My first order of business in Washington was supposed to be the Pre-Conference, "Web 2.0 and Mobile Technology"... but it seems mobility functions best in a virtual world. In reality, my 5:30am train to Washington was cancelled and the 6:05am was half an hour late. Had it been a virtual pre-conference, I would have been on time - as it was, I showed up to the real pre-conference so late, it was already half over. Thanks, Amtrak. I no doubt missed some fascinating presentations, but as I arrived, Brandon Batcher, Product Manager at Google, was just launching into a talk about upcoming developments at Google. As always, their latest developments are enough to make anyone dizzy. Interestingly, he predicts a price drop in e-readers. The popularity of tablets will undermine the market for e-readers. I, for one, believe it. In its current configuration, I give the Kindle about as good a chance of surviving as the printed book. In a future that will bring only more interactive books - I understand an interactive edition of Alice in Wonderland has already been produced - Google Books plans on enriching and hyperlinking content with supplemental information. For example, if a location is named in a book, it would be linked to Google Maps, so that one can see exactly where a story is taking place. And readers themselves are becoming more and more connected. Kindle already offers a function that allows one to see the most commonly underlined sections of a book. (This begs the question, how does Amazon know what I underline on my Kindle? And how does that jive with copyright laws and privacy concerns?) But back to Google: soon one will be able to buy books from Google, reported Batcher, as well as buy access to text passages. Say I'm looking for a certain quote in context. For a small fee, Google will provide me with said quote in context -- after all, in Google's settlement with publishers, they bought the right to display up to 20% of a particular book's content. The topic of translation also promises some intriguing developments. According to Batcher, Google's translation tool has been perfected to the point that it can produce a translation in which 80% of a text makes sense. We're not talking about Goethe or Grass here, but in the case of non-fiction, they could be on to something. And if users were to be able to correct the remaining 20% along the lines of the Wikipedia model, the texts would eventually be collectively corrected.
Next to librarians, book sellers and publishers, now translators will also have to start worrying about the future of their profession.