Thursday, February 09, 2006

Sony (E-Book) Reader

The CES show had lots of products, but not much that seemed new. Almost everything was an improvement on early versions, larger TV screens, smaller phones, more GB in the MP3 players, etc. The one new product that got me excited was the Sony E-book reader. I know that there have been other ebook readers, so this isn't really a new product, but this is the first iteration that appears to actually be usable as a book replacement.

As the Gizmodo reviewer put it:

It is the first e-reader that seemed like I could sit down and spend hours on without experiencing eye strain.
I can't wait for it to hit the market. Computer screens are nice, but I can't stand to look at them for hour after hour to read a book. This new (well fairly new) e-ink technology hopefully is the answer.
Instead of rows of glowing cells, e Ink® microcapsules actually appear as either black or white depending on a positive or negative charge determined by the content. The result is a reading experience that’s similar to paper - high contrast, high resolution, viewable in direct sunlight and at a nearly 180-degree angle, and requiring no power to maintain the image. In other words, it's a screen that, like you, is well read.
The one issue I had heard about the e-ink before is the amount of time it takes to go from page to page. The Sony site doesn't talk about it, and no review mentions it, so I am not sure if this has been worked out or not.

There are 4 reasons I am excited about this product:

1) Save Trees
It will be great to no longer require the service of fallen trees to satisfy my voluminous appetite for the written word. No more need for paper to view the content of newspapers, or magazines (well maybe I still need those until it deals with color) or books. No more atoms required, just the bytes of the content. Of course this brings up a new issue of e-waste created by the book reader itself. Hmm, wonder which is worse. Hopefully some environmentalist type will do a little comparison to ease my mind.

2) Easier to read than a computer screen
I hate looking at a computer screen for hours a day. It will be great to be able to download news, blogs and .pdfs to this device to read. Hopefully I will be able to read for hours a day and not get any eye strain. And of course, I can't read my computer in bed, so being able to do so is a big plus.

3) Portable and Light Weight
I know that PDAs currently fit this bill, but there is no way my eyes can handle reading off of that screen for hours a day. It will be great to go on vacation and load it up with 5 books and not have to deal with any extra weight. It will also be nice to load a newspaper into this and read it on the bus, rather than having to deal with newspaper folding issues.

4) Content Available Immediately from Anywhere
I have heard of people who go to bookstores, find a book they like and then go home to buy it on Amazon for less money. I am the exact opposite. I go to Amazon and figure out which books I like based on the reviews. But then I don't the patience to wait the 3 days it takes to get it in the mail. Instead I go to the local bookstore to pick it up.

I would also like to sync this thing every night and get the latest from all the blogs and newspapers I follow. Then throughout the day I can read them wherever I happen to be.

It would also be nice when you are traveling overseas and there is a limited selection of English books. Now you have access to all content no matter where you are. From what I have seen, I am not excited about the selection or prices at the Sony book store but I hope that will improve. Or better yet, maybe Apple will make an iBookPod.

More details from the Sony website and the Engadget Review.

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