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Old 09-05-2010, 06:45 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by DMcCunney View Post
As for as you're concerned, an "ereader" is a dedicated device made for that purpose, and a multifunction device that can be used to do that as well as other things doesn't qualify.

Fair enough, and I agree some precision is required. I just had an exchange elsewhere with someone using ePub to refer to electronic publishing. I squawked for the same reason: ePub is the name for a specific ebook format, and we didn't need the confusion. (I was more concerned because the person making the comment was in publishing, and should have known better. As it happens, she did, and was just using the term as a snappy punch line.)

But interestingly, Apple pushed ebooks as a use case for the iPad, and I strongly suspect that's what most early buyers do use it for.

What term would you suggest for a device that can display ebooks as well as perform other chores, especially when reading ebooks is the main use it gets? (About 2/3s of the purpose in life of my PDA is is to be a book viewer.)
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Well, first off, I have never been very good at coming up with names for things, but some of the better terms I have been able to think up are; e-tasker, tasker-reader, and multi-reader.
Also, (assuming I get to change what things mean );
E-book reader - devices that are used exclusively to read ebooks/epublications & usually don't have wireless connectivity. (Ectaco jetBook, Sony Pocket Edition)
Ereader - devices that are used as e-book readers but also can be used as limited tablets. Usually have at least WiFi. (Pandigital Novel)
Tablets - handheld computers usually/always with a touchscreen and color lcd screen. (iPad)

The trouble with that and all (that I have heard) naming designations for the ereader style devices is that there are always some that just don't fit (would the Kindle be an e-book reader or an ereader?)
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Old 09-05-2010, 07:35 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by MR. Pockets View Post
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_e-book_readers

While the terms "ereader", "ebook reader" etc, are still not clearly defined, that definition (the complete wikipedia definition is a little narrow) is what I consider an ereader to be. The iPad clearly does not fit that definition. I'm not trying to be in your face/argumentative. I just have a problem with people calling the iPad (or other tablets) an ereader.
That's by your definition. Wikipedia is by no means an authoritative source for any data set, but when defining ambiguous terms like "ereader", the truth is in the eye of the user. To me, an ereader is an "electronic reader", or anything that uses electricity to power a dynamic display which can be reasonably used to read text. Any PC is a potential ereader. An iPhone is an ereader. An iPad is an ereader. If you don't want to call it that, knock yourself out. But it's electronic, and it displays a hardback-sized and -proportioned block of text just fine. If you want to narrow your definition down to electronic devices that are only used for reading books, then you've just knocked the Kindle right out of your ereader definition, since it provides basic web browsing in addition to reading. Virtually all readers on the market today can do other things in addition to reading, such as calendar functions, to-do lists, playing games, playing music, browsing photos, browsing the web, etc.

So really, even by your definition, practically nothing on the market today is an "ereader." The marching progress of technology is going to further blur those lines in the coming years, especially as eInk turns color and gets response times fast enough for video. Quite shortly you're going to have to re-think your term definitions.
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Old 09-05-2010, 08:15 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by DMcCunney
What term would you suggest for a device that can display ebooks as well as perform other chores, especially when reading ebooks is the main use it gets? (About 2/3s of the purpose in life of my PDA is is to be a book viewer.)
Well, first off, I have never been very good at coming up with names for things, but some of the better terms I have been able to think up are; e-tasker, tasker-reader, and multi-reader.
Also, (assuming I get to change what things mean );
And you'll have to, as the field evolves.

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E-book reader - devices that are used exclusively to read ebooks/epublications & usually don't have wireless connectivity. (Ectaco jetBook, Sony Pocket Edition)
Ereader - devices that are used as e-book readers but also can be used as limited tablets. Usually have at least WiFi. (Pandigital Novel)
Tablets - handheld computers usually/always with a touchscreen and color lcd screen. (iPad)

The trouble with that and all (that I have heard) naming designations for the ereader style devices is that there are always some that just don't fit (would the Kindle be an e-book reader or an ereader?)
There are some that could fall into more than class.

Usage in this case is evolving. Particular terms will catch on and be adopted by the marketplace, even if you think (and arguably are correct) the term is wrong.

I sympathize with your concern, but I think most folks will use "ereader" as a generic term to mean whatever they happen to use to read ebooks, and it could be in any (or all) of your categories.

We'll simply have to rely on context to figure out which category of device they use, and perhaps ask if it matters and it isn't clear from context.

For practical purposes, it probably doesn't matter. And people will inevitably choose the smallest contraction that they think conveys the meaning.

I rather like "multi-reader", but might call it "multi-viewer" instead, as I see things like the iPad being used to display to display content that isn't books, like YouTube video. A friend who has one thinks of the iPad as a "media consumption device". He's quite right, but media covers sounds, pictures, and video, as well as words on a virtual page.
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Old 09-06-2010, 07:05 PM   #19
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That's by your definition.
That's exactly what I claimed it to be.
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Originally Posted by MR. Pockets View Post
While the terms "ereader", "ebook reader" etc, are still not clearly defined, that definition (the complete wikipedia definition is a little narrow) is what I consider an ereader to be.
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Wikipedia is by no means an authoritative source for any data set, but when defining ambiguous terms like "ereader", the truth is in the eye of the user.
e-book reader - A handheld device specialized for reading electronic books http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictiona...-book%20reader
ebook reader - A device designed to read digital books http://www.trueknowledge.com/q/ebook_reader
e-book reader - An e-book reader, also called an e-book device or e-reader, is an electronic device that is designed primarily for the purpose of reading digital books and periodicals and uses e-ink technology to display content to readers. http://dbpedia.org/page/Comparison_of_e-book_readers
How about those? (I didn't find ereader on any of them.) While you may not agree that those are authoritative either, the general consensus is that an ereader/ebook reader is a specifically designed for reading device/dedicated device.
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If you want to narrow your definition down to electronic devices that are only used for reading books, then you've just knocked the Kindle right out of your ereader definition, since it provides basic web browsing in addition to reading.
First, if you read my definition, you'll see that I said "...is an electronic device that is designed primarily for the purpose of reading digital books and periodicals..." not "used only for". Second, the Kindle would fit quite nicely in my definition as it is "designed primarily for reading digital books and publications". The browser, music player, etc. are secondary to the reading function.


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There are some that could fall into more than class.

Usage in this case is evolving. Particular terms will catch on and be adopted by the marketplace, even if you think (and arguably are correct) the term is wrong.

I sympathize with your concern, but I think most folks will use "ereader" as a generic term to mean whatever they happen to use to read ebooks, and it could be in any (or all) of your categories.

We'll simply have to rely on context to figure out which category of device they use, and perhaps ask if it matters and it isn't clear from context.

For practical purposes, it probably doesn't matter. And people will inevitably choose the smallest contraction that they think conveys the meaning.

I rather like "multi-reader", but might call it "multi-viewer" instead, as I see things like the iPad being used to display to display content that isn't books, like YouTube video. A friend who has one thinks of the iPad as a "media consumption device". He's quite right, but media covers sounds, pictures, and video, as well as words on a virtual page.
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I probably am too "fanatical" in defending the definition of ereader, but I just can't stand it when someone calls something an ereader when it (arguably I know) is not.

BTW, what will happen to the dedicated device when low power, color, fast refresh rate screens are available? Will they morph into small tablets? Or will they simply disappear? Or maybe something else?
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Old 09-06-2010, 09:27 PM   #20
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I probably am too "fanatical" in defending the definition of ereader, but I just can't stand it when someone calls something an ereader when it (arguably I know) is not.
I understand and sympathize with the concern. But what is and is not an ereader is an evolving concept, and not everyone will mean the same thing when they use the word.

But so what? Under what circumstances does a particular user's definition of the term really matter?

What device and software the user has make a difference when a support question arises, and what device and software the user has makes a difference when questions come up about whether particular books are available for that platform, but as long as we know what the platform is, what term the user uses to refer to it doesn't natter.

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BTW, what will happen to the dedicated device when low power, color, fast refresh rate screens are available? Will they morph into small tablets? Or will they simply disappear? Or maybe something else?
If the device is intended to display ebooks, has built in software to display them (and perhaps software and connectivity to enable getting them), what real difference does color and fast refresh bring to it?

Once reason I'm not interested in a dedicated reader is that current dedicated devices mostly don't do color, and I need color support. Among other things, I collect illustrated editions, and have ebooks with drawings or paintings by people like Caldecott, Rackham, and Wyeth. Grey scale conversion of work originally in color is not acceptable.

Differences are likely to arise down the road as the technology evolves. ePub, for example, is a container, and an ePub file can contain more than text. ePub files with embedded audio and video as well as text are possible, and as devices to display them evolve, I expect to see books that are explicitly intended to be multi-media productions.

Will they still be ebooks? Will the devices that display them be ebook readers?
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Old 09-06-2010, 09:46 PM   #21
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First, if you read my definition, you'll see that I said "...is an electronic device that is designed primarily for the purpose of reading digital books and periodicals..." not "used only for". Second, the Kindle would fit quite nicely in my definition as it is "designed primarily for reading digital books and publications". The browser, music player, etc. are secondary to the reading function.
And how are you going to adjust your view of what is an ereader and what is not as the field continues to morph into generic devices that can do everything, á la the iPad? Because you cannot be ridiculously naïve enough to actually believe that if eInk were currently available in color and with an acceptable refresh rate, Amazon and Sony would have artificially limited it to simply reading. When Mirasol devices become available in the next couple of years that have eInk characteristics but have the color and refresh to be able to acceptably browse the web with video, how do you intend to adjust your definition of "ereader"? When eInk itself gains these capabilities and Amazon's 4th or 5th generation Kindle is essentially an iPad with an eInk screen, are you going to yank your hair out with irritation at everyone calling their multipurpose eInk devices "ereaders" because they're color and are basically just tablet computers?

Thus, your irritation is pedantic. When the iPad is held in a portrait aspect ratio, it essentially mimics a printed page from a hardback book. If I buy the iPad primarily to read books, considering its other functions as a web browser to be secondary because I don't use those functions hardly at all (I bought my iPad as simply hands-down the best and most functional PDF ereader on the market today - yes, I said ereader!), does that not make it the perfect ereader for me?

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I probably am too "fanatical" in defending the definition of ereader
Ya think?

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but I just can't stand it when someone calls something an ereader when it (arguably I know) is not.
If you've got these problems now, then you're going to have serious palpitation issues in about 5 years...
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Old 09-06-2010, 10:33 PM   #22
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Did people argue and bicker back and forth about the good old days before writing?

"In the old days you had REAL stories told by REAL story tellers. Not these clay tablets and..."

"These things with moving pictures! It's hard to sit in a dark for more than 20 minutes and watch them. They're bad for the eyes, I tell you! The ONLY real entertainment is people on a stage!"

The computer is an ereader. The iPad is an ereader. The PDA is an ereader. What ever YOU or THEY want to read books on is an ereader.

There is no one device that is perfect for everybody! There will never be one device that is perfect for everybody!

My first ereader was my computer. My first ebook came on a cd from Baen’s hardcover/CD combo 1634: The Baltic War in 2007.

The last thing we need is a war over what is, and what isn't an ereader. Just read the type of books you like on the reader of your choice.


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The bundling idea was stolen from one of my mobileread threads. As usual, with the NYT.

http://www.mobileread.com/forums/sho...ghlight=bundle
Sorry Fat Abe. See the 2007 book above. YOU stole it from Baen.
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Old 09-07-2010, 12:33 AM   #23
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If the device is intended to display ebooks, has built in software to display them (and perhaps software and connectivity to enable getting them), what real difference does color and fast refresh bring to it?
I guess I'm just afraid that they will lose the focus of being primarily a device for reading on, and just tag the reader part on to all the other cool stuff. One reason I like the Kindle so much is that Amazon has shown itself to be dedicated to the Kindle being an ereader first and foremost. But will that change once ereaders have the option of adding other things (like video)?

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When eInk itself gains these capabilities and Amazon's 4th or 5th generation Kindle is essentially an iPad with an eInk screen, are you going to yank your hair out with irritation at everyone calling their multipurpose eInk devices "ereaders" because they're color and are basically just tablet computers?
By then what an ereader is will have changed. They will still be easy on the eyes, and (hopefully) still be devoted to being an ereader, not a mini computer. I personally won't be happy with an "ereader" that thinks it is a "mini computer"/tablet until they can be and still be great at reading on (good interface mainly).

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Thus, your irritation is pedantic. When the iPad is held in a portrait aspect ratio, it essentially mimics a printed page from a hardback book. If I buy the iPad primarily to read books, considering its other functions as a web browser to be secondary because I don't use those functions hardly at all (I bought my iPad as simply hands-down the best and most functional PDF ereader on the market today - yes, I said ereader!), does that not make it the perfect ereader for me?
For you, yes, but for most (I'll admit I'm guessing here) people, reading on a backlit screen for any long period of time is unbearable. I bought an ereader partly because I can't stand to read on a computer screen for long at all. So, yes, for you it is great, but for a lot of people it wouldn't work at all.

BTW, can you explain to me why anyone would choose PDF as the format of choice over, say, ePub or Mobi?
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Old 09-07-2010, 01:28 AM   #24
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I guess I'm just afraid that they will lose the focus of being primarily a device for reading on, and just tag the reader part on to all the other cool stuff. One reason I like the Kindle so much is that Amazon has shown itself to be dedicated to the Kindle being an ereader first and foremost. But will that change once ereaders have the option of adding other things (like video)?
And if it can still display ebooks just as it always did, but can do other things as well, does that lack of focus really matter?

As mentioned, I read ebooks on a multi-function device. That's a reason I'm not interested in a dedicated reader: I want a device that can do other things as well. Most of what I do with my primary reading device is read ebooks, but the fact that it does other things is extremely useful. I have a PDA and a cell phone that go with me everywhere. I'm not going to carry a phone, a PDA, and a reader.

(I'm not interested in a converged device that is PDA and cell phone. Most of them don't have screens large enough to suit me, and a device with a large enough screen is likely to be unwieldy as a phone.)

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By then what an ereader is will have changed. They will still be easy on the eyes, and (hopefully) still be devoted to being an ereader, not a mini computer. I personally won't be happy with an "ereader" that thinks it is a "mini computer"/tablet until they can be and still be great at reading on (good interface mainly).
I'd be happy with a hand held computer that thinks it's an ereader. In fact, I am.

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For you, yes, but for most (I'll admit I'm guessing here) people, reading on a backlit screen for any long period of time is unbearable. I bought an ereader partly because I can't stand to read on a computer screen for long at all. So, yes, for you it is great, but for a lot of people it wouldn't work at all.
You are guessing. I have no problems reading on a backlit screen (and my device is readable outdoors if I turn off the backlight, which it will let me do.)

It's highly subjective. Some folks have problems with backlit screens and prefer an eInk display. Others don't. I'm in the latter category.

But all the evidence I've seen has been anecdotal, and I have no hard numbers to suggest which approach works for the majority of the market. I do suspect a lot of people who bought dedicated readers would be just as comfortable if they were backlit - the selling point for eInk is battery life. Once a page is displayed on an eInk screen, no power is required to maintain it. On a backlit device, a continual trickle of power is needed to refresh the display, and lighting the screen is the largest single use of power on the device.

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BTW, can you explain to me why anyone would choose PDF as the format of choice over, say, ePub or Mobi?
It depends upon the source material.

PDFs have two major problems on most ereader devices. First, most PDFs are not created with the tagging that allows the viewer to intelligently reflow the text to fit the display. The PDF is created with an implicit assumption about the size of the display it will be viewed on. Second, a lot of material issued in PDF form is stuff you wouldn't want it to reflow, as it would destroy the document. (Consider documents with multiple columns.)

For works that are simple text with inline illustrations, a reflowable PDF might work, if the text reflowed to fit the display and the images scaled appropriately. Most stuff in PDF format does not fit that description.

The advantage to a PDF is that it exactly reproduces a printed page. If your document has fancy layout and formatting, or uses specific fonts, PDF is your choice. Think about textbooks, and ask yourself how many you've seen that you think would work as a Mobi or ePub document. (The Kindle DX with the larger display and PDF display capability is intended precisely for that sort of use case.)

I have a fair bit of stuff in PDF format, most computer tech stuff. It probably would not work as a Mobipocket or ePub file for the reasons mentioned. So be it. I don't try to read them on my PDA, even though I can. Sideways scrolling is painful.
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Old 09-07-2010, 09:37 AM   #25
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One reason I like the Kindle so much is that Amazon has shown itself to be dedicated to the Kindle being an ereader first and foremost. But will that change once ereaders have the option of adding other things (like video)?
Well, of course it will. When you have a device that is capable of rich media in addition to merely displaying text, why would Amazon or any other company artificially limit it to text display? That's just leaving money on the table - marketing an ereader with the ability to also browse the full-on web with email, etc., is a huge plus. Are you saying you would refuse to buy such a product simply because it had those added capabilities in addition to being able to read books? Because then, you know, ah, you sort of have, well, an iPad... Hmmm.

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By then what an ereader is will have changed. They will still be easy on the eyes, and (hopefully) still be devoted to being an ereader, not a mini computer. I personally won't be happy with an "ereader" that thinks it is a "mini computer"/tablet until they can be and still be great at reading on (good interface mainly).
So when we boil through all the chaff, what you're really saying is your definition of an ereader is something with an eInk screen. So long as the product has eInk versus LCD, you'll happily adjust your personal definition (and consequent level of irritation) to accommodate a newer generation of products that bill themselves as readers, but with all the capabilities of a tablet computer (but shhhh, we're keeping that part a secret; even though this new 5th generation Kindle is basically an iPad with an eInk screen, we don't want to call it a tablet, because that might offend the pedants on MobileRead - we need to keep calling it a reader so those people won't think it's a tablet, even though every single last one of them who buys it from us is going to use it just like a tablet...).

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For you, yes, but for most (I'll admit I'm guessing here) people, reading on a backlit screen for any long period of time is unbearable. I bought an ereader partly because I can't stand to read on a computer screen for long at all. So, yes, for you it is great, but for a lot of people it wouldn't work at all.
Yet again, truth is in the eye of the user (literally). This tiresome debate over LCD versus eInk has raged here on MR for ages. You're certainly not the first, and equally certainly won't be the last, on MR to basically make the claim that anything that isn't eInk can't possibly be useful for reading books. However, the truth is that reading backlit LCD doesn't bother vast swaths of the reading public, and some (*gasp*) even prefer it! I've used both, and they both have their pluses. I like the way eInk looks on the screen, just like text. It's a nifty effect. It doesn't make it easier for me to read, and it does have the drawback of requiring an external light source, which is at times most inconvenient. I've come to the conclusion that I prefer LCD for the time being, and if Apple does ever produce either a second generation iPad or a 7" iPad-like device with a super high-density display like the iPhone 4, that will make it a perfect reader for me. But of course, we can't call it a reader. Not until Amazon makes a Kindle with a high pixel density color eInk screen with high refresh to make the full-on web possible on it. But then, since it's eInk...that will make it a reader. Got it.

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BTW, can you explain to me why anyone would choose PDF as the format of choice over, say, ePub or Mobi?
Because ePub and Mobi are child-like efforts at typography that produce disgusting formatting that is so entirely irritating and distracting that a satisfying reading experience is simply impossible for me. To me, part of reading a well-written book is the appreciation of the visual art of good typography. EPub and Mobi are years away from being able to do that. The formatted text produced by these infantile layout engines looks like something a kid slapped together on TextEdit. But then, that's just me.
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Old 09-07-2010, 10:01 AM   #26
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BTW, can you explain to me why anyone would choose PDF as the format of choice over, say, ePub or Mobi?
Unfortunately, the 'anyone' you refer to is the publisher of the documents I want to read, not me, so I have no choice.

Those publishers doubtless have multiple reasons; control over formatting has already been mentioned above. One of the key reasons for the material I buy is that the publisher also sells the same books in hardcover format. It's going to be a lot cheaper to produce the PDFs from the existing files than to lay the documents out again with new formatting designed for a smaller screen, or with additional features added.

The same publisher also runs a POD service for PDFs that prove popular. That is only possible if the eBook version is laid out as a printed page.

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Old 09-07-2010, 11:27 AM   #27
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One reason I like the Kindle so much is that Amazon has shown itself to be dedicated to the Kindle being an ereader first and foremost. But will that change once ereaders have the option of adding other things (like video)?
Well, of course it will. When you have a device that is capable of rich media in addition to merely displaying text, why would Amazon or any other company artificially limit it to text display? That's just leaving money on the table - marketing an ereader with the ability to also browse the full-on web with email, etc., is a huge plus. Are you saying you would refuse to buy such a product simply because it had those added capabilities in addition to being able to read books? Because then, you know, ah, you sort of have, well, an iPad... Hmmm.
There was a New York Times report that the Amazon unit that designed the Kindle was working on other things, and devices intended to consume other media might be on the way. I think it likely: Amazon is the world's largest catalog retailer, and electronic content is compelling. If it can be delivered electronically, warehousing and distribution costs go away, and the infrastructure already exists to provide fulfillment.

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Because ePub and Mobi are child-like efforts at typography that produce disgusting formatting that is so entirely irritating and distracting that a satisfying reading experience is simply impossible for me. To me, part of reading a well-written book is the appreciation of the visual art of good typography. EPub and Mobi are years away from being able to do that. The formatted text produced by these infantile layout engines looks like something a kid slapped together on TextEdit. But then, that's just me.
I concur with reservations.

I was a print designer/production guy once upon a time, and love good typography. Current ebook offerings are distinctly limited in what you can do, and the platform on which you do it may impose further limits.

For most of what I read on my PDA, it doesn't matter. I'm not going to see the fonts the designer specified, because they won't exist on the device. My concern is that what I do see will be readable.

Mobi is limited because it's essentially an encapsulated subset of HTML. ePub is rather more capable because it's a container, and while it has HTML under the hood, it can hold more than text and images. But neither will reproduce the printed page as precisely as a PDF.

Again, it normally doesn't matter. Text is displayed in a readable form, and the viewer software gives me some degree of control over formatting. It won't look like the printed book, but it doesn't have to.

For stuff where it does matter, I can use a PDF. I simply don't try to read it on my handheld.
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Old 09-07-2010, 02:29 PM   #28
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And if it can still display ebooks just as it always did, but can do other things as well, does that lack of focus really matter?

As mentioned, I read ebooks on a multi-function device. That's a reason I'm not interested in a dedicated reader: I want a device that can do other things as well. Most of what I do with my primary reading device is read ebooks, but the fact that it does other things is extremely useful. I have a PDA and a cell phone that go with me everywhere. I'm not going to carry a phone, a PDA, and a reader.
Well, I have tried several ereader "apps" and have found them all to be quite inferior to dedicated ereaders as far as the interface goes. If later ereaders lose the focus of being primarily for reading on (or at least reading on them being a large part of their job), I'm afraid they will become harder to use for reading. Yes, multi-purpose devices are nice, but they generally do lots of things in an inferior manner to dedicated devices. Some people are fine with that, but I don't really need the other stuff (yes, it is really cool to have a "do-everything" device).

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You are guessing. I have no problems reading on a backlit screen (and my device is readable outdoors if I turn off the backlight, which it will let me do.)

It's highly subjective. Some folks have problems with backlit screens and prefer an eInk display. Others don't. I'm in the latter category.
Apart from a few folks on here, I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't have a problem reading (for long periods) on a backlit screen. That's why I said "most".

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Well, of course it will. When you have a device that is capable of rich media in addition to merely displaying text, why would Amazon or any other company artificially limit it to text display? That's just leaving money on the table - marketing an ereader with the ability to also browse the full-on web with email, etc., is a huge plus. Are you saying you would refuse to buy such a product simply because it had those added capabilities in addition to being able to read books? Because then, you know, ah, you sort of have, well, an iPad... Hmmm.
I'm not saying that they should be limited to only displaying text. The Kindle can do several things (music player, web browsing), but, it makes sure that it is a good ereader before it considers the other things.

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So when we boil through all the chaff, what you're really saying is your definition of an ereader is something with an eInk screen. So long as the product has eInk versus LCD, you'll happily adjust your personal definition (and consequent level of irritation) to accommodate a newer generation of products that bill themselves as readers, but with all the capabilities of a tablet computer (but shhhh, we're keeping that part a secret; even though this new 5th generation Kindle is basically an iPad with an eInk screen, we don't want to call it a tablet, because that might offend the pedants on MobileRead - we need to keep calling it a reader so those people won't think it's a tablet, even though every single last one of them who buys it from us is going to use it just like a tablet...).
Not at all. My current (main) ereader is the Aluratek Libre, which uses an LCD screen. Most of today's ereaders do have E-Ink screens, but there are several that don't that are still ereaders (Novel, The Book, etc). The difference between them and the iPad is that they focus on being devices for reading on.

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Old 09-07-2010, 09:34 PM   #29
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Well, I have tried several ereader "apps" and have found them all to be quite inferior to dedicated ereaders as far as the interface goes. If later ereaders lose the focus of being primarily for reading on (or at least reading on them being a large part of their job), I'm afraid they will become harder to use for reading. Yes, multi-purpose devices are nice, but they generally do lots of things in an inferior manner to dedicated devices. Some people are fine with that, but I don't really need the other stuff (yes, it is really cool to have a "do-everything" device).
Which ones?

I have an assortment here, including Mobipocket for the PC and for Palm OS, eReader for the PC and Palm OS, Plucker for Palm OS, The Kindle and nook apps for the PC, the eBook Viewer app for eBookwise IMP files, FBReader (a cross platform app for Windows, Linux, and other platforms supporting a variety of ebook formats, several different PDF viewers for Windows and Linux, and an assortment of miscellaneous other things.

There are some basics I demand of any such app. The first is that it properly display the ebook formats it's designed to read. The second is that it gives me some control over the precise display of the content, allowing me to adjust what fonts are used, the font display size, the line spacing and margins, and the amount of margin used. The third is that it provides some means of classifying and categorizing the books, so I don't necessarily see one huge list of all 4,000+ plus volumes in my electronic library, and can sort books by user defined criteria, and display only specified subsets of my library according to selection criteria I specify.

Of course, I want acceptable performance when I am reading a book, with commands to let me navigate through the book, find specific sections of text, and set bookmarks. And I want the ability to follow hyperlinks and display images in the text, scaled to fit the screen.

Most of what I use can do those things, though there are differences in precisely how the app does it, and I am sometimes constrained by the underlying platform.

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Apart from a few folks on here, I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't have a problem reading (for long periods) on a backlit screen. That's why I said "most".
It's still anecdotal evidence. You may well be right that the majority of the market will like a non-backlit screen better, but at the moment there's no real evidence either way.

I do wonder, however, if the type of content being read has an effect on this. Almost everyone reading ebooks on whatever device also has a computer, either desktop or laptop, that they use for web surfing, email, videos and the like. They are also likely to have and use a computer at the office as part of their job. So they'll wind up spending quite a few hours in any particular day looking at a backlit screen and reading what's displayed on it.

People reading ebooks are reading large masses of continuous text, whether it is fiction or non-fiction, and the text is all related and part of the same content stream, unlike the more scattered text viewed in standard PC usage, where the presentation and topics vary widely, and you aren't reading a lot of text about any particular thing.

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I'm not saying that they should be limited to only displaying text. The Kindle can do several things (music player, web browsing), but, it makes sure that it is a good ereader before it considers the other things
That's a matter of software. It's also in part constrained by the deice it's implemented on. For instance, I can read Mobipocket format ebooks on my PDA and on my desktop and laptop, but the Mobi software on the PCs can do things the version on the PDA cannot, because the PDA platform does not support the operations.

Platform, format, and software are all moving targets.

But I don't see what a dedicated reader that acquires other capabilities should become worse for reading. If it still does what it did before the same way it did it then, and you found the existing behavior acceptable, how would the ability to do other things as well damage that?
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Old 09-07-2010, 09:59 PM   #30
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I'm not saying that they should be limited to only displaying text. The Kindle can do several things (music player, web browsing), but, it makes sure that it is a good ereader before it considers the other things.
So we still seem to be having a problem zeroing in on precisely what it is that defines a product as an ereader. It's not the screen. It's not that it limits itself to doing only text display. It is, then, in the quality of the particular app on the device that displays the text, is what you seem to be saying. For you recognize, I assume, that every ereader on the market is simply a computer running an app that displays that text to you (this is partially what makes the unswerving focus on "it cannot be an ereader if it's a tablet" so amusing: every reader on the market, whether the Kindle or the Sony or what-have-you is exactly what irritates you the most: they are all tablet computers running apps, they merely hide that from you by limiting what apps you are allowed to see and use at any given time).

So anyhoo, given that all ereaders are not at all functionally different from your nemesis, the iPad, it seems in the end that two things define your sense of what is an ereader and what is not: (a) the reading app is of high quality, and, apparently just as importantly, (b) it has the word "ereader" stamped somewhere on the casing or the box.

Now, considering (a) first, it would seem that in all reality, the quality of the reading app is actually of very little importance for the device to be termed an ereader. For example, take the Sony 505. This is, you may or may not realize, a tablet PC running Linux as its OS. I'm sure by this point you are thoroughly horrified. But to press on: if you peruse MR on this particular ereader (although I'm not exactly clear on whether we can still call it that, but its box does have that word printed on it somewhere, so I believe we're still on safe ground here), you will find that a goodly number of folks consider the ePub rendering capabilities of the 505 to be fairly sub-par. Not really the highest quality out there. If you then compare that to the iPad's native ePub and PDF app, iBooks, you are left with the distinct impression that there are good things and bad things about both. The two apps, the 505's unnamed app and iBooks, are both fairly simple ePub renderers with limitations that may or may not be important to the particular end user. Consequently, since we can roughly conclude that the iBooks app is generally on par with the quality of the 505's reading app, but the 505 is an "ereader" whereas the iPad is not, we seem to have determined that the actual quality of the reading app is not what defines a device as an ereader.

As nearly as I can determine, then, the only thing that truly defines a product as an "ereader" is, um, well, whether it has the word "ereader" stamped somewhere on the box. That is, without doubt, an interesting methodology you have there for determining a product's market potential. I would assume, then, that if Apple had printed the word "ereader" on the box, you would happily extol its virtues to the ereader community?
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