A Brave, New Technology for the New Year

My New Year starts off with learning a new technology. ebooks are all the rage now, or so we’re told. What is an ebook you say? It’s an electronic book. Instead of lugging pounds of paper around with us, we’re now able to carry a lightweight electronic appliance that stores words as binary digits instead of in ink on paper. I say words because the first generation of these devices does not handle graphics well and color not at all. The advantages of ebooks are many: lower cost per book ($10 is the price on many new releases), ability to search the book as easily as other computer documents, font scaling to make larger type immediately available to these aging eyes, portability, and ease of acquisition. Amazon.com markets a device they call the Kindle, perhaps because they think it will light the fire for this new technology. Included with the device is Whispernet, a wireless broadband network that supports one-click purchase of new books – from Amazon, of course. Before thinking that the Kindle is the cheap razor for which Amazon sells the blades, consider the price. At $359 (down from $400), they ain’t cheap but are almost continually out of stock. New and refurbished units are available on eBay but few are bargains.

Leading competitors for Kindle include the Sony Reader Digital Book PRS-700 and Mobipocket eBook Reader. According to Sony, its device is the first one to use the EPUB international standard for ebook publication. The Mobipocket Reader runs on devices ranging from desktop computers to cell phones as well as things in between. The Mobipocket format purportedly runs on or can readily be converted to run on Amazon and Sony devices. I’ll find out more this weekend.

Next time I’ll share my experience preparing one of my writings for this brave, new world.

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