We are finally seeing a lot of newer technology being used for reading with eReaders.
While it’s impressive that books have been around pretty much unchanged since the 15th century, there is a lot of 21st century technology that can improve on books and the reading experience.
21st Century Technology already in use in Books
We all know how eInk allows for
- Much better readability with little eye strain.
- The ability to read outdoors.
- Longer battery life.
- Touch capabilities (the beginnings of it).
- Flexible, unbreakable screens (early 2010).
eInk is still an evolving technology and color and lower prices will only make it better.
Amazon’s Whispernet already brings some of the benefits of cloud computing i.e.
- Your books are backed up in the cloud.
- WhisperSync to synchronize across your devices.
- You can buy books from the Cloud.
Wireless technology hand in hand with the cloud and we will see a lot more advances as companies leverage these better.
The Internet has had more of an impact than can be explained in a few paragraphs so we’ll look at just a few effects –
- Internet retailers like Amazon.
- Direct channels between authors and readers.
- Readers connecting with other readers.
- New perceptions of book prices and book value.
- Huge competition to reading.
Perhaps this is a topic for a new post. The Internet has forced the books industry to embrace new technology (while also helping with the transition).
Improved LCD panels
Netbooks and even Notebooks (Acer’s Timeline series) are pushing the limits on battery life to 10+ hours. This raises the possibility of using LCD panels in eReaders.
At the same time Pixel Qi is building multiple mode screens based on LCD technology that can switch between eReader and Normal Laptop Screen mode.
If one of these LCD technologies evolves into something usable in eReaders we get a great new option.
As chips, batteries, memory, and other components become smaller we can make eReaders more and more useful –
- Make them fit in our pockets.
- Make them thin and light.
- Increase the number of books we can carry.
- Increase the power and speed.
There are a lot more innovative uses of miniaturization yet to be discovered.
Print on Demand
Print on Demand is an interesting technology and for people who still want physical books it simplifies distribution greatly and helps cut costs. Not very familiar with it so any comments or thoughts on it would be appreciated.
Neolux has already created solar powered eInk screens and we might see these make their way into eReaders soon –
Coupling eInk, with its impressive battery life and ability to read outdoors, with solar energy cells is a good, good idea.
Productivity, Kaizen and Efficiency
While this is not purely a technological advance, a lot of the most effective productivity advances are being applied to ebooks –
- Amazon is pushing the limit with very simple, very efficient design.
- Amazon is basically using the same kaizen principle in the Kindle that gave Japanese car companies their quality advantage.
- Apple is pushing the limit with very efficient, very attractive design.
- We have multi-touch appearing everywhere and Windows 7 will bring it to netbooks.
The book is one of the most usable, simple creations ever, and we do need to match (and hopefully exceed) the book’s design and usability.
21st Century Technology that could be used with Books
Newer Display Technologies
There is the possibility that a completely different display technology (something other than eInk and LCD) takes over. Perhaps most interesting is the work on Organic LEDs.
Here’s Sony’s flexible OLED screen – [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NcAm3KihFho]
The Semantic Web
If we get search technology that can gauge intent and answer our questions, it would fit in very well with book recommendation engines, searching books, reference work and more.
The Semantic Web (in the cloud or in your eReader) –
- Could tell you what book is most like another.
- Would let you find all books with a particular type of plot structure.
- Would help create a break-down of books into the core elements of style and structure – what Pandora did with music and its Music Genome Project.
Imagine a recommendation engine that would actually find a book that is most similar to your tastes based on ‘book dna’. We’d finally have a way to capture what so far has been indescribable.
GPS, Location Services and Augmented Reality
You could be at a particular address and turn on an option and see –
- Nearby bookstores.
- Book Deals.
- People with tastes similar to yours.
Even more interesting is when you add on augmented reality –
- Authors who lived near the location.
- What their homes looked like.
- Books whose events happen near the location.
- The people from the books walking or standing on the street.
- Scenes from the book playing out.
We are at the beginnings of a lot of what’s possible with location and augmented reality and things are going to get really interesting.
Data Mining, Neural Networks, Evolutionary Algorithms and Predictive Analysis
Just like the Semantic Web, Data Mining and Neural Networks will transform book recommendation engines and reading.
The possibilities for readers –
- Take a seed group of your favorite books and create a neural network tailored to these.
- Feed in your other purchases and other favorites to this neural network and let it evolve.
- Club this with the Book Genome we’ve discovered using the Semantic Web to create a really good recommendation engine.
The possibilities for publishers –
- Plug in past successes and develop an evolutionary algorithm.
- It’ll pick out books that have a very high likelihood of success.
- The algorithm itself can be analyzed to see what causes success.
For authors –
- In your target niche, figure out what leads to success.
- Keep feeding your book to an algorithm and seeing what the probability of success is.
Nanotechnology would touch pretty much every aspect of eReaders –
- Cheap energy.
- Clean and efficient manufacturing.
- Self repairing and self-cleaning eReaders.
- Perhaps reading technology that integrates into humans or into clothes or glasses.
Just a ton of possibilities.
Clean Energy, Bioplastics, and Environmental Technologies
Perhaps the most underrated benefit of eReaders is that they’re great for the environment. To the already existing ‘replacing paper’ benefits, we ought to be able to add –
- eReaders made of bioplastic.
- Low power usage to make sure reading books doesn’t eat up the benefits of not using paper.
- Cleaner energy sources like Solar Power.
- Recycling eReaders – perhaps as Point of Sale panels or other display uses.
There are a lot of benefits here and the impact of trees not being cut should be highlighted more.
We already have flexible screen eReaders lined up which would have unbreakable screens. There are a lot more benefits that can be derived –
- Shock impacting plastics to avoid damage to the insides.
- You could have eReaders that can be molded into desired shapes by their owners.
Just a lot that’s possible.
Micro Payments, Virtual Gifts, and Payment Technologies
Paypal has already made life easier for a lot of authors and bloggers. We might soon have a huge variety of additions –
- Apple and Facebook’s micro payment platforms.
- Virtual Gifts and Virtual Gift currencies.
- Newer payment technologies.
- New ways for readers to pay for books and content.
Often, it’s the inconvenience of spending 5 minutes to pay $1 that prevents purchases.
Amazon has made a good move with ‘Buy Now’, 1-click, and the Kindle store being in-built in Kindles and we can use all the payment technologies we can get.
Other Interesting Technologies
You could cut power usage by 90% if you can get anything resembling superconductivity.
This would be a huge jump – no more messy wires.
Quantum Computing and Probabilistic Computing
If quantum computers can be built they’ll make things much faster. It might not be in the next 10 years though.
Closing Thoughts and Thanks
These are sites that had good lists of the most exciting new technologies –
eInk and Amazon’s WhisperNet are huge advances and Amazon and Sony deserve credit for leveraging technology into reading.
However, if you look at some of the big opportunities i.e.
- Recommendation Engines.
- Solar Energy.
- Newer Screen Technologies.
It’s obvious that we are at the beginning of a golden age of reading.
Given that eReaders are the first revolutionary advance in reading since the Gutenberg Press it’s about time.
It does seem like Companies will keep incorporating new technologies and bring reading well and truly into the 21st century.