Monday, July 23, 2007

eBook Reader Dreaming

eBooks are on the edge of real mass market appeal. One of the things holding it back, in my opinion, is the hardware (eBook readers).

So far there is no iPod for eBooks. Maybe the iPhone will be, but I suspect that will take some time. In the meantime I am holding myself back from rushing out and buying one of them.

I need another electronic device like I need an extra hole in my head . . a quick look around my office and I see my laptop, my original eBook reader, a new e-ink reader, a Palm and my Ultra Mobile PC plus three other readers that have been sent to me for evaluation. And that doesn’t account for two MP3 devices and an iPod.

All of these devices have a function in my life and none of them are what I would call wonderful for eBook reading.

My original reader is a little heavy, has poor screen quality and ties me to one vendor for content. On the plus side, it is small, easy to carry and it’s backlit so I can take it to bed, turn out the lights and read until I fall asleep – no waking up with the light glaring in my eyes.

My new e-Ink reader is SLOW! – it takes over 5 seconds for the screen to refresh when I turn a page. . . ugh! So while I can read it at the beach, it is not backlit so I have to leave a light on when I take it to bed at night. I am also limited in the kinds of commercial books I can read on it– pretty much its Mobipocket. I love the fact that it is thin and lightweight and that I can drop it in my purse and go. I have grudgingly become quite fond of it.

The Palm has a very clear display, is backlit and tiny. For me the drawback is that I can almost read a page in a glance. Continuous scrolling is a pain! But you can’t beat it for convenience. Here is a device that has telephone capability, contact and calendar management and reasonably quick internet access all at my fingertips. Best of all, it goes with me everywhere. . . perfect for snatching a quick chapter.

My ultra mobile PC is heavy (comparatively) and has a short battery life. This my preferred machine when I travel and don’t want to take my laptop. It is not really practical as an eBook reader; it is HOT (runs at about 200 degrees) and has a short battery life. On the other hand, I can read Adobe, Microsoft Reader and Mobipocket books with equal ease. The best part is that it functions like a full PC and has a big enough screen to actually see a good size page.

The evaluation readers all have strengths and weaknesses as well and none of them are perfect. I refuse to give up, however. My dream device is out there on the horizon – I just know it!

It will be about the size of the e-Ink Reader (trade paper), quick, backlit, able to read all commercial book formats, have a super fast internet connection and be under $200.

It will happen; the question is when. In the meantime I read eBooks (on all of my devices) and I fall asleep to dream of the perfect reader.

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