Friday, February 3, 2012

The Future of the e-book - Part 1

Professionally I’ve done quite a bit of public crystal-ball gazing. Sometimes I’ve hit the nail on the head, with predictions that happen so accurately I wonder if I should don a gypsy outfit and pitch a tent somewhere. Other times, I’m left waiting for the events to happen. Examples of both are the use of biometric recognition on cell phones (happened three months after I published the prediction with the introduction of a fingerprint scanner on a phone made by a French firm) and large scale denial of service attacks using smartphones (still waiting).

I’ve been toying with the idea of directing my foresight (or should that be fore-sight?) toward the issue of e-books. As a writer I’m obviously interested in the media that carries my words. Although I confess not to owning an e-book reader (Kindle, Nook et al.) yet, I have two e-book format reader programs on my computer. If my predictions come true, then I’ll be called a Guru (again). If I’m wrong, then these are the “random scribblings of a novelist” as the blog’s subtitle declares. Upon reflection, I’m probably going to be both.

So what’s my take on the future of e-books/e-readers?

First the support.

Processor speeds are increasing exponentially, and getting smaller. With nanotechnology being applied to bespoke processor chips for these devices, the amount of space required for their innards will reduce. Quad-core processors will be the norm, offering more than enough power for e-readers and freeing up further possibilities.

There’s a huge amount of effort going into the development of high-definition screen technology. I don’t mean OLED, although that shows promise for big screen TVs once the prices drop. Rather I’m thinking about paper-thin, full colour flexible displays which can be rolled-up into a support bar when not in use. I see these support bars as being a couple of centimetres wide and maybe a centimetre thick, with an array of buttons which facilitate page navigation running vertically along their face. Using accelerometer technology, by flipping the support bar though 180ยบ, you will be able to pull the “page” either out to the right or left and the display will adjust automatically. Once extracted the page screen will remain semi-rigid, allowing you to read and drink your morning Joe at the same time. The pages themselves will of course be touch sensitive, thus allowing even more possibilities. The action of pulling the screen out, and collapsing it, will switch the device on and off, thus saving on buttons and preventing battery burn-up if left on accidentally.

The device will also have a small speaker and earphone socket, allowing e-books to be read automatically where this is required. 

On the subject of battery power; these will obviously improve with the introduction of the new silicon-based anodes on Lithium-Ion batteries giving up to eight times the life of existing units, or perhaps the commercial development of Lithium-air cells. Both technologies will be combined with Kinetic and low-light photo-voltaic cell charge technology to optimize their hours  of service. Additionally, the e-paper screens will operate in two modes, thus reducing battery consumption: a less bright hi-def image for reading e-books and full brightness hi-def colour for other uses. What other uses, you may ask? Well rather than carry around your smartphone and e-book reader, this will be replaced with a Book-Phone, or BF, (you heard it here first, guys) that will give you the best of both worlds.

So it will be small (10x2x1 cms), lightweight (100 grams) and highly portable. Incidentally, it will have biometrically-activated use to help protect from theft. As your fingers curl around the ergonomically-shaped back of the support bar, a built-in reader will check you out. Should you decide to prop up the device, to read hands-free, pulling out the small stand fitted flush on the support bar will automatically switch off the sensor, once it you have been initially identified.

When will this little marvel be around? It’s February 2012 now, yet I can see all of us unwrapping an BF at Christmas 2020. Only eight years to wait. Maybe less. Price, you ask? My guesstimate is less than 50 US dollars.

In Part 2 I’ll tackle the way content, i.e the e-book itself, will evolve according to my crystal ball.

What do you think about the prediction so far? Would you buy one of these? 

Eric at
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