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Tomorrow Today

Downloading literature

electronic book pad
The $500 Rocket eBook is the size of a small paperback, and can hold half a dozen novels in its memory

E-books change the face of reading

From Correspondent Rick Lockridge

December 17, 1998
Web posted at: 9:02 a.m. EDT (1302 GMT)

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Electronic books have finally arrived. Portable, versatile and easy to use, they represent a challenge to the paper and ink we've relied on for 1,500 years. But just how good are the new electronic books, and how do they work?

Two of them are now on the market, ready to help you work and play.

The $500 Rocket eBook is about the size of a small paperback and can hold a half-dozen novels in its memory, plus your company's annual report, as could the $300 SoftBook.

electronic book screen
The Rocket eBook contains a dictionary

CNN's Rick Lockridge reports on how students may be among the e-books' biggest fans.
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Students say they like the idea of e-books
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Here's how the "e-books" work:

Download digital book files from the Internet. It's pretty speedy -- up to 100 pages a minute -- and thousands of titles are already available at about $5 to $25 apiece.

Once the book is downloaded, turn the "pages" with a button-click. Built-in tools like the rocket e-book's dictionary and the SoftBook's "find" button come in handy.

"You're reading a Clancy novel and there are 5,700 characters and you run into some Russian general," explains SoftBook's Garth Conboy. "You tap his name and find "previous" -- and you can find when this character was introduced."

Both e-books come with sharp liquid-crystal displays, backlit for night reading. The size of the typeface can be increased as well.

A book is a book is a book

"I'm going to college not too far from now," said one high school student, "and that could cut down on book costs."

Some people still like to read books with ink and paper. Listen to their comments:
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Listen to how electronic books can help readers find information about characters in a novel
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There's just one potential problem: overcoming a 1,500-year-long-habit of reading ink on paper. It's a move that might not be so easy for some people to make.

"But then again I'm an old lady," said one reader. "And I think about things differently than young folks."

"I like people coming into my house and saying, 'man, that guy's pretty wise, he's got a big library,'" said another.

With the inception of the e-book, though, it's possible that some of today's children may grow up to own only one book -- and yet have a bigger library than any of us.

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