Friday, September 01, 2006

OLPC project news

The One Laptop Per Child device has its production name: the 2B1

Lesser known in the West perhaps than its laptop features is the fact that the screen is designed to pivot around so it can be used as an ebook reader. The potential to replace printed textbooks with cheaper e-textbooks is an important consideration in funding the purchase of these machines. See the discussion here.

If successful, the 2B1 will clearly change schools, but I think that it may also change libraries. E-textbooks have always seemed to me to be a perfect "killer app" for electronic publishing-- textbooks are read for facts, not narrative, and are a required purchase, not a choice. Further, they are required by institutions that would also be in a position to dictate the model of hardware reader. The 2B1 could become the standard, low-cost reader the market has needed all along. Once people own a standard reader, they might be willing to read more in electronic form.

Which leads to libraries. Here we are, slowly (perhaps too slowly) and steadily building our ebook collections, waiting for patrons to catch on. For the first time in years, I think we can see a plausible way that they might do just that.

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