Let’s Talk Ebook Tech

Dear Gentle Reader:

Sony EReaderWe know. Everyone is blogging about ebooks these days but no one is really talking about the one important thing: the e book reader. Because truly,if you are tied to your laptop, the ebook thing ain’t ever taking off. So let’s talk technology. Ebook technology. What do you need? What will it cost you? What should you be looking for? Well, read on.

  1. You need a reader. No question about it. There are varying price points for the reader depending on screen size, resolution (this is dots per inch or dpi, the more dpi, the better the resolution, generally)
    • Ebookwise. This device is sold by Fictionwise. It is a remarketed and rebranded device originally sold by Gemstar. It is a grayscale device that runs on a rechargeable battery. It uses SmartMedia cards for expandability. These are limited to 128 MB. That is roughly 200-300 books depending on the file size of the book. It is a little bulky in that it has a weird hump on the left side. I know that some people like the hump as it may make it easier to grip. My neighbor has one and she loves it Hasn’t read a paper book since she bought it. The cost is around $100 (you can buy it off of ebay for that) and its batteries can be replaced on a long flight. It also has a backlight. Key for reading at night. It reads html, doc, rtf, text and its own rb formats. You must buy a converter for $14 or so to convert the html, doc, rtf, txt, files. Meaning it does not read those formats “natively.” Those formats must be converted. I think that is a pain. This is the biggest screen for your buck, though. It has a backlight and a 4bit grayscale. Its about as good as those old palm grayscales. This site has a great review.
    • Palm Devices. This is a personal bias, but I am no longer a palm fan. I had a palm pilot since they were actually called Palm Pilots many, many years ago, but I do not believe that the Palm format is one that is going to be viable for much longer. Like the Ebookwise device, Palms do not read the html, doc, rtf, txt formats natively. It does read PDFs, Mobipocket books, and Ereader books natively (with its own specially installed software program) but all three readers are huge memory hogs. When I had my palm m505, the mobipocket reader took up so much room that I barely had enough space for one book. Most palm devices allow for SD memory cards. There are up to 4 GB SD cards which is large enough to hold an entire library of books – 4000, maybe 6,000 ebooks. What you spend here depends on the screen size, resolution and memory. Here’s a discussion about palm devices as ebook readers.
    • Pocket PC. Again, this is a personal bias, but I have been using the IPAQ 4700 for two years now and love it. It reads html, doc, rtf, txt files natively. I don’t need to install any special software to read these types of ebooks. It also has wireless connectivity which allows me to read my emails and browse the web when I am not reading a book. The IPAQ 4700 is part of a class of handheld devices that are called VGA devices because the screens are true VGA. Dell, Pocket Loox, and others sell VGA devices. These are pricier than a regular handheld and you should be ready to make the ebook leap if you are going to lay down some cash for these babies. The best part is that I can use ubook by gowerpoint. I think this is the best ebook software reader out there. It reads htmls, rtfs, txts, prcs, pdbs, and reads them from compressed files allowing you to store even more books on one memory card. Like the Palm devices, what you spend in this category will be determined by screen size, resolution and memory.
    • Cybook.I do not own a Cybook nor do I know anyone who owns a Cybook. The reason I did not purchase one, is a) the cost and b) the lack of other features that I could get from buying a Pocket PC. I see now that it reads files natively which is a huge plus and that it allows for PCMCIA expansion to get wi fi connectivity. I can’t honestly say how I would go now because it does have a big and beautiful screen. It’s 10″ of color at 100dpi. If you want to read a review of the Cybook , Teleread.org would be the place.
    • EInk Devices. I remember emailing my husband (who from now on will be known as Ned, and not because that’s his name, but because that would be the name he liked least when we were considering baby names), Ned, about the eink devices back in 2004. The idea behind E Ink devices is that it looks almost exactly like printed
      paper but it has the benefits of being eletronic. Cake and
      eat it too, concept. All eink devices are currently black and
      white – like a paper book.
    • Sony Reader. Sony released an eink like device in Japan called Librie. It had an amazing screen, decent battery life, and was designed to read ebooks. Some enterprising early adopters had it shipped to the US using one of those import companies online. Now, Sony is releasing a rebranded version of its Librie to the US called the Sony Reader. It will be available at Sony stores and select Borders. Having seen one of these only in photographs, I can tell you that it is lust worthy. BUT, it has no backlight. I suppose you could clip one of those owl lights to this device, but that just seems crazy. The price point is to be around $350.00. It uses those awful memory sticks as its expandable memory and has an internal rechargeable battery.
    • Hanlin. All the good stuff is happening overseas. The Jinke Electronics, Hanlin, is Hong Kong’s answer to the Sony Reader. It is $299. It reads PDF and HTML files natively as well as being able to read converted doc, txt and excel documents. It’s screen is the same size (6:) with an SD slot and a MP3 player.
    • Iliad. This is a Dutch based production. There is an unconfirmed rumor that the Iliad is in talks with Mobipocket so that this device will read Mobipockets natively (and maybe even come preloaded with Mobipocket reader). This device has a 8.1″ screen, rechargeable battery, SD and CF Card storage built in wi fi connection, Teleread has a first look at this device. My concern would be the lag in turning the page. I think that would be irritating. It’s also purported be costly, exceeding the $500 mark, at least.
  2. You need storage card. So what am I talking about when I say Memory Stick, SD, CF, or Smart Media? I am talking external storage or storage that exists outside the reading unit itself. Floppy disks for those who are pre-generation Y and CD/DVDs for those who are post G-Y. SD, CF cards are the top of the bunch. They can be accessed faster (its read/write speed) and they are cheaper. You can pick up a 4 GB CF card for about $100 and have enough space for all the romance ebooks out there. Smart Media cards are older technology and limited to only a small amount of space (I think 256 MB, IIRC). Memory Sticks are the Sony version of SD, CF, etc. It is proprietary (meaning only Sony devices can use them) and thus, expensive. I don’t like these cards and don’t like Sony for using them.
  3. You need power. Like your camera, a reader needs to have an extra battery. I like to use portable devices. I have been known to carry this little sucker around in my purse. It holds 4 AA batteries and has kept charging my device through 4 cycles. That’s about 12 hours of constant reading. Who reads for 12 hours constantly?

My advice is that if you are on the fence, by a cheap pocketpc off of ebay. Load about 10 books on it and see if you don’t like it. I think you may be converted.

Best regards,


0 comments on “Let’s Talk Ebook Tech

  1. Excellent post!

    Re: ebookwise and needing to buy a converter: not really. You can use the free converter at the ebookwise page. You just upload the file to the website, and it automatically converts it and leaves it ready for you to zap it to your Ebookwise. The only drawback is that you only get 10 MB of space there, but as long as you have your ebooks backed up, you can just delete the files from the website after putting them in your Ebookwise, and you free up the space.

  2. Oh, that’s interesting to know Rosario! I want to buy one eventually, for reading submissions and pleasure reading–I have an Ipaq 1940 but with the amount of time I spend staring at a computer screen, I’d like something with a bigger screen than my Ipaq for reading. I do love the multi-functionality of the Ipaq though.

    Great article!

  3. I am searching for another PDA and had a Sony CLIE that I can’t find a f. memory stick for that works. I recently had to take back the Memory Stick Pro because my device doesn’t recognize it and the other memory sticks are unavailable. This devise was costly and I’ve had it for 3 years and don’t want to buy another one but I do want a drug database on my PDA and I would love to try to read ebooks as well, so which device do you have? A Dell or some other brand?

  4. A note from a newly converted. I’ve been using an IPAQ 4700 and love it. I was very slow to get started reading books in any other format than paper but Jane got me going on ebooks. I was getting tired of reading them at my PC (talk about restricted to place!) when Jane offered to let me try her IPAQ. Revelation! Easy to use and highly portable. I can fit it in my purse unlike even slim trad regency books, much less bulky historicals/contemps. And I don’t have to worry about any snide comments on book covers. 😉

  5. Keishon – I think it is about the price point and what you want to spend. There is a whole range of devices from the mid $200 to the mid $500. Most of them are packed with features and vary only in a) screen size b) screen quality and c) internal memory.

  6. Hey, Jane, thanks for the advice, great post on this topic, btw. I’ve done some research most of the afternoon, and have narrowed it down to the Axium from Dell. My co-worker has one. I’m giving HP a wide berth as I think the company has problems with support and their IPAQ 4700 series is too costly despite it having the best resolution, wider screen. HP was the company whose Laser Printer I bought and got burned with earlier last year.

  7. I read at Teleread.org that the Sony PSP is down to $159.00 or $179.00 and it has a gorgeous screen. (Nephew has one). This might be a great reading device. You can read htmls, natively, I believe. You can listen to music, watch movies and tv shows, and play games. Your kids would think you were the baddest ‘rent around.

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  11. Hi, I generally use ereader although i have a PPC PDA. eReader has proved a great site and I like the software. However, I also research a lot and download or print many resources in various formats and the reader I find suits my purposes best id repligo from cerience.

  12. Sorry, my last post took a life of its own before I finished. I would also like to mention lulu.com as a site for eBooks. It’s what might be classified as a vanity site for publishing but may have something useful for readers. I have purchased from them and also downloaded free material. I realise this may also go beyond the parameters of the site but I purchase magazines from zinio.com for reading on my PC [ripping to PPC possible, Axim X50V here].

  13. I just upgraded from an archiac eBookman e-reader to the Palm Treo and I’m in LOVE. It’s like going to from horse and buggy to a space ship! I use Mobipocket format to read, so that my books are portable, but the real delight is the screen resolution, quick paging and just plain ease of us. I also love that it is a phone, an mp3 player, a camera and a pocket pc computer. As a writer and a reader, it is a dream device. 😉

  14. I think that Multi Function devices are the way to go but a) they don’t have the battery power and b) the screen size v. price factor can make a big difference in purchasing decisions.

  15. I haven’t tested the outer limits of the battery yet, but find the small screen didn’t mar my reading enjoyment at all. Now, I don’t have to size the font that big (lasik surgery with mono vision), so I have enough of the book visible that it’s not a problem.

    I don’t really require a “book page” in my reading anyway. One thing I’ve discovered, the smaller page seems to mean less eye strain. I have speculated it is because I blink more while reading. Not sure, but I seem to have less eye strain with ebooks.

    And the paging was so seamless and quick, it was a very enjoyable reading experience. 🙂

  16. I just picked up a Dell Axim V50 from Ebay. This is working great so far. Very easy to download books to it, and it will support Microsoft & Adobe readers.

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  19. Go to BooksOnBoard.com… so far, I’m very happy about their ebook prices.

    But then again, it may only be for the types of books I buy. I’ve bought books written by Lora Leigh, Robin D. Owens and Sherrilyn Kenyon.

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