Cory Doctrow on eBooks, Me on PDAs

Last night I read the Cory Doctrow speech Neither E nor Books which is probably the most agreement I’ve ever had with Cory’s writing. He made a lot of points that I’ve been making here over and over, that ebooks are not a replacement across the board for paper and we shouldn’t force them into that mode. Use them for what they are good for, don’t for what they aren’t. The first thing some anti-ebook person says is something like “I can’t read them in the tub”. That’s never made a goddamn bit of sense to me – do people make a habit of immersing their paper books in the bath tub? He had a few points that I found completely inarguable, first on the prevalence of e-reading:

If screen resolutions are too low to
replace paper, then how come everyone I know spends more time
reading off a screen every year, up to and including my sainted

He makes another excellent point talking about Ellison’s lawsuit and the simultaneous belief that ebooks as a market are too small to make money yet filetraded copies are so prevalent as to cost writers money:

This all starts with my first novel, Down and Out in the Magic
Kingdom, which came out on January 9, 2003. At that time,
there was a lot of talk in my professional circles about, on the
one hand, the dismal failure of ebooks, and, on the other, the
new and scary practice of ebook “piracy.” It was strikingly weird that no one seemed to notice
that the idea of ebooks as a “failure” was at strong odds with
the notion that electronic book “piracy” was worth worrying
about: I mean, if ebooks are a failure, then who gives a rats if
intarweb dweebs are trading them on Usenet?

This is all interesting reading. I ended up printing it out and reading it on the train. What I would rather have done is chunked it into iSilo and read it on a PDA (saving the trees of the world from donating 13 pages of paper to this.) I’m now almost 2 months without one since the sad demise of my Handspring and I must buy another. I’m strongly leaning towards the Sony Clie TJ-25. It’s cheap, it does everyone I want with a CPU 7 times faster than the Handspring that I was happy with. Downsides include the lack of Mac syncing software in the package (which ups the effective cost of the purchase), lack of a cradle, and different memory card type than I already have. Upsides include the jog dial, 320X320 screen, low price, and built in card expansion slot. If and when a memory card WiFi adapter comes out at a price I’m willing to pay, I can hook up right from the PDA. Papa likes! The question I have for you out there – is this the PDA for me? I dithered a little wondering whether I wanted to go the Sharp Zaurus route and have Linux right on the device. The most important aspects for me are the ability to read etext, (which will be my predominant use), reasonable battery life (rechargeable preferred but AAA accepted if necessary) and low cost! With a rebate and a $25 Amazon gift certificate I can get the effective price of the TJ-25 down to about $115 (plus some for Missing Sync). Are there other competitors in this price range I should be looking at? I care nothing about having a camera or anything like that (I actively don’t want it if it drives the price up). WiFi would be good but not a deal breaker. All input deeply appreciated.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father.