Mild science, tech news, stories, reviews, opinion, maps and humor

12 January 2011

eBook Reader Product Review

This is the best review of an eBook reader that I've run across yet. It was written by a bona fide computer scientist, too!  His assessment was not biased by the novelty of the technology. That can happen. I know. I've experienced it.

An eBook reader is a device such as the Amazon Kindle or Apple iPad. Giorgio Sironi addresses certain issues that I would  expect to encounter while reading text on an electronic device instead of an physical book. Yet Giorgio's review is the only one that describes these difficulties, despite the many eBook reviews I've read.
"The only problem with reading eBooks is the device you use to read them. My Asus PC is good for writing articles, and skimming blog posts, or for a bit of PHP programming... But for reading extensively, LCD screens will kill us. You know when, as a child, you were told not to stare at the Sun? Here is the same mechanism, on a lesser scale... The LCD screen has a very different light intensity from the surrounding environment, which causes eyestrain due to continuously adapting between the screen and the rest of the world."
The brighter the environment, the less you see on the screen.
"With an e-ink screen like Kindle's, you must have ... external light to read. This is an advantage for e-ink devices."
The actual post goes into more detail. But the conclusion is that an LCD-based device is unsuitable for regular use as an eBook reader. Not if you want something that isn't a headache to use!
"Forget about iPads- They make wonderful trays for Martini glasses but not as an e-Reader."

Physical books v.s. eBooks

I guess that's why I like paperback books so much. They are small, very durable, replaceable, inexpensive and very green, because they continue to provide value to owner after owner. That makes me seem like a Luddite. Or jealous, because I don't have an iPhone of my own!

The biggest problem for me is eyestrain. I find it so much easier to use any of the following:
  1. a portable electronic device that is NOT light-emitting and allows large font sizes,
  2. a book, or
  3. a full-size desk top monitor with all the usability features activated.