eBook reader – I think I’ll pass!

Posted on 12/29/2009 @ 11:12 AM in #Non Techie by | Feedback | 1622 views

It is time for a that rare non-technical blog post. I've had numerous discussions with people both online and offline about the value of ebook readers. I have many friends who were completely sold on the value of ebook reader. I have considered an ebook reader myself. I'm one of those people who dumps paper as soon as I can, in fact I didn't even own a printer for many years. I recently bought a printer only because it had a scanner I still never see myself printing stuff, unless I need to physically sign and scan it again.

My main purpose of getting in ebook reader was to make use of flying time, or commuting time. In the train or in an airplane I could read the ebook reader without having the batteries run out on me. Sounds perfect right?

But as I see it there are a number of disadvantages in getting an ebook reader.

1. I almost never read non-technical stuff. Almost everything I read has code in it. The only ebook reader I know that can display code properly is the Kindle-DX. It costs $500, which is a deterrent, but if it didn't have other problems, the cost wouldn't be such a big deal.

2. When I read code I find myself scanning and flipping pages frequently. Scanning and flipping pages is something that is a huge annoyance on e-paper screens.

3. Most of the content that I read personally, is available as blogs, articles, or magazines. It is not available as full books. Kindle wants to nickel and dime me into paying for every web site I read. I don't see why I should have to pay for content that is otherwise available for free - not to mention I do know that reading on my iPhone anyway. The nook doesn't even offer that.

4. When I read technical stuff, I almost never find myself reading for more than an hour or so without wanting to try stuff out on a real computer. If I don't try it, it doesn't sink in my head. You can't do that with an ebook reader but you can do that with a laptop.

5. A lot of information ingestion that I do these days is in the form of audio and video. eBook reader is not a good device for audio and video.

6. The one big advantage of some eBook reader is that I don't have to carry tonnes of paper books. I don't do that anyway. You do have kindle for PC, and a PC also has a PDF reader.

7. Lets be realistic, the price of $500 for an eBook reader is pretty damn high. I don't care what the reasons are, its high. For that much money I'd rather buy a net book with a 10 hour battery life, and do my reading on a platform that at least allows easy scrolling and CTRL_F finding. I don't like the screen resolutions of most netbooks though.

8. The three week battery life is perhaps an advantage. But I've never been away from electricity for more than a few hours at a time. The worst case scenario is when I fly over the Atlantic, and for some crazy reason German airports don't like me stealing their electricity to charge my laptop. So at best, a battery life of 10 hours is more than sufficient for my needs. Three weeks is an overkill!

9. Y’know that fancy e-paper that is not supposed to strain your eyes, because LCDs refresh too much? That’s a lie! Human eyes cannot detect anything that flips > 20 images a second anyway. LCDs refresh 120 times a second, and they don’t go “off/on” 120 times a second. Sure the lighting is not passive, there is a light behind the LCD screen, but just make sure you have some ambient light around you – and you’ll be fine. But, don’t believe me – ask your eye doctor.

So in short, all things considered, I didn't get an eBook reader. What I am excited however about is the upcoming apple tablet. I have been waiting for this for many years now. The windows tablet is cool, but most windows tablets weigh more than 2 pounds and have a battery life measured in minutes. The apple tablet I'm hoping will be in the half pound range, and battery life in the 5 hour range.

If the apple tablet can do videos, a full-fledged iTunes (I really dislike iTunes for windows), skype and MSN messenger with video, and most importantly PDFs, it truly would be a very compelling device. Now for a device like that, even if it did cost up to $1000, I think it's worth it.

But then of course this mythical unicorn, the apple tablet may never release. Until then I'm quite contended with my laptop, and instead of buying the Kindle-DX. The only issue with the laptop is the battery life. Earlier, I was talking with Chris Sells about my battery problems, and he told  me that he carries a number of spare laptop batteries with him. Y'know, it's not such a bad idea! So, instead of spending $500 on a kindleDX, I spent $50 on a new battery! Problem solved.

Sound off but keep it civil:

Older comments..

On 12/29/2009 12:28:20 PM Joel said ..
Excellent points, sir.

I think for your situation, something like the mythical Apple tablet is more appropriate. I am excited to see what they come up with. A hybrid of a laptop/eBook/tablet would be pretty cool, if they can pull off the navigation properly.

That's my biggest gripe with the eBook: navigation. It's great for reading books in a linear fashion, like my wife does. But horrible for reading anything else, like a newspaper, magazine, or reference material.

On 12/29/2009 1:38:19 PM Sahil Malik said ..
EXACTLY! And maybe the reference thing is solvable .. but who reads page after page after page in a linear fashion, at least in techie books!?

On 12/29/2009 5:53:07 PM Blubby the Grandulous said ..
This is an interesting (but expensive) portable power solution as well - not sure how the battery life is compared to a spare laptop battery though:


I've also seen it come in Duracell branding.

On 12/30/2009 2:37:18 AM Kathy said ..
I'm a voracious reader, and I source my books from everywhere - libraries, charity shops, second-hand book stores, borrowing from friends etc. My situation is this - we're planning an overseas trip next year (Melbourne to London)and I'd have to pack an extra bag of books to keep myself amused during that trip. So I'm thinking of buying an ebook reader purely for the journey. I certainly won't ever be weaned off my love of the book, though!

On 1/3/2010 7:03:53 AM Ravi Gokulgandhi said ..
I personally think books are best read on paper and every other information is available online. I do not anyways carry more than one book with me when I travel, and use my mobile for reading online stuff, if required. I tried my best to fit Kindle in my must have and nice to have list but could not figure a significant position anywhere.

On 1/11/2010 3:33:21 PM Ybbest said ..
They are different.Ebook reader is the future of book reading.Believe or not.Your kids or your grand kids will ask you what is a paper book.Why putting a book on paper?