ibm Imagine the benefits for multimedia and networked e-books—not to mention easier distribution of public domain books—if a new chip breakthrough pans out, following a demonstration.

“Scientists at IBM say they have developed a new type of digital storage which would enable a device such as an MP3 player to store about half a million songs – or 3,500 films—and cost far less to produce,” reports the Times in the U.K about the new racetrack memory.

The end result for e-books could be:

  • The eventual emergence of e-books with generous helpings of video—maybe even complete movies. Current bandwidth might be a hindrance in many cases. But here’s a chance for old-fashioned bookstores, meanwhile, to get part of the action.
  • Networked books with caching capabilities, able to pick up not only core material but also preserve related contents from a number of locations for offline reading and long-term storge, could become much more feasible.
  • Easier distribution and use of public domain books and others in remote locations without network access. Commercial books, too, could use such approaches, with lock-unlock tech in use. I’d hope that the “protection” would fade away entirely once the books were unlocked. Of course, best to have no restrictions.

No, I’m not saying that all books should contain movies—I shudder at this prospect. Also the question will emerge of when a book stops being a book and becomes just a navigation aid for a film collection. I’m just saying what apparently will be possible.

Same for networked books. I want to lose myself inside a novel and enjoy the author’s vision and voice. Others, though, especially younger people, may feel otherwise, and I myself am excited about the possibilities of networked books for nonfiction. The IDPF had better get off its rear and and grow more serious about annotation standards and interbook linking for .epub.