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VOLUME 26 • NUMBER 4 • July/August 2002
Electronic Books: Reports of Their Death Have Been Exaggerated
Further Resources
by Donald T. Hawkins
[The following information could not be included in this article for space reasons and is therefore presented here for the use of our readers.]

Background Information and Keeping Current
Because the e-books field tends to be marked by rapid changes, keeping current with the events and the literature can be difficult. Fortunately, some excellent review articles have recently appeared, and there are some excellent newsletters that help. These resources are described below.

Review Articles
Hillesund, Terje, “Will E-books Change the World?” First Monday, Vol. 6, Issue 10, October 1, 2001. []

Hillesund presents a good analysis and review of the book publishing industry and the issues facing it. He states, “E-books are the books of the network society” and then goes on to discuss their history and technology. He feels that e-books evolved naturally, their development resulted from social and economic issues rather than “ingenious ideas,” and “e-books are a social necessity.” Interestingly, he rejects text files, such as Project Gutenberg, as true e-books and regards them as only a starting point. Although he includes PDF files in his definition of e-books (barely), he feels that XML is the preferred e-book distribution platform.

Hillesund is correct in stating that e-books will not replace printed books and that their major detractors are the poor quality and high prices of reading devices, plus all of the issues surrounding digital rights management. He regards e-books as a delivery platform that will “bring the book industry into the new network-based digital and global economy." In answering the question he posed, “Will e-books change the world?” Hillesund is cautious, concluding his article with the statement:

“Before I start to speculate on the ways in which e-books could change the world, it might be a good idea to wait and see how—or rather if—the diffusion of e-books will happen.”

Jantz, Ronald, “E-Books and New Library Service Models: An Analysis of the Impact of E-Book Technology on Academic Libraries”, Information Technology and Libraries, Vol. 20, Issue 2, June 2001, pp. 104-113.

Jantz, an academic librarian, focuses exclusively on academic libraries and the effects that e-books are having on them. He has a negative view of e-books, remarking, “The e-book is a technological discontinuity for the library." He provides a good summary of several of the market players, but feels that there is no compelling reason for users to buy an e-book. Even though the student market has been identified as one in which e-books have a good chance of success, Jantz makes the important point that the current devices have not yet matured, and any device that students purchase must be capable of accessing content from many publishers and in many formats. He notes that students will much prefer to use their PCs rather than purchase an additional reading device. 

Lynch, Clifford, “The Battle to Define the Future of the Book in the Digital World," First Monday, June 2001. []
Lynch’s article is a classic and cannot be recommended highly enough. If you are able to read only one article on e-books, this is the one to select. Although long, it covers the book publishing industry in detail and delves into most of the relevant issues. Lynch considers the results of simply repurposing existing printed books, the need to add value to the reading experience and how books could be redesigned to do so, and rights management and control issues. He also compares and contrasts book publishing with related industries such as music and video, and discusses the entire value chain of the book industry. He then examines e-book readers, which he views as “backward," and presents some of the issues surrounding the use of e-books on reading devices by consumers. Finally, he moves into library issues, preservation, and concludes with some predictions on the future of the book, and e-books in particular. Lynch feels that e-books have serious problems, particularly in the area of rights management. Publishers need to allow users to do all of the things they can do with print books. E-books will therefore be in an evolutionary and developmental stage for some time, but Lynch suggests that we should welcome this and appreciate whatever positive changes they cause.

Peters, Thomas A., “Gutterdämmerung (twilight of the gutter margins): e-books and libraries”, Library Hi Tech, Vol. 19, No. 1, 2001, pp. 50-62.

Peters’ article is an excellent overview of e-books. He identifies the development of e-books as a revolution that is less about dedicated reading devices and more about new platforms, rights management, “and perhaps an inchoate power struggle among the principal interested parties”. Although he feels that we are perhaps in “the twilight of…the printed book," and that e-books are “an industry in search of a market," he sounds a note of optimism in stating that the relationship between text and delivery platforms is becoming more dynamic, with the inclusion of added-value features. He is also of the opinion that libraries should take a leading role in experimenting with e-books and work with publishers and users to help define pricing models and issues of rights management. 

Peters, Thomas A., “Special Section on E-Books," Library Hi Tech, Vol. 19, No. 4, 2001, pp. 311-399.

This special section of an issue of Library Hi Tech arrived just as my article was going to press. It contains nine articles dealing with various aspects of e-books. Many of the articles are authored by people active in the e-books area and contain recent information. The individual articles are cited below.
Sottong, Steven, “E-Book Technology: Waiting for the ‘False Pretender’”, Information Technology and Libraries, Vol. 20, Issue 2, June 2001, pp. 72-80.

In a most interesting analysis, Sottong applies to e-books a model originally propounded in a series of articles appearing in Library Journal in 1992 by Raymond Kurzweil, a noted inventor. Kurzweil described seven stages in the evolution of a technology. Sottong’s analysis concludes that e-books are in an early stage of evolution because they fail six of the eight criteria necessary for a technology to become mature. He identifies poor display quality (leading to eyestrain), difficulty of use as compared with printed books, cost, and lack of standards as major hurdles for e-books to overcome.

Cites & Insights
Walt Crawford, Senior Analyst at RLG, publishes a monthly newsletter entitled Cites & Insights: Crawford At Large (CICAL), in which he reviews and evaluates developments in a variety of technological topics. E-books is one of the topics that Crawford writes about extensively, and CICAL is an outstanding resource for keeping up to date with developments (Crawford’s newsletter provided pointers to many of the references used in this article). Crawford reviews articles that have appeared in the literature as well as current events that come to his attention, and he is careful to differentiate between reviewing facts and stating his (very definite) opinions. 

Crawford agrees with many writers in his opinion that e-books will never supplant printed books and are highly doubtful for the consumer market. But he does see areas where they will be useful, such as reference works that are used in a nonlinear fashion and in the education market. CICAL is freely available (it is published in PDF format) at

Wired News
Columnist M. J. Rose frequently writes about e-books in Wired News [], and is a particularly good source for late breaking market developments. Crawford quotes her columns extensively in his articles in CICAL. Rose’s column appears weekly, whereas e-book articles in CICAL appear approximately every two or three months, so Rose’s column tends to report on events sooner than CICAL. However, Crawford’s analysis and comments on Rose’s columns are extremely worthwhile, so both sources are valuable.
Additional References
[The following are some additional references of current interest on e-books.]

“What’s Ahead for 2002?” Information Today, Vol. 19, Issue 1, January 2002, pp. 1, 53-54.
Abbott, Kate, “Ebook = MC2: Ebooks at Maroochy Libraries”, LASIE, Vol. 32, No. 2/3, August/December 2001, pp. 21-30.

Brown, Gary J., “Beyond Print: Reading Digitally”, Library Hi Tech, Vol. 19, No. 4, 2001, pp. 390-99.

Burk, Roberta, “E-book Devices and the Marketplace: In Search of Customers”, Library Hi Tech, Vol. 19, No. 4, 2001, pp.325-31.

Connaway, Lynn Silipigni, “A Web-based Electronic Book (E-book) Library: The netLibrary Model”, Library Hi Tech, Vol. 19, No. 4, 2001, pp. 340-49.

Coyle, Karen, “Stakeholders and Standards in the E-book Ecology: or, It’s the Economics, Stupid!”, Library Hi Tech, Vol. 19, No. 4, 2001, pp. 314-24.

Crawford, Walt, “Tracking the Ebook Vendors," EContent, Vol. 24, No.6, August 2001. pp. 50-51

Dillon, Dennis, “E-books: The University of Texas Experience, Part 2”, Library Hi Tech, Vol. 19, No. 4, 2001, pp. 350-62.

Dorner, Jane, “Authors and e-delivery," Learned Publishing, Vol. 15, 2001, pp. 63-68. []

Falk, Howard, “How Should Libraries Handle Ebooks?” The Electronic Library, Vol. 20, No. 1, 2002, pp. 55-57.

Falk, Howard, “What is Fair Use of E-books?”, The Electronic Library, Vol. 19, No. 5, 2001, pp. 349-51.

Gibbons, Susan, “Growing Competition for Libraries," Library Hi Tech, Vol. 19, No. 4, 2001, pp. 363-67.

Gibbs, Nancy J., “eBooks Two Years Later: The North Carolina State University Perspective”, Against the Grain, Vol. 13, No. 6, December 2001-January 2002, pp. 22-26.

Hattery, Maxine, “E-Books For Easy Reading”, Information Retrieval & Library Automation, Vol. 36, No. 11, April 2001, pp. 2-4.

Hawkins, Donald T., “Etextbooks Gaining Ground in Print Space," EContent, Vol. 24, No. 2, April 2001, pp. 10-11.

Hughes, Carol Ann and Buchanan, Nancy L., “Use of Electronic Monographs in the Humanities and Social Sciences," Library Hi Tech, Vol. 19, No. 4, 2001, pp. 368-75.

Lonsdale, Roy and Armstrong, Chris, “Electronic Books: Challenges for Academic Libraries”, Library Hi Tech, Vol. 19, No. 4, 2001, pp. 332-39.

Lynch, Mary-Alice, “Nylink’s Shared Collection: A Collaborative Introduction of a New Technology”, Against the Grain, Vol. 13, No. 6, December 2001-January 2002, pp. 26-30.

Pfund, Niko, “Technology and Change in the Library Marketplace," Against the Grain, Vol. 13, No. 5, November 2001, pp. 22-24.

Ramirez, Diana, and Gyeszly, Suzanne D., “netLibrary: A New Direction in Collection Development”, Collection Building, Vol. 20, No. 4, 2001, pp. 154-64.

Snowhill, Linda, “E-books and Their Future in Academic Libraries," D-Lib Magazine, Vol. 7, No. 7/8, July/August 2001. []

Terry, Ana Arias, “Electronic Ink Technologies: Showing the Way to a Brighter Future”, Library Hi Tech, Vol. 19, No. 4, 2001, pp. 376-89.

Donald T. Hawkins [] is editor-in-chief for Information Today, Inc.'s Information Science Abstracts and Fulltext Sources Online.

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