Jag Venugopal's Blog

May 24, 2010

Experience with E-Ink Devices

Filed under: Project Management — Jag @ 8:48 am

After a few months with the Sony Pocket Reader, I am now able to comment on the good, the bad and the ugly.

First the good. The Sony Pocket Reader (and any other E-Ink device) is great for reading fiction. There are plenty of public domain titles available, and paid ebooks are not that expensive either. The device reduces clutter in my overflowing bookshelf, and is very handy for reading when sitting on the deck in the backyard. It is compact and well made. Unlike LCD screens, E-Ink screens are very readable in broad daylight. Battery life is excellent.

The bad. The device is slow as molasses. Page turning is not too bad, but woe betide the reader who wishes to look up a term in the glossary in the back of the book. You need to bookmark your current location (2 seconds), go to the table of contents (2 seconds), look up the glossary (1 second), and then page sequentially through it looking for your term (~5 seconds). Then, you go back to your bookmark (2 seconds) and erase the bookmark (2 seconds). On a paper book, all of this would have been virtually instantaneous.

The ugly. An E-Ink reader is like a tape storage device of days past. It works well when your access is sequential. If you’re reading a book and want to go back a few pages, go ahead a few pages, look at the index, and generally flip through the book, all these activities are incredibly slow and difficult on the E-Ink reader. The slowness of the device makes all these tasks very unpleasant when compared with a paper book, where all these are trivial.

E-Ink readers are best suited to reading books where there are very few pictures and diagrams, and you do not need to flip back and forth. They are well-suited for reading fiction. Additionally, non-fiction books are also a good candidate, provided that the above two caveats are heeded.

Given the cost of E-Ink readers, their lack of color, the drawbacks mentioned above, and the success of the iPad, I think E-Ink’s days are numbered. Watch for LCD-based ebook readers to hit the market soon.

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