I saw today where Amazon released a new eBook reader named the Kindle. At first I was really impressed, it has a nice line of features. Its compeltely wirless and requires no computer what so ever to run. You download eBooks wirelessly using a similar technology to mobile phones. To beat it all you don’t even have to pay service or connection fees for the wireless service. All of that is paid for by Amazon, you just pay for the books. Its lightweight, lighter than your average paperback, and the new screen type is supposedly easy on the eyes. While I’ve never seen one in person I’m curious to exactly how easy it is. Especially after say 2 or 3 hours of constant viewing.
Then there’s the bad half… because there is always a downside in this life. Its biggest detractor, other than being ugly and sold only in white, is the fact that your locked into proprietary eBooks sold for $10 on Amazon.com. Since its completely computer free there is no chance of uploading your own eBooks. There is no sharing of eBooks. You can’t read PDFs and you can’t listen to MP3s. And, last, but probably first on your list of priorities, its $400.
While on Amazon.com looking at this I went down to read the customer reviews, well no one who owns one has commented yet, but some other people have commented just to be prics I guess. One person mentioned that Sony has a similar device. Well yippie kye yay! So naturally I went to Sony’s website to check it out.
Aptly titled, Reader Digital Book, its much prettier looking than Amazon’s Kindle and comes in Silver and Black. This one is supports PDFs and allows you to upload your own content from your computer. It supports the playback of MP3 and has memory expansion for SD and MemoryStick cards. It also has a similar eInk screen just like the Kindle. The final hoorah for the Sony Reader is that it does come in a $300. Which is much more friendly.
Naturally though, we have to drill the Sony for its short comings. The lack luster title (someone obvious didn’t give a s**t when they named it) doesn’t really do the device justice. The Reader also only works with computers running Windows (XP or Vista). So no Mac or Linux users need apply. Sony also really really wants to lock you into using their proprietary eBooks so that you can’t share. While it appears you can use the device with non-Sony eBooks it also looks like they prefer you don’t. Its just one of those feelings you get. So, being a Linux and future Mac user, the Sony is off the list.
Well, like all good things in capitalism, there has to be competition, so I went searching for more. The next one I found was, at first, the most promising. Named the iLiad and made by iRex Technologies its definitely a fan favorite. This one gets major props for being Open Source and also including a web browser, PDF support, and a touch screen. The downside to all of this is the outrageous price! Coming in at a whopping $700 this thing is out of reach of most people. Not to mention for that price I could just buy a laptop. After noticing that I didn’t even really care to look at it. And unlike OpenMoko it has nothing I want or need that I can’t get somewhere else for cheaper (open source or not).
I mention OpenMoko, an open source cell phone under development, at this point for two reasons. Its open source like the iLiad but also like the iLiad its freaking expensive. But unlike the iLiad once a stable more consumer oriented version of the OpenMoko comes out (hopefully with a price drop) I have every intention of getting one.
Finally that leads me to my final eBook reader that I’ve stumbled upon today. Made by Bookeen (another company I’ve never heard of) its entitled the Cybook. Personally this is my favorite device thus far. Coming in at $350 dollars its not the cheapest but its feature list is the most compatible with I, and what I assume, most open source people would be looking for. It supports a wide range of file formats. It does not support DRM (which the Sony prefers) though it does support encryption. Meaning you can password protect files if you want. It also supports MP3 playback and has plenty of room for expansion through flash memory slots. It naturally has the eInk screen like the others and from the looks of it appears to be just as easy and comfortable to use as the other ones I’ve seen thus far. The device is Linux and Mac friendly, though the mobibook software is Windows only. I’m not real sure about this mobibook stuff. Its a special type of eBook that I haven’t fully investigated. Either way even without the mobibook software you can still download the mobibooks and just put them on your Cybook through a manual file transfer. On Linux and Mac the Cybook just appears as flash storage drive which makes things convenient.
If I had to pick right now I’d buy the Cybook. It appears to be the best for money and doesn’t try to overdo it with features it doesn’t need, like a full web browser. If I wanted a full web browser I would buy a laptop. While there are some features the Cybook could use, I’d like to see a touch screen similar to the iPhone’s (especially for flipping pages), it is pretty much feature complete for a reasonable price. Hell, I might even buy one.
Enjoy the Penguins!