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
- 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.