Peter Irving, on Sep 13 2009, 16.53, said:
geddon remember you have to show us how it is so much better than paper just because its knerw doesn't make it so.
Features that are already here:
The ability to change font size; improving accessibility for the visually impaired. Some e-readers will even perform text-to-speech conversions. Print books have no comparable feature.
Dictionary lookup; if you come across a word you don't understand many e-readers will let you select the word and view a dictionary definition. You can do that with a printed book but it would require you to carry around a dictionary with you in addition to whatever you were reading.
Searching within the text; since e-readers are computers full text searching is a possibility. Searching within a printed book is matter of flipping and page scanning until you hit the right spot.
The ability to store thousands of books in a small, portable device; even the most staunch supporter of printed books must accept that they take up a lot of space, if you are the kind of person who likes to read on holiday you'll appreciate not having to devote half the space in your suitcase to books.
The ability to browse and buy a book wherever you are and have it available to read almost instantly; at the moment only the Kindle has this but I expect it to become a standard feature of all electronic readers sooner rather than later.
Exporting of annotations made to an eBook; writing in the margins and festooning your print books with bits of paper to mark important pages isn't a particularly efficient way of working. The ability to export your notes to your computer for cataloguing and incorporating into other work is something a lot of scholars will appreciate.
Features I expect to see in the future:
Automatic corrections; it should be possible for a publisher to correct errors and update eBooks with minimal user interaction. In contrast I have printed books with errors (some missing whole paragraphs) that I'll just have to live with.
Better screens, with colour and realtime refresh rates, leading to..
Interactivity and the use of other media to complement the text:
How about math textbooks that include calculators, or where the graphs change as you modify parameters?
How about technical manuals that allow you to view and rotate 3D renderings of engine parts you are working on, or show an animation of the sequence of procedures you need to perform.
How about history books that can show you video clips of the events being discussed?
You can do a lot of that stuff with computers now but, as has already been pointed out, people don't much like reading from standard computer screens. Integrate those features into an ultra-portable device, with a long-lasting battery and a screen that is as comfortable to read from as paper
and you have a very compelling platform.
Give it a few years and the devices will be that good, the only question is whether the publishers and distributors of the content can get their act together in that time and make available a catalogue of digital content of sufficient breadth, quality and affordability to support the new reading devices.