There is a fight brewing between David Rothman of TeleRead and Bill Janssen of Plucker fame. The point of contention (as I understand the issue) is what would be good format to produce e-books in. Bill’s position is that any format that is not already accepted (specifically not html) is a lock-in and a disadvantage, whether that format is an open standard (like OpenReader) or a proprietary one (like Sony’s BBeB).
I was listening to the Trying to Learn Spanish podcast and in its 11th episode somebody mentioned an interesting e-book (Thirteen Senses by Victor Villaseñor) that has parallel English and Spanish text and allows to quickly switch between them. I like the idea of bilingual books, so I went hunting for it. The book is available for purchase in a couple of places, but I wanted to see an excerpt first to see the quality and ease of use.
David Rothman of the TeleRead fame has written a good background article on the e-books for the Innovate - journal of online education (free registration required). While David’s articles at his blog are frequent and in-depth, any one of them is too tactical for a good overview. The article at the Innovate is a good summary and is rather more strategic. It also utilises the online nature of the journal to provide a comprehensive set of relevant hyperlinks.
Philips recently had a Simplicity event, where they showcased a number of concept products that may or may not make it into the real world in the future. To go along with the event, Philips also setup a voting board for a number of discussion topics. One of the topics currently under discussion is whether e-books are a good idea. You can pick a side and argue out your position or vote on the arguments of others.
With paper books, you are pretty much stuck. On the other hand, e-books - with the right combination of software and open formats - may soon prove to be just the solution to keep you reading and learning in the new language. And, with the language learning market attracting billions of dollars, you can be sure somebody will find a way to make the best of the possibilities offered by e-books.