Editorial License: eReading and other tales from the future
By Ernest Lilley, Editor, SFRevu
2001SFRevu.com

Once upon a time a boy sat in the back of the room reading Science Fiction in his desk. He learned a bit about ballistics from crotchety old scientists taking a breather from an adventure on the way to the moon, learned about tessaracts and time travel paradoxes, voyaged to the stars and lived under the sea.

He did not learn what a gerund is and some of his arithmetic is a bit shaky. Now, some years later, he keeps looking these things up, but they fail to stick. That's ok, I guess. Nobody else seems to know either.

Now I have an ebook reader. I can take virtually any book with me anywhere in the world, and of late I've been going anywhere in the world. That's dangerous for me. I live in books more than most, though not as much as some, and constant access to reading material is a bit scary.

My own Turing test for using an ebook reader is different than most. Too often I hear: "Is it like reading a book? Can you feel the pages turn under your fingers and smell the glue on the binding? Does it thump satisfyingly when you put it down?"

Angels and ministers of grace defend us! Is that what you think a book is?

The more intriguing questions are ones about utility. Can I browse through it and find things? Do my eyes tire from reading? How many pages can it hold?

 I don't try to equate the experiences.

 My question is simpler than all that.

 "When I read an ebook, can I lose myself in the story?"

 "I'm sorry. Did you say something? I was reading Memories of the Future by Robert Young in MS Reader format."

 "I said, "can you lose yourself in the stories?""

 "Only the good ones."

A lot of SF readers I know are reluctant to adopt this technology. Of course, they tend to be reluctant to adopt any new technology, which is pretty frightening for its implications.

Their cry seems to be that whatever new thing that comes along isn't like the thing that came before it. For a crowd that has spent its life reading about things to come, the SF community has an amazing resistance to their  arrival.

Probably, I suspect because the arrival of a real future invalidates the  virtual one they have been living in for so long. 

C'mon guys. Let's keep moving. The future isn't waiting for us to be ready for  it. It's here.

Ernest Lilley
Editor, www.SFRevu.com (editor@sfrevu.com)

Note 1) OK wiseguy, what is a Gerund? A cross between a gerbil and a greyhound? 

Not exactly. Gerunds are verb forms that end in -ing and are used as nouns. i.e.. Reading is fun. There are other two types of words that end in -ing, though; infinitives and participles.

Infinitives are adjectives made from verbs that end in ing or ed and have an in-definite nature; charming, lighting, defying, confusing. On the other hand, there are participles. These handy little particles of grammar come in two flavors, past and present. The present participle is a regular verb using -ing; running, asking, telling, sobbing...while the past participle is a regular verb form using -ed; basked, trashed, relaxed.

Note 2) (Hamlet, Act 1 Scene IV)

Angels and ministers of grace defend us!
Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damn'd,
Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell,
Be thy intents wicked or charitable,
Thou comest in such a questionable shape
That I will speak to thee: I'll call thee Hamlet,
King, father, royal Dane: O, answer me!
Let me not burst in ignorance; but tell
Why thy canonized bones, hearsed in death,
Have burst their cerements; why the sepulchre,
Wherein we saw thee quietly inurn'd,
Hath oped his ponderous and marble jaws,
To cast thee up again. What may this mean,
That thou, dead corse, again in complete steel
Revisit'st thus the glimpses of the moon,
Making night hideous; and we fools of nature
So horridly to shake our disposition
With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls?
Say, why is this? wherefore? what should we do?

The full story: http://tech-two.mit.edu/Shakespeare/Tragedy/hamlet/full.html