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Another take on e-books (and a techwriting connection):
I'm packing up to move into a motorhome for a couple of years' travel
around Australia, during which I'll be continuing to write, publish (in
various media) and maintain at least two web sites. I have _extremely_
limited space to take anything (to put it mildly), but I need quite a few
books (mainly reference books) and I want to take some books to read for
Much as I prefer reading a real book on real paper, I'm going to have to
learn to read at least some books on my computer -- assuming I can find
electronic copies of the books I need (fortunately a lot of computer books
these days come with a CD that has the book's contents on it, in some
form). A purpose-built e-book could perhaps be easier to read than the
screen on my laptop; it should certainly be easier to hold! And I'd hope an
e-book might have a better file format than PDF for electronic viewing.
I'm sure that many professionals (in a wide variety of fields) working as
"road warriors" similiarly need a range of books and other documents
available electronically. I can foresee some interesting challenges for
writers, editors and publishers, similar to the problems of presentation on
Web pages right now -- if you try to maintain too much control, some
readers will have difficulty reading the text (because the font size is too
small, for example), but if you don't maintain enough control, your work
may be hard to follow, look awful, or have other problems.
Are we ready for this new medium, or are we going to keep cranking out PDFs
and thinking we've provided appropriate electronic documents? Are we ready
to write and design for Web pages downloaded over a 9,500 bps mobile phone
link and displayed on a palmtop or laptop computer -- pages that may also
be used by people with a fast link and a big monitor? I don't think we (as
a group) are ready for either of those scenarios; or if we are, management