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e-Reading Rainbow
September 27, 2006 8:42 AM   Subscribe

The Sony Reader is finally available for purchase. Those of us who cared enough to be annoyed by the over-hyped non-event that was the 'E-book revolution' have been waiting with baited breath for consumer level products featuring electronic paper. The Sony Reader isn't the only kid on the block though. At more then $800 versus the Reader's $350, the iRex iLiad can recieve Wifi, has a touch sensitive screen for note taking and marginalia, and is built around the linux kernal, allowing some pretty amazing hacks, making the whole thing rather irresistable. Many of us having been waiting to sell ourselves to the dark god of Electronic Paper + Project Gutenberg. This time seems to have arrived.
posted by Alex404 (106 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I know this post is a little pepsi blue, but good lord I feel like I've been waiting for these things forever. I imagine that many mefites feel the same way.
posted by Alex404 at 8:44 AM on September 27, 2006


Grammar police: bated breath. Now move along, nothing to see...
posted by QuietDesperation at 8:47 AM on September 27, 2006


One of these + Project Gutenberg + a healthy bittorrent network would have saved me $200 a quarter ( X 3 quarters per year, X 4 years of college) in student books.
posted by jonson at 8:48 AM on September 27, 2006


BATED!
posted by dame at 8:48 AM on September 27, 2006


Man, I was beaten. And my link is screwed. Sigh.
posted by dame at 8:49 AM on September 27, 2006


Also, e-books are a crappy idea.
posted by dame at 8:49 AM on September 27, 2006


The Dark God? More like the Illuminated God of Knowledge, Freedom, and Portability. Now there's an idol I can get behind!
posted by blue_beetle at 8:51 AM on September 27, 2006


Bated breath you say? Well that certainly makes a lot more sense. I always imagined people smelling of fish.
posted by Alex404 at 8:52 AM on September 27, 2006


That video of the iLiad in action was painful to watch. A big hunk of plastic that's slow to boot, slow to maneuver between functions and slow to flip to subsequent "pages," all to display what look like coarse PDFs? (Even PDFs printed on my 600 dpi laser printer are harder to read than the same pages printed directly from Word.) Sorry, still not ready for prime time...
posted by twsf at 8:57 AM on September 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


I like the whole idea of ebooks, but what the hell!? Why would anyone shell out the rough equivalent of an XBox 360 for an ebook reader?
posted by Richqb at 9:00 AM on September 27, 2006


I've owned a Sony Libre for about a year to read Project Gutenberg texts. I can tell you flat out it's not worth it. The screen is too small. Your eyeballs tire scanning back and forth and your thumb tires flipping screens over and over. A 300 page book might be 800 page flips. At first I thought it was great but now I rarely use it. Also the grey background with black text gets depressing and "the same".

With that said, the iLiad seems to solve this problem with a large screen that can fit a normal page of text on one screen. I think. Still waiting to verify. But it's a lot of money also.
posted by stbalbach at 9:02 AM on September 27, 2006


I like the whole idea of ebooks, but what the hell!? Why would anyone shell out the rough equivalent of an XBox 360 for an ebook reader?

Why would anyone shell out the rough equivalent of 20 books for a reader to allow you to read thousands upon thousands of books? That's crazy!
posted by Jairus at 9:06 AM on September 27, 2006


...I mean, I like the whole idea of MP3 players, but what the hell!? Why would anyone shell out the rough equivalent of an XBox 360 for an MP3 player?
posted by Jairus at 9:10 AM on September 27, 2006


Let's see... who's going to buy a single-purpose device that you have to store gingerly (so you won't bust the screen by accident) for $350? You can buy an old laptop for that sort of money. It's not as small, but the screen will probably be larger and have better storage capacity.
posted by clevershark at 9:12 AM on September 27, 2006


I've owned a REB 1100 for since 2001(2?) and I love it.

There's probably very few of them left in service, since it's pretty difficult to convert to their proprietary format. I've been keeping up pretty well, but I'm a geek and don't mind futzing like that.

But it's a good product - easy to read, light on the power usage, about the size of a large paperback.

I just finished Blood, Sweat, and Tea on the reader and really enjoyed it.
posted by unixrat at 9:14 AM on September 27, 2006


I can't help but laugh at a statement like this...

"It boasts an amazing screen with technology that rivals text on paper."

My, how far we've come!
posted by Sandor Clegane at 9:16 AM on September 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


i've been reading on my laptop and it works fine -- i can enlarge text, change colors, adjust contrast, etc -- do i really need another device?
posted by amberglow at 9:19 AM on September 27, 2006


Let's see... who's going to buy a single-purpose device that you have to store gingerly (so you won't bust the screen by accident) for $350?

You're right. That's probably why PDAs never took off and are never sold anymore in any stores anywhere.
posted by Jairus at 9:19 AM on September 27, 2006


Too bad its SONY. When does the secret DRM rootkit take effect on these?
Sorry, no more Sony products for me...
posted by DesbaratsDays at 9:21 AM on September 27, 2006


this seems more about DRM and copyright protection.

and what Sandor said (altho Gutenberg and other online sources of lit are a really fabulous and vitally important development).
posted by amberglow at 9:21 AM on September 27, 2006


Ebook readers are a good idea, but I don't think these are it. The iLiad better have a fantastic standby mode because waiting 45 seconds for it to boot would get really old really quick.

I'm still waiting for one of these books to use something like smart paper. I know there was a really cool project a while back where the material was very much like normal paper that could change it's text. There was no backlight and the only time power was needed was when it changed the text. That was getting closer but it was still a prototype.

My humble opinion? Ebook readers will take off when they can roughly duplicate the feeling of actually reading a book, not a PDA.
posted by quin at 9:26 AM on September 27, 2006


I'm not saying I'm going to buy one or anything, but don't judge these things by pictures of them you see on a computer. The point of the e-ink display is how it looks *in person*. You are not going to appreciate how nice it is by looking at pictures of it on an LCD.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 9:30 AM on September 27, 2006


Ah, here it is; epaper. I want my e-book reader made out of this.
posted by quin at 9:36 AM on September 27, 2006


Quin, these books do use something like smart paper, with exactly the properties you describe.

In person the iLiad is pretty nice; I'd compare it to reading newsprint.
posted by hattifattener at 9:38 AM on September 27, 2006


Yeah, I just finished the whole Wiki and caught that. I guess it didn't convey well in the video. I assumed it was an LCD screen. So just ignore my ramblings and read what Lazlo Hollyfeld said.
posted by quin at 9:41 AM on September 27, 2006


ebooks are still way overpriced too, considering they're just repurposed electronic text that had already been created when the actual book was made/edited/published.
posted by amberglow at 9:45 AM on September 27, 2006


For the time being, eBooks are a love/hate proposition. Some people can't see (literally in some cases) the benefit while others are perfectly willing to sacrifice limbs.

While I wouldn't go quite that far, I've been waiting for a quality reader for some time. I just don't like the idea of a separate device. I'd much prefer something that was a full fledged PDA, if not a complete computer.

But I'm hooked on portable electronic texts. I read the New York Times and the Washington Post each and every morning on my Palm via AvantGo. Far more convenient than wrestling with broadsheets on the train and entirely free. I long for the day when I can read the paper in a more "newspaper" format - it's not far off.

Some time ago I worked for a company doing promotions and marketing for the Rocket eBook. Far bulkier than the Sony or iRex it nonetheless had a pleasant feel to it. I read a handful of books on its screen and found it entirely pleasant. But it needed constant recharging and was finicky about connecting to my Mac.

The DRM issue is the only long-term problem for these products. There's no question that we'll all be using electronic readers in the near future (which doesn't mean that paper books will cease to exist by any stretch - just look at how well Moleskine and other paper planners are doing in the face of Palm competition). But what electronic texts will mean for the traditional notion of libraries and the sharing of volumes remains to be seen.

It'd be interesting if you could freely distribute and share a text but not *copy* it. This is, in effect, how libraries and personal lending works. But I suppose this is effectively impossible with any digital media.

Apologies for the long winded and poorly worded screed - it's just that I find this absolutely fascinating stuff.
posted by aladfar at 9:50 AM on September 27, 2006


My impression was that with e-paper you don't need to worry about shattering the screen the way you could with an LCD.
posted by delmoi at 9:51 AM on September 27, 2006


What DesbaratsDays said. No more Sony products for me, since they saw fit to deliberately infect my computer.
posted by pmurray63 at 9:58 AM on September 27, 2006


Also, to respond to amberglow: ebooks are still way overpriced too, considering they're just repurposed electronic text that had already been created when the actual book was made/edited/published.

I heard this all the time when working with the Rocket eBook people. Why on earth should they have to pay the cover price of a hardcover or paperback when there isn't any cost of production or shipping involved?

Because you're paying for a license to read the book, not for anything physical in itself. Mass market paperbacks and, to a lesser extent, hardcovers are cheaply produced. The majority of the cover price is tacked on to fill the coffers of the publisher, recoup promotional expenses, etc.

A CD, for example, only costs pennies to produce. The $15 is to pay for the license, the music video, Brittany's ugg boots, etc. I suspect that you and most other MeFi readers are already aware of all this.

But there remains a issue of perceived cost. Apple did well to get the cost of a downloaded album measurably less than its CD counterpart. Sony and iRex would be wise to do the same. $5 for a full book rather than the $20 it would cost at the bookstore might be enough to make the DRM more palatable and the library too inconvenient.

I doubt publishers will let them do that any time soon, however. More likely, you'll see reduced cost periodicals before popular novels.
posted by aladfar at 9:58 AM on September 27, 2006


Just to clarify, because some people seem to be missing it, these are simply novelty PDAs. They don't have LCD screens. They use these supposed electronic ink technology which is supposed to be much closer to a book then a computer screen in terms of visual quality.

As Lazlo said though, the computer pictures of these things sort of kill it. You really have to see them in person to tell how much they succeed or fail at offering that book like feeling.
posted by Alex404 at 9:59 AM on September 27, 2006


aren't novelty PDAs.
posted by Alex404 at 10:00 AM on September 27, 2006


Also, e-books are a crappy idea.

are you kidding?! e-books have revolutionized my life, I can't wait until prices on e-paper come down.

It'd be interesting if you could freely distribute and share a text but not *copy* it. This is, in effect, how libraries and personal lending works. But I suppose this is effectively impossible with any digital media.

You could simply vouch that you won't make a copy when you check it out of the system. How is that any different legally from a regular library in the age of widespread home scanners?
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:00 AM on September 27, 2006


The interactivity of the iLiad seems really slow; I wouldn't want to wait 3 seconds every time I select something.
posted by pepcorn at 10:02 AM on September 27, 2006


Sony, the bringer of burning batteries, payments to the congress to have laws like the DMCA, payments to support DRM (in ways that prevent legal use)....and somehow "we" should consider their reader?

Bah.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:04 AM on September 27, 2006


Too bad its SONY. When does the secret DRM rootkit take effect on these?

I hear the next version sets fire to your library card.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:18 AM on September 27, 2006 [2 favorites]


It is sort of an interesting idea... but I don't have to worry if my battery will die halfway through my favorite novels. I might be old-fashioned in that sense, I guess. The weight and heft of a shelf of well-read books is something I cherish.

CDs? Nice to have - I like the cover art - but I don't look at the art when I listen, so I don't mind using an iPod at all. It also means that I bring all of my music with me, wherever I go. I can see the appeal of doing so with my home library, but to be perfectly honest I'd rather have the book itself. I connect with what I read in a different way. Music is an aural sensation, but reading is both visual and tactile - the book itself is looked at and held when using it, which makes it hard to transition from the feel of holding the book to a more generic feel of a device, where every novel would essentially have the same identical size and binding. No individuality, and an empty shelf rather than the eclectic collection of colors, sizes and ages of the books I have now.

If you're the type who reads it once and then lends it out or gives it away, this might be the perfect thing for you, much like those who buy the CD then throw away the case and inserts (yes, I know people who do that!) are the same ones that would be best suited by an iPod or similar device.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:18 AM on September 27, 2006


jarius: Why would anyone shell out the rough equivalent of 20 books for a reader to allow you to read thousands upon thousands of books? That's crazy!

Well, if you are a smart bibliovore, you don't pay $17.50 for a book. For one-time use you get them for free at your library, or you trade for credit at your friendly local bibliovore shop. About the only things I need to buy are reference texts that I intend to keep around. Not counting property taxes, I'd place the costs of my bibliovore lifestyle at around $0.50 a text. (And that includes books not in the public domain.)

And of course, part of the business model for this assumes that you will be shelling out cash for DRM'd recent releases as well.

aladfar: But what electronic texts will mean for the traditional notion of libraries and the sharing of volumes remains to be seen.

I don't know about that. Both of my local libraries have adopted eTexts to some extent. Many libraries long ago stopped thinking in terms of just books and print periodicals and included audio-video works as well. Storage and distribution of printed works has only been one service performed by libraries.

A better vision of the library is that they are information brokers and guides. We forget writing here on the priveleged blue that the majority of people don't have orange-belts in google-fu. So they come to the library asking questions of the search-engine black-belts on staff like, "What books would be good for a 5th grader who hates to read?" "I heard this song on the radio the other day that sounds something like this...?" "Where do I go to find the location of my great-grandfather's gravestone?"

Apple did well to get the cost of a downloaded album measurably less than its CD counterpart.

Did they? Just as an example iTunes music store is hawking Johnny Cash's American Vol. V for 11.99. Amazon has it new for $13.99, and on sale for $8.88. If you are smart enough to use an ebook, you are smart enough that you shouldn't have to pay the $15.00 retail average for a CD.

Which is why I don't see a strong market for this at this price point. Unlike the iPod, you don't need equipment to read a book. And while I have almost a gig of eText on my workstation (in the form of journal articles), I don't feel the need to pay $350 or $800 for a reader when I can get a laptop for $1000.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:36 AM on September 27, 2006


clevershark writes "who's going to buy a single-purpose device that you have to store gingerly (so you won't bust the screen by accident) for $350?"

I paid way more than that for my HP48SX.
posted by Mitheral at 10:39 AM on September 27, 2006


Before I buy an e-book reader, it has to have:

- a battery life three times as long as the Reader
- a minimum display size of 1200 pixels along the short edge
- better colour depth than 4 shades of grey, because I want to read more than novels on it
- a $199 price point or less
- non-proprietary expandable memory

I've got tens of gigs of PDFs I'd like to read on a device like this, but not on this particular device.
posted by solid-one-love at 10:40 AM on September 27, 2006


This is a good post and i'm excited to see the new tech coming along!

However, considering this is a reading-related post, I can't resist the following:

bated
received
kernel
irresistible

;)
posted by darkstar at 10:50 AM on September 27, 2006


I'm sure many of the people who say they would never buy a SONY also drive Volkswagons.

Outrage, meet Fickle. Fickle, meet Outrage.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:50 AM on September 27, 2006


Jairus writes "You're right. That's probably why PDAs never took off and are never sold anymore in any stores anywhere."

You have a PDA that has been especially designed to do only ONE thing and nothing else? You got swindled.
posted by clevershark at 10:52 AM on September 27, 2006


I will hold off on buying an e-reader until the last books wither into dust. If I loose a book on the bus, I can replace it for $5-$20, if I lost my e-reader, it could take me months to buy a new copy.

If e-books take off, we open ourselves to potential digital rot, as through things such as DRM it would be much easier to eliminate undesirable books.
posted by drezdn at 10:53 AM on September 27, 2006


I can't wait to get a coupla two three of these nifty suckers. High tech gear that is autoobsolescent is so excellent. In 5 years tops I'll make a mint selling em to collectors....
posted by Skygazer at 10:54 AM on September 27, 2006


blue_beetle writes "I'm sure many of the people who say they would never buy a SONY also drive Volkswagons. "

WTF? Apple, meet orange. Orange, Apple.
posted by clevershark at 11:00 AM on September 27, 2006


DRM: Digital Rot Mechanism. The other reason (besides cost) why I would simply not buy one of things anyway. I made up my mind not to buy anything that's partly or wholly Sony-branded, until they start exercising a little customer-friendly control over their own name.
posted by clevershark at 11:02 AM on September 27, 2006


*Ahem*

"I'm sure many of the people who say they would never buy a SONY also drive Volkswagens."
posted by Smart Dalek at 11:03 AM on September 27, 2006


And Skygazer: in place of "autoobsolescent is so excellent", you really meant "abso-bloody-lutey un-blinkin'-believeable."
posted by Smart Dalek at 11:07 AM on September 27, 2006


Another clarification:

I was going to make a point about the DRM in the post, but it seemed somewhat tangential. Apparently though, due to the failure of the Libre (or whatever) in Japan, largely due to, among other things, it's stringent DRM, Sony is making the Reader rather user friendly. You can freely copy pdfs and txts (like from Gutenberg and online journals, which is all I care about anyway) without any DRM trying to screw you over. It's only on the books you buy that you get crippled files (funny that). Of course, we won't really know until they hit the shelves.

Also, sorry for my horrible abuses of the english language, darkstar.
posted by Alex404 at 11:14 AM on September 27, 2006


Alex404 writes "Sony is making the Reader rather user friendly. You can freely copy pdfs and txts (like from Gutenberg and online journals, which is all I care about anyway) without any DRM trying to screw you over. It's only on the books you buy that you get crippled files (funny that). "

You pretty much have to take that on faith from a company that's burned its own customers before. Fool me once...
posted by clevershark at 11:22 AM on September 27, 2006


You know, you don't have to read books on it that have DRM. There are plenty of books out there that are completely open and are very cheap, or even free.
posted by bshort at 11:33 AM on September 27, 2006


I made up my mind not to buy anything that's partly or wholly Sony-branded, until they start exercising a little customer-friendly control over their own name.
posted by clevershark at 11:02 AM PST


Its the only vote you have - your money.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:34 AM on September 27, 2006


...people who say they would never buy a SONY also drive Volkswagons.

You know, I come to metafilter for new sources of outrage, so it's completely unfair to leave me ignorant of the Volkswagen's many sins. Will you really make me buy your newsletter, without supplying even a peak of the obscure rants to be found inside? Come on... just a teaser! Is it a Nazi thing? Did they sign on to the Protocols of Zion? Did Herbie the Love Bug molest children? Does Jetta have a bit of an ethanol problem? Are Touaregs racist? Just give me something to work with!
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:36 AM on September 27, 2006


And Skygazer: in place of "autoobsolescent is so excellent", you really meant "abso-bloody-lutey un-blinkin'-believeable."
posted by Smart Dalek 36 minutes ago


No. NO. NO!

I meant what I wrote. Forthwith:

*Ahem*


High tech crap gear that is auto-obsolescent is so excellent.



*takes a bow*
posted by Skygazer at 11:53 AM on September 27, 2006


Outrage, meet Fickle. Fickle, meet Outrage.

Axe, meet Grindstone.
posted by GeekAnimator at 12:02 PM on September 27, 2006


I guess if Volkswagens are naughty so are Porsches.

And don't even get me going about Mercedes's -- Hitler's limo was a Merc. And now they own Chrysler! Might as well give up now.

What this has to do with hidden crippleware in Sony-branded merchandise is beyond me, but it was nice to come completely unhinged for a second there.
posted by clevershark at 12:46 PM on September 27, 2006


I'm rather pleased with using my Palm TX for ebook reading. And, humorously enough, I bought it over the counter at an electronics store. Works well, with a wireless keyboard, for writing, also.
posted by Samizdata at 12:48 PM on September 27, 2006


I use an old Zaurus 5500. Sucks as a pda, but makes a great reader with a 1 gig SD card. E-books have done for my bookshelves, what mp3s did to my cd and record collections.
posted by Manjusri at 12:59 PM on September 27, 2006


I used to read a lot of books on the Newton -- and it's great, with search, notes and I even found I read them faster. That said, it buzzed all the time and was a pain to send files to. I'm really into this ebook reader, if I can get the texts I need for it.

Even PDFs printed on my 600 dpi laser printer are harder to read than the same pages printed directly from Word.

There's something wrong with your PDF source or your PDF reader, then. We use PDF to send our newspaper to press. The quality is perfect.
posted by bonaldi at 1:04 PM on September 27, 2006


As someone who's used Acrobat professionally for the better part of a decade, I can second the opinion that if your PDFs don't print legibly it's because either you or the file's author isn't using the product properly.
posted by clevershark at 1:08 PM on September 27, 2006


I used to refuse to buy Microsoft, then they made an absolutely fabulous keyboard.

If you buy a bad company's good products your are training that company to continue making good products. If you don't buy the good products you are telling the company that good policies and products do not have a financial pay-off. Boycotting new, good products does not make the company behave better.
posted by oddman at 1:11 PM on September 27, 2006


There's something wrong with your PDF source or your PDF reader, then.

Or his printer's choking on malformed postscript or has some other problem. Could be any number of things, none of which changs the fact that he's doing something wrong.
posted by solid-one-love at 1:17 PM on September 27, 2006


Part of the reason for reading books is peer approval. How many of you have read a particular book on a train or underground, wanting the cover to be viewed and approved by others? Conversely, how many of you have seen someone read a book you like (or loathe) and gained an opinion on that person. You can't do that with e-books.
posted by movilla at 1:52 PM on September 27, 2006


Movilla, are you the creepy guy that reads de Sade on the train? Cut that out!
posted by kid ichorous at 2:00 PM on September 27, 2006


How many of you have read a particular book on a train or underground, wanting the cover to be viewed and approved by others?

I can hardly think of anything lamer. Just talk to people, if that's what you want to do!

On the other hand, I do use fanship of (e.g.) 'Atlas Shrugged' as an infallible warning sign that I will be talking to a unreflective moron.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:03 PM on September 27, 2006


Sonof....No ones talks to other people on the Tube. That's for weirdos. All communication is non-verbal.
posted by movilla at 2:12 PM on September 27, 2006


Missing in this discussion: what will be impact of the Reader (and the Iliad and other e-paper gizmos to come) be on newspapers and magazines? Would you switch a paper-and-ink subscription to an e-paper subscription, or use an e-paper version if it came free with a print subscription? My prediction is, within 3-5 years:
(a) Color e-paper readers will come out
(b) Screens will be more robust and possibly will roll in and out of small tubes, making the reader even more portable. Some readers will be integrated with cell phones.
(c) Most newspapers and magazines will offer editions formatted to e-readers, with major advertising. Many papers will offer free e-readers to purchasers of subscriptions.
(d) Some newspapers (starting with the likes of the Wall Street Journal) will consider the unthinkable: turning off their presses and publishing only in electronic formats.

Expect Amazon to be a major, major player in this entire game, for both books and periodicals.
posted by beagle at 2:45 PM on September 27, 2006


No ones talks to other people on the Tube.

Gag... people on public buses (no rail) around here are super-friendly. On some routes, it's a party, often music and ingestable substances floating around.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:48 PM on September 27, 2006


We were discussing this at work the other days... a room full of geeks, all of whom love their books, but we'd all buy an ebook reader as long as it used this epaper stuff and it was waterproof so you could read in the bath. To make it truly waterproof you'd probably also need to have a wi-fi connection and charging using one of those induction chargers.

Until then I can cope with crinkly paged books drying on the radiator every now and then...
posted by twine42 at 3:04 PM on September 27, 2006


Call me a Luddite, but I prefer my books made from dead trees, thank you very much. They don't need batteries, don't break if I drop them, don't need ages to start up, come with particularly effective bookmark and quick-find functions and, to top it all, aren't particularly attractive to thieves.

The e-book is a solution in need of a problem, IMHO.
posted by Skeptic at 4:10 PM on September 27, 2006


Boycotting new, good products does not make the company behave better.

The problem with Sony is that you generally can't do that without getting burned - Sony gets pretty sneaky with their cripples and their accessory lock-ins, and you often have no way to know about them other than discovering it The Hard Way six months after you purchased.

I tried to limit my purchases to good products. Sony just got sneakier and continued to find ways to ream me. Their "good products" are just illusionary - Sony makes none.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:12 PM on September 27, 2006


Skeptic:

I've found it can be quite useful to have stuff like the entire Encylopedia Brittanica in your backpack while out hiking in the wilderness, when you see something and want to learn about it. Try that with dead trees :-p
posted by -harlequin- at 4:15 PM on September 27, 2006


Hmmmm. Waterproof. Makes me wish my Tungsten C had been waterproof. Eventually I need to get out of the whole "falling asleep holding PDA in warm bathtub after hot time with (now ex-) wife" syndrome. Of course, now it ends at "warm bathtub"...
posted by Samizdata at 5:00 PM on September 27, 2006


Has no one noticed that the product shot uses the start of a chapter 2 from The Da Vinci Code as the lorem ipsum?
posted by cortex at 5:06 PM on September 27, 2006


This is certainly inevitable, and while I'm not adverse to change, I know I'm going to become one of those old fogies clinging to my hardcover novels in my crippled, lifeless hands.
posted by liquorice at 5:07 PM on September 27, 2006


I really hope that thre responsiveness problems in the reader in that video are just a result of poor product engineering (slow processor, etc.), and not a property of the epaper display.

Responsiveness problems in the loader interface don't bother me too badly. But, the lagginess between pages is utterly unforgivable. Can you imagine reading if you had to wait a second and a half to get the end of your sentence.
posted by Netzapper at 5:12 PM on September 27, 2006


Man, that Iliad is slow. I can't help but think that these e-readers will be obsolete before they ever take off. I envision a revolution in computer displays, that is to say, 3D holograph displays. Both desktop and portable devices. Maybe I watch (and have faith in) too many SF movies, but a floating holographic screen doesn't seem to be an impossibility, though naturally it'll take some time (10-15 years?).

In the meantime, I can read books on my PSP. It's a bit of a strain on the eyes, but then again, so are some books. And a helluva lot cheaper than these expensive and slow readers.
posted by zardoz at 5:30 PM on September 27, 2006


beagle has it.

This device is too expensive and too limited. But the it's the beginning of the future.

Who remembers the first mp3 players that came out around 1999? Most were pretty crap. But then this white one came out that everyone loved and they took off.
posted by sien at 5:34 PM on September 27, 2006


Exactly, sien. THis is the beginning of something incredible. My main hope is that we'll eventually see readers that integrate music players and PDA functionality. I won't carry around another gadget, so if I'm going to tote around an E-reader, something else will have to stay at home.
posted by slatternus at 7:10 PM on September 27, 2006


I envision a revolution in computer displays, that is to say, 3D holograph displays. Both desktop and portable devices.

So do a lot of people. The company that comes up with the batteries to power those revolutionary displays without needing a recharge every 20 minutes will rule the world.
posted by slatternus at 7:11 PM on September 27, 2006


Sien is right, I remember my Creative Jukebox... ahhh!

I've been reading e-books on my palm for years, great when you travel and need to save weight. I love the idea of this reader and it's the sort of thing that if i get my grubby little hands on it in the shop, might just make its way into my possession. Legally of course.

But in reality, I'll probably wait until they're a little smaller (lighter) and a little cheaper before I take the plunge.
posted by itsjustanalias at 7:12 PM on September 27, 2006


late but: Because you're paying for a license to read the book, not for anything physical in itself.
But when i buy an actual book, i haven't just bought a license to read specific text. I have an object that can be lent to friends, read and re-read wherever i am and it is, marked up and dog-eared, sold to other people, donated to an org or a library, given as a gift, or even burned (God forbid), etc.... That book and all the text in it is mine, not just licensed to me.

(legal) E-text is not like that at all and has none of that versatility. Having it be tied to one specific reader alone is even worse. We can read emails and many other pieces of e-text on many diff devices--but ebooks are all locked to one device, or to Microsoft and stuff.
posted by amberglow at 9:05 PM on September 27, 2006


Amberglow: The text of a physical book is tied to a single "device" as well. You can photocopy or scan it, of course, but that's time intensive and/or expensive with a substantial volume.

When you sell or give away a book or CD you're not selling the item, you're selling the license. It's just that because the conveyance and the content are one in the same it's not an issue. You own the object, but you most certainly do not own the text or anything else associated with it. This is why libraries have to purchase multiple copies of popular books - they can lend out their licenses, but they cannot duplicate content on their own.

Because digital content does away with the idea of a physical conveyance (be it paper, plastic, etc) the issue of illegal licensing becomes thorny. Hence DRM. If you could donate or lend out a digital text without the possibility of retaining a perfect copy, DRM wouldn't be necessary. Until recently, this was always the case.

Interestingly, some scholars and legal experts are using this rationale to oppose DRM. If I've paid for the rights to use a track from iTunes, I should be able to transfer that license to my local library, thrift store, etc. Indeed, when software was inextricably linked to hardware (remember those Atari and Nintendo cartridges?) this was commonplace.

The key, I think, is to hone in on a price point that results in a profit for content producers and distributers while discouraging rampant piracy. If I can easily download a book for a few dollars I won't bother hauling a hard drive to my friends place or suffering through buggy bit torrent downloads.

For evidence of this, look no further than allofmp3.com.

In any case (I've rambled on entirely too much in this thread) we're definitely on the cusp of something here. This isn't the end of electronic texts, it's the primordial ooze of what might be.
posted by aladfar at 12:54 AM on September 28, 2006


Amberglow: The text of a physical book is tied to a single "device" as well. You can photocopy or scan it, of course, but that's time intensive and/or expensive with a substantial volume.

When you sell or give away a book or CD you're not selling the item, you're selling the license. It's just that because the conveyance and the content are one in the same it's not an issue. You own the object, but you most certainly do not own the text or anything else associated with it. This is why libraries have to purchase multiple copies of popular books - they can lend out their licenses, but they cannot duplicate content on their own.

Because digital content does away with the idea of a physical conveyance (be it paper, plastic, etc) the issue of illegal licensing becomes thorny. Hence DRM. If you could donate or lend out a digital text without the possibility of retaining a perfect copy, DRM wouldn't be necessary. Until recently, this was always the case.

Interestingly, some scholars and legal experts are using this rationale to oppose DRM. If I've paid for the rights to use a track from iTunes, I should be able to transfer that license to my local library, thrift store, etc. Indeed, when software was inextricably linked to hardware (remember those Atari and Nintendo cartridges?) this was commonplace.

The key, I think, is to hone in on a price point that results in a profit for content producers and distributers while discouraging rampant piracy. If I can easily download a book for a few dollars I won't bother hauling a hard drive to my friends place or suffering through buggy bit torrent downloads.

For evidence of this, look no further than allofmp3.com.

In any case (I've rambled on entirely too much in this thread) we're definitely on the cusp of something here. This isn't the end of electronic texts, it's the primordial ooze of what might be.
posted by aladfar at 12:54 AM on September 28, 2006


"I tried to limit my purchases to good products. Sony just got sneakier and continued to find ways to ream me. Their "good products" are just illusionary - Sony makes none."


Hey. My DSC-W7 begs to differ. AWESOME camera.
posted by stenseng at 1:29 AM on September 28, 2006


One day there will be a post about ebooks on MF that won't instantly fill with people saying that it's an idiotic idea that will never take off. I look forward to that day.

For the people that write those posts: I'm not going to try to change your mind, you can stop reading now.

For the people that are interested in ebooks: I do all my reading now either on my PDA (which has just died) or on my GBA. I've been holding off on getting a new PDA to see what price this would lauch at. $350 is well within what I'd pay. I think I'll hold off until I can get my hands on one, and then see if I think the screen is worth the slight premium over getting another PDA.

Not sure about the book store thing, I've got stacks of books to read that I got through rampant piracy Project Gutenberg, but I can see that if books I like are in the store the sheer conveniece of it will win me over.
posted by markr at 3:08 AM on September 28, 2006


Something I could use in my life right now: a device about the size and weight of a clipboard with a pad of paper on it that has a full-color, 300dpi e-paper display (8.5 x 11 or A4 in size), on which I can write notes, read books and periodicals, and connect to and browse the Internet. It should also have a mic input for audio note-taking, wireless connectivity, a hundred gigs or so of non-volatile storage memory, ruggedized enough that I can take it camping, and a battery life of several hours.
posted by moonbiter at 6:14 AM on September 28, 2006


aladfar writes "The text of a physical book is tied to a single 'device' as well. You can photocopy or scan it, of course, but that's time intensive and/or expensive with a substantial volume. "

I wonder how long before someone hacks up a eBook reader and a scanner to automatically:
  1. Scan a page.
  2. OCR it.
  3. Advance to the next page.
  4. Rinse. Lather. Repeat. Until the entire book is done and then output a pdf.
How do you public domain an idea like that?

stenseng writes "Hey. My DSC-W7 begs to differ. AWESOME camera."
Uses proprietory Memory Sticks doesn't it? Encouraging you to buy memory stick devices in the future instead of SD devices.
posted by Mitheral at 7:06 AM on September 28, 2006


I'm a big fan of ebooks and have been waiting for the right device. These (the Sony and the Illiad) still aren't there from my perspective because they're missing a critical feature that sets ebooks apart from their paper counterparts - you can't search the text on these devices. I'm actually surprised that they didn't think to include it, it's really what makes an ebook useful. I'll stick with ebooks in devonthink for now and hope someone couples epaper with a device that incorporates search.
posted by Tempus67 at 7:23 AM on September 28, 2006


Amberglow: The text of a physical book is tied to a single "device" as well. You can photocopy or scan it, of course, but that's time intensive and/or expensive with a substantial volume.

But that device is not something i "licensed" or agreed to a terms of service of. It's a distinct and actual copy of copyrighted content in a certain form that i can do things with. The book is actually and totally mine--and my property legally, even tho the copyrighted content inside isn't. I can sell it, will it to people with other items i own, donate it and get a tax write-off, trash it, xerox it, give one page of it each to random strangers on the street, read it aloud & tape that performance, and post it online...
posted by amberglow at 9:17 AM on September 28, 2006


we can all do things with books or cds or tapes etc, that actually transfer ownership of that content, and/or alter and or deface that content in whatever manner we wish, etc--without breaking any law or agreement--we all know that.
posted by amberglow at 9:28 AM on September 28, 2006


markr: One day there will be a post about ebooks on MF that won't instantly fill with people saying that it's an idiotic idea that will never take off.

Well, I think the problem here is that people confuse the concept of an etext with the idea of an etext toy. Etext has a great and growing future. Many academic journals and confrences publish etext in addition to print. My university stopped demanding bound copies of dissertations (although some departments still do) in favor of PDF submission. Participants on metafilter are reading etext, and most likely use etext for technical references.

Etext is great. I have it indexed with spotlight, so whenever I need to pull a quote or review a reference I can just pop it up. I can print it out for going to a coffee shop or a long bus ride. I can copy and paste from it into other documents, or attach the entire document to a mail message and say, "what do you think about this." A friend of mine uses speech synthesis to make mp3s and listens to papers while jogging. What makes etext great on the PC is how nicely it integrates into your workflow.

On the other hand, about once a year a company will come a long selling a single-function device that combines few of the workflow advantages of etext with all of the disadvantages: poor screen resolution, battery life, fragility. You could design the form factor as a platform for general productivity, but Sony has chosen not to. And on top of that, you have a DRM philosophy which is bound to limit what you can do with that text.

So the question that I keep coming back around to is why should I spend $350 on a single-function device that doesn't meet my needs as someone who works professionally with etext?

amberglow: read it aloud & tape that performance, and post it online...

Actually, you are forbidden from doing that (unless the work is in the public domain.)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:30 AM on September 28, 2006


Actually, you are forbidden from doing that (unless the work is in the public domain.)

In Canada, section 32 of the Copyright Act specifically allows for the creation and distribution of such adaptations for the perceptually disabled as long as a commercially produced work is not available. That is, if you can't go out and buy the audiobook, and you target an audience of blind folks, you can do this in Canada -- and you don't have to restrict access to the audiobook to the perceptually disabled once you've created the adaptation.

Section 32 does say that the work has to be requested by a person with a perceptual disability or by a non-profit organization working on their behalf. Luckily, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind has made a blanket request for audio versions of all print works ever published for all the sight-challenged people in the country.
posted by solid-one-love at 9:57 AM on September 28, 2006


I do all my reading now either on my PDA (which has just died) or on my GBA

Gameboy Advance? How do you read books on a GBA? Do you burn your own rom cartridges or ... ?
posted by undule at 10:53 AM on September 28, 2006


Ah nevermind -- how very cool.
posted by undule at 11:00 AM on September 28, 2006


solid-one-love writes "Section 32 does say that the work has to be requested by a person with a perceptual disability or by a non-profit organization working on their behalf. Luckily, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind has made a blanket request for audio versions of all print works ever published for all the sight-challenged people in the country."

That is so very cool, thanks for the info solid-one-love.
posted by Mitheral at 11:30 AM on September 28, 2006


So the question that I keep coming back around to is why should I spend $350 on a single-function device that doesn't meet my needs as someone who works professionally with etext?

Obviously you shouldn't. You should use a PDA, or perhaps a notebook computer. For me, all I do is read .txt novels, so all I need is text display. $350 is as cheap as it currently gets (by a fair margin) for an e-ink display, and that may very well be enough to lift it above a more general purpose LCD based device for me.

Gameboy Advance? How do you read books on a GBA? Do you burn your own rom cartridges or ... ?

The software here combined with any of the many GBA flashable cartridges, such as a "Flash 2 Advance". It's not great (I find the largest font size a little small still) but it works.
posted by markr at 2:01 PM on September 28, 2006


-harlequin- I've found it can be quite useful to have stuff like the entire Encylopedia Brittanica in your backpack while out hiking in the wilderness, when you see something and want to learn about it. Try that with dead trees :-p


With dead trees I can write it down and look it up once I'm back. With an e-book, well, I would first run out of batteries and then probably break the thing inadvertently when putting the backpack down, if it hadn't shortcircuited before in a downpour. When backpacking, I prefer not too carry too many fragile, battery dependent gizmos, really. And never mind that one of the reasons I go backpacking in the first place is to get the hell away from both books and computers...

No really. I see the point in tablet PCs and PDAs: specialized tools that are quite good for some specific purposes. I just don't think that they, or anything similar, are going to supplant paper anytime soon. It makes me think of the quintessential eternal gizmo, the videophone. It has materialized in some ways (videoconferencing, video chatting, etc.). It just hasn't supplanted the telephone, like some people expected already in the '50s.
posted by Skeptic at 3:24 PM on September 28, 2006


Actually, you are forbidden from doing that (unless the work is in the public domain.)

If it's a performance piece, i'm allowed.
posted by amberglow at 3:38 PM on September 28, 2006


Hey. My DSC-W7 begs to differ. AWESOME camera.

No, it'll be locked into sony proprietary shit in numerous ways, probably starting with a memory card slot that almost certainly accepts only the sony memory-stick card format, which cost strangely more than the same size card in the standard formats that other devices use, and means you have to purchase memory sticks instead of using the cards you already have lying around from other devices. And that's not the sneaky stuff. That's an obvious thing you knew ahead of time.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:59 PM on September 28, 2006


Skeptic:
With an e-book, well, I would first run out of batteries

No, you wouldn't. The sony thing uses e-paper, which has no battery drain, it only uses power when flipping to a new page. Once the page is flipped, you can read it with or without power. They advertise the battery life as 10,000 page flips. Even assuming gross exagerration of battery life, you're not going to get through 1% of that on a camping trip. (Though, the linux e-book looks more like a crude coupling of a small computer with an e-paper display, so I imagine the constant battery drain from that is significant)

With dead trees I can write it down and look it up once I'm back.

Hardly the same thing, and kind of useless - not much point in finding out what properties or features to pay attention too or would be interesting to investigate further, only after you've lost your opportunity.

I don't think e-paper will supplant paper any time soon, either, but it's going to make inroads, and in some spheres, exceed the usefulness of paper. Think "complement" rather than "supplant" :)
posted by -harlequin- at 4:14 PM on September 28, 2006


amberglow: If it's a performance piece, i'm allowed.

The exceptions for performance are pretty strongly limited.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:19 PM on September 28, 2006


"Uses proprietory Memory Sticks doesn't it? Encouraging you to buy memory stick devices in the future instead of SD devices."

Well, I've got a 1gb MemoryStick Pro in it - from SanDisk - these go for 30 bucks. The equivalent 1gb SanDisk SD card is 27.99, so I guess there's a savings, but not enough for me to care about.

I'll admit, Sony are dicks about their proprietary formats, and have been, since at least the Beta days, but that doesn't mean they don't make some good gear as well.

Everyone in this thread who owns a pair of Sony headphones, or a minidisc recorder for field recording, or a PS2 raise their hands...

They also make VERY nice DV cameras.
posted by stenseng at 10:09 AM on September 29, 2006


The exceptions for performance are pretty strongly limited.
Except when they're fair use, and not for profit, and "transformative", etc.
posted by amberglow at 11:59 AM on September 29, 2006


[pda post]
the sony reader is sexy in person. the one I'm fiddling with today has 1984 pre-loaded on it--reads exactly like a mass market paperback. plays nice sounding tunes too. kid I showed it to in software etc. thought it was fake, jumped about 2 feet in the air when I turned the page. sooo sexy...
posted by carsonb at 10:40 AM on October 20, 2006


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