When books are electronic, readers can have instant and unsleeping access, as in banking. Also, readers can have instant updates and revisions, and electronic contact with all other readers of each book, thereby sharing ideas and reactions more rapidly and with more people. For publishers this means that word of mouth can sell more books more quickly. Further, electronic books need not go out of print. And electronic books are cheaper and less bulky than paper books. Instead of several expensive books, where although each one is portable, large numbers are not, thousands of books can be stored on one small light disc, at 8 cents a book.
Making books electronic makes them computer readable, so books can contain electronic bookmarks and cross-referencing. Cross-referencing can be either reader controlled or computer generated. And all the advantages of paper books--handwritten annotation, highlighting with colored markers, underlining, post-it notes, bookmarks--can be allowed through software on small portable pen-based computers (for example, see ).
Also, books can be customizable by, or for, their readers; a copy of a book need no longer be an exact copy--as has already happened in consumer-targeted advertising. Because the information economy is computer-based and global, with concomitant increased knowledge of consumer tastes and increased competition, it will become increasingly lifestyle-targeted.
Unlike paper books, electronic books can be multimedia: letting us mix voice, music, color, motion pictures, data, and text, and leading to animated talking books. For example, the Xerox/Kurzweil Personal Reader can read the text of any book out loud--an invaluable aid to the blind, sight-impaired, illiterate, or busy--it is unnecessary to first record an actor reading the book . The Personal Reader trains itself on any printed text and gets better as it progresses down the first page. It can read 6 languages.
A program called NETtalk, , can be used to produce a children's book that is really a whole library of children's books. The book listens to the child (or parent) reading aloud for a few hours until it can read any of its repertoire of books in that voice.
Imagine children's books that read themselves to a child at bedtime. By listening to the child's breathing, the book can reduce its volume, dim the lights, and slow its cadence as the child drops off to sleep. This can be done today.