Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2007 Issue

My “I have a dream” speech

Sony.reader.1

Sony wants to know - are you a reader?


By Bruce McKinney

If you are looking for a reworking of Martin Luther King's speech in 1963 on the Washington D. C. Mall you are in for a surprise. It isn't that. It's much better. Through an electronic frame 6" by 9" I recently saw the future and it looks very good. It's Sony's eBook or rather what this device will, in my opinion, become. They call it The Reader. I call it the future or at least a piece of it.

The Reader is a nine ounce, half inch thick, electronic tablet with a six inch screen [measured diagonally] into which you can load any one of more than 10,000 books to read. This is interesting but probably isn't going to succeed because, as readers know, a typical Barnes & Noble carries about 75,000 titles and it is still difficult to find a book to read. Confining yourself to out-of-print classics [as Sony has done] is perfect for the precocious 7th grader but won't work for many adults who moved beyond Treasure Island more than five Presidential elections ago. Nevertheless, this product has incredible potential and I'm putting it on my top ten list of things to see realized before I die.

Every year there are apparently about 75,000 new book titles released in English. English is important but hardly the only language and perhaps there are 400,000 to 500,000 new volumes in all languages released each year. To this we can add periodicals of all descriptions in all languages. If we think magazines this is one magnitude. If we think newspapers it's another altogether.

There are 6.6 billion people on the planet and 353,000 new-world-citizens born every day. We all have diverse tastes and interests and the number of written items created for us is astonishing. SO I'd like this Sony eBook to do a little more than cover 10,000+ classics. I want you to take on the world.

Let's start by connecting the eBook to Google's inventory of the printed word. Today Google's books-on-line is just an enfant but it's an enfant brontosaurus and it is devouring books by the library full. The volume of available downloadable for eBook is a thin straw compared to the Niagara Falls of material that Google is organizing. If I want to read Vassar College documents from the 1870s I want this to be a one click decision. I may also want to read the Rochester, New York city directories of the 1850s. Or I might like to read both the newspaper and magazine accounts of Texas in its war of independence in the 1830s. Search, select, download, thank you.

Now I'm off to lunch, the beach or the mountains and I'm taking this material with me. Of course I also have a copy or links to a copy in my G Mail account. I take it for granted that you know I'm one quarter blind and half deaf and therefore provide a full range of adjustments to make the screen visible in all lightings. Initially you'll resist providing an audio conversion but in time you'll realize I'm serious. Sometimes I'll prefer to hear the text rather than to read it. Mark Twain's newspaper accounts fall into this category. I'll listen to interesting material while driving.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions