e-books (was: NOT a plug (was: Re: Emma Bull & Martha Wells & others))

Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk
Tue Aug 27 09:10:03 EDT 2002

Something I almost missed trying to clear my backlog of messages after the long

Hallie wrote:

> While on fictionwise, I found that they had a book by one Becca De La
> Rosa, of whom some of you may have heard.  :)  Yup.  This is not a

Wha...?  [pauses to call up a browser, search for Fictionwise, search for de la
Rosa, etc.]

Wow!  Congratulations Becca!  You seem to have beaten Georgette Heyer by a few
years, too - "The Black Moth" wasn't published until she was 19.  (And I was
reading an article just yesterday that claimed GH was "precocious".)

But tell me.  Is there a dead tree edition yet?  I may be conservative, but I
still find the only comfortable way to read an electronic document of any length
is to print it on slices of dead tree :-( (And I may yet do this to Becca's


Which brings me to another slightly off topic question.  What do people on this
list think about electronic books?  I mean, how do people's reading experiences
of e-books compare with paper books?  What would they want to make the
technology more user-friendly?

I'll start the ball rolling:

I find reading text on a CRT monitor hard on the eyes.  No matter how good the
resolution, the by now almost universal format black letters on a white screen
is hard to stare at.  Green or amber letters on a dark screen was easier (who
here remembers when computers almost all had green screens?).

I don't know how good some of the modern LCD and TFT technologies would make it,
but older LCDs could never get both contrast and resolution.  (In my group at
work we are trying to get those who control the money to get us LCD screens.)

Most pocket technologies for this are afaik systems that run on a pocket
computer.  I don't like pocket computers.  The keyboard is too small, the screen
is the wrong shape, and so on...

I'd like to see an e-book reader with the following features:

Clamshell package.  The shape and size of a paperback book, it opens like a
book, and you can hold it in the same way, or you can fold it back on itself.
(Hewlett Packard did a few calculators in this package in the late 1980s. I
think the models were 18, 19 and 28 if anyone wants to experience them).  When
open, it has a page of text on each side, and a row of buttons across the bottom
for things like page back, page forward, select book, mark passage...

The display should be designed for reading in natural light, but have a
backlight (adjustable) for reading under the bedclothes.  The resolution should
be at least 240 pixels per inch (the same as IBM laser printers of 15 years

I'd be happy with a black and white model, but colour readers would probably
become cheap quite quickly.

Some software features would I think be essential:  scalable fonts (not just
zooming in on a page, but re-paginating with the scaled font); selectable paging
or scrolling; searching and indexing; zooming in on illustrations.

The book should switch off if you shut it (or leave it unattended for some
minutes), and when you switch it on, should come up with your current page in
your current book.

I'd probably want to carry around several books at a time, and have it keep my
place in all of them.

This seems to have got a bit long...  OK, who's next?


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