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Old 01-30-2006, 02:57 PM   #1
Charles Gray
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Build an eink reader.

Given our current discussion over the Sony v. Illiad readers, I had a thought-- on one hand we have a reader crippled by potential DRM problems and on the other hand we have a reader that is a bit more than most people need.

So, I have a question for the board-- if you were designing an eink reader, what would you demand in it?

Here are my requirements:

1. A screen that it at least paperback sized, with an option for a larger model screen.
2. At least 128 MB's storage on-board, for books.
3. Compatiable with PDF, txt, HTML (non-interactive), and Doc files, jpegs would be a plus.
4. Memory card slot.
5. USB cable/port-- also have at least one USB port recessed in such a way that you could ad a USB wireless connector.
6. Requires no on-board computer programs for downloading files-- have it be seen as an external drive when connected to the computer, and you just click and drag.
7. A price at @ 200 dollars.

Note, this is for a basic reader, which sacrifices some capability for lower price.
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Old 01-30-2006, 04:52 PM   #2
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Interesting question. My E Ink reader would look like this:

1. 8.1-inch XGA 1024x768 screen (= iRex). Nothing less or multi-column PDF content becomes a pain to read.
2. 64MB built-in memory. I am happy as long as external storage support is provided (preferably SD card so I can use my existing memory chips)
3. Compatible with PDF, XHTML, Plucker, iSilo, and OpenReader
4. (wireless) networking not a must. But USB (preferably 2.0) is required for data transfer, to appear on the desktop as a mass storage device requiring no extra drivers or programs.
5. price not above USD $380.
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Old 01-30-2006, 05:05 PM   #3
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If were talking dream specs, I'd say Mr Saint's specs plus the following:
* "Spectacular" eInk color screen with some kind of backlight for low light conditions, and the ability to show DivX/Xvid/MPEG4 video. But I realize the color video is really pushing it because of frame refresh rates for current eink displays, and lack of affordable color display technology.
* Long battery life, and rechargeable, user-replaceable battery.
* eReader and MSWord document compatibility (which should allow reading rtf, txt, doc, html, etc. -- whatever Word can read.)
* Automatic sync of bookmarks and current page locations between Palm/PPC, so if you are reading books on two devices it's not a pain to keep track of what page you are on. Actually, aside from eInk readers, I'd love to see synchronization like this between PPC and PalmOS devices, not just for ebook reader software!
* Linux and Mac compatible. Not for me personally (yet), but I know it's frustrating to be on a platform and not have it supported.
* Price not above $50 dollars. Okay, I know that's rediculous... let's make that not above $300. I know, that price is still not feasible either, but maybe we can at least call it "wishable" for a dream spec.

Ever notice how hard it is to nail down specs? We don't really know the tech limitations, and don't have examples to work off of. It's hard to determine what's fantasy and what's possible. It's much easier to make this kind of guess for a more established market like for PalmOS or PPC handhelds!
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Old 01-30-2006, 05:19 PM   #4
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Building a reader

I've actually thought about this quite a bit. Here's what I envision. Please bear in mind that I'm thinking of "lowest common denominator" type units. Devices that could be accessible to pretty much everyone. Something that might be useful for public schools, to reduce their book-related logistics, and even university level literature classes that might want to look at out of print, and rare texts, as well as say Great Expectations, while still being a solid, functional, and serviceable text reader for the rest of us. None of this is to say that I think there's no place for a really suped up version with every bell and whistle some genius can figure out how to squeeze into an appropriate sized package, 'cause I think that would be just nifty. I've just come at it from a perspective of what will need to happen to allow e-texts to actually come of age.

I'd like to see the size be no smaller than a paper-back and no bigger than a hardback, perhaps the size of those "large" paperbacks.

Next, build it around the least capable processor that can handle the job: i.e. 286, 386 or wherever that falls out. The idea being to keep the cost down as much as possible. I'd really like to see the intro prices for the base units be under $100 (like around $50). I think that's almost as necessary for the device's long term success as its being able to handle as many different file formats as possible.

I'd like to see either a single purpose OS (to open and read e-files) or a "bootable" SD card approach (like before hard-drives came along), where the reader software is contained on the chip/book for those that have it. I see the first being the preferable option. Something like a stand-alone version of µBook would be nice.

I'd like the reader software to handle any sort of "text" I can find to throw at it, including word, txt, rtf, html, pdf, etc. But also pml, as I have a number of text already converted to that format, and it seems to be a pretty compact, functional format.

I'd also like to see the reader power-up, change pages, and power down, in the interest of power consumption (it sounds like that's what Sony is doing with theirs). On power, I'd like to see AA batteries. I know -- that sounds crazy, but NiMH rechargeables are cheap and getting better all the time (I saw some 2500 mAH ones the other day), plus if I get in a real bind, I can always pop in a set of good old alkalines and be good to go while/til I can recharge the others.

I'd like to see SD cards be the medium of choice for books, as they have the copy protection capabilities built right into the chip (same type as a DVD), which I think might ease some publisher minds on releasing e-texts into the world. I've actually given a lot of thought to organizing the files on the card (store each page as a separate file, etc.), but I won't go into that here. I also still like the idea of buying a physical book if I so choose, even though it's a memory card.

I'd like the driver for the e-ink to also be able to read back what's displayed and save it as an annotation file of some type (.png format perhaps) so that I could use a magnetized stylus (again a power passive method) to write notes on the "page" which the reader software could store and re-display later. As kind of a companion to that, it should allow displaying some sort of static reference info. as to where you are in the text so that, say, teacher and class can all (if you'll pardon the pun) be on the same page, regardless of font, magnification, and such.

I'd like to see an optional "second" page that would attach to the left edge of the base unit, for taking notes on, or displaying 2 pages at once, if someone should really want to do so.

I'd also like to see an optional, removable front-lighting system that operates similarly to the Lightwedge products. Everyone seems to be thinking "backlighting," but I really think that front-lighting is more appropriate to a paper-like display -- why bring in all the eye-strain issues associated with backlighting, when there is an arguable better, more flexible alternative?

I think there are some non-device things that will need to happen to smooth the way, not that it can't work without them, just that it will be rougher on us if they don't.

Publishers need some assurance that their IP rights will be protected (that's why I'm thinking SD cards with their copy protection capabilities).

Publishers will have to get it through their heads that if they remove the entire cost of imprint from the equation, they cannot expect to charge hardback prices for e-texts. That's just wrong, and most folks won't cooperate. They need to look at what the per-unit cost for printing books is (which they're quite aware of to the last penny, I'm sure) and drop the price for the e-text accordingly, perhaps not all the way, but close.

I, for one, would be very glad, given a serviceable reader, to trade my paper books for SD Card versions. 4MB SD chips ought to be ridiculously cheap in bulk, and since the entire collected works of Shakespeare, as a plain text file, will fit handily on a 3.5" floppy, 4MB ought to be plenty for most novels, and still leave ample space for user notes, bookmarks and such.

Last edited by NatCh; 01-30-2006 at 05:30 PM. Reason: adding something else
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Old 01-31-2006, 01:52 AM   #5
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The school think is what I'm thinking-- I used to teach and believe me, you wouldn't believe what text books cost for a primary or secondary level school-- which is why often students had "current events" texts that were ten years old.

BUT... they ahve to be cheap, and durable. If you give a block of granite to a sixth grader, and turn your back, you'll turn back around to find him looking proud of himself with a pile of granite dust.
Also, IP would be a problem, but not much of one-- schools are generally big enough targets that we don't have to worry about them trying to get in under the wire, and the units would probably be kept on the school grounds.
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Old 02-01-2006, 07:08 AM   #6
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Moleskine size. The two extra centimeters of the Illiad will be a problem in a lot of pockets, literally.
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Old 02-01-2006, 10:58 AM   #7
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One more design feature

One thing I forgot -- all the RAM should be Flash RAM, so that the thing can truly be turned off between page flips without having to reboot cold to turn the next page.
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Old 02-09-2006, 10:52 AM   #8
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Final Touch

It just occurred to me what all so-called book readers are missing, the one vital detail absolutely critical to the success of any such device: the words "Don't Panic" written on the cover in large, friendly letters.
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Old 02-10-2006, 08:41 AM   #9
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Question Can you explain?

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Originally Posted by arivero
Moleskine size. The two extra centimeters of the Illiad will be a problem in a lot of pockets, literally.
What is 'moleskine size'? (mm) Thanks!
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Old 02-10-2006, 09:00 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NatCh
It just occurred to me what all so-called book readers are missing, the one vital detail absolutely critical to the success of any such device: the words "Don't Panic" written on the cover in large, friendly letters.
Nice one!
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Old 02-12-2006, 07:44 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lexico
What is 'moleskine size'? (mm) Thanks!
According Wikipedia13×21 cm. I never measured it. I know that my moleskine is exactly the same size that my libretto CT110, and both of them fit nicely in coat pockets.
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Old 02-14-2006, 02:36 AM   #12
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Question Mole-sized computers

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Originally Posted by arivero
According Wikipedia 13×21 cm. I never measured it. I know that my moleskine is exactly the same size that my libretto CT110, and both of them fit nicely in coat pockets.
That same article also says there are two 'standard' sizes (the other being 9×14) .. can you firm the size you mean? I couldn'y find any specs. for the Libretto on the web, and 13×21 sounds big for a pocket. Thanks!
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Old 02-14-2006, 03:34 AM   #13
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Old 02-15-2006, 03:33 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lexico
That same article also says there are two 'standard' sizes (the other being 9×14) .. can you firm the size you mean? I couldn'y find any specs. for the Libretto on the web, and 13×21 sounds big for a pocket. Thanks!
Not so big, 13 centimeters in enough for most coats and jackets. Of course you do not want to wear it inside jeans, screen will bend and break.

Actually the 100CT was 13.2x21x3.5 cm
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Old 02-15-2006, 03:40 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NatCh
It just occurred to me what all so-called book readers are missing, the one vital detail absolutely critical to the success of any such device: the words "Don't Panic" written on the cover in large, friendly letters.
Check the reading in this photo

http://www.flickr.com/photos/38074672@N00/83278095/
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