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Eucalyptus eBook Reader: A Glimpse of the Future?

Last Updated Apr 29, 2009 3:04 PM EDT

Over the past week, both out in New York and here in San Francisco, I've had dozens of conversations with people -- mainly in the publishing industry -- comparing the user experience of reading an eBook compared to the good, old-fashioned type we've all grown to love these past 554 years or so, ever since Johannes Gutenberg rolled those first 180 or so 42-line Bibles off his printing press, thereby launching the great Age of Print.

Everybody seems to recognize that the book as we've come to know it is threatened by the same forces that are rendering newspapers and magazines obsolete.

The agrarian/industrial process of harvesting trees, processing wood into paper, applying ink to the page, binding the product, and then circulating it via fossil-fuel burning vehicles to distant shops, which -- later in the cycle -- return unsold copies via those same vehicles, no longer makes a whole lot of business sense -- not to mention the huge carbon footprint required for this guilty intellectual pleasure with the impending threat of scary climate changes.

Now comes the Eucalyptus eBook reader onto the scene, which at least in prototype, seems to promise a user experience closer to the page turning aesthetic that so many of us yearn for in the early stages of this transition. (To give it a whirl, you have to follow this link: http://th.ingsmadeoutofotherthin.gs/eucalyptus/.)

I'm told this app will be ready for use on the iPhone soon. Beyond the virtual page-turning feature, one aspect of Eucalyptus that caught Smashwords CEO Mark Coker's eye is its promise to provide multiple volumes in one tool:

"I see value in packaging otherwise free content into a single app. Whereas at one time books were words packaged on paper, now entire book collections can be digitally packaged within a single app... then it has the added advantage of untethering the reader from the necessity of maintaining a nonstop wireless connection that would otherwise be required to download books one at a time."
  • David Weir

    David Weir is a veteran journalist who has worked at Rolling Stone, California, Mother Jones, Business 2.0, SunDance, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, MyWire, 7x7, and the Center for Investigative Reporting, which he cofounded in 1977. He’s also been a content executive at KQED, Wired Digital, Salon.com, and Excite@Home. David has published hundreds of articles and three books,including "Raising Hell: How the Center for Investigative Reporting Gets Its Story," and has been teaching journalism for more than 20 years at U.C. Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and Stanford.