Microtouch – a sub $100 DIY eBook Reader (video)

eReaders require a powerful CPU in order to do a good job in displaying your ebooks, right? Well, no. It turns out that this isn't completely  true. Last September I came across a rather expensive DIY kit that you could use to make your own ebook reader. It was based on BeagleBoard components, and it cost around $400 at the time. On Sunday night Mike Cane tipped me to a new project by Rossum, a hardware developer. Rossum had released a new reading app for the Microtouch, his super-cheap, low-power, touchscreen hardware kit. Update: This kit is no longer available.

Unlike the BeagleBoard kit, the Microtouch has the bare minimum hardware needed to support the screen. it was originally conceived as an alternative to the iPod Touch and then developed for its own sake as a cheap development board.  Here are the specs (from here):

  • 16MHz CPU
  • microSD card slot
  • g-sensor
  • 2.5" (320x240) LCD screen
  • USB port
  • power, reset buttons

It also has a number of ports exposed on the circuit board so you can do your own thing (it's a kit, of course).

The Microtouch  isn't reading Epub, as much as we might want it to. That's a little beyond the abilities of the CPU. But it is reading a converted format called EPB, and Rossum included the converter so you can transfer your own ebooks. The new app supports text, images, and hyperlinks. You can both swipe to turn the page and scroll. I couldn't see any sign of a zoom ability, though.

I have to say that this is a rather cool project, considering the hardware limitations. I love to see unusual devices hacked to run a reading app and this is one of the most unusual examples I've seen. Just to put it into perspective, the average digital watch has more CPU power than the Microtouch.



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About Nate Hoffelder (11466 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

5 Comments on Microtouch – a sub $100 DIY eBook Reader (video)

  1. Douglas Adams said this:-
    Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

    Wish I could get a cheap e-ink screen for my Sony350. My dog knocked it off the table

  2. Should have added about the Microtouch that it’s cool

  3. Just looked it up. The frikkin iPod Shuffle — the SHUFFLE! which is nothing but a big button! — uses:

    >>>a 75 MHz SigmaTel D-Major STMP 3550 processor.

  4. Hey, Nate, your friendly REB1200 Guy here.

    This is exactly what eBook Technologies Inc. should have introduced a few years ago by revamping the EBW1150 device with this type of retrofit! They already used a modified ebook format (.imp) that required a converter to change ebooks into they own simpler to use native format!

    They only hope they have grabbed some market share back then as they already had the hardware inventory from the GEMSTAR bankruptcy; could have propelled eBookwise.com down a different non-B&N path and may have changed the course of the current ebook landscape…. or not!

    Well I can dream can’t I….


    • Oops should have better proofread my post:

      should be:

      “change ebooks into their own simpler to use native format!

      I only hope they’d have grabbed some market share back”

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