Sunday, December 13, 2009

The library e-book reader – a “Personal Information/Knowledge Environment”

Having been an avid user of an e-book reader (Kindle 2) for some time now, I’ve come to appreciate both the benefits of this technology and, at the same time, to understand the things I wish it did (but doesn't yet). So, here’s a description of some features I’d like to see.

From a hardware point of view, of course, I’d like to see a larger and color touch screen so I can enjoy pictures as intended by authors. Of course, at the same time, I don’t want to give up on the great battery life I currently experience. I’m sure all of these hardware features are already in the pipeline.

From the software point of view a nice starting point would be a fully functional web browser to exploit the wireless capabilities built into many of these units. This feature would allow all kinds of extended library services to be brought unto these platforms.

Next, I’d like to see these platforms opened up not unlike Ex Libris has done with their products through the open platform, or else to see an app store approach such as Apple has done with the iPhone. Either way, this would allow communities of users to develop and offer applications for others to use in extending the e-reader product capabilities. This would allow development of features not unlike those described below.
  1. Users should have the ability to use the touch screen to easily highlight key text and/or phrases and then have a simple voice recognition capability (see the latest Google search app for the iPhone for an example) that would allow the user to quickly add tags to the text that has been highlighted. Copying this info to a central website, such as the Amazon Kindle does, is a wonderful way to allow the highlighted text to become the launching pad for larger community-based conversations or research/papers based on those clippings. Or alternatively, the software should add the bibliography/citation information needed to the highlighted information, so that if I copy the text into a larger paper or research document, the citation is complete and readily at hand.
  2. The ability to tag should also be applicable to the metadata records for the information I’ve stored on the “Personal Information/Knowledge Environment (PIKE)”. Using those tags, as well as standard search terms, the discovery interface should allow me to easily search and refine my results both on the PIKE and by connecting to remote libraries and the web. Once I’ve found a resource at the library, the e-reader should allow me to borrow and easily, renew e-content that I obtain from the library.
  3. The PIKE should also be able to build a standardized information profile based on what I’ve read and other input and then, based on an agreed upon standard, allow the PIKE to monitor specified collections, services, RSS feeds, blogs, etc. and pull together alert notices for the user to review and possibly use in selecting new materials to read in advancing their knowledge. This would be a true library-like service on the e-reader platform.
While I’m dreaming, as noted in many blog posts, articles and other writings, the key to wide-spread adoption of e-readers, is to get the price under $100 USD/unit.

The bottom line is that I want to see e-readers become prolific and build in librarian like services that will help people use these tools to readily and steadily advance their knowledge in an ever increasing world of complexity and vastly expanding information.