Saturday, July 28, 2007

Would you buy a $50 eBook Reader?

Landscape eBook mode

I think this idea is really excellent. It could save a bundle on textbook costs:

Coming To You Now: The Fifty Dollar eBook Reader
[...] The buttons at either side of the screen -- whichever way up the latter is orientated, I should add -- are used to turn one page forward or back. The button at the foot takes you to the contents list (and any other menus which the book may need, such as an index) and the top one is an on-off switch.

The pages themselves, as you can see, are in colour or black-and-white and can contain text in any language or font size. I've included one 'plain text' page -- it's from a short story of mine -- purely to show that in this mode (novel, textbook, article) a page will hold around twenty-five lines and (say) 250 words.

Again, this is pretty much like a paperback. As shown here and in a CAD picture, the text itself doubtless appears too small to be readable, but I have tested it upon a group of several elderly ladies whose most frequent (and gratifying) comment has been "It's lovely, I can read it without my glasses . . ." [...]

See the full article for more details and pictures. The device's designer, Martin Woodhouse, seems to be looking for investors to make the device a reality. He contacted the OLPC project, but they were not interested. I'm not surprised. They have their own financial problems, and their device promises to be an eBook reader and much more. OLPC would probably see the Woodhouse eBook as competing for the same market share. OLPC is also pursuing a vision of transforming education and learning for children worldwide; that vision, whether you agree with it or not, requires more than an eBook reader alone can offer.

For situations where children already know how to read, I think the Woodhouse eBook could be a great replacement for paper textbooks, which are expensive and can quickly become outdated.

I think the day is coming when most books are going to be available on digital eBook readers, rather than the dead trees version. I'd love to have one, as long as the screen was easy on the eyes. Think of all the shelf space you would save! You could also just download your books on-line; no waiting for boxes to be shipped - and no shipping charges. Woodhouse points out that the eBook reader could even be used for paperless newspapers and magazines.

Since it's such a good idea, why haven't we seen this adopted on a large scale already? One reason is, the technology. The screens and needed memory chips have been improving and becoming cheaper recently, so perhaps we shall see more eBooks in our future. But there are issues to be sorted out; if a book becomes a computer file, how do you keep if from being pirated? What about conflicting formats? Would there be a universal format that all eBook devices could share? Until these issues are resolved, many authors may be reluctant to have their books distributed as computer files.

eBook reader text mode

Another factor is books versus the internet. Wouldn't eBooks necessarily attract people who like to read books? In our modern age, so many people seem to have given up books in favor of movie and video media. An eBook reader, no matter how good, won't let you watch streaming video of the latest antics of Paris Lohan, Brittney Hilton, Lindsey Spears and other assorted Celebutards. An eBook reader that was also an internet device WOULD let you do those things, and thus would likely be more popular.

I like internet devices, but I also like books, and Woodhouse's eBook reader sounds like just the thing to have. I don't want to read whole books while sitting at my computer; it would be great to have a small, simple and inexpensive eBook device that I could treat like a book, and take just about anywhere. I would love to download my books, and have more space on my shelves! I look forward to that day, which hopefully will come sooner rather than later.

Related Link:

Here is a compilation of my posts about the OLPC project, a topic I'm watching with great interest.



Anonymous said...

This is yet another thing prophesied by Star Trek .. Jean Luc Picard used something like this whenever he sat down to read a "book' ...

Chas said...


Yes indeed! Even in the old TV series, I recall Captain Kirk was always having mini-skirted yeomen bringing him paperless clipboards to sign. It looked like a tablet with a screen and a writing stylus.

Wayan said...


I'm glad you liked Martin Woodhouse's $50 eBook reader idea. I find it a compelling distillation of the OLPC idea.

One small request though, please link your images of his ebook reader to the Flickr pages they originated from instead of images on your server.


Chas said...


I'm not sure I understand your request. I could possibly make the images hyperlinks to the flicker pages (but I'd have to look up the code to do that). But if you mean I have to draw the images off flicker and not have them on my blog, I'm not willing to do that, because depending on other servers for images can hang up my blog.

The flicker site said I could download larger versions so I did, but if I'm not allowed to use the images on my blog, please let me know and I will delete them and just provide a text link to flicker instead.