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Ebooks at the Beach?

Boot Camp feature for Wednesday, May 31, 2000

You won't see me at the beach this year reading electronic books. But five years from now? Companies like Time Warner, Simon and Schuster, Random House and Microsoft are betting that when you pick up a book, in the not too distant future, it will be digital. I know, I know. You like to hold a book in your hands. You like the feel of the pages. Maybe even the smell. Michael Crichton, who among his accomplishments has mastered the techno-thriller in print, movies and television says when it comes to reading from screens...

"It reminds me of the time when people said no one would read any text off of a screen but in fact an awful lot of people spend all day looking at text on a screen now. And it just looks to me like an inevitability."

In fact, in his 1983 book Electronic Life, Crichton predicted we would be reading mostly electronic text by the year 2002. His latest best seller, Timeline, is now available for free, in a digital format, to owners of the new Pocket PC devices. It can be downloaded from BarnesandNoble.com. But what about the ease with which digital data, whether it is music or books or photographs... can be pirated?

"I think there's nothing to do but look it in the face and say it's going to be extremely easy to do and we're going to have to find ways to re-imagine copyright given a digital world."

You can find more on what Michael Crichton imagines at ThirdAge.com. Bootcamp, I'm Fred Fishkin for CBS News.