This is not the future! Where’s my future?

September 26th, 2006  |  Published in etc

Sony’s Reader a step foward:

The Reader would be a perfect companion for the avid book reader, but for a few things.

First of all, navigation is fairly clumsy. You can’t just enter the page number and jump to the page, nor can you enter a word or phrase to search for, as you can when reading a book on a PC. To get around, there are 10 buttons that will each take you a 10th of the way through text. You can also jump to chapter starts, or return to bookmarks. Still, this is very much a one-way device, designed for reading a book straight through from cover to cover.

This lack of interactivity is partly because the screen is slow to change, since it takes time for the pigments to move through the capsules. It takes about a second to display a new page. That means no scrolling through pages, and no note-taking on the screen — imagine having to wait a second for each letter you write to appear.

Secondly, and less importantly, the Reader handles PDFs poorly. It doesn’t allow you to zoom in on them, so if they’re formatted for standard 8.5-inch-by-11-inch pages, the text will be illegibly small.

Thirdly, the Reader doesn’t have a built-in light source, unlike PCs and personal digital assistants. A small clip-on light of the kind sold for books should work well, though.

Because of these drawbacks, it’s hard to see the Reader as something that will bust the e-book market open. But it deserves a much better reception than the generally small LCD-based devices that hit the market a couple of years ago, some of which are already discontinued.

O.k. A usable e-book reader that’s not tied to an expensive PDA is definitely on my list of things I’d love to have some day. I even thought about one while I was traveling last week.

I’ve been wanting a good ebook reader since the day I brought home a fire sale Palm Pilot Personal, made it talk to my Linux box and commenced download of as many free books as I could find. I staggered through “The Time Machine” on that horrible, pea-green display before giving up in disgust. A year or so and a Handspring Visor later, I tried again and gave up again. Then again with a Palm M130 and a Palm TX.

The dedicated readers have looked pretty interesting, but spendy, and I remember reading about the ink tech driving Sony’s latest and thinking it sounded promising, but this is what they came up with? No search, no note-taking, slow, displays PDFs poorly and with no zoom, and no backlight option at all? Yet it “deserves a much better reception than the generally small LCD-based devices that hit the market a couple of years ago?”

It sounds like a frustrating exercise in eye strain and clumsy UI.

I bet I’ll be able to use my ideal ebook reader about the time I can put my flying car on autopilot.

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