eBooks: The wave of the future?

My woes with Telkom were still ongoing at the time of writing and a message prompt to direct callers to my new number was still not up and running a week after the old number was discontinued.

Fortunately for my sanity, however, I had a pretty interesting week with a look at a really cool product. My informant Maggie Crimes got in touch to say that she had acquired an eBook reader and offered to show it to me.

The compact iLiad reader is manufactured by iRex Technologies and incorporates Electronic Paper Display (EPD) technology which allows it to display flicker-free text and images in black, white, and 16 shades of grey.

The machine can display any text, diagrams or pictures held in its 128Mb of memory and has an amazing battery life because the 8,1-inch screen only uses power when displaying a new page of information.

The iLiad Reader weights 389g, is only 217x155x16mm in size, and I was amazed at how closely its screen resembles paper. The screen has no backlighting, to save on power, but it can be read anywhere that you can read a paper publication, even in bright African sunlight.

There are already a huge selection of the latest books that can be bought and read on the iLiad and there are a lot of books available for free on the Internet. In addition to this, the Iliad can be used to read documents in many file formats as well as feeds from any website which offers them.

When I arrived at to see this marvel, I found that Maggie had loaded it up with a number off books and the latest news off of a couple of websites, including iol.co.za. And if this wasn’t enough, you can also input material onto an iLiad Reader through the touch-sensitive screen and stylus.

There is a Notes facility and, for crying out loud, a feature that musicians can use to take note of tunes that suddenly occur to them. Academics can even upload their students’ essays, annonate them, and mail them back, the next time they connect their iLiad to a computer.

The units come with a magic little piece of software called Mobipocket which live on your compauter and is used to assemble all the various bits of content that you want on your iLiad and to copy it there, when you connect it to your computer.

You can find out more about the iLiad Reader at www.iliad.co.uk and get a sense of the awesome selection of books available for sale. The unit is available at the princely sum of £449 but, as a South African buyer, you could presumably get it a bit cheaper because you shouldn’t have to pay UK VAT.

Coincidentally, just this last week, Sony and Amazon have announced that their eBook readers will soon be on sale in the UK and the competition should benefit consumers. One hopes that neither has done anything silly like creating their own format for eBooks, because that could only lead to marketplace confusion.

I was frankly amazed at the image quality provided by the iLiad and see no reason why you wouldn’t be able to curl up in bed with one and read a thriller, or catch up on the day’s headlines.

The sudden surge in the popularity of digital photography caught many by surprise and many famous names, such as Agfa and Minolta, are no more, as a result. I believe that the same thing is going to happen with eBooks, when cheaper readers hit the market, and people see for themselves how easy and convenient they are.

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