THE LATEST IN NETWORKING AND WIRELESS TECHNOLOGIES
■ BY LOUIS E. FRENZEL W5LEF
Sophisticated electronics let you read a new way.
When you think about reading, your mind usually pictures a book,
newspaper, or magazine. Although these days, you may think of reading from
your PC or laptop screen. Now there is another choice. It’s called an e-book
reader (or e-reader for short). It is literally a book-sized device with a large
LCD screen, lots of storage for text, and a way to navigate through it. Such
devices are becoming more practical and affordable, and seem destined to
replace at least some printed material in the years to come. The e-book reader
is just one more example of electronics bringing you new ways to “communicate.”
Companies have been trying to produce a suitable e-book reader
for years. None have been practical
or affordable, and worst still people
didn’t really enjoy the reading
experience. However, the latest
technology now makes it possible to
create a truly desirable e-book
reader. Probably the best example
is Amazon’s Kindle (see Figure 1).
The first generation unit came out in
2007 and was a big hit. Amazon’s
second generation device called
the Kindle2 is an even bigger hit. I
bought one recently and for the first
time I see that such a device is highly
useable. It is also innovative.
The Kindle2 is about the size of
a large paperback book at 5. 5 x 8
inches. The six inch (diagonal) screen
is a high contrast black on white
LCD. The device is one of the
thinnest electronic products I have
ever seen and it is very light — lighter
than most of the books you might
read. The Kindle2 also has a huge
2 GB Flash memory to store books,
magazines, and newspapers. Amazon
claims you can store up to 1,500
books. (That ought to be enough for
a long time!) I regularly read about
60 books per year, so in about
25 years the memory will be full.
The controls are pretty easy to
use. There are pushbuttons for next
page, previous page, menu, home,
back, and a navigation scroll button.
A full keyboard is also provided with
a search function. You can even
change the font size to fit your
eyeballs. If you are not a good
reader, the Kindle has a text to voice
output. Just plug in your headset and
let the device read to you (like an
audio book if you like those).
The coolest feature of the
■ FIGURE 1.
Kindle2 is the built-in cell phone.
You don’t use it to make calls and
there is no monthly phone bill to
worry about. It is a dedicated Sprint
connection back to Amazon, so the
phone lets you review and buy books
directly. I have already bought five
books this way. They download in
under a minute. (Talk about
convenient!) The good news is that
e-books are much cheaper than print
books simply because there is no
paper or printing involved. Most
current best-seller books cost approx.
$9.95 vs. the $20 to $27 of a printed
version and many books are free. The
price of the Kindle2 is about the only
downside of this innovative product.
At $359, you need to read a lot of
books, but I suspect my unit will pay
for itself in less than a year.
As for the actual reading experience, it is fine. I thought I would have
to go through an adaptive process to
get used to reading from a screen,
but I didn’t. I actually hate reading
from a computer screen but the
Kindle2 is as close to a printed book
as you will probably get electronically.
There are hundreds of thousands
of book choices to choose already,
October 2009 15