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The Perfect E Reader Device

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From Apple Insider and Artist AudioPollution.

The annual Consumer Electronics Show just wrapped up this weekend. There were plenty of televisions, cameras, and mp3 players. There were no new ebook readers. The only possible ebook news that came out of CES was the firm, but virtually meaningless statement by Sony that it was showing “reflowable” PDF in their booth on the Sony Reader. Reflowability means that IF the book’s contents is correctly formatted, the text will reflow to fit the screen size.

I hate to get excited about reflowability because it isn’t backward compatible. I.e., your older Adobe ebooks that were made without the proper formatting or if the publisher doesn’t know what it is doing, then even if your device allows “reflowability” it doesn’t actually make a difference.

Macworld is on January 15, 2008. Steve Jobs will give a keynote speech this year as he does every year. Last year saw the announcement of the iPhone. This year promises to bring movie rentals through iTunes. Other announcements are speculated on but unknown. One of my favorite speculations is that Apple will introduce a tablet – although this is not likely to happen. (I should also add that there was speculation yesterday that Apple would buy Adobe and all I can say to that is I HATE THE ADOBE FORMAT AND DRM system. Just saying).

If you recall, Apple was one of the first to introduce a handheld personal computer by the name of the Newton. Some have speculated for the last few years that Apple is on the verge of making a Newton come back. I have my doubts about this but only, in part, because I don’t want to be disappointed.

I would love for Apple to come out with a tablet PC to be my go-to reading device, email reader, and web browser. If it were a perfect world, this is what my perfect e-reading device would contain.

Hardware

I love the look of my iPhone with is classy brushed aluminum finish and glass front display. I would like it to have a few more buttons. The new Sony Reader has a nice form and heft to it but its button placement has a lot to be desired.

  • Buttons for page turning should be accessible on the sides of the device for easy page turning when holding the device with one hand. The set of buttons should include a bookmark feature, i.e., hold the page forward button in for a few seconds and it will make a bookmark. Ideally, there should be two sets of buttons on either side that are fully customizable so that readers can decide for themselves exactly how they want the buttons to function. A jog wheel could do this. One of the best features of the blackberry phones is the jog wheel.
  • A backlight or integrated front light. This is a must have.
  • A button for a find/go to page feature.
  • A brightness button to easily increase or decrease the brightness (on the iPhone, I have to go through about three steps to get the brightness feature).
  • A 6-8″ screen.
  • Wi Fi components.
  • USB Host. (this allows you to hook up a USB Air card or a USB keyboard etc.)
  • Bluetooth.
  • SD slot.
  • Solid state harddrive.
  • User replaceable battery.

That’s it. The hardware need not be complicated because software can make it do anything.
Software

  • Ideally, it would be some version of a full operating software. Linux would be the best because it is open source but at this point, I would take anything.
  • On screen keyboard. I have really gotten use to the iPhone and so realize that this is a nice feature to incorporate. I wouldn’t use it all the time, particularly when I could tether a full size keyboard via USB or Bluetooth.
  • Handwriting recognition (remember that this is my “perfect” ereading device).
  • Ability to make annotations and highlight text in addition to making bookmarks.
  • Port of iTunes like software for organization and rating. I would like to easily swipe to make a rating of a book, to be able to search my books via rating, to make “playlists” or “collections”via ratings.
  • Ability to make collections by author, subject, title, publisher, or anything else that meets my whimsy.
  • Tagging for books to assist with organization. I.e., after reading a book, I could tag it European Historical, Victorian, Marriage of Convenience, Female Aviator and then go back and search my tags when I am looking for a book about Marriage of Convenience.
  • Ability to purchase books over the air, whether it be via Wi Fi or an Aircard or something similar.
  • A find feature and a “go to page” feature.
  • Customizable fonts, font sizes, font colors, and background colors/wallpaper.
  • Ability to add audio notes.

This is all I can think of at this point in time. I would love to hear others’ dream features for both hardware and software.

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

7 Comments

  1. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 13, 2008 @ 08:27:02

    That pic of the ‘future handheld’…. is that just a speculative one?

    Because I saw THAT and thought I WANT

    ReplyReply

  2. Libby
    Jan 13, 2008 @ 10:45:00

    Not to sound creepy, but I’m drooling Homer Simpson style at your post, Jane!

    I like the idea of the iTouch because I don’t have to change cell phone carriers (although their plans are pretty reasonable for what you get). With some devices like the Nokia N800 you can use Skype to make phone calls in areas where WiFi is available, and that’s not a bad alternative for somebody like me who doesn’t use my cell phone very often. But that doesn’t really help in an emergency, say if you’re in the middle of nowhere.

    The idea you posted about creating a port similar to iTunes is an excellent idea. Making “playlists” of sorts for our books would be great because they’re so easy to sync quickly that way with music playlists. A lot of my college textbooks are beginning to come out in ebook form, so being able to take them all along on my PDA makes my back and shoulders very happy!

    I would hope that they would allow us to transfer our existing books (MobiPocket, MS Reader, etc.) the same way iTunes allows us to transfer music. Down with DRM!!!

    One problem that I have with both my Palm and my laptop is the inability to read the screens very well outside. If I go outside to read, I’d like to be able to see the screen without having to squint and constantly shift the thing to be able to read. I also use prescription polarized sunglasses, which I know contributes to the problem, but I hope the technology gurus come up with a way to fix this!

    Something else that isn’t technically iPhone related…has anyone seen the privacy shields that 3M makes? You can put them on your laptop or computer screen so that nobody can see what you’re doing until they’re right behind you. They are sort of “polarized” so that you have to be at just the right angle to see the screen. I think it would be awesome if 3M would manufacture the covers for Palms and Readers and such.

    ReplyReply

  3. DS
    Jan 13, 2008 @ 10:56:25

    No problem with the iPhone outside. I have a Nokia N800 that I’ve read a couple of books on– none outside, but I began to have a repetitive injury problem with the way I had to use to thumb to page. The reader (fbreader) that I have been using is worth watching. I haven’t tried the latest update but it might be better now. I think they adding a mobi-like tap in the corner to turn pages, which would be good.

    Gosh, for someone who had maybe read 3 books on screen prior to 2007, I’ve acquired a lot of toys.

    ReplyReply

  4. Libby
    Jan 13, 2008 @ 11:06:58

    DS, how do you like the Nokia N800 (aside from the repetitive injury)? I’ve had my eye on that one for awhile, too. Do you have problems loading programs on it?

    And good to know about the iPhone working outside :)

    ReplyReply

  5. DS
    Jan 13, 2008 @ 12:19:07

    I have to admit that I haven’t tried to do anything serious with it so far. I updated the OS to 2008 but even before then I was trying various programs. The wireless connected to my office set up without a hitch and I have used it with the public library wireless and a couple of coffeeshops without a problems. Maemo.org is where I look for updates on information and software.

    I’ve got this site (dearauthor.com) bookmarked. And it reads very nicely.

    Because I’ve been spoiled by the iPhone and Kindle connect anywhere, it is bit frustrating if I have to look for a hotspot. And I’m always a bit leery about possible privacy leaks so I use it mainly for media. The speakers aren’t bad at all. The camera thing isn’t bad for snapshots. The lens pops up out of the top but looking at yourself is a bit icky, so I doubt if I would be using it for video conferencing.

    There’s a media program called Canola that has a very pretty interface– how’s that for shallowness. There’s also a bejeweled knock off game I like. There’s not a lot of memory on board so you need a memory card right away.

    If there is anything else you want to know please feel free to email me– click on my DS above should work and I would be happy to let you know.

    ReplyReply

  6. Emmy
    Jan 13, 2008 @ 14:31:18

    Have y’all heard of UMPCs? DS mentioned the N800, which seems to qualify, but it doesn’t have the keypad and touchpad that others do. The Samsung Q1 is a very pricey version, but there are a few others and it seems like these things are becoming more popular. They have large screens, wifi, usb ports.

    This one, WiBrain B1 UMPC, is expected to retail in the US eventually and should be cheaper.

    They use tablet OSes, e.g. XP Tablet ed., so they have the handwriting recognition. They are a little pricey just as a ebook reader, but it fits just about all of your feature requirements and I can see this being something I go to all the time.

    ReplyReply

  7. Libby
    Jan 13, 2008 @ 19:44:49

    DS, thank you so much for the info! You answered all of my questions. And IMO there is no such thing as too much vanity or shallowness when it comes to your gadgets ;)

    Emmy, the WiBrain started the drooling all over again! I think in the next couple of years, the move from laptops and desktops to the smaller handheld PCs is going to be the way to go!

    I think what I’m looking for in a reader is multi-functionality. I shudder at the idea of dropping a few hundred dollars on anything I can only read on *ahem* Kindle *ahem*. Maybe when I graduate, perhaps, but right now in BudgetLand, I have to get the maximum bang for my buck.

    ReplyReply

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