China the Next E-Book Central?

David Rothman writes “Is China the next E-Book Central? The latest is that the Chinese are hard at work on e-ink. Similarly China will be the site of an e-book conference in August 2004. Meanwhile, a massive e-book program, somewhat like the proposed TeleRead, will show up in 1,200 Chinese schools. On top of that, 1,000 flowers are blooming in China in the world of e-book hardware. There are lessons here for U.S. libraries and schools. Even if American librarians shy away from e-books, that doesn’t mean that counterparts in other countries will feel the same–especially those without our existing library infrastructure. Given the importance of libraries in areas such as education, this has implications for American society as a whole. Remember, the issue isn’t just whether e-books look as good as p-books–but also the number of books that one can access. And in that regard, the Chinese seem headed in the right direction. Not bad for a nation that invented both paper and printing. Even in the area of e-book piracy, the Chinese are making a name for themselves!”