Abstract

Starting in the early 1990s, three generations of ebooks have quietly paved the way for a fourth generation, one that emphasizes the social side of reading. The first generation of ebooks focused on multimedia and the direct advantages of reading on a computer. The second generation explored the mobile form-factor of reading hardware. The third generation—the first to gain widespread adoption—emphasized three concurrent technology advances: light, relatively inexpensive mobile computers; better battery technology; and higher resolution, lower power displays, as well as the availability of far more content. Now we are ready for a fourth generation, one that acknowledges the social aspects of reading. In particular, a fourth generation of ebooks will highlight two new perspectives: (1) reading together (i.e. using ebooks as a focal point of synchronous activities) and (2) reading as a productive activity (i.e. using the collective social data that results from reading as the basis for beyond-paper functionality). This talk will explore how we got to where we are today, and where we’re going next.