Reader friendly: Howard Clark and his e-book
But if Howard Clark
is holding the future in his
may very well be-will the "graces of life" be reduced to electrons?Clark, a professor emeritus in Duke's biomedical engineering department, is an early convert to the electronic book."I'm the least computer-smart fellow in my department, and I took satisfaction in being the first to have an e-book," he says.
"My colleagues were astounded."
A year ago, Clark
was a new-product tester for NuvoMedia's Rocket eBook.He
tried it for a month, liked the experience, and made a purchase-at that time, for about $500-as soon as the technology became commercially available.Because of cataracts, he
found reading printed books a strain.He
was also confronting a space crisis: An avid reader, particularly of mystery stories, he
was running out of shelf space at home; at the insistence of his
got rid of a couple of hundred books last spring.
In his office at the Pratt School of Engineering
produces his e-book and brings to the screen Joseph Ellis' American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson.
observes that the Rocket eBook was released into an unsettled environment; the major competitor, SoftBook, has a different mechanism for transmitting the book to the reading device.So the e-book revolution may produce a variation on the unhappy battle of videocassette recorders waged by VHS and Betamax formats.He
also wonders about pressure-which he
hopes the manufacturers will resist-to add to the e-book such non-bookish features as cell phones and personal organizers. Rare Book
, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library
, Duke University
, Durham, North Carolina
The Barnes & Noble site is limited to about 2,000 selections, many of them self-help books and titles, like Dracula, on which the copyright has expired. (Still, for Frank McCourt's Tis, 'tisn't true that a critical flop is a technological flop, and the book made its way speedily as an e-book offering.) Clark
says it's likely that booksellers underestimated the complexity of formatting e-book-friendly text.
Limitations aside, Clark
is a fan of his
Rocket eBook."I'm disappointed in the content, but that's irrelevant to the concept," he
can imagine the hand-held device accommodating the full set of textbooks that engineering undergraduates use over their four years-bulky books like the Elements of Materials Science and Engineering that he
has on his
office shelf.It's already accompanied him on a European trip."The future is here," he