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Vol. XII, no. 2

TCU Library Newsletter, Web Edition

November 2001


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A View Through the Transom
by James Lutz

     From September 25th through the 27th I was delighted to attend Electronic Book 2000: Changing the Fundamentals of Reading held in Washington D.C. This conference, sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and National Information Standards Organization (NISO) brought together one thousand participants. Seven hundred participants represented the publishers, authors and technology firms interested in electronic books. The remaining three hundred participants were librarians seeking out new information and voicing concerns about the library's role.

In this, the third conference, standards and piracy issues were the concern. Consistent reference to the music industry was made regarding Napster and the MP3 format. With attention focusing on these issues it was in some respects a shifting from "if" the electronic book market will exist to controlling the product "when" the market exists.

Publisher's hemmed and hawed over which format from the multitudes they should choose while the technology companies cried "all." It is felt in the digital world that once text is converted to a raw product it will be able to be reproduced any number of ways. One format that will persist to exist and was acknowledged to never go away was the pBook (i.e., print book) or as one speaker termed the "tree book."

Economic models are changing within the electronic book environment and libraries will have to play an active role. While I visited the IBM booth, a vendor representative asked me which of three pricing models a library would like; pay-per-use, flat fee, or fee based on population. I responded as I am sure all my colleagues did with "it depends on the content."

Developments on the electronic book will continue at a frantic pace. In January 2001 numerous alliances between publishers, encryption companies, authors, digital rights managers, distributors and end-user hardware and software producers should finally bear fruit. Electronic books that exist today can be read on dedicated portable reading devices such as the Rocket eBook, SoftBook and Everybook; used with software downloaded to Personal Digital Assistants in either the Palm OS or Windows CE formats; downloaded and read on personal computers; read via a web browser; printed on demand for a fee; and acquired in digital audio format.

Links to the Conference Web Site Main Page
NIST and NISO Electronic Book 2000: Changing the Fundamentals of Reading

More Info Page (links to publishers, vendors, manufacturers, projects)


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