HP isn't very book-smart...

More than once, somebody gets the bright idea that the reason why everybody couldn’t code was because most programming languages have icky syntax. Because of this, languages like COBOL and HyperTalk are incredibly verbose, with the hopes that anybody could understand them.

Do you see a lot of people programming now because of COBOL or HyperTalk? Well, not really. The hard part about programming isn’t the syntax, it’s the mental process behind programming. Pointers especially. So all of that effort just gave programmers who had to deal with those languages Cobol Fingers.

So now I read about HP crafting slate- style E-books. Apparently people still like to read books instead of reading electronic texts. In an article in PC World, they talk about a viewer that’s the size of an opened book, with the same resolution as a laptop. And the innovation is the software that lets you turn pages using a touch pad. I’m sure that they make appropriate page swishing noises, too.

The appeal of books is not turning pages. Far from it. The appeal of books is that they are available anywhere, don’t crash or run out of batteries, and they are at significantly higher resolution than a computer screen. I’ve noticed that not everybody is perfectly comfortable with reading text on a computer screen because of the resolution, refresh rate, contrast, and other such things. Yet this HP prototype doesn’t do the one, central thing, that makes a difference for people’s viewing comfort. They didn’t try to put a higher resolution display on.

“We want to convince users that they are real books” says one of the researcher.

Real books? Yeah right. E-books will replace paper books when all of the important points (and I suspect that page turning isn’t one of them) of paper books are appropriately compensated for by the features of E- books. Notice how infrequently people use a typewriter these days because they are using a word processing program instead these days? Same idea. There are some features of a typewriter, like filling out forms, that a typewriter does better. But so much other stuff is done better by a word processor, so the word processor wins out.