Digital Libraries for the 21st Century
The advances in word processing programs, scanners, and optical character recognition algorithms over the last 15 years has led to a sustained expotential increase in the quantity of electronic text; an increase that will continue (albeit at a slower percentage rate) for the foreseeable future.
With its capacity for unlimited digital storage (via PC cards), its ability to download files, and its system for annotation and linking, the Lap Pilot is the ideal information appliance for this new digital age.
A Little History
The history of digital text is brief. The pioneering efforts of Theodor Nelson and Douglas Engelbart in the 1960s to use computers to process text as well as data were ignored by most computer professionals because of their "impracticability," and few took up the cause. By 1971, however, a major effort to make text available in electronic form -- the Gutenberg Project -- was underway, as were efforts centered at Brown University to use electronic text in the classroom. [La98] The introduction of WordStar in the late Seventies brought word processing to the desktop, and 20 years later typewriters are used mainly for filling out pre-printed forms.
Faced with this explosion in digitally stored text, the concept of digital libraries has gone from being a idealistic fantasy to being not just realistic, but a priority for mainstream computer, library, and humanities professionals (the first academic Digital Libraries conference was held in 1994) [Nue95]. In upcoming years, Lap Pilot owners can look forward to a great variety of literary, technical, and ephemeral works becoming available in electronic format for use with their machine.
How reading will change
The advent of electronic text brings with it a change in how we read text. By extending our reading capabilities, a hypertext appliance changes our entire relationship with what we read [McL64].
Here is how the Lap Pilot will change your reading habits [Ya85]:
The text and marginalia will become dynamic -- Electronic text allows for economical versioning in print: an author can change what he has written by deleting and typing rather than by having an expensive new edition printed. And when you comment on a text, you can erase or change the comments later without leaving unsightly erasure marks or cross-outs on the "page".
Other people's marginalia will be accessible -- With Lap Pilot, marginalia is stored as a layer over the text. If you want to read someone else's annotation, all that person needs to do is send you his layer. No longer do books (or photocopies of them) need to be sent through the mail and returned.
Hyperlinks can be built -- With two swipes of the stylus, you can link a phrase in one document to a phrase in another document and thus be able to call up the second document from the first document by merely tapping the stylus on the link.
Embedded multimedia -- Because it is now possible to reduce words, pictures, and sound to digital form, it will be easy for digital text producers to embed still pictures, illustrations, video, or sound as a link within a text file. No longer will we need to say that "writing about music is like dancing about architecture"!