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E-Books Revisited April 4, 2010

Posted by Andre Vellino in Information, User Interface.

As Canadians await their iPads for the end of April this funny SpeedBump cartoon makes two serious points worth noting: e-book readers have poor screen resolution and digitization degrades the quality of information.

There are obvious advantages to digital information, the top three being indexing (hence search and discovery) and ease of storage and distribution. But, just as the artifacts of MP3 encoding has changed the production of music (e.g. music produced intentionally with less dynamic range, more pronounced basses and trebles), so the advent of  (relatively) low-resolution (~150DPI) monochrome (e-ink) or (~132 DPI for the iPad) color LED display devices threatens to constrain the consumption of content – scholarly journal articles especially.

At least in the short term. It isn’t until we can do “Seadragon“-like things – things that augment the dimensionality of textually and graphically represented knowledge that electronically published and displayed information has any chance of surpassing paper.   Imagine looking at a photograph and being able to find out much, much more about it  than the human eye can possibly detect, e.g. via NRC’s 3-D digital imaging of the Mona Lisa.

So it is possible to imagine a great future for the scholarly use of iPad-like devices. But as an instrument for the mere reading of text, e-book readers still have a long way to go.


1. hachem111 - July 20, 2010

I think there’s more to the future of digitized information than just making the document itself look better. A digitized document – like the Mona Lisa for example can link to a wealth of information – about the painting, about the artist, about the subject, the location, the paint, the style, the history, etc.

Suddenly it’s not just a painting – It’s an experience offering the opportunity to explore, learn and discover.

I find the possibilities that the future might bring very exciting.


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