Ars Technica has a review up of the iRex iLiad ebook reader. The Amazon Kindle got fairly positive reviews from the likes of David Pogue of the NY Times, and the Ars review is pretty positive on this one as well. Has the time finally come for ebooks?
For one thing, the technology has finally stood a fighting chance with what it’s up against: real books. This was the much decried problem with ebooks from bygone days–it was just too damn uncomfortable to read any significant amount of text. The resolution was too low, as was the contrast ratio. There was the glare and the problem of short battery life. The now-famous (in some circles, anyway) eInk technology has now come down in price and performance to put in a handheld. They ain’t cheap, but within the reach of early adopters and people with lots of disposable income.
The inexcusable flaw in the Amazon Kindle, as far as I’m concerned, is the inability to display documents without some crazy-ass conversion process on their end. As far as I understand, you can’t get it to display ordinary PDF files.
As a scientist, I download and read journal articles pretty often. They come in PDF and I print them off to read them. That’s one of the reasons why the iLiad is so exciting–I wish I had £449 to drop on one, but I don’t. It will display “anything you can print from your PC.” So all my papers, as well as documents I’m working on, could go with me in one tiny package. Bonus is the fact that it has an integrated Wacom drawing tablet, which lets you mark up documents just like real paper (well, almost: you’re limited to black ink). If only I could get digital copies of Horowitz & Hill’s The Art of Electronics and Sakurai’s Modern Quantum Mechanics I’d be all set.
I’m hopeful that other electronics manufacturers take notice and drive the price of these babies down so I can pick one up in a year or two.