On December 23 I met with a friend to see an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum but afterwards he had to run a quick errand and we found ourselves amidst the last minute shopping insanity in Manhattan: the #1 no-go area that day if you don't want to loose your mind.
Passing by Sony's HQ, it was hard not to stop and peruse their e.book Reader that even has its own Wikipedia entry (encyclopedia entries as ads?). It's a small handheld device with a black & white screen. It was hard to believe that it's not paper. Just like the Gizmodo staff I mistook the real thing for a card board demo version. The screen is really quite remarkable in its similarity to paper.
You can switch between books, mark passages, and change the font size. At a recent anniversary event of Slate magazine the argument came up that the evolution of digital reading devices such as this one would push online journals and make them more of a serious competition for print journals such as The New Yorker.
What's the potential of such e.book readers? I have no desire to give up my personal library and have that 1965 edition of my favorite book on an external hard drive. Who does not love the smell of printed pages or the dog-eared paperback? Similar to movies, however, there is much financial promise in selling books digitally, without actually having to move any books or even invest material in the production process. You can sell millions of books without loosing a dime. Sounds like a good business model, eh? That's all very tempting for corporate executives. But what could be useful for the reader/user? For one, it's ridiculous that SONY still pushes its dopey Mac bias. (The thing is only available for PC.) I'm sure that there will be some third party application to "mediate" this platform conflict but it's just weird that SONY is so ignorant. The much bigger issue, however, is that of the Sony's very own proprietary text format (BeB -- Broadband Electronic Books). That alone would be a reason not to put down the $345 that are asked for it.
Nevertheless, the device does allow for pdfs and here I see its promise. How fantastic would it be to read open access journals on a portable reader. Read First Monday, Re-Public, Edge, or others on the way to work in the subway or train? That'd make a big difference for open access journals. A cheaper, cross-platform device that does not push yet another proprietary format would be a useful product.
Today, new reading device with a rollable screen weas announced. http://www.bloggersblog.com/cgi-bin/bloggersblog.pl?bblog=206071