an immersive environment, an interactive edge and community-based solutions for a new reading experience. 

From Hungary comes Rooftops at dawn - literative walk. The product, an application is a mixture of an book, a city walk and an exhibition experience – brought to you on location. The interactive urban walk provides a new way to experience classic literature as well as to experience the city as never before, along with being able to discover parts of local history embedded into a new digital framework.

From Lithuania comes the Oz Book.  “Oz Book”  is an interactive book for both children and the entire family, based on L. Frank Baum’s original novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Sixty interactive illustrations featuring beautiful scenes, vivacious music, and special sound effects let children feel the spirit of the adventurous journey to Emerald City, together with all the engaging characters. By lighting candles in the dark, the child finds the sneaky Wizard, helps Scarecrow to whisk angry crows away, or sees Emerald City with green glasses. Powered by a realistic physics engine allowing fast content accessibility, the award-winning Oz Book features a user-friendly interface, magnificent particle simulations, accelerometer and aquatic and/or fire effects, as well as a memory game and magic pictures that come to life as users touch or tilt the iPad. OzBook can be accessed in four different languages including English, Lithuanian, German and Russian.

These are three examples of what is to come. No longer static text dictates the file ; no longer technology dictates storage; but now the interactive storyline and interactive assets will offer a range of opportunities. They will range from a fiction story illustrated with interactive drawings to texts with movies. Non-fiction e-books will become apps containing a storyline with interactive multimedia assets based on a timeline. With this new push the traditional e-reader, based on e-Ink technology, will disappear, while interactive apps take their place.   

Update 27 July 2013
I just saw the rendition of a classic children's tale: The Winds in the Willow. Produced for the iPad, this classic tale has been released by UK-based innovator of digital books BeyondTheStory® as part of its +Book range. Narrator Stephen Fry introduces readers to each chapter and reads selected extracts of the adventures of Mr Toad, Ratty, Mole, and Badger. In addition, colourful animations connect the reader to the wonderful world of the riverbank and Toad Hall – a world loved by many for more than one hundred years. BeyondTheStory®, which built its unique app platform in the UK, has a string of enhanced e-books with the revised version of Kings and Queens by David Starkey, binging to life two thousand years of Britain’s monarchy; the award-winning Anne Frank – The Diary of a Young Girl.


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