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Old 09-28-2009, 01:39 AM   #1
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Daydreaming about future ebook readers.

I’ve been mulling over in my mind features that could make up a “one ebook per child” type of reader. Not looking into the distant future— 5 to 10 years down the road, and something that could be built for a low price (sub-$100, preferably sub-$50) at that time using entirely plausible technologies. It would have to be sturdy, survive shocks, and spills. It would have a vast library of books built into it, and be able to be charged in areas without regular access to electricity.

I’m thinking, it would need flexible polymer eink touchscreen display (not so that you can actually bend the unit, but so that it can survive drops and bumps in ways that glass can’t) and a polymer battery (same reason.) There could possibly be some membrane buttons for alternate input, or it may be touchscreen only. The back of the unit would be covered with flexible thin-film solar panels for recharging the unit in the sunlight.

The whole unit would need to be sealed in a watertight casing to survive spills, rain, drops in puddles, etc. Which would, of course, rule out USB ports, AC plugs, and headphone jacks. So for recharging (other than the necessarily slow solar panels), it would use an inductive charger. Data transfers to and from a computer (and possibly another ebook reader) would be via Wireless USB (480 Mbit/s.) Wireless headphones could be used via Blootooth or possibly also by Wireless USB. Longer range (but lower bandwidth) connectivity would be via Wi-Fi. Each radio frequency technology included would be able to be switched off to maximize battery life.

Memory would be vastly larger than what is installed today—already there are 64 GB USB flash drives, and the first 128 GB ones are starting to appear. It would not be at all unreasonable to put 128 GB of memory on the reader. It should come preloaded with as many public domain books as can be fit into memory while allowing for plenty of room for personal documents and purchased books. Maybe around a hundred thousand books-- drawn from Gutenberg, Google, and the Internet Archives-- would be a good round number. It also would have a portable subset of Wikipedia and possibly Wiktionary. Of course, books and resources could be added or subtracted depending on the target language of the end users.

Here’s a video of a (very basic) mockup:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cVnV2nZ7RI

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Old 09-28-2009, 02:31 AM   #2
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In ten years I envision a device, worn on the wrist like a watch, that will be a link to a home personal computer. This link would use a holographic display, visible to only one side for privacy, connecting all of a person's communication and entertainment needs. No longer requiring several devices for telephony, music, Internet, video, reading, etc., and being no larger than a wrist watch, this device would be completely solid state so breakage would not be a problem, and powered by a rice-sized fuel cell lasting 5 years or more.

'Dick Tracy's' wrist radio was a dream just a few years ago...

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Old 09-28-2009, 08:20 AM   #3
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I too also daydream an era in which companies put a lot of features, don't mark up the price, and get no Return on Investment for their Investors when they sell their products.
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Old 09-28-2009, 08:30 AM   #4
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I too also daydream an era in which companies put a lot of features, don't mark up the price, and get no Return on Investment for their Investors when they sell their products.
pfftt... Yah, that'll be the day investors accept to go no ROI on a product

As for what future ebook readers will supply. No idea, what I would like to see is a true standard for format to evolve, and everyone fricking stiking to it!

And no DRM in any shape or form!

And for all that is holy.... ERGONOMICS! for crying out loud, how hard can it be to actually put some thought into the ergonomics of a e-book reader. Most readers seem to think that people have fingers that are as agile as the snout of an anteater or the arms of a squid or something.

Apart from that, we will probably just see faster ereaders with more memory and better screens.
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Old 09-28-2009, 09:40 AM   #5
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you're wanting this for under $100? I suppose that the economics of scale might bring the basic readers down to under that in relative dollars at some point, but right now it looks like a lot of sunshine to pack something with all those features for that price point.

But as you say, this is dreaming...
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Old 09-28-2009, 11:05 AM   #6
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Those of you scoffing at the price-- have you actually ever BOUGHT electronics before? I paid over $100 for my first portable CD player used and that was a bargain. Now I've seen them for under 10 bucks (but a similar build quality to my first one, which took 6 or 8 AAA batteries, would set you back maybe 20 bucks.) You can buy mainstream, brand name mid-range complete computer systems for less money than I paid for my first 256 MB stick of RAM. Find a computer magazine from 10 years ago, or 20 years ago. Find prices for early TVs, and VCRs, and DVD players (and then adjust those prices for inflation.) You aren't only being short-sighted when you don't realize that ebook readers will PLUNGE in price over the years, you are being blind.

I'm old enough to remember when all laptop computers (which were too big to be called "notebooks") had monochrome displays, because color displays (after at first not existing yet) were too expensive to market except at the stratospherically high price range. Then came the expensive passive matrix color displays (slow refresh, washed out colors.) Then came the even more expensive active matrix displays, which looked better, but meant a laptop cost multiple thousands. Now? A photo frame with a display as large as (and likely clearer than) once made a laptop cost $5000 now can be bought at your local Wal-Mart for a hundred bucks.

The 6 inch eInk displays are quoted as costing 60 bucks each. That isn't too bad, for a new technology, ran by a company with a monopoly on the tech. But there is no reason whatsoever that price shouldn't drop below $5 when the technology is mature, there is competition, and there is market to sell large numbers of displays (and the factories are sourced to the 3rd world.)

Same goes with flash memory-- prices are constantly plunging. You can buy a gigabyte flash drive for far less than the price of the first 8 megabyte one. A few years down the road, do you actually believe that 64 GB or 128 GB won't be a commodity item sold alongside pens and envelops at your local grocery store, like 2 GB, 4 GB, 8 GB ones are today?

If we do not manage to destroy ourselves somehow, then we have a long future ahead of us-- and we are currently using what are amongst the most primitive, most clumsy, and most expensive ebook readers that will ever be made. 10 years from now people will look at the current hottest, shiniest, most expensive ebook readers the same way we look at the electronic from 1999-- as clumsy, weak, expensive dinosaurs. (Meet my first MP3 player: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rio_PMP300)

Last edited by ardeegee; 09-28-2009 at 11:07 AM.
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Old 09-28-2009, 11:11 AM   #7
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Yeah, I paid some unghodly sum for my first scientific calculator, only to see the price drop drastically the next week. I would love for the price to plummet, but right before I decide to upgrade, this time, please...

As to the reader you envision, I think is it a wonderful idea. The ability to get literature out to people, especially kids, cheaply is quite an honorable goal. The content would be up for debate, since a lot of the PD stuff would not be appreciated by people until they reach an age where "classics" can be appreciated rather than dreaded.
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Old 09-28-2009, 11:31 AM   #8
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As to the reader you envision, I think is it a wonderful idea. The ability to get literature out to people, especially kids, cheaply is quite an honorable goal. The content would be up for debate, since a lot of the PD stuff would not be appreciated by people until they reach an age where "classics" can be appreciated rather than dreaded.
I started thinking about it after (last week, I know the article is older than that) reading the poet moaning about all those horrible Kindle owners ripping the books out of the hands of poor children and stomping on them.

http://www.edrants.com/sherman-alexi...itist-charges/

(Okay, that is paraphrasing.)

But if there was an effort to get loaded ebook readers into the hands of poor children (buyable by the richer poor, some sort of charity effort like One Laptop Per Child for the real poor.) Then the readers could represent the greatest access to books ever.
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Old 09-28-2009, 06:18 PM   #9
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The potential to spread knowledge using ebooks is just so incredible and exciting. Instead of a poor child having limited access to books, a single e-reader device could give them HUNDREDS of books for free from the public domain. There's nothing better than giving a child the opportunity to learn in such a way.

Such a device would need to be rugged (as you mentioned), cheap and ideally be able to handle software upgrades. It wouldn't even have wifi or anything, just a simple charger and a usb port. A very simple device so it can be sold for $50.
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Old 09-28-2009, 06:58 PM   #10
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Let's not loose sight of the dollar issue...
True, 10 years ago a 20G hard drive cost as much as an entire laptop sells for today, but by the time an affordable device comes into existence, a cup of coffee at Starbucks will sell for $150.00!

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Old 09-28-2009, 07:16 PM   #11
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I mentioned 128 GB flash memory drives now coming to market-- I forgot that there is already a 256 GB model:

http://www.usbmemorysticks.net/secur...n-datatraveler

Around $400 on Amazon now for a 128 GB drive (as low as $240 on Ebay if it is a reliable source), but several years down the road, they should be maybe $20 or less. The high-end USB flash drives then will be measured in terabytes.

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Old 09-28-2009, 08:28 PM   #12
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Let's not loose sight of the dollar issue...
True, 10 years ago a 20G hard drive cost as much as an entire laptop sells for today, but by the time an affordable device comes into existence, a cup of coffee at Starbucks will sell for $150.00!
Coffee at Starbucks was 20c a cup 10 years ago?

I think my maths/logic circuit is dead today.
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Old 09-29-2009, 11:30 AM   #13
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I see the future of ebookreaders/all computers going to wareable compuer glasses that will overlay images over your feild of view. once you take the need of size/portably no reson you cant have a once size fits all model.

I think it more 10-15 years for something like this however. the computer will not be in the glasses for some time just the screen.
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Old 09-29-2009, 12:22 PM   #14
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I see the future of ebookreaders/all computers going to wareable compuer glasses that will overlay images over your feild of view. once you take the need of size/portably no reson you cant have a once size fits all model.
Versions of those have been around for a long time (I remember prototypes in the news at least as early as the early 1990s.)

Here's a try from 2002:

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,667638,00.asp

and one from 2000:

http://www.ingentaconnect.com/conten...00036/art00025

But-- maybe we can expect the iGlasses soon:

http://www.tuaw.com/2008/04/17/new-h...tent-surfaces/
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Old 09-29-2009, 03:06 PM   #15
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Oh I like the idea of the display as a set of glasses. On the way this fall apparently, where you can see the world through your digitial experience.

Now combine that with Geodata and some funky overlays and you have a pretty cool info system.......

"And if you look the the right you will see the Hancock Center and I can overlay the structural and tourist information data if you require." said my glasses..........

http://www.vuzix.com/iwear/products_wrap920.html
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