Kinkajou : So why should something that displays text from a book or an electronic book be regarded as a significant technology? What are book readers?
Erasmus : These devices are mobile electronic devices often called an e-readers, also called e-book readers or e-book devices. They have been designed primarily for the purpose of reading digital electronic books aka e-books. Currently a number of devices are vying for the ability to act as e-readers. These include special-purpose devices such the Amazon on Kindle, tablet computers, laptop computers, phones, and even wristwatches.
There are many technical issues still to solve in introducing this technology into the market. However foremost is the need to understand how consumers want to use their devices. This dictates the type of device they will purchase and use.
Kinkajou : Not a sexy tech. But this piece of technology is leading a revolution that is taking the world with it. It may spell the end of home libraries and change how we use libraries in general. A home library may begin to look like a single book sized box, yet may hold the content of thousands of different books. In fact why bother to visit a library, when you can connect or log in from home and access the same content, electronically.
The down side. Books are long lived. There are few data storage technologies that can guarantee longevity of data. Our longest lived data storage technologies are books and film (in cans). CDs or DVDs lose their data integrity over a decade. In my own home, we store our collections of movies, music and photos on External Hard Disk Drives. I’ve had too many CDs and DVDs corrupt. There is a difference though between commercial CD/DVD prints and home burnt discs. The commercial variety lasts longer with less data corruption.
Erasmus :I’ve seen “tape” drives and DVDs go bad. When the Tape Storage reader becomes superseded, the data is as inaccessible as being in another language. When the errors start to increase on the DVD, systems stop recognizing them and specialist data retrieval is the order of the day.
Erasmus :The book reader will change our world. The revolution is just in its infancy today.
The big issues are still the same as always.
- Paying for access to library books or eBooks. How? Who Pays?
- How does the legal system need adjustment to allow the new technology.
The revolution here is not over. Books are strangely enough popular with younger people and children. Yet these are the first children of the computer generation. It seems to be the older population group that is driving the uptake of this technology. Usually the older citizens are latecomers to technological innovations.
Kinkajou : This future tech, is in fact, reality already. The only thing missing is the insinuation of this technology into people’s lives.
Advantages of BookReaders
Erasmus :The advantage of a book is that you can curl up in an odd spot and read holding a small light weight “book”. You can have your feet up if you wish and can even lie down if it suits you or upside down.
To read on a computer screen, you need to sit at a table or bench or seat, even for a laptop. The need to sit in a specific posture to access information limits the options people have to be comfortable and to fit their activities into their lives, not to make their lives conform to the postural requirements of their activity. This is one of the problems that bookreader design aims to adjust to human needs. Critical!
Kinkajou : A book reader acts and feels like a book. The pages may be turned electronically but the format is the same. This piece of technology displays a printed page of a book to an electronic page. However bookreader tablets don't work quite like the average laptop screen.
- They are light.
- They are capable of altering display fonts on the fly, allowing the visually challenged such as old folk to read without assistance , unlike real books. Also, unlike a book, the text or content can be rotated, enlarged or reduced. I can imagine in time to come, colour usage will grow.
- They allow the integration of a greater amount of illustration than the average real book. High definition true colour printing is expensive in real books and demands higher quality paper than that on which the bulk of the book text appears. Consequently, Illustrations are often clustered into sections in books. Bookreaders are generally black on page white screens and displays are typically mono. However, this is just a technology and cost issue, well able to be addressed today without the need to develop new technology.
- They are capable on incorporating programming, in essence changing the definition of what is a book.
- They can be built to mimic student's requirements. Critical functions include highlighting, but with a CPU chip, what can be included only depends on what can be imagined. e.g. Summaries e.g. Collapsible and expandable lists / summaries e.g. data searches , sort of like indexing but able to be used much more comprehensively. you could even design the system to include text you write yourself or text imported from elsewhere.
Capabilities will grow such as interfacing with the internet, search capabilities, text to voice conversion, text capture & editing will arrive.
Marking the text is an essential usage for students to allow study and pre exam revision. Alternately, you can always just hold it and read it.
The technology of book readers gives people choices and freedom.
Ebook Reading Tablet Computer
Erasmus :A typical eBook tablet has several hours of battery life and can store a number of books in an electronic format. This becomes an incredible asset to a traveller where weight is a premium. Rechargeable battery technology especially lithium ion batteries are an excellent energy dense power supply to allow extensive flexibility of usage. Battery pack replacement (vs. recharging to allow faster reuse once the battery runs down) is simply a design issue. There are many emergency USB supply external battery packs available now. Some clever person may even incorporate a bracket on the reader to allow spare battery packs to be carried easily, once deployed.
BookReader Content: Distribution
Kinkajou : “Why the excitement about what is a “done “technology.”
Erasmus :I have only recently come across my first example of an eBook. This has been a personal Nirvana for me. To me, this tech represents a death knell to the paper book. Up till now I have not seen anything which would stop people wanting to have a book, instead of an electronic copy to read on their computer. I do think the technology has a long way to go yet and a lot of growth in its applicability.
For instance, I can see a day when flexible thin screens rather than solid electronic readers may become the interface of choice. But choosing this format limits battery and CPU power, so maybe not.
Also, newspapers can have a resurgence with a tap on, tap off model of distribution, (largely similar to a credit card tap and wave) and a subscription for access. This could bring back a lot of advertising revenue to traditional publishing, though publishing a newspaper on a new media. This format also allows a lot of customisation to be dictated by the user or purchaser. Imagine perhaps 6 newspaper versions available in a single day.
Current business models for newspapers try to sell an expensive e-package subscription to a newspaper, rather than just allow cheap access to the newspaper. Maybe worthwhile if you intend to make the package a central part of your life. But how many of these sort of things would completely "fill a need". Usually, multiple information sources and apps are required to round out a particular person's needs profile. Hence I think therein lies partly the reason for success of modern phones: customisation, incorporation into many aspects of a persons's life: GPS, pulse rate, ECG, Sound sensors, Measurement tools, cameras and all with "apps"" software packages in profusion allowing high adaptation to an individual's requirements.
There is still a lot of fight back with the "younger" generation: children and young adults being a target demographic for many book publishers: especially young adult's books, such as Twilight series, 50 Shades of etc. series, Harry Potter. These sales say the interface still needs some work.
BookReaders: Price & Marketing
Erasmus :Costing and marketing are also critical. Why should people pay as much for an E-Book as for the real thing? Most publishing houses can't get their heads around that one. I think the book culture will go the way of the music industry. Many young adults have downloaded more music than they will ever listen to in a lifetime. If they had to pay for it, they would never be able to pay for it even if they had a well-paying full time job.
The other effect of publishing books by electronic media is that subspecialty markets will grow. Once the music industry chose which songs or artist they would get behind each year. Now people have niche likes and the market runs around attempting to identify and supply them. Currently many people to publish books but most of these are never seen by most of their potential target market. E-books are much more easily distributed. Electronic marketing is far more effective at exposing a potential product to its client market than a bookstore.
Erasmus :This technology is a real step forward in human usability and rivals if not surpasses the usefulness of having a book. The significance also relates to what it will do to our social information structure. Now many publishers with books previously only available in a printed format have an incentive to convert books into an electronic format. People’s libraries at home will become larger as it becomes as easy to acquire and store books, much as it became easy to acquire and store mp3s. Most kids today have audio music libraries that resoundingly surpass the collections of even the most diehard collector a few decades ago. The same will happen to book libraries as eBooks become easier to capture and store and use as a personal reference.
Another sexy option is the ability to reread your favourite bits of books. Often a book may be excellent, but specific bits resonate with us in a truly excellent way. You often don’t want to reread the whole book, just reread your favourite bit. Markings and add-ons can easily be chained to a book file. This would allow something to happen that is incredibly new. Students may chase the margin notes of specific students or past year’s students to help them study. Book addenda may be useful in explaining a particularly difficult technical piece. How books are used and shared may well change quite a bit with time.
Erasmus :With more information available electronically, libraries will move increasingly to make the electronic word rather than the printed word available. The key concept is information. The internet is a vast place but so much “quality” information still resides in books. If you want the full Monty version, you can either pay an exorbitant price for access via subscription or else need to physically visit a library. It has always puzzled me as to why someone who writes a review or a research article believes that other people will pay $30-$50 to receive a copy of a published article when they could always go to a library and receive access to the same information for next to nothing. The information is not that valuable. I don’t think most people in the world would regard the average published article fee ($30-$50) as insubstantial. Most people would always consider how not to pay for the article or how to get access to the information for free.
Kinkajou : Realistically the price is far too high for the value inherent. Where the price is excessive and replication cost minimal, all that happens is that people are encouraged to steal content. The main change reducing video pirating is the availability of content via cheap streaming services. Why bother stealing when you can get as much as you want, as fast as you want it, whenever you want it and at a guaranteed good quality.
So what sort of an idiot stomps their foot and demands people pay $2 for a song they download, when the same song on a CD / DVD costs $2 as well. Piracy is only a problem where the cost of an item is substantially higher than its production cost in terms of money or effort. Hence an electronic file that essentially costs nothing to replicate, is grossly overvalued if one attempts to sell it at a "to market" cost of $2. The advent of net streaming for movies has decimated piracy more than any strategy undertaken by the record companies / movie companies for the last few decades.
Erasmus :The same has happened in the audio world with MP3s. People access and hear a lot more music but still purchase their particular favourites. The audio market would be substantially larger even today if diehard recording companies would embrace the electronic world. Most think that their customers should pay them more to access music on their own equipment than to buy the record in a store. The record companies scream about piracy. The reality is that if most kids today paid the price the record companies are asking for their music, the costs would exceed the annual income of everyone between the ages of 12-30. Rather than embrace the new distribution systems with their new cost structures, the recording companies are wedded to out-dated storefront distribution systems and believe that the same pricing structure should exist in the electronic world.
Kinkajou : The music companies are certainly an interesting case in point. They believe they are entitled to be rich and to sell products at whatever price they want rather than realising that there is a marketplace, they are part of it, and that they need to compete for the dollars available to all of us for discretionary spending.
Erasmus : The "stick in the mud" idiots deserve what the electronic revolution is teaching them. They sit there with their single recorded versions of their “product” and feel that they can decide what the world wants. The music companies are oblivious to the need for different versions of their product (such as lowered max-min amplitude beat oscillation gain (i.e. +10dB to -10Db gain vs. +20dB to -20Db gain in recordings), reduced sound quality for restricted sound quality devices, different sounding versions of their music for different markets, or video clip added version for people who want audio AND video output).
The internet has given people a voice and the ability to chase books or music that perhaps only a small segment of the populace is interested in. These dolts in recordings studios are still stuck with you can buy what we decide we want to give you, in the format that we will decide is best, and we are not prepared to listen to anyone about what the public wants, because only we the recording studios know what is best for the public.
Kinkajou : The same situation will undoubtedly develop as eBooks become a market growth segment.
Erasmus :There are two ways to learn: the easy way and the hard way. It’s best to let people, companies and governments chose whether they want to learn the easy way or the hard way. Many people never learn anything apart from what they have been taught. Businesses that do not embrace the financial model and financial resources underpinning, so the future, will disappear. A good thing for all of us!
Kinkajou : A device like the e-book commoditises the information held in books and journals and increases its diffusion into the populace. It also becomes easier and more economical to publish books as the physical cost of the construction of a “Book” disappears, to be replaced with the negligible cost of electronic replication. More people can publish more esoteric books about more esoteric topics with limited readership and find the process to be cost effective.
Erasmus :The social consequences of the eBook are immense in terms of allowing information access and usage. I think we are yet to see the conclusion of this saga in electronic publishing for at least a decade”,
Erasmus : Personally, I believe the biggest threat to the audio and visual market is not piracy, but the exploitive and predatory behaviour of “distribution” companies. Some theatre screening companies in Australia should be broken up to end their monopoly as an exercise in protecting the “public” and “movie- makers” from exploitation. For example, some theatre giants such as *.*, ask for 80-100% of DVD sales profits as a precondition to allowing them to be screened at their cinemas. At the cinema door again they take the bulk of a movie’s profits as well. These thieving plundering depredating thugs then dare to foist their “piracy “warnings on the public. If people do not pay for movies, the movie industry will not receive any income and will go bust. The reality is the distribution monopolies receive the majority of any monies earned for many movies. Is a lack of income passing through their hands that is responsible for the movie industry production companies not receiving income and going bust? The distribution monopolies complained bitterly on the dire threat posed by movie piracy on the unsuspecting public. They’re actually mainly complaining about the loss of their own excessive profits.
I wonder how any movie makers can break even considering the profit share the distribution companies rake in. There is literally nothing left for the actors, the writers and the investors, after distribution companies like *.* have taken their cut of movie screening revenue and DVD sales.
Kinkajou :What really makes me laugh is how much money the government has channelled unbeknownst to these companies, with the goal of supporting the movie industry. A cheap piece of legislation breaking up monopoly pricing and distribution in favour of the film maker would achieve more than the billions these well meaning idiots have managed to directly or indirectly spend. An excellent opportunity for Social Engineering.
Erasmus :In my humble opinion , it is the distribution middle men who are the true pirates sucking the life out of the film and movie industries, not the small time home movie downloader. I hope that the publishers of eBooks have a better track record in making the product realistically commercially available than do the publishers of films and audio products. Perhaps there is a chance since the new publishing giants are internet savvy companies like Amazon, not the fossilised companies of the old style recording and movie industries.
Technology Issues for BookReaders
Kinkajou : There are still many very basic issues to solve in how to use or introduces technology. These issues include:
Size of the screen
Black and white printing or versus colour displays (I’m sure in the future someone will dream of one of each on different sides of the tablet for example).
Weight of the device
Portability of the device: this may include factors such as the provision of our other carry case.
Screen type: electronic paper display technologies vary in response time, ability to display movies, backlighting which is especially useful at night-time and poor light situations, contrast,
Available apps for reading e-books derived from different sorts companies
Availability of a touch operated screen
Ability to use other technologies such as voice operation, voice commands
Ability to interface with the Internet via Wi-Fi and to display Internet webpages
The availability of software on the hardware platform which offers the most ease or flexibility of access to information or data or e-books stored.
Ability to sync your applications or data with other devices to allow you to exchange updates, tags and even the books themselves.
Do people want to do more than just read a book currently this applies to just accessing Wi-Fi or web information but in the future may apply to accessing newspapers in public and even periodicals?
Pixel and effective screen resolution, including the ability for people with visual problems to be able to comfortably access information on the device. For example bypassing the need for glasses, by making the print larger.
Battery life is a very critical issue. One of the hallmarks of this technology which makes it so valuable is the ability to last for up to weeks of reading time without needing to recharge the battery or power pack. Ability to interface and carry accessory battery packs.
Screen surfacing: some screens reflect more light and can be difficult to read in certain situations. Backlighting and contrast ratios are important in this scenario. Is there an eye strain issue between using LCD versus the e-ink displays?
Availability of books to read on your book reader. If you have a particular love for a particular genre of reading material, you won’t want a book reader if you can’t get the books you want to read in an e-book format.
- Programming capacity
- What new features do people want. The incorporation of position sensing technology on phones and sensors introduces many more possibilities fro growth and usage. (see sprites: Memristors, InternetRevolution2). But, you need to predict the market, perhaps even create the tech to fulfil the vision and then sell it to the public.
Reading Tablet Ebook
Erasmus :Some of these issues may be incompatible in their solutions. For example if you enjoy reading in poor light situations without an external light source, an LCD screen may be suitable for you. If you enjoy the visiting websites and reading magazines, you will be happier with a colour display. If you prefer the look of newsprint or book print on a screen or if you enjoy reading outside, the e-ink display may be preferable to you.
Kinkajou : I have heard many people over the years espoused the joys of public Wi-Fi access. I can’t believe people are still promoting this public Wi-Fi as a viable or useful addition to e-readers.
I have found it takes time to interface with these public Wi-Fi systems. Unless you are going to the same place again and again and again, the whole process is probably too cumbersome to do quickly and easily. Just because you can doesn’t mean you want to or doesn’t mean you enjoy doing it. There is considerable value in having things just work straight away when you want to work. No hassle, no fuss.
Erasmus : Things have become easier and simpler over the years. Its just a lot more difficult and slow in low bandwidth public access applications.
The issue here is that phones give excellent and rapid data access to the internet. A public free Wi-Fi technology as has been suggested for book-readers has limited support, no business model ensuring its growth and may be quite difficult to initiate. A phone data dongle or a direct phone to device linkage may be a better and more robust solution to data access via an e-reader.
- Perhaps downloading your e newspaper or magazine from your paper kiosk may be the Wi-Fi direction of the future. Yes magazine and newspaper sales are falling. But for decades the growth was in tabloids rather than broadsheet newspapers. Now the growth may be more in e-display papers.
Erasmus : I see your point. It will take some time for the product definition of this market sector to develop. The technology, its hardware, its applications and its presentation will therefore take quite some time to emerge from the mosh pit of public demands. You can’t design it, if you don’t know what you want.
Kinkajou : Tell me about the display technologies used for e-books.
Erasmus :The main display technologies used in book readers are often described as electronic paper, or E paper, or electronic ink. Generally book readers reflect light much like paper. For many people this makes them more comfortable and easier to read, and provides a larger viewing angle supporting reading comfort than many light emitting displays. Also an electronic paper display should be able to be read in sunlight, without loss of image clarity or resolution or contrast. The ability of these technologies to hold information without using electricity substantially improves their affective battery life.
Electronic Paper Technologies
Erasmus :All electronic paper technologies face the following general challenges: They require:
A method for encapsulation / holding the ink or dye
An ink or active material to fill the encapsulation. This material must be sensitive to electronic or electromagnetic control mechanisms.
Electronics to activate the ink / dye
Electronic ink can be applied to flexible or rigid materials. For flexible displays, the base requires a thin, flexible material tough enough to withstand considerable wear, such as extremely thin plastic. The methods of encapsulating inks and of binding the ink to substrates are the main technological innovations. Strangely, making electronic paper is less complex and costly than making / LCDs. Advantages of electronic paper includes low power usage (power is only drawn when the display is updated), flexibility and better readability than most displays. Electronic ink can be printed on any surface including surfaces like T shirts or on rollable surfaces. Because most systems use power to set displays, they will often stay set and still maintain their displays in “off” power states.
Electrophoretic Display Tech
The first electronic displays were electrophoretic displays using titanium dioxide (titania) particles of about 1 µm in diameter, suspended within a hydrocarbon oil media. The oil also contains a coloured dye, surfactants and charging agents that cause the titanium dioxide particles to take on and hold electric charge. These particles sit between two parallel conductive plates. When powered up the particles migrate to either the positive or negative on the plate terminals. When the particles migrate to the front of the display, the display appears white because light is scattered back to the viewer from the light-coloured titanium particles. When particles are attracted to the rear side display, the display appears dark because the dark coloured dye sits in front of the titanium dioxide particles.
Electronic Book Reader Display
Electro-Wetting Display Tech
The next electronic display technology is called Electro-wetting. These displays used a combination of water and an oil with dye between electro-plates.
With no voltage applied, the (colored) oil forms a flat film between the water and a hydrophobic (water-repellent) insulating coating of an electrode, resulting in a colored pixel. When the voltage is applied hydrophilic water comes to the fore, creating a partly transparent pixel or a white pixel depending on the background elements.
These displays have number of advantages:
They are fast enough to display video content
Reflectivity and contracts may exceed the display types and approach the visual qualities of paper
Up to several times brighter than reflective LCDs
Potential for a type of color to be generated
Low-power low-voltage technology
The displays can be made a very flat and very thin
Electro-Fluidic Display Tech
Erasmus :The next electronic display technology is called Electro-fluidic
These displays are structurally related to electro-wetting displays. Electro- fluidic displays introduce aqueous pigment dispersion inside tiny reservoir comprising up to about 10% of the viewable pixel area, thereby making the pigment substantially out of sight. When voltage is applied it pulls the pigment out of the reservoir and spreads it as a film directly behind the screen is viewing substrate. As result the display can have as much colour and brightness as conventional pigments printed on paper. When the voltage is removed liquid surface tension causes the pigment that has been dispersed onto the screen to recoil back into its reservoir. This technology can provide at least 85% of the white state reflectance of paper.
Erasmus :Other technologies have been considered using interference to create colour displays.
Flexible plastic electrophoretic displays
Cholesteric liquid crystal display
Sharp Memory LCD, used in Pebble smartwatch.
Using organic transistors embedded into flexible substrates including attempts to build them into conventional paper.
Electronic Paper Disadvantages
Kinkajou : Tell us about the disadvantages of these technology types.
Erasmus :Electronic paper technologies have a very low refresh rate compared to other low-power display technologies, such as LCD. This prevents producers from implementing many interactive applications such as fast menus, mouse pointers or scrolling pages. It looks like you probably won’t be playing too many games on you e-reader anytime soon.
Another limit is that shadows of images may be visible after refreshing parts of the screen. Such shadows are termed "ghost images", and the effect is termed "ghosting". This effect is different to screen burn in effects as were seen on plasma displays, as the ghosting is solved once the screen is refreshed a few times. Turning every pixel white, then black, then white, helps normalize the contrast of the pixels.
Kinkajou : So what do you think about this technology, Goo?
Goo :Well, we essentially have a lot already. The problems is more along the lines of we don’t quite know what we want and haven’t really finalized the idea of how to use it.
There will be a lot of legal and cost issues, as media companies owning potential content for e-readers are forced to deal with reality. There are only a limited number of retail dollars and the competition is for these. People cannot afford to pay more than they earn for content.
E-content in terms of photos, books, music or visual media or websites has essentially no cost of replication. Where the cost of access far exceeds the cost of replication, pirating and copyright theft will abound.
Reading Real Books:
perhaps something an electronic book doesn't give you.
You (Kinkajou), told me about the trends in downloading recently in the US. With the appearance of cheap streaming video on demand, people don’t want to download and pirate because its takes too much time and effort. Better to just pay some money and get high quality media on demand, when you want and how you want. That is the path that book content will go as well, I believe.
The technology has a long way to go. I think the newspaper companies really have not worked out a business model to sell their content yet. Where the costs of reproduction and distribution of media such as a newspaper have shrunk to almost nil due to the advent of electronic media, they still haven’t worked out that someone paying 20 cents for a downloaded copy of their paper is actually more profitable to them than someone paying four dollars for a physical newspaper, on which the company margin comes to 15 cents. Most of the money goes to distributors.
It seems obvious that there needs to be quite some investment of money in new distribution systems, (e.g. public railway station download: not Wi-Fi but distribute paper Wi-Fi), new home sync systems so the morning paper is delivered from “doorway” devices to gadgets in the house automatically and suitable tech (e-readers) and powering for this tech: USB power in public places.
In terms of introducing change, this may be a lot simpler than most believe. When someone buying a paper for two dollars , sees his neighbour on the train station buy three papers for fifty cents, innovation is almost guaranteed. And the profit margin for all the papers may in fact be the same from the fifty cent fee if distribution costs are reduced. People may take to downloading a paper and a new magazine EVERY day going to work.
A smart move such as "cost sharing" of media access portals and rules allowing ownership of a square metre of space and accessibility to this space to build a webcast / data post may well really push the e-format to the next century. Again, the changes are more in terms of the social rules and the people, than just the technology.