Saturday, 29 August 2009

Augmented Reality and E-Book Readers.

The thing that I lust after the most is shiny new gadgets. I love them but I can never afford them, and two things that I want but can't afford are an e-book reader, and a better phone.
The big new thing in mobile phones seems to be augmented reality. This is where by holding your GPS equipped device and aiming the camera at something, the device will overlay useful information. If you cant picture that picture the scene from Terminator where it cuts to his vision and says "Target: Sarah Connor" but then imagine when the terminator is on holiday and wants restaurant reviews "Target, dodgy Greek restaurant, Average rating: 1 star". Or you could get lost and point your camera phone at the street and be told where the nearest tube station is. The really great application that I heard discussed in Cnet UK was restaurant related again, How about ending up with some text in a foreign language in your hands, such as a menu, and holding your phone up to translate it. This really is the future and you can get it on your phone is you've got an iPhone or an Android based phone, but don't expect too much, it's no terminator vision yet, just some very clever tech. Get some more info over at Wired.
Another piece of clever tech but this time being done completely wrong is e-book readers. David Byrne talks about his experiences using the Kindle DX, explaining that it's a beautiful device (not that us Europeans would know, it being US based and everything) ruined by DRM. Now as far as I can tell, the only reason that book publishers think they can get away with crippling their users experience with DRM is that, unlike with music, you cant rip a book to your computer like you can a CD. You can scan it, but then it will be a crappy photocopied book. But as Byrne points out, the big rub is going to come when you buy a new e-book reader (such as the new Apple tablet perhaps) and you have to bu all your books again! Either that or you are locked in to Amazon's kindle range because they're the only ones that support this particular DRM.
The Sony readers are looking more enticing, as they support the more accepted if still DRMed e-pub format, and Google has announced that you can get all of its public domain books for free, as well as the option for institutions, libraries, and schools to pay a subscription to get unlimited access to all of Google's books.
I assume what will really get people buying e-books is the same thing which made people decide that an iPod was good value for money- Piracy. Would you pay £100 for the opportunity not just to save some book shelf space, and save your back from lugging text books around, but also to never have to pay for a book again? I would bank on yes, and if this apple tablet becomes a success, then the stores that sell the books are no longer as closely linked to the devices, and they might just become a hit. Who knows, those people might just start paying for books again one day.

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