What's this "electronic book" they were talking about being available at Future Shop?

My provincial news/talk-radio station was talking about the summer’s gadgets, and one in particular fascinated me. The host said it was available at Future Shop, and I thought the name was “live aid” or something, but I guess I grossly misheard, because there’s nothing with a name like that at all on the Future Shop website.

The item was described as pretty much a screen with a hard-drive onto which you can put e-books. It’ll then display them for your reading pleasure. Ever since I was a kid I thought this would be a grand idea, so I’m curious to see how it’s been made into reality. Anyone have any idea what I’m talking about?

I can’t find anything at Futureshop.ca regarding an electronic book. I can’t say I think it’s a good idea. 'Round about the time of the big dot-com craze a few different purveyors of e-book hardware popped up. The only one I can find that still has a working website is eBook, who appear to be the final union of all e-book hardware, themselves gone out of business.

IIRC the main problems the concept were pricing compared to hard print, and availability of titles. I admit a backlit screen would make for easy bed-time reading, but the incredibly convenience of the standard dead-tree format when it comes to bookmarking, travel, etc. seems to have killed everything else off.

If someone can find this device I’d like to see it - alternately you can pick up old ebook hardware on ebay, or perhaps combine your iPod with Linux and read text that way.

Hmm. According to Wikipedia one ebook device is the Sony Librie, kinda-sorta close to what you said.

Still not available at FS.

I read ebooks all the time on my PDA. I think that’s a pretty standard feature for PDAs.

I know that eBooks and eBook readers are still around. One company advertises an eBook club (with a free eBook reader included) on radio quite frequently. I won’t include a link, since it is a commercial product, but my e-mail address is in my profile if anyone is interested.

Since it sounds like a new product, perhaps it’s a new ebook reader that uses electronic paper? Otherwise it doesn’t sound particularly newsworthy.

The PDA is a good suggestion, but the whole topic cropped up on the show because a caller who did that wanted a bigger screen. Thanks for your replies; I’ll check those links out when I get a moment.

The SONY LIBRIe uses E-Ink which I believe is the same technology. I saw it in stores in Japan over a year ago and was very impressed - I thought it was a mockup with a paper sticker, until I pressed a key and the page changed. I wouldn’t say it’s as good as any paper printout, but it’s at least as good as newspaper print. It’s purely reflective (illuminated by ambient light), not backlit, so it doesn’t get overwhelmed by bright lights.

The problem with eBooks is the same as MP3 downloads: copyright protection. Publishers can’t just allow you to download text files, because that’d be too easy to pass around illegally. They need to put enough protection to keep honest people honest. There are several systems out there but last time I checked, there wasn’t a clear winner. Which means whichever service you subscribe to, you only get access to a limited number of books that they happened to get rights to.

Would this book possibly have the words “Don’t Panic” emblazoned on the front cover?

Is it anything like the one Penny from Inspector Gadget had? She could remotely redirect vehicles, override controls on power generators, infiltrate Dr. Claw’s communication lines… Man, that was one hell of a book. :cool:

If I could figure out how to turn off the backlight on my Palm Zire, I’d be a happy man, since it’s damn near impossible to read on a sunny day when compared to my old trusty Sony Clie.

Incidentally, if you just want to try out eBooks to see if you like them, Baen has a number of free ebooks of their older titles up for download in a variety of formats (including HTML, RTF, iSilo, MobiPocket, and a couple of other formats, all of which I think use reading software you can get for free for either your PDA or computer. Apparantly the guy who runs the company was talking to one of the authors, and they had a brainstorm where if they gave away eBook versions of their older, not-selling-well-anymore titles, folks might decide to go buy the dead-tree versions (for a number of the reasons mentioned above re: the relativer convenience and reliability of paper-and-binding books over their electronic brethren, not to mention that lots of folks don’t want to read books sitting in front of their computer. Apparantly soon after they did this, their sales for the older books started going crazy and they had to do reprints of them.

Now I think you can get a sizable chunk of their library in eBook format, with the older ones being free (and some of the newish ones as well, if you can get a hold of one of the freeware (ie: free to copy, free to share) CDs they included with some of their hardcover books, complete with high-quality coverart imgages on the CD, eBook versions of all the books in whichever series the book the CD came in was from, samples of audiobooks and other eBooks offered by the publisher, and even filk songs(!) sung by fans.

Anyhow, eBooks have some handy advantages (such as if you can get them for free legitimately) including the fact that you can fit an entire bookcase into a storage device the size of your thumb to be read at your leisure. That said, I still buy dead-tree books for most of my current reading purposes, but I wouldn’t buy nearly as many Baen books if I hadn’t gotten a hold of their eBooks first. Also, most places that sell eBooks I think sell them for a bit too much, considering that for $4 you can get just the story as an eBook in many cases, or for $6 get the same story in paperback, WITH the nifty coverart.

It’s not just a matter of turning off the backlight. Most color LCD panels are transmissive, which means it only works with a light source behind the screen. If you turn off the backlight it’d turn black. The Clie’ uses a reflective LCD, which means it’s desiged to be illuminated from the front by ambient light. (Though it does have a supplemental backlight, I believe.)

Plus, of course, anything in the public domain. It might be nice to have the complete works of Shakespeare, Dickens, H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, Cervantes, Homer, etc., all available in a single device the size of an ordinary book.

You can get numerous ebooks at: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/ebooks/Alist.html as well as Microsoft Reader to read your selections. It is really a great site.

This link has some information on the one I have, the REB1200.


My wife gave it to me for Christmas about 3 years ago. At the time, it cost about $350.00

They were available for about 3 years, and then RCA decides the market just wasn’t there and quit making and supporting them.

They were a pretty cool item. The display size was a little larger than a standard paperback book, so it was much nicer than using your PDA.

You could buy and download books, magazines, newspapers, etc. For the periodicals, you would connect to the bookstore through the internet and download the current issues of the ones you had subscriptions to.

They were actually pretty nice to use to read. And reading in the dark in bed was cool! You could hold the book in one hand, hit the page button with your thumb, and go for hours completely one-handed.

Color screen, full text searches, auto bookmarks, highlighting, dictionary, were also nice.

The battery in the 1200 would run about 10 hours on a full charge, and would re-charge in a couple of hours.

If you had purchased more books and periodicals than you had memory for, you could store the excess on the Gemstar site on your own “bookshelf”. You needed a password to access it, and you could upload or download any books you owned at any time.

I believe the bookshelf website is due to shut down this year, but I have enough memory in my book that all my purchased books fit in the unit, so I never actually used the online bookshelf.

Although RCA didn’t initially support it, some of the users found a way that you could convert text or doc files to a format that could be downloaded to your book. In this way, pretty much anything you could get in electronic form could be loaded on your book and carried around. Once RCA quit selling books, they released their programs to create and load your own content, so it’s even easier to do now.

I have about 30 or 40 full novels and a few tech manuals and miscellaneous stuff that I converted on my reader. With the 96 meg memory card, I could probably store three times that much easily.

You can still buy used REB-1200s and other e-book devices. I’ve seen them go for anywhere from $50 to $150, depending on condition, memory card, charger, batteries, etc.

Here’s a site that lists a bunch of ebook devices, ranging from PDAs to tablet PCs to specialized devices like the REB: e dash books dot org.

I’m a frequent customer of fictionwise.com - but I’ve learned to check the Baen Free Library first off before shelling out for an ebook. Odds might be that it’s available from the latter for free, but other odds say you might have to wait a year or two for it to show up there. Tossup.

It’s odd, but I could swear fictionwise was shilling a newly revived and rebranded version of the GemStar thingy. Maybe I was hallucinating, but I’m reasonably sure it was up there at some point… :dubious:

Ahh, that’s cool, so they didn’t just leave everyone hanging when they pulled out of the market then? Sweet. Depending on how much it’d cost, I could see myself getting one of those eventually. I just wish they’d make something between a PDA and a Tablet PC. Maybe something with a 5x7 screen, CF and SD/MMC expansion slots, some kind of sound output (at least a headphone jack, maybe some small speakers) and a USB port for stuff like a keyboard or a thumbdrive if you felt so inclined. Have it use some basic stuff, like a notepad type program, contacts, and a schedule book. Nothing super-fancy like the Tablet PCs, but not exactly lightweights like Palms or PocketPCs either. Maybe even throw in a cover to protect the screen.

shrug I can dream, right?

The problem is, if you want to keep your contacts/schedule on it, then you need to be able to retrieve the device within about 5 seconds or so. This practically limits the device to pocket size because otherwise, you can’t stash it somewhere convenient.

If you want something bigger, then it’s not portable in the way a PDA is so you might as well make it a full blown tablet PC. Theres little demand for something 1/2 way between them.

However, there are plenty of tablet PC’s which are 6x8" which is only slightly larger than what you want.

I don’t know what the Zire has, but my (somewhat old) Palm m505 has a reflective color screen (pretty cool, actually). This means that it works just fine in bright light. I just hold down the power button for 2 seconds to toggle the backlight off and on.

Well, as for the contacts/schedule thing in terms of quick-retrieval, I’m allways carryign around a messenger bag anyways (Yay college) so I’d be able to get a notepad computer out about as quickly as a PDA or a laptop/tablet PC.

And I can entirely understand how that middle-man kind of thing wouldnt’ fit very well in a market (easier to please one bunch of people, and please the other bunch of people, than to try and please both at once).

a 6x8" tablet PC would probably work fine for this, making cost the limiting factor. Do they come with some kind of protective covering for the screen? I was thinking in terms of the cases that TI calculators come with, but anything that protects the screen would do nicely.