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Digital Books Start A New Chapter 207

Posted by Zonk
from the now-put-it-on-my-retina dept.
conq writes "BusinessWeek has a piece on the latest advancements in eBooks, and how this time they might just take off. From the article: 'Portable devices are becoming lighter and more appealing. The most important step forward may be in digital ink, the technology used for displaying letters on a screen. A small company called E Ink has created a method for arranging tiny black and white capsules into words and images with an electronic charge. Because no power is used unless the reader changes the page, devices with the technology could go as long as 20 books between battery charges'."
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Digital Books Start A New Chapter

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  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @06:30PM (#14771845)

    Article is a dupe...articles covering E-Ink's advances can be found here [slashdot.org], here [slashdot.org], here [slashdot.org], and here [slashdot.org].

    I'm as excited about electronic paper as the next geek, but this story has no information we haven't already covered in the last four electronic paper stories. 'News for nerds', indeed.
    • Yes, but those reading Slashdot on an e-Ink ereader use up precious battery life every time the display changes. You wouldn't want them to have to scroll, would you?

      Alex.
    • Didn't RTFA, eh?

      Admittedly, the E-ink excerpt makes it seem like the article is a dupe, but it's not exactly so.

      Apart from talking about E-ink, it does lay out a few possible reasons for why electronic books have not been adopted as quickly as MP3 players and Treo-Crackberries. The article, had you read it, also points out that the content problem (that is, there's so much more available in dead-tree form) is being chipped away at as new publishing models go mainstream at joints like Amazon. If Tim O'Re

      • Actually I've had my eye on the Sony reader myself and according to their site it will support such common formats as pdf. I have a ton of eBooks here that I've purchased (or came with books) over the years, to the tune of 3.76 GB with much compressed, that I would really like to read portably. The only thing I'm dreading is converting the non-standard stuff to pdf! I do have a pdf robot hiding somewhere that will do coversions in the background but that's still a heck of a drag and drop.

        I'm also seein

      • I've got my eyes on the e-reader as well as a replacement for my Tungsten e for reading books with (the Tungsten screen is nice, but it chews up the battery like no man's business and you can't read the thing in bright light as it gets washed out)... but it's from Sony... and , yes, they do have a history of stupid file format decisions, and, yes, the Japanese version was DRM'd to heck and back... with books timing out after only a few weeks, even the free demos...

        It didn't take long until a crack was avail
    • I wish that old stories would give the year along with the date. Is the June 18 article from 2005 or from 2004? We don't know without deep investigation.
    • What the e-ink people actually have working is a front layer for an LCD panel which provides persistence with power off. This is not an "really cheap electronic paper". It costs as least as much as an LCD and has most of the same limitations.

      Persistent, reflective displays [kentdisplays.com] have been around for years. They're used mostly for signs, and for sunlight-readable military displays. (One of the military features - displays readable with IR night vision equipment.) These haven't been used much for e-books, bu

  • Hell No! (Score:3, Funny)

    by KlomDark (6370) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @06:32PM (#14771873) Homepage Journal
    I just bought the White Album in .lit format, I am NOT changing formats again!
  • This crap again? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dnixon112 (663069) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @06:33PM (#14771881)
    How many freakin articles about this do we have to read before it's actually in production? Wake me up when it's ready.
    • How many freakin articles about this do we have to read before it's actually in production? Wake me up when it's ready.

      Here's a picture of one such technology you can buy today - it doesn't consume ANY energy to view the text OR pictures (ambient lighting) and it only requires energy to change the display. Its so energy-efficient it doesn't have an "OFF" switch.

      http://www.worth1000.com/entries/89000/89089jOQN_w .jpg [worth1000.com]

    • by ucblockhead (63650) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @07:20PM (#14772268) Homepage Journal
      It's been ready for many years. I've been reading books on Palm devices for a decade and O'Reilly has a great web-based subscription service.

      The only issue has been that the "real" ebook readers have all utterly sucked because the idiots that make them are so concerned with controlling what their users read that they produce a product no one wants to buy.

    • The technology might be cool, but what will keep me away is how much the so-called "content owners" are willing to be complete assholes about how the material is used, transferred, retained, etc. The technology may very well be ready, but I'm not so sure the content industry is - or ever will be.
      • In other words, they're concerned that every electronic book sold will be "loaned" to 10,000 of the buyer's closest "friends".

        Yeah, can't imagine where they might have gotten that idea...

        • I expect the same exact rights as if I'd purchased a printed version. Based on the overall direction we've seen recently with various DRM-related efforts, that probably isn't going to happen.
          • What if, say, it's 75% cheaper? Would price savings compensate for the additonal restrictions? I buy audio books from Audible and the typical book costs me $11. It's DRM'ed, but I don't care at the moment because: a) the CD version typically costs 4X that amount; b) I don't have to RIP them; and c) I play them on my iPod anyway.

            I can even loan them out, as a friend and I bought Shuffles we swap back and forth from time to time.

            • What if, say, it's 75% cheaper? Would price savings compensate for the additonal restrictions?

              Not for me. This reduction is only temporary, until they gain control of the market- at that point, they'll charge whatever they want.
  • I really love the idea of E-Ink, I liked it the first time Slashdot posted it a couple years ago, the many times they have covered in between, and the time it was covered in relation to the new Sony E-book reader coming out with it.

  • The good and bad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nizo (81281) * on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @06:34PM (#14771890) Homepage Journal
    The good:

    The text also looks just as sharp as ink on a printed page, since each capsule is the size and pigment of a grain of laser-jet toner.
    Sony is the first major player to take advantage of the technology. This spring, it will debut the Sony Reader, which uses E Ink and closely mimics the size, weight, and feel of a book.

    And the bad:

    The Reader will sell for about $400.

    Having to spend $400 before getting any actual content is pretty harsh. The readability and low power consumption are a step in the right direction, but until the price drops considerably this won't be mainstream thats for sure.
    • If the resolution is really as good as a laser printer, why not a full size display of this stuff? Under $1000 for a monitor isn't too bad. And a monochrome high resolution display might rival a traditional low-res monitor if you don't need color. Well, it would rival it for me... Especially if it's passively lit like paper. What sort of refresh rate is possible? I guess I could read the article...

      • Re:The good and bad (Score:4, Informative)

        by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @07:14PM (#14772224) Journal
        If the resolution is really as good as a laser printer, why not a full size display of this stuff?

        The refresh rate is very low. Imagine waiting a second or two every time you typed a character. Oh, and it would be black-and-white. It might be an acceptable substitute for a 300baud VT100, but not for much else.

        • I remember that when the conversation on this stuff first appeared part of the draw of the stuff is that you didn't have to redraw the entire screen, only changing portions. As such, scrolling would be a big problem, but it would probably be fast enough to do non-scrolling apps like a 3270 emulator :)
      • Refresh rates are currently between .5 second and 1 second depending on if you are using grayscale.

    • Re:The good and bad (Score:4, Interesting)

      by chris_eineke (634570) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @08:04PM (#14772624) Homepage Journal
      I think that's only the introductory price. You know, kinda like the early adopter thing. Once Sony has probed whether or not there is a demand for it, it will invest more into this technology and make it mass-market-compatible.
      Personally, I would be glad to replace my two bookshelf with something more compact. And while you're at it: would someone please take on marketing holographic storage? I'm tired of having so many disks flying about my room.
      • Thanks for letting us know about the issue. We will contact your local authorities, who will then help you get rid of all those excess disks.

        No need to thank us, it's been a pleasure.
    • Re:The good and bad (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jeremi (14640)
      Having to spend $400 before getting any actual content is pretty harsh. The readability and low power consumption are a step in the right direction, but until the price drops considerably this won't be mainstream thats for sure.


      I wonder how long I would have to wait until Apple comes out with a nicely done iPod/eBook-reader/wifi-web-browser combo? (One could probably throw "cell-phone" in too, but maybe that's asking too much)

    • Someone posted about the Jinke ebook reader [jinke.com.cn] in the last Slashdot thread that regurgitated this same sort of information that we've been seeing for a while; I thought the Jinke one was particularly interesting as it looked like it was going to be somewhat more respectably priced, but (more importantly for me) would read .txt files.

      I'm sure the Sony Reader will be as crippled as the Librie is in terms of hyper-restrictive DRM. Until they have an online library that has a wide variety of books, gives me perman
    • $400?!?

      Four years ago I bought a refurbished Toshiba Pocket PC for $199, and it came with Microsoft Reader. Without quibbling over whether this is the "best" format, I'll say it does work, I can add bookmarks, notes, etc., and I can use Word to convert any text into an e-book compatible with the reader. All that in addition to keeping contacts, reading websites via AvantGo, appointments, etc.

      Having said all this, I can't help but wonder each of the following - perhaps someone here can enlighten me:

      (1) Why
  • by WindBourne (631190) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @06:34PM (#14771892) Journal
    the
    • The ability to mark up the book.
    • The ability to write a note in the side.
    • The ability to have very low-power back-lighting (reading in bed).
    • by Goyuix (698012) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @06:40PM (#14771964) Homepage
      You forgot to add: The ability to transfer any text file to it for reading.

      Whether it supports PDF, HTML, whatever more rich format - I don't particularly care as most (open) content can be moved between formats without a lot of effort. Just allow me to put on whatever I want, and if you have a store that works with it, great. But that CAN NOT be the only method.
      • by WindBourne (631190) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @06:43PM (#14771986) Journal
        Have to admit that about a year ago, I bought an e-book for my ex. But, we run nothing but *nix. Turns out that it did not work well with anything. I could never even load a gutenberg on the ram. I will not be buying one of theirs, and at this point, I have cost them more than 12 sales. It would be nice if they got the hint, but I seriously doubt it until somebody else comes along with a good product (apple perhaps?).
      • You forgot to add: The ability to transfer any text file to it for reading.

        It's made by Sony, so it goes without saying that it will have some sort of draconian DRM scheme to make it next to useless.

    • I would say what was really needed was print clarity on par with paper, which this has acheived. Most people don't mark up their books, they just read them. And dead tree books don't have backlights, do they?

      The main flaw in this product, as I see it, doesn't lie in the product itself but in the available media. DRMed content that you can't share with others, for the same cost as a hardcover book? Yeah, right.
      • I would say what was really needed was print clarity on par with paper

        What is REALLY needed is that when you leave your book in a bathroom at LaGuardia airport, take about 5 steps out the door, realize you've left it, and retrace your steps, and it's gone, you haven't lost $400 (and by the way, this actually happened to me... I hope whoever got the book enjoyed it)

        The main flaw in this product, as I see it, doesn't lie in the product itself but in the available media. DRMed content that you can't sha

    • I've been using a Franklin EBookman and then Rocket 1100 since 1999. I've read hundreds of books on them. The battery life on the Franklin sucked and the problem was compounded when a capacitor in it leaked and I would lose my data when I changed batteries(NIHM AAA's). I bought the Rocket a couple of years ago and am actually quite happy with the battery life. I can read a novel at night for several days(Couple hours before bed) before recharging. More life is definately better and I do not travel and
  • by Dareth (47614) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @06:35PM (#14771907)
    This is the format of choice I hear... for the Duke Nukem Forever Manual... mu ha ha ha!

    Hmm, maybe I have been working too hard.... mu ha ha ha!
  • by The_REAL_DZA (731082) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @06:38PM (#14771935)
    ...devices with the technology could go as long as 20 books between battery charges.


    From all indications, the vast majority of people have never read 20 books (not counting comic books, of course.)
    • by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @07:00PM (#14772122) Homepage Journal
      funny but sad.
       
      i've been thinking about this a lot today. our realtor has been here, helping us get our house ready for sale and has me boxing books like there is no tomorrow. apparently it is highly irregular that a home has the number of book cases that we have. and for the book cases we are keeping in the house, they are not being used to hold many books. they are more like curio cabinets now, with a few books here and there.
       
      so it gets me to thinking about how many folks don't read any more. and then as i'm boxing i'm thinking about whether or not i'd like for most of the books i have to be in a digital format so that i wouldn't have to do all this heavy work. but i'm pretty sure, if someone offered to instantly digitize my entire library, i'd hold onto most of the actual books. for a variety of reasons. many having nothing to do with the content. i just really, really like books.
      • I too have a lot of books on bookshelves. This is one of the features in my living room.
        I love it when I visit someone's house and they have a bookshelf with books on them. Very few people have that these days. It's more like a large collection of DVDs/CDs (and the odd Videos). I love being able to stare at a bookshelf to see what others read, or to randomly pick up a book that hasn't been read for a while.
        these are things that won't be realisable with digitised books (ebooks in any form).
        I tried ebooks whe
  • by Cranky Weasel (946893) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @06:39PM (#14771952) Homepage
    I only care about e-books if the following conditions are met:

    1 - The image has to be inert - no glow effect of any kind. Ideally it should look just like paper.

    2 - The "book" has to be waterproof. I read in the tub.

    3 - The technology has to be sturdy. ANY portable technology should be sturdy.

    4 - It has to be affordable.

    5 - In the event of a crash I need to be able to replace the books in it without charge.

    If I'm going to read, oh, say 100 books over the life of the product, it better cost me less for the unit plus the e-copies of the books than it would to buy the books outright. Otherwise there is no point.
    • Books aren't very waterproof either.
    • I disagree with your costing. If these things can hold 20 books between charges, I presume those to be reasonably sized novels.

      Do you have any idea how much 20 reasonably sized novels actually weighs? How much space they take up? If the reader can also hold SD cards (Or even miniSD)) and comes with a case which can hold them, that's hundreds of books in something the size of a small notebook. Since I travel a lot, I know I'd rather cart around one reader with some cards than two suitcases full of nothing bu
    • Let's see - with my current library, I can -

      1) Skim through the pages at high speed without wearing down the battery
      2) Keep reading through an EMP
      3) Knock my library off a high bookshelf onto concrete multiple times without damaging it
      4) Lend books to friends and family
      5) Read any book hundreds of times without having to recharge it
      6) Hurl a book across the room without damaging it
      7) Toss a book into a crate and ship it UPS without packaging, and be reasonably certain it will be readable if it ever arrives
  • by overshoot (39700) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @06:40PM (#14771956)
    Tell that to Baen Books [baen.com] and their WebScriptions [webscription.net] store. At least according to Eric Flint and Jim Baen, they're raking it in.

    Oh -- they hate DRM and only distribute standard unencumbered formats. They have this quaint notion that if they treat their customers well, their customers will respect their copyrights.

    • And I'm one of them (Score:4, Informative)

      by blueZ3 (744446) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @07:08PM (#14772188) Homepage
      I first found the Baen free library poking around the 'net looking for free books to read on my Palm Treo (gotta do something while the wife is shopping) and I was amazed--authors I'd actually heard of, books in series I'd actually started reading in paper, and for free... sweet!

      I've read through all the free offerings (and bought some paper books based on things that interested me) and recently purchased a Webscription. It's a pretty good deal--five books for $15, in plain-vanilla HTML (so I can back them up and read them on any device I want), and three of the five were books I would have probably been tempted to buy as paperbacks. Baen passes a portion of the savings from not having to produce paper books along to the authors, saves on printing an distribution, and everybody wins.

      I'm not sure about the digital ink stuff--my biggest concern would be display lifespan. I read at least a hundred books a year either as paper or eBooks (yes, seriously) and the reason my Palm works is that it's my phone so I take it everywhere and charge it up each night, and I'll replace it in a couple of years.

      Overall, I'd love to see more publishers doing what Baen is doing. I definitely look for Baen books when browsing brick and mortar bookstores, and would patronize other publishers who would 1) provide compelling content 2) at a reasonable price, 3) in an open format
    • Thank you! The show stopper for ebooks hasn't been because of devices, it has been because of super-heavy handed DRM.

      I'm all for ebooks. I have read eBooks that came free with a printed book quite happily on my laptop. Baen's books mentioned by parent are also fantastic, and available in HTML laced with Javascript, so I can even read one on my PSP's browser if I'm so inclined. Replacing an LCD display with an E-Ink one is just icing on the cake.

      But I absolutely do not want to have to validate against a

    • They have this quaint notion that if they treat their customers well, their customers will respect their copyrights.

      Let me add a second vote to this! They offer a "free library", with a selection of titles from various authors. Then, on their Webscriptions side, you can also read a few chapters of books they're publishing, and if you like, you can buy it right there, or run out and get the dead tree version. What I also like is that it keeps tabs of what you've purchased. If you accidentally delete

    • Hmm. SciFi books. They don't have Alpha Squad 7: Lady Nocturne: A Tek Jansen Adventure.

      Selection sucks.
    • by R2.0 (532027)
      Baen has also put out a number of CD's bound in with hardcopies of books. Licensing: You can do whatever you want with it, EXCEPT sell it. I've been making copies and giving them to fellow readers. Which is the point - effective promotion via word of mouth and free goodies.
    • For more examples of success stories -- without DRM -- see my sig, and this site [theassayer.org].

      One good thing about electronic books that aren't DRM-encumbered is that you can print them out on paper, so you don't have to wait for some vaporware e-ink technology in order to have a book that you can read on the toilet, in the tub, on the bus, by the pool, ...

  • great e-book vendor (Score:2, Informative)

    by lmh2671772 (715482)
    eReader.com [ereader.com]

    'Cept they stopped carrying Asimov's and Analog magazines last year, due to publisher. Dang.

  • by la htris (955271)
    so e-ink's been around for awhile, but how cool would it be if it could get things like the daily newspaper or RSS feeds too?
  • What they need to succeed is not new technology. What they need is to give up on stupid pricing models and idiotic DRM schemes.


    I've read 20-30 books on my Clie...but only because they sell for less than a physical book and don't "expire" or have other idiotic restrictions. I won't buy one of the new Sony units (despite actually working for Sony) because I don't trust it not to put idiotic restrictions on my reading.)

  • by massysett (910130) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @06:58PM (#14772107) Homepage
    Says the article:

    "Every other form of media has gone digital -- music, newspapers, movies,"

    True. Music has gone digital, mostly because people take their un-copy-restricted CDs and rip them into MP3s. Then they can use the MP3 on as many computers and devices as they want, give it to friends, and have backups. Newspapers exist as un-copy-restricted HTML pages, which may be printed, sent to friends, and stored digitally without restriction.

    What the publishing industry is peddling right now is copy-restricted garbage. It will be locked to a particular computer or device. I can't have backups of the text or lend it to a friend. Often I can't even print it. If the Microsoft operating system that stores the text wipes it out, oh well, go buy another one. Meanwhile the publishing industry salivates at the thought of copy-restricted electronic textbooks that expire [utoronto.ca] after a single semester!

    This copy-restricted garbage will not take off. If I want digital content, I'll go for something that does not have these ridiculous restrictions. Such unrestricted media can and will take off, because it has advantages--i.e. it's searchable, and cheap to distribute. For example, Wikipedia is far superior to its dead-tree equivalents for these two reasons alone. Also, the Amazon Shorts [amazon.com] model looks promising. But I'll take a dead tree over copy-restricted garbage anyday.

    • I just have to reply with a "here, here!" because I don't have mod points today. Fuck yes, you are exactly right. Fuck Sony, Apple, and all other corporations that would slow the progress of an entire species for small immediate capital gains. It's just embarrassing to be made of the same genes as these morons.

      rhY
  • While this may be news to newsweek readers...I think I've known about this technology for around 2 years now. Maybe its finally getting to market just now, but really, is this news to us?

    From TFA:

    a British startup, is working on a flexible display the size of an 8 1/2-in.-by-11-in. piece of paper that can receive books, news, or e-mail wirelessly. It's partnering with Japan's NTT DoCoMo (DCM ) and plans to have a product on the market by early 2008.

    Now, a paper airplane that can change colors as it fl

  • Nice technology... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by creimer (824291) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @07:03PM (#14772149) Homepage
    I was leading a test group at Sony last summer to examine 200 ebooks for visual bugs as the reader was Japanese-language hardware with a English-lnaguage BIOS. The technology does work as advertised and I had no problem reading the display for the 20 days that I was on the project. It did suck batteries like a Gameboy Advance. That should be fixed in the American hardware.
  • by xtal (49134) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @07:06PM (#14772173) Homepage
    E-Ink has been working on this, for, uh, ever.

    I was thinking about this the last time I was flying transatlantic; there's no way I can justify the added expense of business class - so no power. That means you're lucky to get a notebook to run the whole way. Nevermind you might be hopping off one plane and onto another one for another six hours. It's HARD to beat paper. HARD. It's cheap, disposable, recycable, everywhere, and you can easily print on it at rediculous interruptions. No biggie if it's lost or damaged. Infinate battery life. Great capacity (look at a newspaper).

    All of these ebooks have the power problem, and the price problem - even if they've finally come up with an attractive display.

    I'm convinced the only thing that would make e-books possible would be if the Federal Government stepped in and issued one of these to every person in the country for a nominal - like $20 or less - fee. That would create a defacto platform. It still wouldn't solve the power problem - I think you'd almost have to be able to run the thing off self-contained solar cells. ..then you need to make it damn near indestructible, and no thicker than a small pad of paper.

    It's a tough problem.

    I'd be tempted to pick up one of these if it came in 8.5x11 form factor in paper resolution for reading technical manuals and PDF's - right now I have three monitors, and at any one time, one of them has a specification sheet for a semiconductor open on it.

    As far as an ipod for books goes, maybe that's the ticket, if the next ipod has a large screen. It still is a hell of a lot smaller than a copy of wired.. and a lot more expensive.
    • It's HARD to beat paper...Great capacity...

      I agree with all your points but this one. I have an old B&W LCD Gemstar Ebook I take with me car camping. I holds the entire works of Twain, Dickens, and Pratchett, plus the 2005 National Electrical Code and scores of other random books. It's only half full. Added bonus: read at night in 0 ambient light with the backlight-- though this Sony e-paper book thing is unlikely to have illumination. Admittedly, on backcountry hikes I take paper because there's no e

      • Admittedly, on backcountry hikes I take paper because there's no electricity and the battery only lasts a week or so

        Google for "solar phone charger" or similar and your problem is solved. The smaller models can be velcroed to the top of your backpack.

        • Google for "solar phone charger" or similar and your problem is solved. The smaller models can be velcroed to the top of your backpack.

          Yeah, I tried that. I have a solar charger that works for that and also AA batteries. I just got to the point where I was hauling my ebook, a GPS (4AA's), a digital camera (4AA's), MP3 player (2AA's), and flashlight (2AA's), and a sack of spares. Got to be I was juggling electronics the whole time. I pared it down to an old paperback, 2 lithium AA's in a cheaper, lower pow

          • Yeah, I tried that. I have a solar charger that works for that and also AA batteries. I just got to the point where I was hauling my ebook, a GPS (4AA's), a digital camera (4AA's), MP3 player (2AA's), and flashlight (2AA's), and a sack of spares. Got to be I was juggling electronics the whole time. I pared it down to an old paperback, 2 lithium AA's in a cheaper, lower power GPS (with 4 spares), a disposable film camera, and an LED hand-crank flashlight. Much less worry about breaking stuff, much lighter we
  • No New Bricks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @07:12PM (#14772212) Homepage Journal
    I like paying $2-5 for used paperbacks on the street, or $0-0.25 for newspapers. When those are lost or damaged, I can forget about it. When my mobile "phone" can spring into a 9x16cm reflective display (with backlight) for long reading sessions, I'll be willing to replace paper books with nondisposable digital ones. Because then I won't be carrying around an extra thing to worry about. If I can still buy "books" for $0-5, and lend them to friends whose minds I'd like to colonize without paying a franchise fee.
  • This is definitely a step up from normal, particularly when it comes to contrast and readability. But calling this like a laser printer is a big exaggeration. The screen resolution (a href="http://products.sel.sony.com/pa/prs/reader_s pecs.html">according to his is 800x600 or 170 dots per inch. Better, but let's not crazy.

    I wish it wasn't made by Sony, which has too much of history of screwing up consumer devices. I fully expect there to be something radically stupid with it.

  • by Wordsmith (183749)
    There's a lot of talk about the DRM on here, peppered the the same valid criticisms that come up all the time ... but what I wonder is if the content providers realize how patently stupid trying to protect WORDS through technological locks is.

    I mean, it's just words. If someone creates a DRM mechaism that makes it really, really hard to copy and distrubte the latest hit single, OK, they've sort of accomplished something. I can't just record my garage band doing a cover and expect it to sound the same. But i
  • Dead trees, please (Score:3, Insightful)

    by QuasiEvil (74356) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @07:51PM (#14772507)
    I'm sorry, but every time I read about eBooks, I can't figure out how it will ever do more than take a small dent out of the dead tree book market. I personally like real books. Maybe I could get used to reading things I only intend to read once (pop literature, etc.) on an electronic device if the price was right, but there is no way I'm ever buying any sort of book in electronic form that I want to keep forever and refer to often.

    My shelves at home are covered with texts on the industrial history of the American west from about 1860 to 1960 - mining, railways, early roads, electrical generation and distribution, etc. A good chunk of these are approaching a hundred years old or more, having been printed as contemporary reference material around the turn of the last century or before. I have original maps going back as far as the 1860s. Some, especially the maps and blueprints, are fragile, but they're still very usable. Nobody is going to convince me that any eBook will have a service life of 100 years, or even close. Plus there's nothing like researching for an article by being able to spread a whole bunch of sources on the same topic out on a large table. The advantages of being able to see it all at once simply cannot be replicated in an electronic device, nor can the ability to make photocopies when needed.

    Now, if I wanted to pick up the next Clancy, Grisham, other misc pop lit novel for a long flight, I might consider something like this if the price was right. I probably won't read it more than once, so if I lose it I don't particularly care, and if it's cheap enough, it might just make sense.
    • With electronic data, longevity is measured in terms of data format and management, not device hardware. My e-books (all by Baen as it happens) are stored electronically in open formats on my server and backed up regularly. My book reading devices will eventually fail or be replaced, but if I manage my data properly it will still be around in 100 years.

      All that being said, e-books will probably never be able to provide the wall decoration that rows upon rows of dead tree bookshelves provide. I enjoy ha

  • by nurb432 (527695)
    Would be more accurate. Just say no to giving others control.
  • Just appreciate the since of progression the simple act of turning the page gives? I used to think I'd like eBooks as a concept, but simply find it more of a tangible, qualitative, and quantitave experience to be able to actually turn the page. Further, until they produce an affordable (and by that I mean sub $100) reader that approximates the size of a large format paperback, with close to the same heft, and the ubiquitous availability of ALL the subjects I'm apt to read (not just oprah's book club, ny ti
  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @08:16PM (#14772717) Journal

    The gist of the article points to an industry smugly patting itself on the back (and possibly massaging other body parts) in glee now that they've "solved" the problem with previous e-book introductions and their failings. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), they're wrong.

    I've sampled the e-book offerings, both hardware and software since the day they were first introduced. I was so excited to finally merge my appetite for reading (about 20 novels/year) with the convenience and power of technology. Yes, I was disappointed with the first e-book hardware, but it wasn't the only reason I returned the merchandise.

    First and foremost, the problem with e-books is not the presentation (though it can be better), it's the frigging business model! Did I mention the problem with e-books is the business model?

    Though I haven't done complete research for this latest round of e-books I suspect the landscape is similar to before. What I'd found was yet another money grab. Consider that:

    • e-books cost almost nothing to distribute
    • e-books can be amended electtronically (read auto-errata :-) )
    • e-books can be dynamically allocated (no more "guessing" how many copies per print, thus saving publishers even MORE money)
    • e-books take up no space (publishers can stock an infinite warehouse)

    You'd think with all of these super advantages, at most you'd pay 50% what a hard copy book would cost. Guess again. Especially early on, when I did go "shopping" it wasn't unusual at all to find electronic books selling for more than the hard copy of the same book!

    No, the problem isn't only hardware, and the problem isn't mostly hardware, it's the frigging business model!

    • The gist of the article points to an industry smugly patting itself on the back (and possibly massaging other body parts) in glee now that they've "solved" the problem with previous e-book introductions and their failings. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), they're wrong.

      The industry has a lot to lose on ebooks. Consider the day when most people have ebooks. Suppose you are an author. What do you need the publisher for? Why not sell your stuff thru some independent online distributor who charges penni
  • The ebook situation riminds of the 1980s when InfoWeek would declare "198X: The year of the network" and the market hardly budged. I think the thing that finally pushed was for an office to share (then) costly laser printers on IBM PCs.
    Reliable online music stores took a while.
    Someday there will be a comphrensive collection of handsomely formatted ebooks. I'm guess its not the reader, but the price. Ebooks are about the same as print versions. Plus you dont get used discounts. If some publisher would
  • Book lover me (Score:2, Interesting)

    by danFL-NERaves (302440)
    I love my books. I have lots of paper ones and lots more electronic ones. But when I spend my money on books I always buy the paper even though I would prefer the ability to grep my recycled electrons. Why?

    When I buy a paper book I can:
    Read it anywhere, at home, in the office or on the road
    Lend the book to a friend
    Sell the book
    Give the bo
  • I'm not going to buy a dedicated platform to read digital books. I suggest that publishing companies start looking at options for popular portable electronic devices we already want or need for other reasons. I'd look into books for cellphones or even the DS. I'd seriously consider buying books for my DS. In fact, the prospect of the web browser and project gutenberg is making me salivate!
  • I seem to recall that text on a computer screen is harder to read than printed text, because the viewer is confused about its exact position in space, so the eyes are tricked into focusing slightly wrong. This certainly continues to be my experience. So as cool as ebooks are, I would not expect them to be good sellers until they are noticeably cheaper and more convenient that physical books. And of course intellectual property will be a problem.
  • Free Content (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bitspotter (455598) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @09:44PM (#14773185) Journal
    Imagine the flop Apple (Sony) would have (will) faced if the iPod (ebook reader) was released without the ability to play (read) plain old DRM-free mp3 (text). People already have a massive collection of music (books); they want a player (reader) that will play (read) that.

    For every money grubbing pig of a media conglomerate, there are thousands of writers that people want to read who give away their writing. As such, they look at DRM and go, "what the hell is this for?" Any media display device that doesn't display DRM-Free content is pretty useless to consumers. No one will buy it.

    "Every other form of media has gone digital -- music, newspapers, movies," says Joni Evans, a top literary agent who just left the William Morris Agency to start her own company that will focus on books and technology. "We're the only industry that hasn't lived up to the pace of technology. A revolution is around the corner."

    I hate to tell you this, but text was the FIRST medium to go online, not the last. I realize that pretty pictures make nice eye candy, but the the web is essentially MADE of it. The reason is that text has a tremendous meaning/bit ratio - it's extremely heavily compressed. Images are next, followed by music, and now video. You are WAY, way behind if you think you're the last medium to get online.

    Text is already everywhere - PCs, web pages, email, //text// messages (CLUE!), PDAs, phones, etc. Hell, even the iPod can read plain text files as it is - it's just not so pleasant as an e-ink screen. It will be ridiculous if an iPod could read more extant media than this ebook reader.

    Maybe you're the last //industry//, but that's not saying much. media is not industry - it's information. Your prospective customers have better things to do with their time than pay you for things they can't use.
  • In 20 years? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by msbsod (574856) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @09:57PM (#14773256)
    I am wondering how many of these ebooks are going to be readable in, let's say, 20 years? I own far more than one thousand books, some older than 20 years. And all of them are valuable to me. Although I am developing digital solutions since more than 20 years, I have no trust in the industry to produce something digital that lasts for 20 years or more. Good old paper books work just fine.

    Take Adobe, for example. They keep changing PDF just to force people to "update" Adobe software. These constant changes and the dependance is troublesome. This is no way to archive documents.

    I would also not trust the industry to grant me access to something I bought 20 years ago. With the given DRM schemes they would probably ask me to pay for the information over and over again. The industry has shown that they act no different than criminals by installing malicious software.

    Literature is culture and an essential asset for every modern information society. We cannot surrender this value to an inconsiderate industry. Ebooks are not the only attempt of companies to monopolize information. Archives like Google are another kind. Recent examples clearly show how they censor information, and nothing will refrain them from doing the same in the future in the interest of profit.

    The worst thing about the entire development is that governments worldwide do almost nothing to secure the basis of our information society. Politicians are apparently blissfully ignorant. How is it possible that lawmakers allow the distribution of media which cannot be traded, exchanged and read worldwide (e.g. DVD region codes), despite all the talk about free trade, WTO etc.? Why is it legal to lock out certain software (e.g. Linux), restrict the owners ability to access their computers (e.g. "trusted computing"), while it is illegal (e.g. EUCD, DMCA) to circumvent unfair barriers (e.g. CSS)?

    I say let them eat their ebooks.
    • Politicians, and by extension, governments, do not like ANY form of long term information storage that they cannot directly control because it permits the public to review up their past performance and hinders their ability to modify historical records to suit their own purposes.
  • Both the new version of the Sony ebook reader and the Illiad [irextechnologies.com] are supposed to be available in April. Seeing how Sony is treating its customers, I would go for the Iliad - even if the updated Sony product is supposed to be allowed to display open formats.

    The Iliad supports reading PDF, XHTML, TXT and playing MP3. It is provided by iRex, a company backed by Philips. Other than that, the products appear to be very similar.

    PS: Don't forget that project Gutenberg provides a load of good literature for free.

The test of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts. -- Aldo Leopold

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