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"I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labeled 'Science Fiction' and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal."
- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Powered Print-Book  
  Part computer, part book.  

He handed over the Book and Dors, smiling, opened it-then turned to another page-then flipped the pages. "Its blank," she said.

"It appears to be blank. The Mycogenians are stubbornly primitivistic, but not entirely so. They will keep to the essence of the primitive, but have no objection to using modern technology to modify it for convenience's sake. Who knows?"

"Maybe so, Hari, but I don't understand what you're saying."

"The pages aren't blank, they're covered with microprint. Here, give it back. If I press this little nubbin on the inner edge of the cover- Look!"

The page to which the book lay open was suddenly covered with lines of print that rolled slowly upward.

Seldon said, "You can adjust the rate of upward movement to match your reading speed by slightly twisting the nubbin one way or the other. When the lines of print reach their upward limit when you reach the bottom line, that is-they snap downward and turn off. You turn to the next page and continue."

"Where does the energy come from that does all this?"

"It has an enclosed microfusion battery that lasts the life of the book."

"Then when it runs down-"

"You discard the book, which you may be required to do even before it runs down, given wear and tear, and get another copy. You never replace the battery."

Dors took the Book a second time and looked at it from all sides. She said, "I must admit I never heard of a book like this."

"Nor I. The Galaxy, generally, has moved into visual technology so rapidly, it skipped over this possibility."

"This is visual."

"Yes, but not with the orthodox effects. This type of book has its advantages. It holds far more than an ordinary visual book does."

Dors said, "Where's the turn-on?-Ah, let me see if I can work it." She had opened to a page at random and set the lines of print marching upward. Then she said, "I'm afraid this won't do you any good, Hari. It's pre-Galactic. I don't mean the book. I mean the print... the language."

"Can you read it, Dors? As a historian-"

"As a historian, I'm used to dealing with archaic language-but within limits. This is far too ancient for me. I can make out a few words here and there, but not enough to be useful."

"Good," said Seldon. "If it's really ancient, it will be useful."

"Not if you can't read it."

"I can read it," said Seldon. "It's bilingual. You don't suppose that Raindrop Forty-Three can read the ancient script, do you?"

"If she's educated properly, why not?"

"Because I suspect that women in Mycogen are not educated past household duties. Some of the more learned men can read this, but everyone else would need a translation to Galactic." He pushed another nubbin. "And this supplies it."

The lines of print changed to Galactic Standard.

"Delightful," said Dors in admiration.

From Prelude to Foundation, by Isaac Asimov.
Published by Doubleday in 1988
Additional resources -

Compare to the runcible from The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson, published by Bantam Books in 1995.

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  More Ideas and Technology from Prelude to Foundation
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