E-Books, Wikis, and Search Top the News

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I've been bombarded by e-book-related news lately. Maybe I'm just more conscious of it because I recently tested a dedicated e-book reader from Sony (it's due to be released this fall). As my two college-age sons get ready for the fall semester, I'm also acutely aware of the high cost of textbooks (I wish they could get all of their books as reasonably priced e-book downloads).

Free E-Books Prove Popular

For college students who are willing to put up with viewing ads, an upstart company in Minnesota called Freeload Press announced that it is providing some textbooks as e-books for free. But the number and subjects are quite limited at this point, and it is no known how they will be received by faculty and students.

Another new ad-based option for e-books is available from WOWIO. As Regis Maher II, president of WOWIO, said: "Readers get free ebooks. Advertisers get a powerful new channel to communicate their message, and publishers benefit from a new venue to distribute their books, expand readership and monetize their intellectual property." The site now offers classics, fiction, nonfiction, and comic books.

MyiLibrary, an aggregated e-content provider, announced the launch of its updated e-book platform, which offers improved search capabilities. MyiLibrary currently hosts more than 50,000 e-book titles, available for individual purchase from academic and professional publishers (McGraw-Hill, John Wiley, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, Springer, Elsevier, and others). Exclusive access is also available to intergovernmental publications from groups such as The International Atomic Energy Agency and the International Labour Organisation.

MyiLibrary, distributed by Coutts Information Services (based in the U.K. and Canada), has been growing quickly (it adds 1,000 new titles every week). In comparison, competitors NetLibrary offers 100,000 titles while ebrary has 80,000 titles. ProQuest uses the MyiLibrary platform to distribute medical and health e-books.

A month-long celebration (July 4 to Aug. 4, 2006) marked the 35th anniversary of Project Gutenberg with free downloads of more than 33,000 e-books at the World eBook Fair. The site said it served more than 1 million PDF e-books a day (more than 30 million in all). The e-books came from Project Gutenberg (20,000), participating private libraries and collections, and the World eBook Library, which usually charges a small fee. In case you missed this opportunity, the site will offer free access again in October.

Anniversaries

Did you miss the 15-year anniversary of the Web? [Editor's Note: See September's IT, p. 56.1 On Aug. 6, 1991, Tim Berners-Lee formally introduced his World Wide Web project to the world on the alt .hypertext newsgroup and released his software. See http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/5243862.stm for an interesting set of articles and an interactive timeline. I loved Stephen Abram's comment the best: The Web is now "officially a difficult teen."

And 25 years ago on Aug. 12, 1981, IBM launched the personal computer. [Editor's Note: See September's IT, p. 56.] Since then, Gartner estimates that 1.6 billion PCs have been sold and 870 million are currently installed. The annual revenue for this huge industry tops $200 billion. A recent report by Gartner commented that: "The PC has succeeded for 25 years largely because of its ability to evolve and exploit developments around it. But new usage patterns will test the flexibility of both the platform and the industry that supports it.... The growing availability of cheap, ubiquitous bandwidth and processing power, coupled with Internet-based services, makes possible a new style of application delivery."

However, an article in The New York Times on how the PC has transformed our lives commented: "It's been 25 years, and the PC still has an on-switch that takes ten minutes to activate and an off-switch labeled 'Start. …