■ FIGURE 2. Sony’s e-book.
and lots more to come.
Just like most electronic products
today, the Kindle’s the core of the
design is an embedded controller.
Kindle uses a Freescale multimedia
processor based on the ARM11. This
microcontroller has a ROM that
contains the reading control program
and LCD screen manipulation
software. It also has a 2 GB Flash
EEPROM where the text is stored. In
the case of the Kindle2, it has a full
cdma2000 data cell phone. It is a
3G cell phone with EV DO Rev A
compatibility, with a fall-back to the
slower 1xRTT technology if the 3G
is not available. The battery is a thin
lithium-ion (with charger). It is good
for four days of reading, or up to two
weeks if you turn off the cell phone.
The real secret to the Kindle2’s
success and viability is the screen. It
is made by a company called E-Ink.
They have found a way to make a
low cost and very low power LCD
screen that does not need a white
backlight. It has super contrast and
16 levels of gray. The backlight, of
course, is what burns up so much
battery power in other LCD screens,
and some say the bright backlight is
what causes eye strain when reading
from a PC or laptop. Most of the new
e-book readers use the E-Ink display
since there is nothing else like it.
16 October 2009
Incidentally, Amazon has a newer
model called the DX that has all the
same features of the Kindle2 but with
a much larger 9. 7 inch screen. This
model is designed to better display
newspapers, magazines, and college
text books. The DX model will also
display PDF documents so it has
potential as a business tool. It also
has a larger memory that can hold up
to 4,000 books, but at a cost of
$489. Personally, I have never felt
constrained by the six inch screen,
but no doubt some content is better
displayed all on one page without
There are other e-book readers
on the market from Sony, Plastic
Logic, and iRex. However, none have
been as successful as the Kindle. The
Sony models definitely deserve
consideration. Sony has an extensive
line of e-book readers with prices
from less than $200 to near $400.
Their Reader Digital Book called the
PRS-700 sells for $349 and has a six
inch E-Ink screen like the Kindle. It
has a 512 MB Flash memory to hold
up to 350 average size books.
Sony’s latest models are the
Reader Pocket Edition (Figure 2)
and the Reader Touch Edition. Both
feature an E-Ink display and come
in a variety of colors. The pocket
edition has a five inch screen and
sells for $199. It can store up to 350
books. The Touch version has a six
inch touch screen that also lets you
write on it with a stylus to annotate
pages or highlight text. Its price is
$299. Both products come with a
protective sleeve and the USB cable
for connecting to your PC so you
can download books from Sony’
eBook Store (which has hundreds of
thousands of titles).
The iRex device called the iLiad
is a high-end device with a 10. 2 inch
display. It is a touch screen with a
768 x 1,024 pixel resolution. The
price is a whopping $859. This
device lets you write on the screen
to make notes or highlight text. It
runs the Intel XScale processor and
has a 256 MB Flash memory.
Another feature is built-in stereo
audio speakers or headphones.
Instead of a cell phone inside, it uses
Wi-Fi for wireless connection to a hot
spot with 802.11b/g technology to
download books. A 10/100 MHz
Ethernet port is built in, as well.
Plastic Logic has a forthcoming
reader called the eReader. It is not
available yet but should be soon. It
has a full 8. 5 by 11 inch ( 14 inch
diagonal) screen with touch screen
manipulation. It will have wired and
wireless communications capability.
Look for it in early 2010.
Samsung also recently released
an e-book reader for their Korean
customers. The unit is not available in
the US, but my guess is you can
expect one in the near future. Even
Apple is said to be working on some
kind of e-book reader.
READ ON YOUR PHONE
We are putting everything else
on our cell phones, so why not a
book reader? There are already
e-book reading software apps for the
iPhone and iPod and the Blackberry.
Barnes & Noble offers free reader
software for the iPhone and
Blackberry, and you can buy books
online from its extensive collection.
I questioned this cell phone
reading but after trying it out on my
iPhone, I’m okay with it. In fact, it is
better than I thought it would be.
WHERE YOU GET BOOKS
For E-book readers to be successful, there has to be a huge base of
books to draw from. Publishers and
the e-book reader companies are
spending big bucks to make sure you
never run out of things to read.
Amazon claims they have 270,000
books available for the Kindles and
new ones become available daily.
They are categorized well and you
can search for what you want. Sony
also has a massive collection of over
500,000 books thanks to a deal with
Google who has digitized a jillion
books over the past several years.
Some publishers are rushing to
get textbooks out for e-book readers.