I have started to look at electronic book readers, as I am one of those who like to write outside of the office, but the office is where my library is. Now, if I had a nice electronic book reader, that wouldn't be a problem, because I could just bring my books with me. Even if the limitation on the book reader was, let's say, 100 books, that meant I could empty it into an electronic library on a hard drive, and just bring the books I wanted. Or have them in an online bookshelf. It would really change my life. Why have nobody thought about this before?
Perhaps the best supported electronic book reader is the Amazon Kindle, . It can contain about 200 titles, is wireless on the satelite band and so is always connected if you want to update newspapers or download books, and there are 230 000 books available. The weight? 300 grams. It sounds like a dream come true! The price? Well, not as cheap as a book, but 260$ I'd definitely pay to have all the books I need available all the time. Now, just as I was getting exited, I checked if I could get this in Norway, and use it in Norway. No. I can't. Bummer.
Sony has a lovely reader though, and although it's a little bit more expensive than the Kindle, it looks very interesting. It's not as proprietary as the Kindle, reads more formats, which makes it a lot more available. My electronic journal access suddenly means I can download the relevant articles to the reader, and drag with me whole years of relevant publications to places where I'd never take a computer. What's that but major cool?
From the webpage: "You can also create annotations with a virtual keyboard, highlight text with a stylus pen, search for text in your digital book, and easily adjust the font size." Oh yes, I'll happily shell out 300$, even now that the Norwegian krone has dropped, for the opportunity to carry 2-300 texts with me in the backpack when I am off to work elsewhere. This has to have a downside. "Note: Use of companion eBook Store limited to U.S. and Canadian residents. Certain titles may not be available for download based on place of residence." Lovely. This is probably why this item doesn't show up at all on the Norwegian Sony site.
One should think that these days, with the tight economy, the enormous number of free hands and the need for cash flowing into the United States, buying things from abroad should be a tad easier. What are they afraid I'll read? Benjamin Franklin's autobiography?
That I could read, if I want to, though. Manybooks.net contains 22,900 free e-books, many of the same as Project Gutenberg. If I mainly wanted the reader in order to always have a great novel available, I wouldn't worry about the restrictions, and just buy one. Come to think of it, that's a great thing to have. Thousands of books available to be packed into a tiny space. Would save a world of searching for English book-stores when we're on vacations.
However, what I really want is the books we use, regularly, the ones standing in our bookshelves. The ones I have already shelled out thousands and thousands for, so I can have them close, and the ones I will pay as much for in the future. They are the books that stop me, when my colleague talks enthusiastically about a month in a remote village in Greece, to write articles. I would love the village, sure, but I'd not write much. This is why when I travel, I go somewhere with bookstores and libraries. I don't know exactly which books I'll need before I go, and the nature of my work makes it hard to write without a reference library. And it isn't available online.
Our books, the ones we want, the ones we read and use and cite and think about, they haven't been put online. No matter how savvy we feel, how updated on the cutting edge of net use - we publish on paper only. Yeah, dinosaurs. Lovable, useful, reassuring dinosaurs, which I don't want to be without, but still...
So, dear scholars, dear scholarly publishing houses: How about those electronic books? Wouldn't that be a great idea?