09 February 2009

Electronic books: The next stage

Wouldn't it be great to take along major genealogy works on an electronic reader when you are out researching? Those big books could stay at home - way too heavy to schlep along anywhere - but you'd have the resources with you to check on the spot.

Interested in having the next genealogy conference syllabus on your handy-dandy electronic reader? Would it be possible to listen to a lecture and add your own notes to the appropriate syllabus page?

How about going on vacation and taking along a year's supply of Avotaynu journals? Of course, Avotaynu is already available on a comprehensive CD, but there are all sorts of scenarios for when we don't want to use laptops or CDs. Genealogists' ideas about the components of an ideal vacation can be somewhat different than ordinary folk.

This New York Times story details the emergence of a company called Plastic Logic, whose product may be available early next year. Unlike similar products (e.g., Kindle, Sony), this company's screen is much larger - 10.7 inches diagonal - and seems, says the story, more like a magazine page or print newspaper.

Easier-to-read should make consumers happier.

The story also indicated that the company is aiming for business professionals rather than casual readers/ That is code for "fee-for-access" for the convenience of having a large-screen device "to store, read and mark up stacks of documents and PDFs using a touch screen and then forward the documents to colleagues."

The company is hoping that the larger size will interest publishers who think that shrinking a newspaper page onto a small screen does not provide a good reading experience.

Users will be able to receive updated versions of the paper over a broadband or wireless connection. But the company did not say how much the device would cost or the price of subscriptions to various publications.

The article mentioned deals with The Financial Times, LibreDigital (offering electronic versions of The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post and others), USA Today, Ingram Digital and Zinio (distributors of periodicals from Hearst, IDG, Hachette Filipacchi and others.

An online store will allow users to buy books and periodicals and will also offer tools to publishers and individuals to allow them to format and sell books at the store.

While nothing beats holding a real book or newspaper in our hands, I do wonder what our genealogical geniuses will be able to do with this technology in the future.

What are your thoughts on how this could be useful for genealogists?

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