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  New Frontiers in Reading  
There’s a great revolution underway, the scope of which is still impossible to estimate. It is the electronic book (or e-book) and the subject of the discussion between Anna MaseraGino RoncagliaPaolo Repetti and Alessandro Peressinotto, who also discussed the e-book’s first incarnations – the Project Gutenberg, a digital library launched in 1971 by Michael S. Hart, which today offers free downloads of books – failed attempts and the latest devices, such as’s Kindle, the Nook (commercialized in the US by Barnes & Noble), Sony’s projects and Apple’s iPad.

These new frontiers will probably also change the way we write. All the panelists agreed that multimedia devices sold thus far have not yielded overwhelming results, mostly because they have yet to offer the right integration between the written word and the image. Nevertheless, extremely interesting experiments do exist, including the website The Mongoliad, created by Neal Stephenson and Greg Bear, two sci-fi writers who offer new forms of storytelling and story development; or the scientific site Gapminder, whose graphics can supply an impressive amount of information in two minutes. In Italy, there is the site E-Thriller, and Beppe Severgnini, who has released his latest book, La pancia degli italiani, in electronic form.

However, we are still at the experimental stage. E-book sales in the US have remained at a steady 7% of the entire book market, and are only 0.1% in Italy. Their growth will develop in phases, in leaps of brief surges. Yet it will certainly lead to a transformation in how we read, in which the voices of the doomsday believers (those who from the beginnings of civilization been terrified by any innovative change, be it from handwritten texts to the printing press, from paper to electronic media) will be more subdued, and our obsession with hyperactivity will be given its proper import.

We will not be asked to imagine different endings, but even wider systems of opinion sharing – or “collaborative filtering” – will be developed, which allow, for example, communities of readers to offer their opinions on books that have been published as well and the comments made on these books.

Books will probably not disappear. They are still highly technological instruments, as Umberto Eco used to say, and as this video reminds us.