In the old days, movies were essentially filmed versions of stage plays. Only when Hollywood freed themselves from the restrictions of theater and took advantage of the ability to cut to different scenes did film making open up. The same problem currently limits e-books.
Right now e-books display static text and pictures. For novels, that’s fine but for nonfiction books, interactive e-books are far more engaging. Rather than just read about a chemical reaction in a textbook, why not mix virtual chemicals together and see for yourself how they interact? Interactivity creates a far more engaging learning experience than just passive reading of text alone.
One problem holding back the limitation of e-books has been the lack of an interactive file format. The current e-book file format standard is called ePub, but the latest e-book feel format standard plans to embrace Web technologies. Just as Web pages can be interactive, so should the pages of an e-book. This would allow authors to add audio, video, and graphics along with links to running software. By making the next e-book standard able to display e-books as both Web pages and within an e-book file, tomorrow’s e-books should be far more interesting to read than just looking at text that could just as well appear on a printed page.
E-books are the future, but getting there from the present will take time. While some people still cling to paper, the rest of the world will gradually discover the advantages of electronic books, but that switch will only come when e-books offer compelling advantages over printed books.
Right now, the only advantages e-books offer are savings in cost and storage. When the advantages of e-books becomes so great that even the most die-hard printed paper fanatic can’t ignore it any longer, that’s when e-books will finally become mainstream and commonplace.
Until then, e-books will continue their gradual ascent until they can largely replace printed books altogether. Until that day comes though, expect printed books to be around for a long time while a standard e-book file format continues to improve over time.