The Last Book

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Thu Oct 18 2001 - 17:45:36 MDT

JOSEPH JACOBSON of the M.I.T. Media Lab and E Ink seeks to create the effect
of real paper that prints itself. His ultimate goal is a cybercodex, "the last
book," a bound volume of hundreds of e-ink pages with enough memory chips to
store the entire contents of the Library of Congress.

The Electronic Paper Chase
OFFERING A GLIMPSE of a future with rewritable periodicals, this E Ink
Corporation prototype "prints" text using electronic ink. Voltages are
supplied to the ink by a thin-film-transistor panel, from IBM. The panel is
800 by 600 pixels; each pixel is formed by charged pigment--the "ink."
Electrically erasable programmable memory sticks (sitting atop display, at
right) are used in setting the text.

The Last Book
Almost from the beginning, Jacobson's long-term vision for e-ink has included
"the last book": several hundred bound pages of self-printing paper with a
separate processor imprinted on each page and enough memory chips in the
hardcover volume's spine to store the entire contents of the Library of
Congress. With a single page of e-inked paper able to replicate any stored
page of text, graphics or even video, why bother binding together so many
pages? According to Jacobson, one reason is to engage a reader's spatial
memory: thumbing through a book-length work makes it easier to locate a
particular passage or illustration.

Somewhere between Jacobson's e-tome and Sheridon's e-scroll, there's another
format that electronic paper publishing could adopt. This one is an updated
variation on early printing's folios--binary multiples (8, 16 or 32) of pages
cut from a single large printed sheet. In 1999 Robert Steinbugler, head of
IBM's corporate strategic design program, unveiled a design prototype for the
eNewspaper--a rubberized, flexible, portfolio-style display device containing
eight two-sided pages made of digital paper (actually plastic mock-ups, for
now). Based on interviews with newspaper publishers and readers, Steinbugler
concluded that a sheaf of pages afforded the ability to flip back and forth
among stories without having to redraw their text, while also offering the
serendipitous juxtaposition of stories that still distinguishes newspapers in
print from their online, one-screen-at-a-time versions.

Given today's accelerated quest for electronic paper, it may not be too long
before Scientific American readers are offered a choice of e-folio,
e-hardcover or e-papyrus editions.

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Useless hypotheses, etc.:
 consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
uniqueness, ego, human values, scientific relinquishment

We move into a better future in proportion as science displaces superstition.

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