ebook hardware readers: suddenly looking good

So many PDFs to read...
[wikipedia ebook picture]

I always said that a specialized device for reading electronic books wasn't worth owning. For example, if you brought one to the beach, your electronic device would be surrounded by sand that could be bad for the machine's inner workings, and the screen would be difficult to read in the glare of the sun, and someone could easily steal the device when you went in for a swim. And when I go to the beach, I like to read a lot, but hardcopy books are obviously superior for this.

Having been familiar for many years with arguments for why electronic media should replace some but not all books, I should have realized that just because ebook reading devices aren't appropriate for beach reading doesn't mean that they're useless. Several times a week I seem to find yet another PDF document that I want to read, but I don't want to read it while sitting at my desk, I don't want to balance a laptop on my lap and either plug it in or think about its battery life, and I don't want to use up a lot of paper and toner to print something that I'm going to read once and throw away. The book on Description Logics whose first chapter I summarized last week is a good example.

Many useful books and papers—especially technical ones—are sitting on public servers as PDF files, freely available for download, and I'm thinking that a black-and-white ebook reader with no keyboard or hard disk would use less power and be lighter than a typical laptop and save me from using up lots of paper and toner. Of course, I don't want one badly enough to shell out $225, which seems to be a typical ebay price for them, but my attitude toward them has changed, and I'm going to look at these devices differently from now on.

There are alternative formats to read on these machines, especially OEBPS, which looks like a nicely-done standard, but the existence of all those PDF files of documents that I want to read is driving my interest in ebook reading devices for now. Has anyone else had much experience reading PDFs off of one of these devices on a large scale? Does my lack of experience with them mean that I'm missing something in my assumptions about why it would be handy to have one?


It's all about screen resolution and contrast: hard to beat paper yet for either one. I print everything and put the paper in the recycle bin: nothing much I can do about toner, though I do have my cartridges refilled rather than replacing them.

One of the intriguing things about the OLPC machines is that they are designed to be pretty good e-book readers, without being just e-book readers.