reading machineThe endless eBook debate grinds on and on and we do not propose to rehearse it yet again here: a host of sites are already doing that and the best illustration of the confusion and despair it provokes we have yet seen is this from Maria Langer.

Knocklofty sees two obstacles to the progress of the eBook which need to be overcome if it is to begin to fulfil its promise. The first is the need for a reader device which will do for books what the iPod did for music.

A number of devices, all with more than a degree of clunkiness, are beginning to contend for a share of an embryonic market bedevilled by incompatible formats and anachronistic business ideas. The device we would most like to see is this suggestion to Apple and we hope Steve Jobs’ wisecrack about nobody reading any more is, as is widely speculated, a ruse to conceal what may be going on in the back room.

The problem of the reader will eventually be solved. But the second obstacle is in the minds of publishers. One large Australian bookshop chain is offering a proprietary reader and a range of eBooks to go with it, but the eBooks themselves are priced at only a little less—about $5 less—than their printed equivalent. On top of that, the eBooks are subject to a digital rights management system which is as absurd as that promoted by the dinosaurs of the music industry.

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