eBooks and the future

23 Jan

After finishing university I ended up with a good degree in a subject which offered no direct entry into any job except teaching. So, at the very end of 1977 I ended up as a trainee computer programmer. I’ve almost entirely made a living by working on computers since then, in all sorts of jobs, mainly as a software technical author. When describing how computers were in 1977, you need to know that they were very large, very expensive and very difficult to access.  I owned a very early PC, which was almost unbelievably underpowered.  My first notepad computer is now a museum piece.

Then there is digital photography, which I have been involved with for about a decade. Before that I took rolls and rolls of film on 35mm on a very good Pentax SLR. In a cardboard box in a wardrobe I have several thousand negatives which I must scan in more, as they contain so many family memories. The quality of digital cameras has improved in much the same rate as computers and any other digital device. There is always the danger of being the man who opted for Betamax and HD DVD. I have given away all my VHS cassettes, and am only on DVD/Blu Ray for video these days. The point of these rambling reminiscences is that today’s technology uses file formats which will, in all probability not play on a new device in a few years time.

On my bookshelves I still have a number of books from my undergraduate days, which started forty years ago. I can still take these books off the shelf and read them, and I sometimes do. If I wanted to, I can have my negatives printed off. Now what will happen to the eBooks I purchase in ten years time. Admittedly, there are literally hundreds of pounds weight of books around the house, and many of these I am unlikely to look at again. Maybe I should dispose of these to a local charity shop, but I am adverse to getting rid of books. In the Cathedral in my local provincial city, Hereford, there is a chained library. In medieval times, books were so valuable they were quite literally chained up. The writers of these books still have their work available six or seven hundred years after they were written. Can any writer of eBooks imagine the same happening to their works?

Technology moves on, as do file formats. If we are to hope for the survival of work for even five years we must encourage the standards agencies to create open standards which are backwardly compatible, while developing new possibilities to enthral and encourage readers. Just don’t expect that Kindle you bought two years ago to be useful in five years time.


2 Responses to “eBooks and the future”

  1. Tim Prosser January 26, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more. I wish everyone would just get on and decide on a single format for ebooks. It would make it a lot easier to get our books out there if there was the one recognised format that worked through all channels. Great blog! well done!…

    • chelonist February 23, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

      Thank you for the kind words – I will try to write a few more blog entries in the future! (If it doesn’t interfere with my current workload

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: