I’ve been watching e-Ink technology, waiting for it to be mature enough to make it a practical choice for supplementing/replacing my paper technical books. Products using this technology started to become available a little over a year ago, and I wrote a bit about them at the time.
There are two main e-Ink based products out right now: the Sony portable reader, and the iLiad by Irex technologies (iRex is a spin-off from Philips, one of the companies that developed e-Ink technology). The Sony device is about 40% cheaper than the iLiad: around $400 US versus $700 US. But the iLiad has a larger display, 16 grayscales versus 4, wireless network connectivity, and the ability to annotate (make notes) on at least some of the documents it supports.
Guess which one I just ordered? Yeah…the iLiad. Neither the Sony nor the iLiad are really “mature” technology: I expect problems, frustrations, and possibly regret. But I also see an opportunity every time I am sitting in the office and don’t have one of my twenty or so technical books (about 700 pages each) from home, or vice versa. Even carrying a single one of my technical books, which average a kilo or more in weight, back and forth is irritating.
And a lot of the documents I use are IBM RedBooks: there is a massive library of these PDF-formatted documents available. Flipping through a 900 page PDF on my computer to find an answer while I try to work on my computer is challenging enough. Reading the book in its entirety on a computer’s emissive display is something I’ve never really managed. My eyes give out too quickly.
The paper-like e-Ink technology has a lot of promise, and I like getting in early with new technologies so I can form my own opinions. I still have an Apple Newton somewhere around here, my Apple II is in storage, my Commodore Amiga and Altos 586 are ancient history, my 300 baud DC Hayes modem might still be in the attic somewhere, I think in a box near it is an original Palm pilot… I can’t say, in retrospect, that I regret having been an early adopter with any of these technologies. Each of them taught me something, opened my mind to new possibilities, even when the particular implementation of that technology itself ended up being less than successful.
And hey, my site’s subtitle says it all- I’m an Uber Geek 🙂