Looking beyond the printed word

When I was a child, growing up in the city of Bradford in England, I used to love going to the city's central library. It seemed a magical place where one could be transported in time by histories, in place by travel books, to other lives by autobiographies, and in imagination by novels.

May 1st, 2000
Th Bairstow

When I was a child, growing up in the city of Bradford in England, I used to love going to the city's central library. It seemed a magical place where one could be transported in time by histories, in place by travel books, to other lives by autobiographies, and in imagination by novels. I could be dragged away only by force. Now, the Internet is proving to be an even vaster storehouse of information than that city library. Recently, Stephen King authored a book that was published only on the Internet. Several hundred thousand "copies" were downloaded in the first few days of publication. Is this the future of the published book? Not so, in my view.

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To be sure, there are now electronic book readers on the market, such as the Rocket eBook, and some observers are already predicting the demise of printed books and magazines. But "reading" such an electronic device today is difficult given the present small size of liquid-crystal displays and the resolution of the displays. However, such drawbacks are likely to be overcome in the next decade. One Microsoft executive has reportedly said that by 2010 we will see "popular electronic book devices that weigh eight ounces, run for more than 24 hours, offer beautiful nonbacklit displays, are available in flexible/foldable form factors, and hold more books than most university libraries."

The same Microsoft executive goes on to say that, by 2020, 90% of all publications will be electronic. However, I think we will see multiple media publication of popular works and even of much scientific literature. By multiple media, I am envisioning the publication of a book in several different media. These media will include the conventional printed and bound format, an electronic book format that can be downloaded to a special reader, an audio-book format that may also be downloaded to a MP3-type player, and a digital video format that could use small high-density DVD disks.

The most popular works will appear in all media, although not necessarily simultaneously. Payment for such new media publications may vary from the single-use fee to a multiple-use and even to a multiple-user fee. An authored work will exist initially in a standard electronic format such as the Open Edocs Standard (www.opene-book.org), and consumers will purchase the publication in the format they choose. In effect, we will see publication-on-demand.

All this is good news for the vision-systems community. There will be huge markets for new media devices such as the flexible displays mentioned earlier. Already, developers are working on bistable displays that retain text and images after the processor has been switched off. Ultrahigh-density optical storage devices will also be needed for the new media. And, of course, all-optical networks will be needed to distribute information rapidly.

View from the editorial director's chair

Some four years ago, we developed a plan for Vision Systems Design. Under my editorial guidance and with the help of a tremendously capable staff, Vision Systems Design has become the leading publication in its field. But the time has come for me to move on and leave the editorial reins in the hands of another skilled Editor in Chief, George Kotelly, who along with Editor Andy Wilson and Managing Editor Bonnie Heines will take Vision Systems Design to new heights.

I intend to keep a close watch on the vision-systems field as I continue as Editor of Optoelectronics Report, Laser Focus World's twice-monthly newsletter (available in both print and electronic versions) and as Editor of Wafer News, a weekly newsletter (also available in print and electronic formats) for the semiconductor equipment and materials industry. I look forward to hearing more from my friends in the machine-vision industry.

Jeffrey Bairstow
ATD Technical Editorial Director
Jbairstow@pennwell.com

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