The cellphone novels of Japan are a sort of grassroots movement, created on cellphones, by cellphone users for other cellphone users. But there’s a lot of other activity happening out there with other “think small” text projects, nearly all happening outside the library world.
Because of copyright issues, these projects usually involve public domain texts, often taken from Project Gutenberg, so you’re more likely to find “War of the Worlds” than the latest Harry Potter. But a lot of these old books still have their readers, and the technology and ideas that are being developed on various free sites are something we should definitely be watching.
One of the most impressive projects is Manybooks.net, with over 15,000 titles. Visit this site and choose a title, and look at the download options. You’ll find a variety of formats including PDF, large print PDF, iPod notes, Sony, Rocketbook, custom HTML, Plucker, iSilo and more. (One can’t help compare the design and functionality of this site with something like netLibrary.)
There’s a lot of do-it-yourself activity out there, too. For example, see this article from MAKE on creating your own ebooks for iPods:
MAKE Ebooks for Your iPod Guide
The point isn’t that everyone wants to read whole books on small devices like phones, PDAs, and iPods, but a whole lot of people are growing accustomed to doing a lot of reading and writing on devices smaller than computers, and this is a trend that we can’t afford to ignore.