A new e-reader

Dear e-reader,

No, I don’t consider you a device but this is mainly directed to people who, like I do, like to read on an electronic device. An e-reader for electronic book-readers.

I have acquired a new one. It’s the Onyx Boox T68 Lynx. My old Sony PRS-350 is getting a bit dated, the screen’s getting a bit blotchy (travel abuse, sorry screen) and since Sony stopped making e-readers I was on the look-out for other options. They are plentiful. There ‘s the Kindle paperwhite and the Kobo Aura HD, for instance. In places I am sure I can still get a B&N Nook Glow which also is a nice device. Still I decided on the Onyx. My main reason for that is that it’s an Android device. This has the benefit that I can install my favourite reading app (Moon Reader+) on it. Moon Reader+ syncs where I left off reading via Dropbox so regardless of (Android) device I pick up, I can read on where I stopped the last time.

Onyx Boox T86 lynx

I chose an e-ink device because it’s the primary device for reading when I go on vacation, and reading outside is a must then (weather permitting).

Outside, E-ink beats any LED or OLED screen with ease as far as I know, although the new Samsung Nook seems to do a good job too. I have a regular Android tablet on which I read at home, but outside it’s hopeless. I’ve tried. The Onyx has a built-in light so reading inside is no problem either.

I’m impressed by the clarity of the screen and the time a charged battery lasts. After about a week it went from 100% to 80%.

Good news flies in

Dear reader,

Via “Engadget” I discovered this interesting news:

We’ve been hearing rumblings that the FAA wants to start letting you use certain gadgetson airplanes through the “terrible 10,000 feet,” and according to the WSJ, it’s about to do just that. A 28-member industry and government panel’s draft report strongly recommended relaxing blanket rules against electronics that have been in place since 1966 due to massive changes in technology since then. The committee also cited reports showing that passengers often forget to turn off gadgets without any consequences and that airlines, left to enact their own rules, are much too conservative. If it goes along with the document, the FAA will likely allow the use of certain devices, like e-readers and music players, during all phases of flight — though the ban on cellphones is expected to continue since the panel wasn’t authorized to broach that controversial issue. As for other devices, the details are still being bandied about, and the FAA is unlikely to announce a formal decision until the end of September. Still, now might be a good time to start fortifying that music and book collection ahead of your next big trip.

Do E-Readers Really Present a Threat to Airplanes?

By Dan Eldridge from Teleread

The increasingly heated national debate surrounding the use of personal electronic devices on airplanes has been chugging along steadily for years now. And yet thanks to the laudable effortsof the New York Times‘ Nick Bilton, the conversation has once again become news.

As many of you are undoubtedly aware, a now-legendary Bilton piece appearing in the Times in late March—in which he criticized the F.A.A.’s  rules against using e-readers and tablets during taxi, takeoff or landing—actually resulted in a somewhat positive governmental response: The F.A.A. promised to take “a fresh look” at the issue.

Frequent fliers everywhere, of course, have long been equally befuddled and frustrated by the confusion surrounding the PEDs-on-planes regulation: Most of us, I’d like to believe, would be only too happy to stow our Kindles and iPads during the required periods … if only we knewwithout a doubt that such devices could indeed cause interference with an aircraft’s electronic transmissions. But we don’t know that.

In fact, in an Aero magazine article published in March 2000, Boeing admits that after undertaking several investigations, it “has not been able to find a definite correlation between  [personal electronic devices] and the associated reported airplane anomalies.”

* * *

Here’s another reason this issue is so endlessly frustrating: The vast majority of passengers who discuss it, or journalists who write about it, seem to approach the issue with their minds already made up. And yet because the F.A.A. itself doesn’t seem too terribly clear on the hows, whys and wherefores of its own regulations, it’s understandably difficult for those of us who are paying customers of the airlines to take the inconvenience laying down.

I found Kate Bevan’s recent piece in the Guardian to be especially even-measured. (My earlier reference to the Aero magazine article, by the way, came directly from her write-up.) Because she so smartly points out the logic behind both sides of the argument, I’d consider it a must-read for anyone who might be even slightly interested in the topic.

Meanwhile, Nick Bilton and scores of other journalists, bloggers and consumers are continuing to press the issue. I think it’s a fair guess to suspect that it was the ceaseless barrage of noise coming from both the media and the airlines’ consumers that eventually forced the F.A.A. into announcing its upcoming investigation.

Just five days ago, for those of you who may not be aware, the F.A.A. distributed a press release announcing plans for an “industry working group to study [the effects of] portable electronics usage” on aircraft. This almost certainly would not have happened if no one had discussed the current regulations–or debated them–in the first place.

And here’s where you come in. According to the aforementioned press release:

“As the first step in gathering information for the working group, the FAA is seeking public input on the agency’s current [personal electronic device] policies, guidance and procedures for operators. The Request for Comments, which will appear in the Federal Register on August 28th, is part of a data-driven agency initiative to review the methods and criteria operators use to permit PEDs during flights … Comments can be filed up to 60 days after the Federal Register publish date.”

To view or download the actual 14-page Request for Comments document, click here(PDF)

So if this is a situation you would personally like to see resolved at some point in your lifetime, please: Write about it, blog about it, mention it on your favorite social networking sites, discuss it in online forums, discuss it with fellow passengers and airline employees during your next flight–whatever it takes.

The first book ever written with a word processor

Dear reader,

On Teleread I found this entertaining bit of information:

By Dan Eldridge

I’ve always been a sucker for stories about the history of American pop culture. So when TeleRead founder David Rothman sent me an email last weekend with a subject line that read, “This Was the First Word Processor Ever Used By a Novelist. It Weighed 200 Pounds and Had to Be Brought in Though the Window,” I bit.

Truth be told, I don’t know the first thing about the history of typewriters or word processors—or pencils or papyrus or stone tablets, for that matter.Matthew Kirschenbaum, however—an author and associate professor of English at the University of Maryland—has spent years researching the literary history of word processing. And he thinks he’s discovered the first novel to have ever been written on a word processor.

word processor

That book—according to Kirschenbaum, at any rate—is Len Deighton’s Bomber, a WWII novel published in 1970. And as for the word processor? That would be the IBM MT/ST, orMagnetic Tape Selectric Typewriter, which was essentially a precursor to the word processors of the 1970s and 80s; it “allowed typists to create and edit a document before printing,” according to a CNN Money photo feature. (That’s the MT/ST in the photo on the right, which was taken in 1964—the same year the device was introduced.)

Kirschenbaum’s story about the first word-processed novel was published on Slate last Friday—and it’s a fantastic read. I’m guessing it’s an excerpt from the book he’s currently in the process of wrapping up for Harvard University Press, titled Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing. That’s one I’ll definitely be picking up.

Kirschenbaum previously authored a book about new media and electronic writing for The MIT Press (Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination), which makes me think he’s probably the sort of writer a typical TeleRead reader would enjoy. If you’d like to learn more, I’d suggest starting with this piece about Kirschenbaum and his obsessions, which ran a little over a year ago in the New York Times.

Preferred ways of reading.

Dear reader,

What is your favourite medium to read from? Do you prefer books? Tablets? E-readers? Your telephone?

The Daily Telegraph posted an interesting article on this topic a little while ago:

Design of de Servière
Design of de Servière

Electronic readers ‘better than books’ for older people

Elderly people should use e-readers or tablet computers rather than books because they place less strain on the eyes while reading, a study has found.

Digital reading devices allow older people to read the same text more quickly and with less effort than printed pages, without affecting their understanding of the text, researchers said.

But when asked which device they preferred reading on, traditional books were twice as popular as electronic devices among older readers, backing up previous surveys.

The results suggest that despite digital book sales overtaking print in the UK and the US, readers are still more attached to the culture associated with books than the convenience of electronic devices.

Researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, tracked the eye movements and brain activity of 36 younger participants aged 21-34, and 21 older adults aged 60 and above as they read text from e-readers, tablet computers and printed pages.

(You can read the full version here.)

A fun bit of hardware

Via TheDigitalReader I found this interesting article:

Meet the Trekstor Pyrus Mini. There are no English language reviews of this ereader yet, so I am going to post a rare first impressions post in order to give my readers at least some info.

This beauty is shorter, narrower, and thinner than the beagle, and it weighs in at only 111 grams, beating the txtr beagle by 17g and the K4 by 59g. The Pyrus Mini is being sold by trekstor, and it has a 4.3″ E-ink screen, 1.6GB of accessible storage, and a microSD card slot.

Yes, this ereader has a screen smaller than on a lot of smartphones. But what’s even better is that it has the same screen resolution as on the Kindle and the txtr beagle, and that lets the Pyrus Mini pack the pixels tighter than even the Kindle Paperwhite, Kobo Glo, and other 6″ ereaders ( 232 ppi vs 212 ppi).

trekstor pyrus mini 5

Pyrus Mini with the Kindle Paperwhite

It’s missing certain features like the Wifi, and that means you’ll need to transfer ebooks over a USB cable. But on the upside this ereader differs from the txtr beagle in that it supports several ebook formats, including Epub, PDF, FB2, PDB, and it can also display text files as well as jpg, gif, png, and bmp image files.

The txtr beagle, on the other hand, cannot display ebooks at all. That device is more of an image viewer and actually displays page images. It’s also limited to only carrying 5 books at a time, far less than the thousand or more that can fit into the Pyrus Mini.

I got my unit earlier this week. This review unit was given to me by Trekstor, and it replaces the two I bought but were subsequently lost by DHL.

I’ve been reading on it for the past few days and I like it. It’s a pleasant little ereader that is designed to be gripped in one hand. It has page turn buttons on the right edge, so I suspect it is really intended to be used in your left hand with your left forefinger over the buttons. But I could also use it right-handed.

trekstor pyrus mini 2The Pyrus Mini is a budget ereader, and you can tell that by the limited number of features. You’re limited to 6 font sizes, 3 margin options, and you can also change the character encoding (this enables support for other language/ font sets like Simplified Chinese, Tirkish, etc). The screen can be set to refresh after either 1, 3 or 5 page turns. You can bookmark a page, search for a word, or use the table of contents.

 

Please head over to TheDigitalReader if you want to see the entire article.

 

Kobo tutorial on e-books

Dear reader,

In case you are still hesitant about e-books, let me introduce you to a short video about these things, and the machinery one needs to read those. This video is created by Kobobooks, but of course the same goes for a Sony e-reader, a Kindle or a B&N Nook.

Kobotorial: What is an eReader and why should I get one?

Nexus 7 32GB Model Coming Soon – Thank You, Amazon

Via The Digital Reader by Nate Hoffelder:

So you’ve probably heard the rumor that Google would be releasing a new model for the Nexus 7 Android tablet, one which finally has enough storage to match the Kindle Fire HD. If you have not read about the rumor then you have probably read about the product listings which have shown up on several websites.

I never reported on the rumor myself, but I never doubted that it was true. This was one of the side effects which I expected to see ever since Jeff Bezos first held up the Kindle Fire HD.

The thing is, when Jeff announced that the KFHD would ship with not 8GB of storage but 16GB,  he raised the minimum standards for competing tablets. It may have taken a couple weeks or more for this to percolate through the industry, but as you can see from the actions of Google and Kobo (they upgraded the not yet released Arc) it is having an effect.

While I suppose this is a good thing, I’d much rather have a card slot. Removable storage would allow for several useful tricks for sharing content across my several devices, including giving me the option fo taking high quality photos with a camera and then tweeting them from the tablet. (And that’s not as silly as it sounds.)

But I have come to accept that Apple, Amazon, Google, et al are going to release tablets and ereaders without card slots so there’s little point in complaining. (Thank you, B&N, for bucking the trend.)

On a related note, one thing that surprised me about the recent Nexus 7 news was the price. According to one screenshot the 32GB model will be priced at $259.  That’s $10 more than the comparable KFHD or Kobo Arc model, and while you do get more hardware for the price it is still surprising to not see Google match or beat the $249 price for the 32GB KFHD. You would think they would be more price conscious.

(Nexus 7 32GB Model Coming Soon – Thank You, Amazon is post from The Digital Reader)

E-reading devices compared

Dear reader,

More and more signals appear that the E-ink technology that is used in many popular e-reading devices is getting beating upon beating from the realm of the tablets. Not very surprising, as tablets become more and more affordable and offer more versatility compared to e-readers that you can ‘only’ use to read.

♦ So what is the difference of the reading experience between the two?
Here is some imagery from my own devices (forgive my lack of craftsmanship on these):

E-reader, large overview

Image from a piece of text on my e-reader. It almost looks like a book to me.

E-reader, detail

Up here you see a close-up of the text on the e-reader.

Tablet, black on white, overview

Here you see a snip of text on the tablet, with the device set to a white background and black text.

Tablet, black on white, detail

A close-up of the tablet’s display. Of course, you would never lie with your nose on a tablet this way, unless you fall asleep on it.

Tablet, white on black, overview

Here is the same text but then reversed in image. White text, black background.

Tablet, white on black, detail

And to be complete: here is a close-up of the text in white on black.

As you see, there is quite a difference when you look at the devices this way. The display on the e-reader seems a bit smoother. This of course has to do also with the way the tablet lights up its text: from behind, and the fact that this is an extreme close-up. When reading from it, the difference is hardly noticeable.

♦ And what is the similarity of the reading experience between the two?

Both devices do what I want from them when I read on them. The display is flicker-free, the response when paging is good (remember that you get what you pay for, do not expect snappy responses from a low-budget tablet). Both devices can hold a large number of books, font sizes can be adjusted and everything just works.

The tablet has an added benefit here: I can install free reading apps from anywhere (Aldiko, Kobo, Amazon, etc.) so I can purchase books from everywhere and read them immediately. This benefit also is a drawback. I want to read a book. Where did I buy it? Oh, yes, so I need that app to read it. That is something you don’t have to worry about on a dedicated e-reader, everything is on there. Which has in turn the drawback that when you want to buy something on Amazon and read it on for example a B&N Nook, you will need to do some trickery with conversion and DRM removal before you can load your purchase on your own device. Especially the latter part needs some attention as it is not legal to tinker with these things, even when you have bought the book.

For now there is one clear point where an E-ink device wins hands down over a tablet: reading outside. A tablet does not display anything clearly when you take it outside in bright light. And the brighter the light, the clearer E-ink is.

♦ The decline of E-ink.

I see why it happens. Tablets are more versatile. You can read on them, you can also browse the web, you can listen to music (which is possible on most e-readers as well), and you can run all kinds of programs and games on them. E-ink will have a hard time beating that – as well as getting a facelift to displaying colours.

School fail

Dear reader,

Sometimes the IT departments of institutions are not doing the smart thing. You may have seen evidence of that here and there.

Last year a Dutch school made the headlines as they were the first school in the Netherlands to hand and ipad to all their students, to move into the digital age. This school invested a quarter of a million euros to accomodate that investment. Now this same school announced that they are taking back the ipads and returning to the paper books. And the reason? There is not enough Dutch study material available electronically, making the ipads basically useless.

This is something I have seen happen far too often. Wouldn’t it have been a show of sense to first examine if there is material available before spending such an amount of money on hardware?

(Source -in Dutch- here.)