The Book Of The Future

Shawn has post over at Words and Other Things, asking for philosophical books to be available as searchable .pdfs. That made me think, and I came up with the following scenario that I would like to be true. It might not be possible in the year of James Bond, but few years in the future… maybe.

In the scenario we all have e-paper devices (something like this, this, this, or eventually something that looks like being actually made after 1990) with access to Internet. The device connects to a book provider, to which we pay e.g. $10 a month.

Using that device we are able to search and choose books, papers, to click through the references to get to other books, etc… and the pages of the books/papers will be then streamed (not fully downloaded) to this reader device.

The amount of money we pay, is then divided per time we spend reading each of the books. If half of the month I spend reading some book, it gets $5. If I read just few pages, but find out it is not for me, it gets just few cents.

If such system exist, even bloggers might be able to fit in! – the provider might not just provide philosophy books, but also serve philosophy blogs, and bloggers could be payed for providing content, that other people read through such service (according to the time spent). As a reader I would be glad if part of my money goes to those bloggers whose posts I spend lot of time reading.

Of course, this kind of service doesn’t have to be limited to philosophy books. It can be for books in general, but there is one problem for this kind of generalizing… Some books are very specialized, and doesn’t have as much readership as others, and thus might not provide return of investment if the $10 are divided to all kind of books. It seems more plausible for the system to work if people pay separately for different types of books (e.g. I will pay $10 monthly for access to philosophy books, and then separate $5 if I want access to fiction).
Maybe the price per category can be even calculated by some formula, so that more readership some category of books has, the less money the reader should pay for the service.

2 thoughts on “The Book Of The Future

  1. Your suggestion sounds reasonable. My only worry about the pay as your read set up is that you could end up paying far more for a book you look at a lot. If there is a ceiling to the cost (say, the normal cover price of the book), after which you get to download the book, then that seems fine. Or, if a flat fee per month gives you unlimited access to the books in the designated area.

    Either way, I think there is little good reason not to have all books available in searchable .pdf format. Another reason I support that idea is that I have a few friends who are blind or dyslexic. They would be greatly helped by having .pdfs or other files of the books that they could get computer programs to read outloud or transcribe in Braille. Currently they have to jump through a bunch of hoops and wait on publishers to provide the text or disabilities resource people to scan books appropriately.

  2. Hi Shawn,

    You are absolutely right about the digital format helping accessibility of the books.

    BTW, as for your note, I was thinking of the flat rate giving you unlimited access to the books in the designated area. If the rate is flat, I’m not sure I will mind if more of my money goes to the book, that i would pay less. The money goes anyway, so it might as well go to the books i pay most attention to. And while I read blogs (e.g. yours) for free, I won’t mind if money goes, that it go to the blogs I read.

    Of course, the bad thing is that after paying 50 years for this service, one pays e.g. 50*12*10=6000$, but doesn’t own any hard-copy book. So, your suggestion seems fair, if most of the time you spend on some book, and pay its price, or 2*price, etc.., for the service to send you a hard copy.

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