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Digital Book Reader

For a book lover, the word 'library' conjures up a magical place. It's a silent jungle where time stands still and the thirsty prowl among rows and rows of dusty books. But soon a library will be something that you carry around in your pocket. Yes, electronic devices called digital book readers are gaining popularity slowly but surely.

A standard digital book reader is roughly the same size and weight of an average book. Since 1985, there has been significant advancement in the development and improvement of software that allows online reading. Stand-alone reading hardware for electronic books (or ebooks) are a more recent phenomenon though. Amazon's Kindle is the most recent and successful ebook reader in the market which also can be connected to the internet to download content. Sony, Bookeen and Foxit Software are other companies that manufacture popular digital readers.

The advantages offered by digital readers are compelling. For the user, the digital readers offer portability, fast search and lookup of information, interactive displays with multimedia content, easy highlighting of relevant text, LED lighting among other obvious reader-friendly features. Visually impaired users can use text-to-speech software and zoom relevant content to a comfortable size. For the publisher, the economics of book distribution becomes simple and cost-effective. Feedback from extensive user experience studies goes into the design of digital readers and they are far more ergonomical than before.

However, in assuming that getting as much information as possible swiftly to the reader is of paramount importance and nothing else, the failings of the digital book reader are the failings of technology itself. Impersonal, fragile, costly, requiring special education and familiarity with device-usage, these devices find a better home among the rich youth who are equally at home with the real as well as the virtual.
A printed book whereas, after it has been perused, sits on the shelf acquiring a life of its own, ingratiating itself more and more into the reader's conscience. The art of judging a book by its cover, feel, smell etc. prized by many readers will be lost. Digital rights management (DRM), a controversial topic these days, tries to restrict access to digital material, which means no more sharing of content, sometimes even across devices owned by the same person. Despite the disadvantages, digital book readers are here to stay and can prove invaluable for researchers and librarians.

The day is very far off when beings on a different planet orbiting a different Sun will choose to replace printed books completely with digital ones. Till then, both will occupy the current reality serving different purposes; one satisfying emotional desires and the other solving urgent problems.                                                          

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