The Reading Revolution
by Mary O. Fumento
From computers to cell phones and the Internet, electronic books are changing the way people consume information. This reading revolution is rapidly occurring, offering people new avenues to access data and collaborate with others.
Schools are adapting to e-reading swiftly. One educational example is Cushing Academy, a New England boarding school where library workers download titles onto Kindle handheld electronic book readers from Amazon.com, which circulate just like library books.
Not every community can afford to do this but some are considering something similar. In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger plans to save money by phasing out school textbooks in favor of Internet aids. He wants to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in state spending annually and believes converting to online resources will also help keep students informed.
Some people claim electronic publishing lowers the cost of producing and obtaining information and enhances searching. It is easier to publish online, meaning less censorship and more authorship. A web site like Scribd, http://www.scribd.com/, allows writers to publish themselves online and share with other people.
What happens when information is in the hands of a few online publishers and makers of electronic devices? There is an electronic publishing push on right now, and more players are willing to make the investment and be competitive. For instance, Google is willing to challenge Amazon.com’s Kindle and rival it with its 1.5 million public-domain books available for reading on mobile phones as well as the Sony Reader. Don’t expect Google’s e-books to be free, however; prices will be determined by Google for consumers.
What about attractiveness? Some people think e-books are downright ugly. Covers tend to be just scanned versions of the physical book, although designers are starting to develop concepts for the electronic ones.
Depending on the device, fonts can be extremely limited and book design fairly non-existent. Kindle, for instance, has few fonts because of its file format while the iPhone has many fonts to choose in comparison. Color e-book readers probably won’t be widely available until sometime next year. The current black-and-white displays offer readers no choice other than changing font size, which limits reading pleasure.
Electronic format does not have to be unattractive or expensive. The Internet is a great place to see incredible books available for online reading. Check out the free web site for International Children’s Digital Library at http://en.childrenslibrary.org/
Delivery is a key theme in e-book publishing. Readers enjoy access to an incredible number of titles, downloadable with remarkable speed. New distribution is emerging, such as cell phone novel web sites, like http://www.textnovel.com/
As reading changes, so is book writing. The Amanda Project, http://www.theamandaproject.com/, is the story about a girl told through an interactive website and eight-book series. Readers can write and become a part of the story itself.
The books themselves are morphing, too. Try Vooks, for instance, at http://www.vook.com. A vook is a combination of storytelling with a book, video and the Internet. Authors are using a variety of ways to reach readers outside of traditional means.
Will all of this technology kill physical books and, gasp, libraries? It’s not likely.
However you like your books, please note the public library system will be closed Nov. 11th for Veteran’s Day. Our updated web site has e-books for you 24 hours a day, every day at http://gowyld.net/all.cfm
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” ~Charles W. Eliot