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.


  1. Another example is off-line access to wikipedia, which today is a stretch for ebook devices.
    However, almost all existing ebook reading software is designed for relatively small documents and might break on even a 10MB ebook let alone a multi-GB reference work.

  2. As a professional author and screenwriter, I would hope that some kind of protection for creative work would accompany this kind of development – but as an avid web junkie who uses the web and my iPhone as my primary source of news (and I read news from all over the world) and my primary means of watching movies (I barely watch TV of any kind) – although not yet of reading books (although I’m sure I will eventually, when the interface is sufficiently comfortable) – I welcome the prospect of smaller, faster memory with great excitement.

    The iPhone for me has been a revelation (and I used Blackberries and Treos when they first emerged): an object of true beauty that can slip in my pocket and that functions extremely well for email, web browsing, movies, music, weather, stock quotes and more.

    Supercharge that with greater speed, memory and connectivity, create an even more “paper-like” screen for reading – that perhaps switches to a smoother texture for movies – and bump up the intuitive quality of the interface, and we will have something more powerful and more useful than any of today’s PCs in our pocket.

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