I'm catching up on a lot of reading and blogging I had set aside before being waylaid by a mega-evil-super-genius-cold bug, so bear with me if this is a little out-of-date, at least as defined by the interwebnets.
Cory Doctorow, of the red cape and goggles and high altitude blogging, has written an interesting piece for Locus Online about the realities of any one company putting together an ebook reader with the market pull and power of the iPod.
Doctorow points out that even companies with fantastic new products, like the Wii and the Kindle, have a hard time getting enough factory time in China because they are unable to compete with the companies hiring Chinese factories to make the everyday widgets we all rely on. Because the companies are unable to hire the factories, they are unable to drop the price for the hardware. Because they cannot drop the price on the hardware, fewer units get sold. This, combined with dwindling number of people who read for fun, combine to leave ebook readers a niche market that lacks the power to change the industry in the ways the iPod has.
Naturally then, it's only now that I have started to really want one.
In the past two months, I have read four books off of my laptop. That's four more than I had ever previously read off of a computer screen. On the other hand, I spend an hour a day checking e-mail and reading blogs off of the same laptop. And I read lots of comics off of here too.
But what I've realized is that I do not actually mind reading off of the screen, I mind reading off my laptop. I use a iBook G4, with a 12 inch screen. Most of my ebooks are in PDF format and I use Apple's native Preview application to read them. The problem is, by the time I have a comfortable font size for extended reading, I have necessitated endless scrolling to the bottom of the page I'm reading, back up, and then down the next page, over and over again.
I know changing software can help but I have neither the time nor patience right now to search through dozens of PDF viewers, looking for the one that lets me read a book comfortably. Rather, I want an A4 sized eBook Reader. I do not really care if it uses LED or OLED or E-Ink, I just want a comfortably sized screen that is still somewhat portable that I can read a book from. But I want it to run in color and I want it to work with multiple formats and I want it to be able to connect to the internet and download blog and 'zine posts.
In other words, I want a laptop with a vertically oriented screen.
Because, the thing is, due to the increasing number of legitimate ebooks placed online by publishers and authors looking to drag themselves out of obscurity, I am reading more books on my digital devices than I am on paper. I find that I am saving my money (and, more importantly, my bookshelf space) for limited hardcovers and signed editions of the books I love while downloading newer books and books from authors I have never tried before.
So, I looked at the Kindle, and I looked at the Clie and neither of them seem to be there yet. Neither does the MacBook Air, shiny as it seems. None of them have that almost instantaneous perfect useability that the iPod or the Nintendo DS have. None of them seem to be ready to do what I want them to do.
Which means, I guess, that for now, I'll keep reading on my laptop and I'll keep wishing for a decent ebook reader.