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E-Readers E-verywhere

Are you tired yet of all the talk lately about e-readers?

No, I’m not either……yet.

E-readers, of course, are those devices everyone’s talking about that are made primarily for….you guessed it…e-books.

Anything that can display a digitized book can be called an e-reader, I guess, but it seems that most people have in mind a hand-held portable device when they talk about these.

Amazon’s Kindle was the first e-reader to really take off. It uses e-ink for the display. E-ink evolved from MIT’s Media Lab as a more readable form of electronic paper. The pixels consist of small charged balls or microcapsules that are black on one side and white on the other. Orienting these with an electric field can quickly create readable text from books or magazines.

Once the microcapsules are in position, it takes no extra juice to keep them there. This gives the device a tremendous battery life.

Now there are many different e-readers available; The Nook, The Alex, The Skiff….the list goes on and on and on.

Who knows which one will really take off. Wanna know my favorite? I do have a favorite but it’s not a hardware solution, it’s all in software. It’s called the Blio and it’s made by one of the many companies of Ray Kurzweil.

Some of the benefits of the Blio are the following:

  • It perfectly replicates the visual experience of the original book or magazine in terms of layout, color etc. This is something many other readers fall short of.
  • The text can be read to you (like an audiobook) if you don’t want to or can’t read it. I love this option.
  • Video is also available but I’m not sure to what extent. I only saw an animated diagram on one of the Blio demo pages.
  • The software will be available at the end of January for free including 1 million e-books (yes…1,000,000 books for nothing but bandwidth costs). The other 200,000 e-books that are available will need to be paid for but hey, that’s ok.

This sounds like a great idea to me. By producing what seems like a great software product for free, the winner(s) of the e-reader hardware wars becomes irrelevant (assuming Blio is available on them).

If you want to find out more about Blio, the homepage is here.

p.s. In case you were wondering…yes, it will also work on the iPhone.

5 comments to E-Readers E-verywhere

  • Steve Page

    Sounds good, Bob; the only thing that puts me off is that I find it quite tiring reading from my computer screen. I’ve been keenly interested in Plastic Logic’s Que reader for what feels like forever, and it does look very nice (launched at CES 2010 just last week), but the $800 price tag has put me off somewhat; for as much as I’d like one (I’m reading a stack of journal articles and e-books for my PhD), I just don’t feel that I can justify that sort of expenditure.

    One thing that I find slightly irritating is that the cost of e-books is typically the same (or thereabouts) as it is for hard copies in the UK, even though the costs of an e-book to produce, store, retail, and freight are substantially lower. If anything, it puts me off of buying them, as I feel like I’m getting more for my money by buying the hard copy. Maybe that’ll change in time, but it’s definitely a factor in my buying habits at the moment.

  • Thanks Steve,

    Yes, readability over time is pretty important. That’s one of the supposed benefits of e-ink. I wonder if OLED screens are easier on the eyes.

    Paying the same price for books and e-books is frustrating. This will probably cause more people to just start sharing them.

  • Hayden Jones

    With a lot of new tech, I keep thinking there’ll be a better product if I just wait a year or so. Maybe a good e-reading experience will be incorporated into a nice tablet device.

  • eean

    Well I wouldn’t hold my breath. There’s really no technical reason why all e-readers can’t support virtually all formats. Its not like Bluray vs. HD-DVD (or whatever the failed format was called), where there was legitimate technical barriers to have a device easily support both.

    Maybe once we have a defacto standard mobile OS (or likely we’ll have the standard 90% of people use and then Apple, just like with computers) then we can all run a particular ebook reader software on our ebook hardware and other mobile devices. But that might take a decade to sort out. The 10s will be to mobile computers what the 80s were to normal computers IMO. 🙂

  • James Fox

    @Jay, “Paying the same price for books and e-books is frustrating. This will probably cause more people to just start sharing them.”

    Ergo Library. What a concept!

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