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July 29, 2004

Eeeee Books!

I like eBooks - provided they are free of proprietary formats and DRM encumberances. They need to be as loanable as dead tree books, as portable as dead tree books, and as copyable for significant passages or chapters as dead tree books. So when this Clueless Article starts panning the concept based on past stupidity and starts praising Sony's draconian licensing regime as some sort of ideal, I get annoyed. Apparently the schmuck never heard of Baen's WebScriptions, the Baen Free Library or the Baen Free eBook Library (the last two of which are probably the same material with different home pages.) The only thing he got right was that the old formats like Rocket bombed, in part due to the lousy displays, and in part due to limited catalogue.

What he ignored is the reason that the catalogues of the early eBooks were so limited - proprietary DRM formats, with licenses that no sane publisher would touch. Baen doesn't make that mistake. Cory Doctorow on BoingBoing comes to a similar conclusion. Then again, I've been arguing about ebooks with various people, including Tim O'Reilly, since 1999.

So what is my dream for an ebook reader/platform? Simple. Take a PDA, and double its size. It should have the form factor of a trade size paperback, at most, and a regular paperback, at least. It's display must not flicker, and be a high enough resolution to make an bifocal wearing broad like me happy. It needs to have adjustable font size, too. It should do more than just display one format of book. HTML, and, if it's Palm OS, prc should be a couple of the formats supported, maybe even pdf (minus the crappy Adobe DRM). It should have slots for media cards with more books on them. SD is a nice, compact format, and so are a lot of USB keys. So an SD/MMC slot and a USB port would be nice. Then you can literally lend out a book series by keeping it on a card, and handing it to someone! You could even sell books on electronic media this way in a bookstore, instead of just download. If you really wanted a multimedia reading experience, you could bundle an MP3 player with it, and have a headphone jack - music to read by! You might even support other palm apps like a calender, an alarm/stopwatch (so you can tell when your reading break is over without having to keep looking at your watch.), and various other PIM tools.

Posted by ljl at July 29, 2004 6:1 PM