I’ve been a proponent of ebooks since I joined a startup almost nine years ago to help build an electronic publishing system. If you’d have told me then that by 2007 the state of the art would barely have advanced beyond that of 1998, I’d have wept openly. The fact that one of the best available dedicated book readers, the eBookwise 1150, is essentially the Rocketbook that was available back then helps with that sadness. There appears to be another jump in that state of the art with the e-ink devices and finally some are commercially available.
The MAKE blog has a Q&A about the Sony device. I like that the e-ink doesn’t consume power except on page refreshes. The Sony claims 7500 page “turns” per charge, which should quite a few books. Wikipedia has a rundown which notes they don’t support straight HTML and appears that getting your own documents on the device will be problematic. That should set off everyone’s spider sense that something is wrong. It looks like a pretty good device but frankly, I’m not going to buy anything from the sleazesters at Sony. I’m especially not buying something that uses their well-known content closedness and DRM strategies. I’ll have to wait for another manufacturer to bring this technology to market.
Update: A few reviews of the Sony Reader from the comments. Wade Roush in MIT Technology Review and Mike Dunn on his blog. Mike says that he is able to read his Fictionwise and Project Gutenberg books on the device without a problem.
One competitor is the iLiad reader which looks pretty compelling and open, with CF and SD cards, as well as wifi. The big downside is the price, which is very close to twice that of the Sony. This might be us getting hammered by the euro/dollar exchange rate, but paying $650 for an ebook reader is ridiculous. Even $350 is nuts, but if people buy enough for them to keep making them perhaps the price will eventually drop into the sub-hundred dollar range which is when it will get really good.
Another one is this weird thing, the Jinke. The docs are oddly translated from the Chinese and I can’t really tell if this is currently for sale or at what price. Let’s score this one as a wild card unlikely to really be of much use. I’d love to be pleasantly surprised, but I wouldn’t lay any of my money on that roulette spin.
I’d love to have an ebook reader that works on this e-ink technology. It needs to be open enough to let me read my own docs, things I have purchased from Fictionwise or Baen bookstores, or downloaded from Project Gutenberg. I’d love to have the iLiad but at the price of the Sony. Does anyone know more about this subject or if something is available at a reasonable price?