EBooks 2004: an update

By Jon: First published in Online Currents 2004 – 19(7) 29-30

In last year’s articles on eBooks I suggested that the industry was settling down. I was wrong. Although eBook sales are increasing rapidly, the industry is no closer to a standard format or distribution system.


Dedicated eBook readers

I predicted last year that dedicated eBook reading devices would go the way of the dedicated word processing system, and be replaced by Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), otherwise known as hand-held computers. I was partly vindicated by the collapse of Gemstar, distributors of the Rocket eBook reader (see below); but I had reckoned without the research into cheap, low-power screens being done in many Asian countries. This has been partly motivated by the difficulties involved in displaying languages like Japanese and Chinese on standard PDAs and other computer equipment. The solution is to have a pictorial display rather than one based around a relatively small number of characters like most Western scripts. read more

Enquire within on everything: getting questions answered on the Internet

Online Currents 2003 – 18(2) 22-24

This article compares several question-answering services on the Internet: the paid Google Answers service, the free Usenet Newsgroup system, and AskNow!, a free collaborative reference system run by Australian state and national government librarians.


During its period of massive growth, from about 1992 to 2000, the Internet was largely supported by unpaid volunteers: hundreds of thousands of people gave up millions of hours of free time to support and encourage others. Although this still continues today, there are indications that the tide is turning and that a cash-for-service expectation is developing. Where a free service and a paid service offer the same results, the economic pressure on the paid service has often resulted in its closure. Paid service providers may mount an organised attack on free services through lobbying; conversely, free service providers may look to find ways of charging for their efforts. read more

Forms and databases on the Web

By Jon: First published in Online Currents 2004 – 19(9) 24-26

It is relatively easy to create a form using HTML, but not so easy to process the information which the form collects from the user. Web designers planning to set up a form for user input must make decisions in advance; they may also find their choices severely limited by decisions about hosting and design software which have been made in the past. This article examines the options for processing form information from web pages, including the use of on-line databases to generate forms and produce reports. The options are presented in order from simplest to most complex. read more