When Will eBook Readers Stop Sucking?

I’m starting to get interested in eBook readers, ones that use E Ink technology. I have a handful of books (technical books, not fiction) that I’d like to slog through to brush up on some rather boring topics, but reading them on a backlit screen is giving me headaches.

Amazon’s Kindle 2 has lost the delorian-inspired styling of its predecessor, but it does about a dozen things that I don’t want. First, the QWERTY keyboard takes up entirely too much real estate for something I don’t need. I already have a laptop, a netbook, and a smartphone, I don’t need to browse the web on my ebook reader. I also don’t need it to read to me, I don’t imagine that code samples read aloud are particularly useful. And I really don’t need Amazon’s DRM.

The Sony 505 looks a little more rational, with a better size-to-screen ratio, but at $300 it’s still more than I want to spend on a gadget which will be laughably obsolete in 6 months.

A seemingly unknown company makes the COOL-ER reader, which comes in a candy assortment of colors. Despite the stupid name, which is difficult to search for on many sites thanks to the dash, it seems to have a more reasonable take on eBook readers. It’s light, it doesn’t bother with a keyboard or wifi, it stole its styling directly from the iPod Mini, and it’s almost reasonably priced ($250). But reviews indicate that it has cheap construction and a painful UI, and it just doesn’t seem to stack up when the Sony 505 is only $50 more.

I’m waiting for the “perfect” ebook reader to come out, one without a ton of bells and whistles at a low price. It’s probably good there isn’t one right now since I already have a ton of gadgets and not a ton of extra cash to spend on things that fall farther towards “want” than “need.” So for the time being I’ll put the fun money I might have spent on an ebook reader towards a vacation with Chris this summer and wait for someone to come out with an ebook reader I actually want to purchase.

6 thoughts on “When Will eBook Readers Stop Sucking?”

  1. I don’t understand why the Kindle is so expensive. Its purpose in life is to sell electrons from Amazon. Since the books are nearly pure profit, why do they charge so much for the PC?

  2. I bought the Sony PRS-505 about a year ago and am very pleased with it. It’s been a solid reader though I do have envy of the wireless connectivity of the Kindle. I picked it up right before the Kindle 2 was announced – I never would have done the Kindle 1 as it was really just to klunky, but the Kindle 2 was improved greatly.

    Disclosure – I was moving from the original Rocket eBook reader to the new generation. The change in style was interesting. Much greater battery life, but no backlight – the experience does change. But the metal body of the 505 is wonderful, I’ve dropped it a couple of times and the metal coated plastic end caps are a bit dinged up but the full reader shows no concern after the falls. I’ll probably stick with this one for my reading until someone gets a good flexible display.

    1. I’ve been looking pretty hard at the PRS-505, you can get them new on Ebay for just above $200. But I feel like they’re *just* old enough that a new one is probably right around the corner, but not quite old enough that you can get them on the cheap. I’m resisting doing what I usually end up doing, which is to buy something right before the price is dropped or the newer better model comes out.

  3. I agree with your other points, but I don’t get the complaint about the text-to-speech feature of the Kindle 2. It doesn’t really take up space (like the keyboard), does it?

  4. Ha. I always end up buying things just before the new version comes out! The problem is, the only way to ensure you have your new toy for a good while before it’s been updated is to buy it when it’s ultra-new, and then you end up paying an absurd price for that small privilege.

    I’ve been mulling the same conundrum over ebook readers. I think I’m going to wait until the next generation of Sony’s has been around for a few months and then try to grab a 505 off ebay, since all I really want is an eInk screened reader that’s fairly format-open… Just need a patience transplant in the meantime.

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