Wednesday, November 3, 2010

E-paper E-readers not up to snuff yet

Yesterday I had the chance to have a quick look at a couple of E-readers. They were the Oyo e-reader, the Samsung E60 eReader and a couple of BeBook E-readers (Neo, One and Mini). Also yesterday I had a go at an iPad in an Apple store. In my humble opinion E-readers are not up to snuff yet.

The first thing that struck me was the antiquated user interface of all the e-book readers I looked at. Punching number keys to navigate through menu's felt like warping back to the 90's. Or if a touch screen was available I had the greatest difficulty in getting the device to respond to my at first ginger and later more insistent pawing of the menu items. The loading of books, even short ones took ages. Granted, once a book is loaded it is ready for you at start-up but as more and more of these devices are becoming multifunctional, chances are you will be switching tasks quite often.

Then there was the turning of pages. It was like adding special effects to the book. A white screen flashed, went dark, waited a couple of seconds and there was the new page. And the pages contained too little text to be able to put off turning the page for long. So this dramatic effect would be a often repeated. If I wanted a book written by Michael Bay this might work but to have these effects crop up in "Pride and Prejudice" is nothing less than disastrous.

The ergonomics of many of the devices was also less than ideal. True, they are light and compact but this also means less text per page. I do not want to turn the page too often, it breaks the flow of reading, especially taking the afore mentioned special effects into account. Some of the buttons lacked positive response and all but the Samsung felt cheap. More toy like than serious reading tool.

I own an old iPhone (3g) and I played with the iPad yesterday. I am not going to say that these are the ultimate E-readers. But I am going to say that they are the yard stick to which the also rans are going to be measured in terms of usability. And the also rans fall short. Way short! Granted they are a lot cheaper than the Apple products but that is beside the point if they do not provide enough of the function they were intended for in the first place. What use is a car that's cheap that has square wheels?

Sadly I can not compare these E-readers or the iPad to the Amazon Kindle simply because it is not available in our country so there is no where to test it. I also have not tested the Sony ones yet although they are available over here. The experience may be slightly better. But boy does it need to be a lot better to win me over!

I remain a fervent proponent of E-books and E-reading in general. I do believe it is the future of publishing and reading. But the developers of the technology behind it need to shore up their breeches, grease their elbows and get to work. There's a lot to be done before it all becomes comfortable enough to compete with books or the iPad/iPhone on a long term basis. Once the fad has worn off I mean.

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