A few days ago, I finally posted my belated reaction to the AAP’s position on a possible government mandate to make all articles published from publicly funded research freely available to the general public. I was not aware at the time but some reactions to the AAP’s position had already been published when I wrote my post. I was informed of that fact by a post on Slashdot. Of note is the open letter by Rockefeller University Press. They are a member organization of the AAP but they clearly distance themselves from the FUD being spread by the AAP. (This is a good example of the general caution we should apply in interpreting the pronouncements of umbrella associations that purport to speak for their members. Such associations can go rogue and misrepresent what their members really want. Or, and this is probably the case here, they represent the views only of their most powerful members.)
A recent NY Times article titled “Envisioning the Next Chapter for Electronic Books” notes the imminent arrival of two new services for people who want to use ebooks. Read the article for the full scoop. I found two parts interesting. First,
“Digital readers are not a replacement for a print book; they are a replacement for a stack of print books,” said Ron Hawkins, vice president for portable reader systems at Sony. “That is where we see people, on the go, in the subway and in airports, with our device.”
Hawkins expresses exactly why I prefer to use ebooks rather than paper books: it allows me to carry a small bookcase in my laptop. I say a small bookcase because right now support for ebooks is pretty anemic. Searchability and the possibility for electronic annotations are also advantages but they are more theoretical than real right now, again because the support for ebooks is deficient. My dream would be to have my entire book collection at my fingertips, ready for searching and ready for being annotated at will.
But the same article shows why I’m so reluctant to use any of the “solutions” currently proposed:
Some also complain about the fact that Amazon is using a proprietary e-book format from Mobipocket, a French company that Amazon bought in 2005, instead of supporting the open e-book standard backed by most major publishers and high-tech companies like Adobe. That means owners of other digital book devices, like the Sony Reader, will not be able to use books purchased on Amazon.com.
Vendor lock-in again?! I’m sorry but I’m not interested in buying an ebook that will work only on one device. If I buy “War and Peace” I want it to be readable on as many electronic devices as possible. Give me a searchable and annotatable PDF or nothing.