So who is the newest publisher on the block? Care to guess? Well, guess what…. It’s Sony! That’s right, Sony, the electronics giant. Alright, they are not technically a publisher but more like a digital book maker. Last week they announced the release of their new Reader Digital Book, the PRS-700 (sounds exciting, doesn’t it?), which will be available sometime in November. According to an article in the October 8, 2008 USA Today Section B by Marc Saltzman, this third-generation digital reader “is a svelte, 10-ounce e-book reader with a 6-inch gray-scale screen” that offers readers the ability to flip through pages by “swiping a finger horizontally across” a touch-screen. Apparently it is also equipped with an “impressive ‘e-ink’ technology” that “resembles real ink on paper.” This means that Sony has produced a digital book that closely resembles the older technology or traditional book, which is an interesting move that combines state of the art technology with centuries old technology. This combining of technologies can serve as a new model for libraries, which many people believe are becoming antiquated as a result of technological advances.
Sony’s new Reader Digital Book can offer libraries with a new avenue to reaching new patrons that may not have looked towards libraries for their digital book needs. In addition to traditional library holdings, libraries could purchase access to selections of digital books and then offer their patrons an alternative and cheaper access to this form of digital media. The library could have a relatively small number of these digital book units on hand to check out, and after deciding which e-book they would like to borrow or rent, they would take the unit to one of the special digital book kiosks in the library and download the digital book. They could then take the unit home and read the book in the exact same manner that they would have if they had checked out a traditional book. This would also work if certain patrons had their own PRS-700 units; these patrons either could visit the library and use the kiosk or could download a book from the library’s website. The library’s units could also be readily protected with software that limits the unit’s use with any system outside of the library’s. The issue of due dates could also easily be dealt with by programming the digital books to “expire” after a certain amount of time. These units paint a new picture of what future libraries might look like. So let’s buy them… how much are they?
One’s excitement for these digital books might drop after reading their $399.00 asking price. That rather hefty price-tag quickly makes this an unviable option for many libraries. Perhaps it would be possible to acquire less sophisticated units like the hypothetical PRS-700b version that doesn’t come with as many perks. This version could come without the large built-in memory that can store up to 350 digital books. It could also do without the fancy search buttons that allow you to “find words or phrases” and without the ability to “make notes via fingertips or the bundled stylus pen and soft keyboard.” Whether the library gets these cheaper models or whether they wait for the prices to come down, if the price of this technology were slightly cheaper, the Reader Digital Books could have a tremendous impact on libraries. For one, this digital media and hardware would not take up a lot of space in the library’s facilities. Also, as stated before, this could easily open up new ways for the library to reach out to tech savvy people who may not have otherwise even considered the library for their digital needs, thereby helping to ensure that libraries remain important and exciting institutions well into the future.