Sunday, July 1, 2007

Take your library with you, but on which eBook reader?


By G. Denise Lance

A few years ago, the eBook buzz hummed loudly. In the future, paper books would be passi. We would all be downloading our reading material to eBook readers and saving trees in the process. As quick as we were to take to cell phones, MP3 players, and DVR's, the eBook thing never took off.

I think I understand why. As much as I love my tech gadgets, nothing is as satisfying as sitting in my favorite chair, illuminated by just the right light, turning pages to see where an enthralling tale will take me. I spend all day with eyes glued to a monitor, so smelling real ink on real paper offers a nostalgic treat.

In this hectic life, however, getting to sit in that great reading chair is a luxury for which I rarely have more than an hour. My sister and I commute to work together about 45 minutes each way. She drives, so I often use this idle time to read. I make at least one plane trip each year and often ride to in-state meetings.

About two years ago, I, um, "found" some eBooks I wanted to read while playing with a file sharing program (back before the download police started fining people). I didn't want to be tied to a computer, so I broke down and bought an eBook reader. While I did own a couple of PDA's that I could have used, they were sadly stuffed in a drawer, dead from lack of battery charging. In addition, I didn't think my eyes would stand reading for long on such a small screen.

Introducing the eBookwise 1150

There weren't many options at that time, as most companies that sold dedicated eBook readers had gone belly-up after they did not sell like TiVos. At $110, the eBookwise 1150, shown in Figure A, seemed like an inexpensive way to explore eBook world, especially since I doubted my bibliophile mind would even like reading this way.


The eBookwise is a nice, inexpensive device. (click for larger image)

It took a bit of getting used to, but now I love this thing! The eBookwise 1150 weighs about a pound and has two large buttons on the side to move back and forth in a book. The touch screen allows you to flip the orientation so that you can peruse left or right handed.

A tap on the screen allows you to change the brightness and contrast of the backlit screen, which is great for reading in different lighting situations. I find this a great help during winter trips, since natural light is waning on the way home from work. I also find it easier to manage on the plane than a book.