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Old 02-10-2008, 08:30 PM   #1
zelda_pinwheel
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EBook Technologies (of eb1150 fame) have big things in the works

(note to the mods : I wasn't sure whether to put this here, or in the Fictionwise ebookwise forum, or in the "future ebook devices" forum... feel free to move it if necessary.)

I love my eb01150, truly i do, and in the short time i've had it i've come to consider it indispensable in my daily life. but my golly, what i wouldn't give to be able to slap a vizplex e-ink screen on to it ! (and, ok, maybe there are one or two other details i would change).

So, having noticed the e-ink device prototype on Ebook Tech's site, i decided to send them a little mail with my wishlist, in hopes they would be receptive, and especially in hopes my dream device was already in the making.

The response definitely surpassed my expectations, as Garth Conboy (i'll be referring to him as "my good friend, Garth Conboy" from now on) answered my mail within the hour (!) on a sunday (!!), with lots of great info (!!!).

Since I know you all are perking up your collective ears right now i'm sharing our email exchange in full (with his kind permission).

I should mention before i start that 1. i have shamelessly plugged MobileRead several times in the course of this correspondence, including with an invitation to him to stop by and be deluged with questions / suggestions anytime, and 2. all opinions expressed in my mails are my own, based on my personal experience with my eb1150 (ETI-2) and in no way intended to represent the opinions / desires of all ebook device users / eb1150 owners / small furry animals, and 3. I am not in any way affiliated with Ebook Technologies, i'm just a fan.

My First mail :

Hello,
I have a Fictionwise ebookwise 1150 (ETI-2), which I absolutely love. I bought it new in December of last year, after several weeks of research and comparison. I sincerely feel that in many respects it is one of the best dedicated readers available. Almost all it's missing to be perfect, as far as I am concerned, is an e-ink screen.

So you can imagine my delight when I noticed the mention of an e-ink prototype on your site. However, may I suggest, rather than making another clone of all the latest devices (Sony, Cybook Gen3, Hanlin... they all have the same basic design), stick with the ETI-2 form factor, slightly modified and updated. You had a great thing there and it would really be a shame to abandon it ! There are already plenty of companies making readers that all look (basically) alike. None of them are as good as the ETI-2 : the ergonomy of those 2 big buttons on the side for turning pages is perfectly adapted to reading.

In hopes that you will be interested in hearing from a real-life user, here are a few suggestions for creating the all-time perfect best-ever dream ebook reader, starting from the ETI-2 (so we already know you can do it).


DON'T CHANGE THIS STUFF (you got it right the first time) :

1 - Those big buttons ! Please keep the big buttons on the side !! the shape of the ETI-2 is really great. It could be a bit smaller (thinner) and definitely lighter, but please don't take away the big buttons that rest naturally under the thumb and are easy and comfortable to press, even after hours of reading.

2 - Screen rotation (for changing hands). Brilliant.

3 - Dictionary look up / search feature. One of my favorite features. I use it all the time.

4 - Hyperlinked text (for Table of contents, notes, etc.)

5 - Resizeable type.

6 - Much of the GUI is great : the page number display / slider on the bottom of the page for example is really great.


PRIORITY IMPROVEMENTS :

1 - e-ink screen ! obviously. Good contrast and as fine a greyscale as possible (16 would be nice; I believe that depends on the controller). In addition, it would be great to display a greyscale chart with all of the values when adjusting contrast and brightness. Also, the duration of the preview when adjusting the contrast brightness is too short. It times out before you really have a chance to assess the modifications.

2 - I really don't care about the backlight on the ETI-2, in fact i would prefer not to use it at all ; I use a lamp. However I know that others consider it a priority. perhaps a sidelight could be added. Regardless, if there is a light, you MUST be able to turn it off completely.

3 - USER REPLACEABLE BATTERY !!! this one is an absolute must. Ideally the battery should be easy to find and not too expensive. Long battery life is important too of course, but you knew that. Also, the battery level should be shown on the main screen, with additional details in the menu (like the current display).

4 - Support more file formats natively or with easy conversion : .html really shouldn't be a problem since .imp is based on it, but support for more recent versions (xhtml, css2...) would be great. .doc, .txt, .rtf seem like a reasonable request. At the very least, it should be easy to convert these formats. Support for Open Ebook Formats and EPub would be great. Mobi support would open up new worlds of content. Content is the biggest ebook hurdle at the moment (there not being enough of it to begin with, it being in an incompatible format, etc.) so the more formats you can support, the better. Especially since people also like to read their own content, which is usually in a text or html format. Please don't drop .imp support with the addition of new formats ; I already have a pretty good library in .imp format. So do a lot of other users. We would all really hate to lose our books.

5 - Flash drive : speaking of files, how about the possibility of getting them on the device (and back off, if need be) via drag and drop with a regular usb connection, without having to resort to external card readers or "my bookshelf" uploads or internal modems. It would be great if the reader functioned like a regular usb removable flash drive when plugged in to a pc. That's not to say you should abandon the internal modem ; I don't use it personally but it's a nice feature.

6 - Memory expansion using a different card format. Preferably one that looks like it will be around for a while, and has a capacity of at least 1 giga. Again, the card should be accessible via the file-explorer when connected to a usb port.

7 - Extended font support, where the user can load personal fonts and choose which font to use for the display. More view sizes would be nice too.

8 - View meta-data on the device. This data should include, in addition to the book name and author, the publish/copyright date, description from one of the ones in the ebook publisher set, category, filename.

9 - Lighter weight please ! but don't sacrifice the sturdy construction. I want a device I can carry around with me without it adding too much weight to my bag (this is not the case with the ETI-2), and without worrying that the slightest jolt will damage it irreparably.


FEATURES THAT WOULD BE NICE, if it's not too much trouble.

1 - Editing meta-data on the device. Like, all those Jane Austen books I formatted as "Austen, Jane" when sending them through Filament Books, and now when I sort my library by author (which is how I prefer it) Jane Austen shows up under "J". It would be great if I could fix that on the fly without having to re-upload the files.

2 - Folder support for the library.

3 - I didn't expect to use the note-taking feature much, but it turns out it's brilliant when you come across a typo in a text you can correct (personal content, Project Gutenberg texts...). I don't know if it's possible to combine touch screen and e-ink and keep the markup feature, but if yes that would be sweet. In that case, we should be able to retrieve the mark-ups and consult them on a pc.

4 - Landscape mode (90° / -90° rotation) would be a nice plus, in addition to the 180° degree rotation.


One of the original selling points of the ETI-2 for me was the low price compared to more recent devices, and obviously the less expensive the new devices are the better. But if you could make a device like I've just described, I would pay 350$ for it (the price of the Cybook Gen3 for example, which I almost bought instead of the ETI-2) in a heartbeat.

I'm sure I'm not the only one. Check the MobileRead forums http://www.mobileread.com/forums for a faction of dedicated eb-1150 fans. One guy loves his eb-1150 so much he's made a whole page about it to spread the word (you have him to thank for my custom, in part), including his own list of changes, which I highly recommend to you (there is some overlap, but only partial) : http://users.cwnet.com/dalede/eb1150.html

I would be very happy to have any information about your e-ink development; design, schedule, hardware, firmware... don't hesitate to contact me. Obviously I understand if there are some details you cannot reveal yet. I sincerely hope you will continue to draw on the brilliant device that is the ETI-2 (it's got plenty of life in it yet), and I look forward to new eBook Technology dedicated reading devices with Vizplex e-ink screens in the (near, I hope) future.

Cordially,
A

Garth Conboy's first reply :
Hello A,

Thanks for the thoughtful note.

Be sure that the EInk device pictured on our site is just a prototype port to an existing piece of hardware -- not something we're thinking of productizing. In addition to your functionality comments, we tend to feel the addition of a touch-screen is very high priority. You just can't do a good user interface without one.

I do tend to agree with many of your priorities. And, we are at work on a number of them -- all our new work is around the new IDPF standards -- OCF and OPS/OPF -- "epub" that is. These address many of your issues. Please see "http://www.idpf.org/specs.htm".

Do note that the ETI-2 already supports .doc, .rtf, .txt, and some .htm at, for example, "http://my.ebookwise.com". But, additional format support is certainly a plus.

We're doing at lot of work in this area, along with some partners, hopefully some cool products will emerge!

Thanks again for your comments.

Best,
Garth


My second mail (reply) :
Hello Garth,
thanks for the amazingly speedy reply ! It's great to know you guys are working on some new hardware (and also that our priorities would be pretty similar). I can't wait to see an actual prototype, any idea on when you might go into production ?

I'm also thrilled to hear that you won't be making yet another starebook clone, there are enough of them already (not that it doesn't have its good points ! but variety is good...). And brilliant news about the epub support. I will take a look at the site you mention. Actually everything you said was great news !

I do know that the ETI-2 can be used for reading html, doc, rtf and txt files ; however they must be converted to imp first, for example via the "my bookshelf" feature (I originally used a similar feature on the Filament Books site, which i discovered during my pre-purchase research). This is good for many people, because it is easy and accessible, but i like having some control over the formatting (not possible with an online automated conversion) and i especially like to keep a backup of my .imp file on my hard drive ; as far as i can tell, there is no way of downloading an .imp file from "my bookshelf" online directly to my pc desktop. I'd much rather the whole process be local. Now I use eBook Publisher software for converting my texts, but it is not a perfect solution either (highly unintuitive process, uses old versions of html and css, some strange formatting quirks...). So for these reasons among others i am hoping for NATIVE support in the future, where i could open a .rtf or .doc or .html directly from the memory and read it just like i read an .imp file. This would make things a lot easier when reading Project Gutenberg books for example ! Which are a big part of my library and one of the main reasons I decided to buy a dedicated reader.

Anyway, thank you again for your reply and all the great news ! I'm pretty excited now and hoping I won't have to wait too long before I can see the results of all your collective hard work. Please do let me know if you have any idea of when we might see some more developed prototypes and the new devices themselves (is there a newsletter I can sign up for to get updates ?).

One last question, would you mind if I share your mail with the members of the MobileRead community ? I am sure there are plenty who would be interested in hearing what you have in store for us !

Cordially,
A


Garth Conboy's second reply :

Hi A,

Comments below...

On Feb 10, 2008, at 7:10 AM, A wrote:

Quote:
> Hello Garth,
> thanks for the amazingly speedy reply ! It's great to know you guys are working on some new hardware (and also that our priorities would be pretty similar). I can't wait to see an actual prototype, any idea on when you might go into production ?
Lots of things going... no announcements yet!

>
Quote:
> I'm also thrilled to hear that you won't be making yet another starebook clone, there are enough of them already (not that it doesn't have its good points ! but variety is good...). And brilliant news about the epub support. I will take a look at the site you mention. Actually everything you said was great news !
Yes, we've been very involved at the IDPF (since it's founding at the Open eBook Forum in 2000) -- it looks like the "epub" standard is picking up momentum -- epub being OPS markup plus an OPF package contained in an OCF container. All good stuff. But, I guess I gotta say that as I was the co-lead of both of those standards efforts, and sit on the IDPF board. :-)
>
>
Quote:
I do know that the ETI-2 can be used for reading html, doc, rtf and txt files ; however they must be converted to imp first, for example via the "my bookshelf" feature (I originally used a similar feature on the Filament Books site, which i discovered during my pre-purchase research). This is good for many people, because it is easy and accessible, but i like having some control over the formatting (not possible with an online automated conversion) and i especially like to keep a backup of my .imp file on my hard drive ; as far as i can tell, there is no way of downloading an .imp file from "my bookshelf" online directly to my pc desktop.
You can also do it locally with a tool like eBookwise Librarian (see http://www.ebookwise.com), or our desktop tools (http://www.ebooktechnologies.com/sup...r_download.htm).

We generally believe in off-loading conversion work to desktop or server systems -- such the the compute required on the device can be kept to a minimum.

>
Quote:
I'd much rather the whole process be local. Now I use eBook Publisher software for converting my texts, but it is not a perfect solution either (highly unintuitive process, uses old versions of html and css, some strange formatting quirks...). So for these reasons among others i am hoping for NATIVE support in the future, where i could open a .rtf or .doc or .html directly from the memory and read it just like i read an .imp file. This would make things a lot easier when reading Project Gutenberg books for example ! Which are a big part of my library and one of the main reasons I decided to buy a dedicated reader.
See "native" versus desktop/server comment above. But, yes, future versions of tools will be fully compliant with new standards. And, alternate viewers on the device as possible.
>
>
Quote:
Anyway, thank you again for your reply and all the great news ! I'm pretty excited now and hoping I won't have to wait too long before I can see the results of all your collective hard work. Please do let me know if you have any idea of when we might see some more developed prototypes and the new devices themselves (is there a newsletter I can sign up for to get updates ?).
>
> One last question, would you mind if I share your mail with the members of the MobileRead community ? I am sure there are plenty who would be interested in hearing what you have in store for us !
Feel free to.

And, also feel free to check in once in a while... a "beta test" opportunity could crop up.

Best,
Garth

My last mail (to date) :

Hi Garth,
BETA TEST OPPORTUNITY ??? seriously ??? I would LOVE that, so much I would probably sell my grandmother to participate (and I love my grandmother). I will definitely try to send you occasional emails to remind you that I exist ("just a quick hi, any prototypes for me to test yet ?"). I could easily test hardware and software (GUI, conversion apps). For your info, I'm a webdesigner (so I'm quite comfortable with html and css) and as such .imp conversion does not scare me (and apparently, I really like fastidious projects involving technology), and I would love to see a new version of eBook Publisher for example (if that is in the works !). In addition, I know a place (MobileRead... have I mentioned it enough times yet ?) where you could find many people with years more experience with ETI-2s and eBook Publisher software than I have, who would probably also sell their respective grandmothers to beta-test new devices.

I had no idea that you were involved with defining standards for the epub format ! As a webdesigner (again) I can get very passionate about standards (w3c), and it's great to hear that they are important to you too. I'm not yet very well-informed about the details of the epub standard but even without knowing all the technical specs it sounds good to me. Standards : good ! Hopefully soon we will be able to have one format "to unite them all" in ebooks. Wouldn't that be great...

As for native format support, I do understand wanting to keep compute on the device to a minimum, and I also realize that not everyone likes to get their hands dirty (so to speak) in the internal workings of code to format their texts. For the majority, automatic solutions such as the "my bookshelf" online conversion are good, with desktop tools like the Librarian and Publisher for people who want to spend a little more time to get the formatting just right (there are quite a few of us !). Clearly you don't want to lock the reader to one specific format at all costs, and that is the key point really. Alternate viewers on the device would also be absolutely brilliant.

In any case I will keep checking back on the site for new announcements, and feel free to send me a mail anytime.

I will post your mail on the MobileRead forums, where it will probably generate much speculation and discussion, and possibly more emails to you... hope you don't mind ! :-) Feel free to stop by there anytime, I'm sure everyone would love to have some first-hand info. Thank you again for your friendliness and communication. And please do think of me when you're ready for beta-testers !!

Best,
A

(End of correspondance)

Note (among other things) the enthusiasm for standards and open formats (the guy helped found IDPF and is on the board !!) ! Note the interest in maximum versatility and support for several formats !! Note that Ebook Technologies are clearly awesome and Garth Conboy (who is personally working on the device of my dreams even as you read this) is my new hero ! Before, I was still pretty much counting on getting a Gen3 one day, even if I didn't plan to give up my eb1150. Now I may well hold out for the future e-ink version of my eb1150.

Seriously, I for one am very encouraged by this and feel very hopeful for the future of my eb1150 in particular and dedicated ebook reading devices in general.

I hope you all found this interesting as well.

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Old 02-10-2008, 08:59 PM   #2
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And, also feel free to check in once in a while... a "beta test" opportunity could crop up.
*drool*
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Old 02-10-2008, 09:14 PM   #3
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*drool*
Down Nate, that was for her, not you.
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Old 02-11-2008, 06:01 AM   #4
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*drool*
heh, yep... i'm drooling too.

don't worry, i think they would probably need more than one beta tester. there are lots of people here more worthy than me !
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Old 02-11-2008, 11:45 AM   #5
Nate the great
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heh, yep... i'm drooling too.

don't worry, i think they would probably need more than one beta tester. there are lots of people here more worthy than me !
I disagree. You discovered the potential opportunity, you've earned your spot at the head of the line.
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Old 02-11-2008, 02:13 PM   #6
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We all were awaiting good things to come, now with your insights, they may materialize soon.

You remind me of a cub reporter that has just hit a 'home-run' with their first news scoop!

Way to go! Thanks for sharing these developments with us.


-Nick

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Old 02-11-2008, 02:51 PM   #7
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hee ! i definitely felt like a was getting a scoop ! i'm glad you were interested in hearing what they have to say. i hope we get to see some of these new developments soon. i promise to share my impressions with y'all if i get to be a beta-tester .

Nate, why on earth does your title say you are banned ? that can't be right...
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Old 02-11-2008, 02:54 PM   #8
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Nate, why on earth does your title say you are banned ? that can't be right...
I've had that for a few days now. I wanted to see how long it would take someone to notice.
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Old 02-11-2008, 02:57 PM   #9
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droooool!!!!

We WANTS it, we does! I really really preferred the physical ergonomics of my REB1100 over the Sony Reader. The eInk screen and its improved readability is more important, so the Sony Reader is what I've been using for the past year. That said, I'd purchase the device you described in a heartbeat! At any price that wasn't too much more than the going rate for the Sony or the Bookeen Gen3.

It would be our precious, it would.

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Old 02-11-2008, 04:53 PM   #10
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Device: eb1150 & is that a nook in her pocket, or she just happy to see you?
Xenophon : i KNEW i couldn't be the only one !! Garth Conboy (my good friend...) mentioned that he occasionally stops by here (and i sent him a link to this post) so perhaps if he sees more people drooling for the new ETI with e-ink screen he'll make them hurry up with production !! or, you know, at the very least keep us up to date...

Nate : pfff... i actually noticed it yesterday but i wasn't sure i should say anything...

Last edited by zelda_pinwheel; 02-11-2008 at 05:00 PM.
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Old 02-11-2008, 05:24 PM   #11
DaleDe
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If you check this thread you will find most of the information that Zelda mentioned.

http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=13726

Garth's comments are in that thread.

That plus the information on their web site. I am looking forward to seeing what they might produce.

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Old 02-11-2008, 05:46 PM   #12
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DaleDe : I had not seen that thread before, but i will definitely read it. I just wanted to share some fresh info (well, fresh to some people anyway !) that i was rather suprised at getting so easily, in case others were interested.

From my point of view, the more people who talk about the eb1150 and hopes / suggestions for future models, the better ; so ETI knows there is demand (not just one or two people) and will be more motivated to release new models. And it's good to know what people want (especially since they seem to pay attention to that). That is also why I included a link to your page about the eb1150, as well as to MobileRead, in my first email to ETI.
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