The Kindle Dialogues, Ctd.

A reader writes:

I have a Bookeen Cybook (like a Kindle, without the wireless access, but with more direct support for open formats and multiple online bookstores).  It only encourages book ADD in the sense that I can pick which book I want to read based on my mood - before when I traveled I would pack two or three books for that purpose anyway.  Having a library with me can help when I want to entertain others too, if they're stuck in a waiting room while I have an appointment, for example.  "You didn't bring anything to read, and the magazines here are boring?  I have a book of Darwin Awards on my Cybook, try that."

I don't think that the ability to embed video or animations would be an advantage of readers, any more than animations have benefited magazine web pages.  Too distracting.  Linking to video or footnotes within text would be a good thing for e-readers, however.  One feature of the Cybook that really illustrates what can be done with the medium is the ability to look up words in a dictionary on the fly - if I find a word in a book I don't know, I just have to navigate to it and I get a definition.  Some readers (not e-paper ones) offer some split-screen capabilities too - for example, I saw a version of the Oxford Annotated Bible for Palm that lets you split the screen so you can read verses in one pane and see the copious footnotes in the other (and expand either pane to full-screen for more focused reading).  Color would also be nice on readers, but let's face it, how many books do you read that use color?  It will be a good feature someday, but I'm content to wait for it while they focus e-book capabilities on efficient black-and-white displays.

I certainly understand liking regular books - the feel, the convenience, the layout, and sometimes the size - but the e-paper displays are sharp and excellent for reading books that are just about the text, with less emphasis on pictures.  The format can be a little difficult for some Kurt Vonnegut books with his illustrations interjected here and there, but for an Agatha Christie mystery it's perfect.

The price is a sticking point right now, and I certainly wouldn't push my mother to switch to an e-reader until they become much cheaper.  And while the Kindle is certainly a nice device with its wireless access and convenience when it comes to ordering books, I'd be too uncomfortable with the idea of relying on a single source for my books to pick one up.  If you can forgo the convenience in favor of easier access to other sources of books via a computer, then readers from Sony, Bookeen, iRex, and others have similar displays but better ways to read books from the Gutenberg Project and other free or cheap sources.