In my previous post, I described a principle which according to me is of general interest since it summarizes the history of information in the last 5000 years. For mnemotechnic and narcissist reasons, I have decided to name it ” the Klein principle”.
The more the information support is lighter, smaller, readable, mobile, copy-able, shareable – in short, the more nomadic the support, the more information and knowledge are spread.
Then, I mentionned a quite extraordinary exception to this law, which spans over the last 40 years only, but has great importance to us since we litterally live in this exceptional time.
I will unmodestly name this exception the “Klein exception” and add a note for future generations that scientists that discover a general application law and one of its notable exception within the same post are not so frequent: my fight for truth is really priceless.
In the last 40 years, for the first time in history, the reduction of the volume of information, the ease in re-copying it, sharing it, etc… has not been 100% correlated with its utility. The main reason in this limitation is that information has been so much reduced that it is not as accessible or as readable by a human being as it used to be.
The eBook is an interesting illustration of both the Klein law and the Klein exception. The first eBooks appeared about 10 years ago. They then consisted in “simple” digital screens, comparable to laptop screens. These eBooks have been a market failure. Palm, Apple, Microsoft and in France, Cytale, had diverse initiatives in the field that failed.
However, attempts to create a peripheral that could replace the book in our everyday life never ceased – and we have been observing a real renewal of concept for several months. We now have daily annoucememnts (Amazon, PRS505, SEIKO, SONY..etc)
The eBook reveals the gap between the quantity of information and the readability of that information as well as the general, powerful dynamics that are acting to try to bridge this gap: despite all commercial failures, initiatives towards a more readable eBook have become more and more frequent, although the problem is not often stated as clearly as in the Klein law.
The advances of the last 2 years are almost uncorrelated with the advances in computers and flat screens and in some way even correspond to a real step backwards. Current eBook screens are usually black and white screens, with a quite low contrast, and a refresh rate mostly 10 to 50 times weaker than that of classic TFT screens – it is totally impossible to play Tetris or watch a video on a modern eBook.
EBook designers try by all possible means, to recreate the comfort of paper and they only recently understood that the increase of the pure performance of screens (miniaturization of transistors) is not necessarily the answer to the problem.
Where will the success of the eBook come from ? From the new techniques of digital ink that improve readability? From the reduction of weight and size of the eBooks? From the physical improvement of screens, that will make reading of an eBook as comfortable as reading of a book? From the decrease in cost? From the development of ePaper techniques that will a enable reading of a book on a simple digital paper?
I don’t want to answer this question, but the Klein law tells me that in 2, 5 or 20 years – a ridiculous duration at the scale of the history of information but probably long enough for another great number of eBook companies and projects to fail – we will indeed use the eBook.
[Translated from L’eBook: une bonne illustration de la loi nomade de Klein. Please note that due to lack of time, I don't translate posts myself and usually do not review translations, so they may not be fully accurate and/or present some imperfections. Thierry]