It will be impossible to displace paper books if reading digital ones isinconvenient. In fact it is likely that an electronic book will have to offersignificantly more capability than a paper one to gain wide acceptance. Towardthis end, several manufacturers are developing E-books which attempt to mimicthe essential features of traditional books while providing huge advantages,such as the ability to store 1,000 electronic books in the space of one paperbook and keep the user's place in each.

The worldwide ecological burden imposed by paper books is immense.Tremendous energy and human resources are required to grow and harvest trees,convert them to paper, print and bind books, transport them to warehouses,maintain bookstores and ship the books from the warehouses to the bookstores.The processes of making paper and ink release noxious chemicals, to say nothingof the fuel required to transport boxes of books all over the world. All ofthis is done merely to disseminate information that could be disseminatedelectronically with far greater speed and efficiency.

The chief technical barrier to E-books at present is that they do notcapture the familiar feel of paper volumes. When this problem is solved, wewill then have to face the issue of how content is downloaded to them and paidfor.

Published: February 1999; WTECHyper-Librarian