Goal reached? The spirit of e-books, that has been animating fairs, debates, fantasies and assumptions since several years, is now taking shape in concrete objects, with a serious chance to enter into common usage.
We are already witnessing a primitive, almost ideological, “standards war” between the iPad and Amazon’s Kindle, about which will likely become the reference device.
Without dwelling too much on the technical differences, it appears however at first sight that the recent Apple product is designed to perform several functions, where the reading has certainly taken on primary importance, but on the other hand it results to be towed by the other multiple uses.
As emphasized by Gino Roncaglia, author of an essay on the electronic book, the iPad found its killer application in reading; on the opposite, when considering dedicated and exclusive use patterns, each accessory is a potentially added value. In this sense, the iPad can be defined as a “bridge product”, in a prospect much broader than the limited distinction between tablet and laptop, smartphone and e-reader, and so on.
Any difficulties concerning construction details, stability of applications and even usability issues, which draw attention on magazines and websites, may be overshadowed.
The real limits are somewhere else: first, there is still no effective yield on the physical characteristics of the object-book, despite the rapid development of touch screens and the electronic ink, that are expected to match the resolutions of press soon.
I’m not referring to eyestrain, or some nostalgia of the page flip, to the weight and the smell of paper, or the pleasure of collections: I mean the surplus outline frame that expand and complete the text. The development of these elements, called “paratext” by experts, does not go hand in hand with the progress of formats: the tools designed to mark and highlight, note and comment the pages, can be further enhanced and made more agreeable, whereas attention for the standard is still only marginal.