September 07, 2004
Books and E-books

Last night I did a posting on Samizdata, about books, and about what fine things they are and what a great future they have. They certainly do in my flat. I asked about the history of book binding, because that is what makes books so convenient, and a commenter (Tatyana – thank you Tatyana) supplied this link. Bending-outwards books spines with titles would appear to have been sorted out earlier than I thought, in Italy – but presumably only at crippling expense.

SonyLibrie.jpgBut the comments also turned towards E-books, and another commenter supplied a link to this gizmo, the Sony Librie.

The important thing about it is that its screen is a lot more like paper than the traditional computer screen. It is not back lit, any more than paper is when you read that.

Here's what Dalmaster said:

Reading from a traditional laptop doesn't allow the same kind of comfort as reading a book, even when small and light, they're often noisy and more difficult to read. Even take out all the things you don't need, make it book-sized, you have the problem of the screen.

Several organisations have developed their own paper-like displays to solve this problem. They are pleasant to look at, require only a small amount of power (it takes power to change the picture, but it stays, rather than requiring frequent refreshing like a traditional tube, tft or lcd). Only drawback is that they're currently only black and white, and only available in Japan.

Which is surely a drawback that won't last.

Google google.

More Librie comment (and more Librie links) here:

First, the good news. Initial reports of the screen quality left me quite unprepared for the actual thing. The screen is unbelievable. Not quite paper, more like a dull plastic like look. My first impression of the device was that it was not an actual working unit, but a plastic mock up made for stores. With high contrast black text on a reflective background, the screen has a readability rivaling actual paper. The weight of the book is also quite a shock. About the weight of a long paperback, the book will be both easy on the eyes as well as very easy to hold and carry around.

Running on 4 AAA batteries, the book is supposed to last 10,000 page turns, more than enough for extended trips, and the use of standard batteries ensures you'll never be stuck in a lurch.

Additional features include a memory stick slot for adding additional space for your library or BBeB formatted dictionary cards, a keyboard for using said dictionaries, and a well designed removable integrated screen cover. You can select text from a document and run it through a built in dictionary for a definition or even an English translation. A huge thing is the ability to play embedded audio files through a small built in speaker or earphone plug.

Overall this is a sharp, stylish, package with cutting edge technology. The perfect new gadget if it weren't for.

Then follows the bad news, which is bad, I do agree. But with technology like this, the good news stays good and gets even better, and the bad news just slides away into a puddle and is forgotten.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:36 PM
Category: Technology