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The Mini PC As an Ebook Reader

I mentioned last week that one of the devices at RWA that was being flaunted about by a certain blogger about whom I have already mentioned being jealous (she is smart, funny, has a book deal, and I swear knows everyone) and a certain ebook publisher of whom I am also jealous (she owns an eBookwise, a Kindle, a Sony Reader, an iPhone, and has spent the last three weeks in New Zealand and Australia), is the mini PC. SB Sarah and Angela James both brought their Asus EEE PC’s to the conference. These mini PCs are becoming popular because of their size (small) and price (cheap, relatively speaking). Because of their size and price, a mini PC is an option for the ebook reader.

Now, I know you are saying you don’t want to read on a laptop or any device with a LCD screen. I suggest that you take a hard look at the eink devices I profiled last week. If you want something that is more multi function, like the iPhone, but want something with a bit bigger of a screen, I think that the mini PC could serve you well.

The Asus EEE PC broke into the market a year ago, shipping with a Linux operating system and a solid state harddrive. The price point was between $299-$399. The advantage of the Linux system + solid state harddrive is that the computer boots up almost instantaneously. The screen size was about 7″ and the weight of the device was under 2 lbs. Essentially, it is a stripped down computer that you can shove in your handbag.

ASUS updated its specs so that the device now can come shipped with harddrives as big as 80GB solid state, Windows XP, and screen sizes from 7″ to 10″. Most devices weigh about 2 lbs but the units with the larger harddrives (such as the 80GB ones) will weigh as many as 3 lbs. The following models ship with Windows XP. The price varies according the operating system, size and type of harddrive, and the computer’s processor and thus the price is a starting point

  • EeePC 1000H: 10″, HDD 80GB HDD, 3.2 lbs, $549*
  • EeePC 901: 8.9″, 12GB SSD**, 2.4 lbs, $599
  • EeePC 900: 8.9″, 12GB SSD, 2.2 lbs, $499
  • EeePC surf: 7″, 4/8GB** SSD, 2.1 lbs, $349

*The price is lower because Solid State Harddrives are more expensive than the regular Harddrives
**Solid State Drive
***There is a 2GB model but it does not have Windows XP.

The ASUS was so popular that other manufacturers began getting into the market. ACER Aspire One is one of the most affordable on the market today. The Aspire One has only one configuration at a price point of $350. The Windows XP version offers a 120 GB harddrive and an 8.9″ screen, weighing in at 2.2 lbs.

I’ve read more than one commenter suggest that a purchaser go with the 6 cell battery which will make the device heavier and cost more but at the trade off of getting twice as much battery life out of the device.

For travelers, it makes sense to get the largest capacity battery as possible. For home users, a plug in is never more than an extension cord away so you might not need to splurge on battery life.

Hewlett Packard offers up the HP Mini. It weighs 2.5 lbs and features an 8.9″ screen, a three-cell or six-cell battery, and multiple harddrive configurations with a starting price point of $499. JKon the Run offers a great, in depth review of the device.

The most recent contribution is a device from Dell. Dubbed the Dell E or the Inspiron 910, the mini notebook is rumored to have a $299 pricetag for its base model. It was supposed to be released last Friday but alas, it must be delayed. Here are some specs though. There are to be two models:

  • Dell E Classic: 8.9″, 4GB, 8GB or 16GB SSD, 2.2lbs, From $299
  • Dell E Slim: 12.1″, 40GB or 60GB, 2.6lbs, from $ unknown

The Dell $299 price point is a rumor but if it is true then I foresee all the mini PC prices falling dramatically.

Because the mini pcs run Windows XP, any Windows based eReading software can be used on the device. That opens up the field for my favorite desktop application, Gowerpoints uBook, but also the commercial ones such as Mobipocket, eReader, Adobe, and MS Lit.

The best way to read on a mini PC is to utilize the screen rotation feature. (Youtube instruction video). The screen rotation feature (pictures) is utilized by downloading a program and then once installed, using the keystroke combination of CTRL + ALT + Right Arrow.

If you have a laptop, you might check to see if you have this ability as well. (Mine does and is accessed via the Control Panel -> Display -> Properties -> Settings -> Advanced). There’s a handy guide for comparison of mini PC features and prices at Liliputers. Even better is the rumors of Mini PCs with touchscreens. Last week Albatron showed off its TeePC Mini and HP is considering adding touchscreens to the next iteration of the HP Mini Note. If you are handy, though, you could turn a 8.9″ ASUS into a touchscreen.

Basically, there are a ton more options for the ebook Reader today than there were just a year ago. I think it’s kind of an exciting time to be an ebook Reader. Uncertain? Stick around. I’ve convinced more than one person to buy an ebook Reader and many of them have not gone back.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

32 Comments

  1. Jayne
    Aug 24, 2008 @ 07:15:59

    a certain ebook publisher of whom I am also jealous (she owns an eBookwise, a Kindle, a Sony Reader, an iPhone, and has spent the last three weeks in New Zealand and Australia), is the mini PC

    You mean, she’s cute, funny, hard working, intelligent, well spoken AND she has all these ebook readers? I think I hate her.

  2. Jill Myles
    Aug 24, 2008 @ 09:24:03

    Yes! I know! I got to touch her Kindle (at least, I’m pretty sure it was hers) and I almost didn’t give it back. ;)

  3. Jia
    Aug 24, 2008 @ 10:05:00

    I’m holding out for the Dell E minis and seeing if they do keep that price point.

  4. DS
    Aug 24, 2008 @ 10:16:17

    We bought two of the early EEE PCs for company travel. I bought the girly pink one, my partner the apple green. Neither of us use them for reading ebooks though. Mainly they just get used for wireless internet surfing, email checking and some low level word processing. They are cute though.

  5. Evecho
    Aug 24, 2008 @ 10:25:52

    As the screens start getting bigger and machines heavier, I wonder when they slip into laptop territory?

  6. Teddypig
    Aug 24, 2008 @ 10:50:55

    I don’t understand why people buy these machines with the old disc drives.
    The whole point is the instant on capabilities of the Solid State Hard Drive. It is a wonder to behold especially with windows running.

    The MacBook Air is their version of this beauty. Worth a look although the Mac is way to pricey for this type of market.

  7. vanessa jaye
    Aug 24, 2008 @ 11:38:09

    Angie is the/a publisher at Samhain?(!) I thought Christina Brashear was the publisher and Angie was the senior/executive editor.

    I’m still not sure which way to jump re the ereader, it’s down the iPhone, the Sony ereader, or something like one of these lightweight pcs. Technology moves so fast, though, not to mention that price points fall accordingly, that it’s hard not to wait a leeetle longer….

  8. Jill Myles
    Aug 24, 2008 @ 11:41:41

    I like the EEE PC, but I do wonder how anyone can type on that itty bitty keyboard. To be honest, it’s too big for thumbs (IE texting) and too small for regular typing.

    I have a laptop with a non-full-size keyboard right now, and I pretty much view it as almost useless because it’s so hard to type on.

  9. Statch
    Aug 24, 2008 @ 12:32:34

    I use an Asus EEE PC for reading ebooks and love it. I was using a Dell Axim for that and still do, but I wanted a portable device with a larger screen and full Internet capability (instead of being limited to the web sites optimized for mobile) so I got the Asus. The really cool thing is that you can download an app that lets you rotate the screen from landscape to portrait, so you can turn it on its side and read it as if it were really a book (though you’re only seeing one page at a time, of course). That works really well for reading in bed or on the couch, where I can rest it on my chest or stomach.

    I got the 4-cell battery and later ordered a 6-cell. Neither is anything to write home about, but most of the time I’m within reach of a plug anyway. I love this thing for traveling, too; I got so tired of lugging that 15″ laptop around, and this will do everything it will do. Plus, when I’m in range of a free wireless network I can download books immediately.

    The small keyboard is fine for typing e-mails, etc, which is all I do on the laptop.

  10. Sandra Schwab
    Aug 24, 2008 @ 12:44:34

    A few weeks ago I bought a Medion Akoya Mini (a MSI Wind clone) and I love it (the Mobipocket Reader was one of the first things I installed). It’s a bit bigger than the Asus EEE PC, which means the small keyboard isn’t too uncomfortable to use. And since a new mini-me PC can’t be stuffed into some old laptop bag, I took this as a good excuse to get a small Crumpler laptop bag. :)

  11. NKKingston
    Aug 24, 2008 @ 13:07:00

    I want an Acer Aspire One so badly now. My Acer laptop has been good to me. I’m wondering if I could persuade work that it counts as a book, so I can play with it during quite periods? Or maybe just stick a cover on it…

    I know what I’m saving for now, at least.

  12. Shelley
    Aug 24, 2008 @ 13:52:34

    I looked at the mini pc but was not sure it would work with the mobipocket reader, so ended up getting a Blackberry Curve instead. I know it is much, much, much smaller but it is really comfortable for reading. I was wondering why you haven’t mentioned it but you do mention the Iphone? Now I must save for a mini pc too!

  13. Statch
    Aug 24, 2008 @ 14:25:55

    I should mention that if you buy the Asus EEE PC with the Linus operating system, I don’t think you can use Mobipocket, and the reader you can use with Linux won’t accommodate DRM’ed books. That’s why I bought it with the Windows XP operating system.

  14. Leah Hultenschmidt
    Aug 24, 2008 @ 15:35:23

    Jane, you totally talked me into the whole ebook experience. The problem is, now every time a new device comes out, I want it. You’re evil. In a good way.

  15. Janine
    Aug 24, 2008 @ 16:24:19

    Jane, you totally talked me into the whole ebook experience. The problem is, now every time a new device comes out, I want it. You're evil. In a good way.

    I know what you mean! Last week I was half convinced to get the Kindle when the new models come out in the fall. Today I want a mini PC!

  16. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 24, 2008 @ 17:09:50

    Sarah let me see the mini PC at RT, and while yep, it’s cool, I wouldn’t want it for ebook reading. I just spend too much time looking at a PC screen-that’s why I love my Sony Reader.

    But the time is coming when I’ll have to buy the bratlet her own PC and the EEE is what I’m considering.

  17. Claudia
    Aug 24, 2008 @ 18:20:31

    I often used and will still drag out my old school nec mobile pro 800 handheld pc. The 2lb clamshell folds to the size of a vhs tape, the half vga screen is wide enough for comfortable reading, and it gets around 8 hours on the standard battery. This was my alphasmart equivalent until my desire for regular windows apps was met the the HP mini. As much as I liked the eeepc size, speed and battery life, I require a larger keyboard that allows me to touch type.

    The mini is a beaut, but also a beast. The slower power hungry processor results in an average 2 hour battery life on the standard 3 cell, even with an ssd. The proc also runs hot, and with the lack of vents, it’s a bad idea to place this guy on lap, pillow or anything else that restricts what little airflow it can get. The highly reflective screen can also be distracting at times. HP’s non-consumer focus and perpetual backorders suck too.

    Overall, I find myself reading more ebooks at my desktop. I’m at work so much that I often read from my books during fringe moments.

    I heavily used my palm tx for a bit, but lean towards the sony as a dedicated reader/media player.

  18. Lynne Connolly
    Aug 24, 2008 @ 19:00:19

    Angie is on her way home from Australia, with one of my books she’s editing (ha!) She bought an Asus after seeing mine at RT, and then she went and researched it, as she does.
    But you see one, you want one, and I bought mine in conjunction with a passport drive, which holds 160 gig. I love the robustness of the Asus, I used it almost exclusively through April 2008 and then July, which was UK conference month, combined with a visit to my family and to London to get some research done. It was sooo convenient when I was visiting libraries and museums, I could just open it and type my notes straight in.
    The keyboard is small, but it doesn’t take long to get used to it. You can touchtype on it easily.
    It’s okay for reading ebooks on. I flashed my 4 gig Asus with an nlited XP because although the Linux system it came with was perfectly fine, I wanted it in line with all my other computers and pda’s.
    But the battery is only around 3 hours, 3 1/2 if you’re careful, and it’s not exactly the kind of device you can curl up in bed with. I use FBR reader on it.
    Recently I broke my ebookwise, so I’ve gone with an Ipaq for regular reading. I need that backlight, since I’m an insomniac.
    But there’s no reason at all why you can’t have a variety of devices for reading on and use the one that suits you. I’m holding out for an Astak Mentor, which should come out in October.

  19. Keishon
    Aug 24, 2008 @ 20:26:53

    I blame Jane for my ebook reading as well. Sigh. She is evil incarnate. Tempting broke people like me to think about what it would be like to have a dedicated ereader. I broke down, due to a weak moment, and bought a Sony Ebook reader. Lurve. It. This girl ought to get a commission.

  20. Jane
    Aug 24, 2008 @ 23:21:30

    I don’t have a Blackberry Pearl so I’m not very well versed in its useability as an ebook reader.

    And yes, Angie is an editor or the executive editor or, I’m not really sure what her title is, at Samhain. She and Samhain are like one entity in my mind.

  21. Barbara
    Aug 25, 2008 @ 06:43:06

    I got a HTC Advantage to read ebooks on. It runs windows mobile 6. It has a 5 inch screen, really nice for reading on and a detachable keyboard (which I don’t use much). It has other benefits too, a built in GPS and Camera, media player and I can surf the web. 8 gig micro drive is built in and it does take mini sd cards but I haven’t felt the need for the extra yet. It has become a fantastic ebook reader for me!

    I had a look at these mini pcs but I would need one that the screen folds over the keyboard (like a tablet) and some basic control buttons on the bottom of the screen before I would be comfortable reading on them.

  22. Shannon Stacey
    Aug 25, 2008 @ 07:45:41

    In case anybody’s wondering at this point, Angie’s title is Executive Editor.

  23. Alyssa Day
    Aug 25, 2008 @ 09:04:46

    I’m seriously thinking about an ASUS for my 8 y.o. daughter – the small key size would be an asset, not a hindrance for her. She has a laptop-intensive school where her class uses the computers for almost every subject. For school use, do those of you who have one think the small screen would be fine? She does PowerPoint presentations, wordprocessing, and uses the internet for research. Thanks for any advice.

  24. Mary Stella
    Aug 25, 2008 @ 14:53:26

    I’m thisclose to getting the ASUS, not for ebook reading, but for portability on quick trips away. I have a Sony Vaio notebook as my only computer at home. Love it and don’t mind toting it in carryon luggage when I go on longer trips. However, there are quick weekends away when I just need a computer for email checks and to write when that scene that must be captured pops into my head. I have an AlphaSmart NEO but have trouble adjusting to only seeing a couple of lines of text and, of course, it’s not web-compatible.

    Jane, you’ve now provided excellent information. It might be all I need to jump off the edge and whip out my credit card.

    Alyssa, your daughter’s only 8 years old and already doing Power Point presentations? Sweet Lord, that amazes me. Good for her!

  25. Chrissy
    Aug 25, 2008 @ 19:12:03

    I love mine.

  26. Julie Hurwitz
    Aug 25, 2008 @ 20:13:19

    Love, love, love my eeePC. I have the 900 with Linux. I didn’t get it to read books on — but for the lightweight and portability. I love that it has wireless capabilities and boots up so quickly.

    It’s not difficult to type on if you have relatively small hands. I don’t have much problem with it.

    But I love the fact that I can shove it into my purse and go. :)

    Julie

  27. Vanessa
    Aug 25, 2008 @ 20:29:10

    Excellent! I have yet to get into the whole eBook thing, I’m still deeply attached to cuddling my books, but this whole mini computer post is exactly what I’ve been looking for. I’ve got this really awesome Mac desktop but I’ve really always wanted a laptop as well, but a tiny tiny one. I hadn’t realized that there were so many to choose from :) Thank you so much for all the info, this is great!

    Vanessa, off to investigate how exactly I wish to go into debt ;)

  28. Jill A
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 10:22:21

    These choices are so hard! But at the same time, it’s so great to have so much selection! I’m trying to decide whether to get a little minipc like these ones, or go whole hog and get a smallish (14-15″) laptop. My issue is that I’m a gamer, so while I primarily want the portability to be able to make notes and write wherever I am (which a minipc would do just fine), being able to play games elsewhere than my desk is extremely tempting…argh. The agony of having to choose…though it’s good, the longer I agonize, the cheaper these get ^_^

  29. Chrissy
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 15:39:40

    I’m at Barnes and Noble on mine now. Honestly… since I got this the only thing I use my other computer for is graphic work.

    The best part is 2 pounds… which means if I chuck my big denim messenger bag on the floor it won’t break… and it isn’t re-aligning my neck.

    I wish I could have gotten pink but they only had white.

  30. XandraG
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 15:42:24

    I’m salivating over the eeePC meself. I’ve been running a linux rig for about 3 years now, so it doesn’t intimidate me, and I know the open source community well enough to find any DRM workarounds I need–and most of my ebooks are in PDF format anyway. The only problem I encountered with the eeePC is that the screen is just shy of being able to handle an 800px wide webpage, which renders many websites just a little uncomfortable to read. But that native qwerty keyboard is something I really want on an ultra portable.

  31. roslynholcomb
    Aug 31, 2008 @ 15:02:01

    Oh man, Target has them for $250 right now.

  32. So a writer walks into the ePub… | Moriah Jovan
    Sep 14, 2008 @ 16:16:03

    [...] to tell: The ASUS Eee PC, which operates on Linux and a solid-state hard drive. More about this at Dear Author, as this is one of the few places I’ve seen with a decent breakdown. This, I am also [...]

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