Oct 1 2006
This past week, Sony sent an email letting everyone know that its e ink reader is ready to ship. It’s now backordered, but it was ready to ship. E ink devices work kind of like sophisticated magna doodle boards. (In an unrelated riff, I had a MDB on my dorm room door in college. It worked great as a display piece for wandering artists and semi witty individuals but not so great as a message board). Under the screen there are spheres with negatively charged black plastic on one side and positively charged white plastic on the other. The power (voltage) applied determines which color appears face up giving a pixel a white or black appearance.
The e ink technology cannot work with a backlight. It actually works to reflect light like ordinary paper. The benefits to this type of technology are as follows:
- No backlight removes the eyestrain caused by backlit technologies.
- Long battery life. The image can remain static without a constant supply of power extending the device’s battery charge for a long time. Sony claims 7500 page turns on a single charge.
Last week the poll was about backlights and 42 of the 62 voters wanted a backlight. The readers at MobileRead thought our insistence on a backlight was a little misplaced. The need for a backlight or some integrated light source comes from the fact that we often read in lowlight situations. During movies with our kids, in the car (while someone else is driving of course), in bed with our SOs who frequently complain about the light (hence the huge aftermarket business of booklights).
As I posted over at MobileRead, romance readers aren’t technophiles but we are avid readers. When moving to a $350.00 ebook reader, the manufacturer has to better the reading experience. It cannot be an even trade. The backlight/integrated light source is something that is important to readers. It is not enough to say that the resolution is as good as paper. So what? I’ll buy paper then and use my booklight or lamp. Because at least with a paperback I can sell it, trade it, or turn it into a pinata without worry of violating a copyright law. It’s the AVID reader who Sony needs to convince to buy the E Reader, not the technophile.
The negatives of a Sony Reader are as follows:
- No integrated light source
- Not compatible with current ebook formats
- No internet access
- Limited content
My advice? If you currently have an ebook reading device, I would wait. There are more and more news reports of other e ink devices. Sony may be one of the first, but it might not be the best. There are rumors of an Apple device. Engadget unearthed FCC filings of an ugly Amazon branded e ink reader, Kindle. (This looks like it was made in someone’s garage). Sony’s device–with its limited content abilities (inability to read htmls and resize PDFs) and its lack of integrated light source–makes it a device with limited appeal.
If you don’t have an ebook reader already and you want to get one now, Sony has the best display for the money. There is a device called the Iliad but it is $820.00. (For that price you could buy a Sony Reader and hire someone from Amazon’s garage to create an eink booklight.) You’ll just need to be prepared to find a good light source; convert all your books to rtf (rich text format); and either continue to buy unsecured html files, mslit files that you convert to html then to rtf, or the Sony BBeB format and hope that Sony never goes out of the ebook business.
I tested out a couple of RTF converters in case I do come in possession of a Sony Reader. In testing out the following, I used Jorrie Spencer’s Haven and Shana Abe’s Dream Thief (which I converted to html first).
- http://htmltortf.com/ (Free) and http://www.sautin.com/html-to-rtf/order_plain.htm ($24) – These are the same company but different versions. The Spencer book converted well, but not perfect. The Abe had errors regardless of the software used rendering the book unreadable, imo. You can see the results here.
- http://www.easybyte.com/buy/index.html. This program did converted both perfectly but a) there was no automatic saving of the file you converted and b) it costs $399!!!!).
- http://www.processtext.com/abctxt.html ($24) – I don’t know how well this one works because the free trial (which I downloaded last night) said my license had expired.
- http://www.logictran.net/products/net2rtf.html $39.95 with $9.99 annual maintenance fee. I couldn’t download a trial so I don’t know how well that works.
- MS Word? It made the nicest conversion of Jorrie Spencer’s Haven but I couldn’t even get the Abe book to open. Of course, using MS Word to convert each book is really time consuming.
There is no real winning program for conversion to RTF. Remember, Sony’s conversion software, unlike Ebookwise Librarian, does NOT convert htmls. Also unlike the Ebookwise Librarian which can take an “opf” file and recreate a book in seconds, the HTML to RTF conversion is laborious. The Abe had 20+ individual html files to convert.
While I love the idea of a bigger and better screen for an ereader, Sony’s crippling DRM and inability to read htmls natively will prevent me from hopping on this train right now. I can easily attach a clipon booklight but it doesn’t seem like it would be easy to convert my existing ebook library of several hundred books to something Sony could read.
Drop a comment and I’ll enter you in a contest to win a new copy of Stephanie Meyer’s New Moon.
next week: conversion solutions for the Ebookwise and how to clean up those pesky htmls.