Most – almost all – of what are referred to as e-books are simply digitized versions of books that were designed as paper products. Few 'e-books' are designed for the medium on which they'll be viewed and used.
A true e-book (I think we need a new name) would have these qualities:
- The size of the page would be the size of an average computer monitor
- The text would include shorter paragraphs using fonts that work well on the screen
- Pages would not be formatted as left and right as they are in paper books
- Audio and video clips would be included where appropriate (writers and publishers will become multi-media creators)
- Links within documents and links to outside sources
- No limits to colours, animation and imagination
This type of e-book is born digital, not digitized. It will become the norm rather than the exception in some types of publishing, although paper books and magazines will continue as convenient and portable technologies and as precious objects.
But don't expect the publishing world to be the same in 2007 as it is today. As Jasper Friendly Bear says each week in Tom King's CBC radio comedy Dead Dog in the City 'Stay calm. Be brave. Wait for the signs.'
The signs are there.
In the meantime we can make e-books (or whatever we'll call them) much more appealing and useful if we design them for the screen and not as another version of the printed page.