The Great Ebook Throwdown

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Ben Bederson, Nicholas Chen and Matt Kirschenbaum

Ben Bederson

University of Maryland
Speaker Website

Nicholas Chen

University of Maryland
Speaker Website

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum

Speaker Website
MITH Conference Room
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
12:30 pm

Ebooks are suddenly everywhere again. Kindle, Nook, iPhone . . . after 2000 years, the codex is getting an upgrade. But what kind of electronic books and electronic reading devices do we really want? Are we trying to improve on the book, or create something new? Something different? Are there some universal design principles we can agree on? And what about the bigger picture: can electronic gadgetry reverse the national decline in reading dramatically documented by agencies such as the NEA? This roundtable discussion led by Ben Bederson, Nick Chen, and Matt Kirschenbaum will feature as many electronic reading and electronic book devices as we can lay our hands on, including some prototypes being developed here at the University of Maryland. We’ll hold them up, pass them around, turn them on, talk some trash, and, in the process, maybe gain just a little bit of insight into what we all want from our electronic book readers. Attendees are encouraged to bring along electronic book devices of their own.

Benjamin B. Bederson is an Associate Professor of Computer Science and the previous director of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the Institute for Advanced Computer Studies and iSchool at the University of Maryland. His research is on mobile device interfaces, information visualization, interaction strategies, digital libraries, and accessibility issues such as voting system usability. He is also co-founder and Chief Scientist of Zumobi, a startup offering a mobile content platform based on that research.

Nicholas Chen is a doctoral candidate in the department of Computer Science at the University of Maryland and is affiliated with the Human Computer Interaction Lab (HCIL) at UMD. He is advised by Professor Francois Guimbretiere in the Cornell University Information Science Department. His research is on electronic reading devices, pen-based user interfaces, and interactions for supporting simultaneous use of multiple devices. Previously, he performed the first-ever evaluation of a dual-display electronic reading device.

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum is Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Maryland, Associate Director of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH), and Director of Digital Cultures and Creativity, a new “living/learning” program in the Honors College.

A continuously updated schedule of talks is also available on the Digital Dialogues webpage.

Unable to attend the events in person? Archived podcasts can be found on the MITH website, and you can follow our Digital Dialogues Twitter account @digdialog as well as the Twitter hashtag #mithdd to keep up with live tweets from our sessions. Viewers can watch the live stream as well.

All talks free and open to the public. Attendees are welcome to bring their own lunches.

Contact: MITH (,, 301.405.8927).