Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I Wish Someone Would Invent: An E-Reader

Have you ever thought about an invention that maybe YOU can't make, but it sure would be nice if someone else did?

I wish someone would invent an inexpensive e-reader that could display high resolution static images with minimal battery power. It would be approximately the size of a letter-sized notebook, come with a cover that can be closed, and have a slot for Compact Flash cards or some other removable storage device. It would be able to display any kind of picture or document file, such as .txt, .doc, .rtf, .pdf, .jpg, and .gif. So any novel you have as a text file, Word file, or PDF could easily be read, as well as any comics or other visual storytelling. The screen would be bright white so as to easily be read in the same situations a book or magazine might be. A screen of "e-paper" would do this nicely.

The reader would come with a small CF card, like digital cameras do, which could be upgraded to any size card someone wants to buy, depending on how much information they want to carry around. The device would also have a USB port, so that information could be easily transferred to it. The reader would come with a very rudimentary word processing program, like WordPad or TextEdit, so if someone chose to write something, they could just plug in any USB keyboard to the e-reader, and type to their hearts' content.

One more thing that might add value would be to put a cellular modem in the reader (or make one that can be plugged in) so that the reader could download content from newspapers or magazines and enjoy up-to-the-minute info.

The device should be cheap, under $40 US if possible, and light. I mean, it would be my one book I'd take to a desert island; I want it to be pretty portable.

So, you want to invent it? Already know about something just like it? Got a reason why it would never work? Got some suggestions? Got your own "I Wish Someone Would Invent..."? See you in the comments!


Here is a forthcoming reader from Sony (thank you Kevin) that is basically along the same lines. No price is listed yet, but the simple design indicates that it could well be in the <$100 range. Its small screen size looks like there will be no comics to be read on there, and my cynical side says that because it's from Sony, there will probably be a very limited number of (proprietary) file formats which it will be willing to read. Time will tell; keep those fingers crossed!

UPDATE NUMBER 2: INVENTED?'s Jeff Bezos talks in this Newsweek article about the "Kindle", a new e-reader that will be coming out this year (2007) that uses e-ink and all that stuff. It will be more expensive than one would hope at $399, but it has the ability to download (almost) any book at (almost) any time via an always-on cellular network. Files are proprietary from what I understand, although I can't imagine that it couldn't read something like a Word document or a Rich Text File. There's a lot of jibberjabber in this article about changing the way people read, write, comment, and live their lives, but there's also a lot of what seems to be more sensible talk about how the feel of it will be very familiar to book readers, which I think is a real necessity when you want a lot of adherents.


Another reader hits the market soon: a reader from a company called Plastic Logic. Here at Gizmodo, they say:

Here is what the clunky Amazon Kindle should have been since the beginning: a simple, ultra-sleek full-page 8.5-inch by 11-inch electronic book and newspaper reader with a flexible plastic touchscreen, Wi-Fi connectivity, and the ability to read regular Office documents without conversion of any kind.

Looking good! It could read comics!


BlogFoot said...

Words were meant to be printed, tree hugger!

Kevin Cannon said...

There are a lot of things like that in development. Nothing as quite as cheap as $40 but that's only a matter of time. You mentioned Electronic Paper which will specifically help since it doesn't need to be powered once the image has changed.

The Sony Reader is the pretty close though now:

Anonymous said...

The Sony Reader is pretty nice, but (a) the navigation interface isn't there yet, and (b) at $300-$400, depending on what you buy to attach to it, it's not there yet on price, and (c) your cynical side was right about file formats and available content.

On the plus side the legibility is terrific, and it has a cool feel to it, so I can imagine where this will be one fine day!


Dodd Billyans said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dodd Billyans said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dodd Billyans said...

Here's my invention of the day. A thread for sewing that, when heated with a hair dryer, shrinks to 80% of its original length.

macsnafu said...

The trouble seems to be that they don't really want to support common formats like .txt and .pdf, but would prefer to make people pay for proprietary formats. My solution was a cheap, used, tablet pc, which let me read and play music at the same time, and I could switch over to Freecell when I felt like it. Unfortunately, it broke on me, and I've had a hard time replacing it. Maybe I should try the iPad.

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