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Reading on iPad before bed can affect sleep habits

I found this over on the L.A. Times blog. It’s true, by the way. The LCD screen is like looking into a flashlight, and it can mess up your sleep pattern. You really should set the iPad aside an hour or more before going to sleep.

…But staring at the screen before bed could leave you lying awake. That’s because direct exposure to such abnormal light sources inhibits the body’s secretion of melatonin, say several sleep experts.

If you’ve watched any late-night TV, you’ve no doubt heard the term thrown around in commercials for sleeping pills. Melatonin signals are sent through the brain as a response to darkness, telling the body to prepare to shut down for the night.

Light-emitting devices, including cellphones and yep, the iPad, tell the brain to stay alert. Because users hold those devices so close to their face, staring directly into the light, the effect is amplified compared with, say, a TV across the room or a bedside lamp, said Frisca Yan-Go, director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center in Santa Monica.

Entourage Edge Review – Pt 3

I so wish I could keep the loaner unit. I think that if I owned the Edge, it would quickly replace my laptop in its role as my external brain. (Don’t laugh; that is how I see my laptop.)

I think that the Reader, the Annotator, and the Journal are well designed both as parts and as a whole. The Edge is very good at taking an existing document and adding to it.

But it isn’t so good at creating a document from scratch. I’d like to be able to start a blank document and then open it in the Reader so I can annotate it. The Edge comes with Docs2Go (which includes support for MS Word). Unfortunately, you can’t open that Word file in the Reader. It was good that Entourage decided to include this app; it fills a need. But I wish they’d put more work into integrating it with the other parts of the Edge.

I like that you can attach all sorts of files to an ebook, but I’m disappointed that I can’t attach a web page. I was told back in December that you could attach pages, not links. It may not seem like a big deal, but I thought the whole idea of the Edge was to gather all your resources on one device. Not attaching web pages would seem to go against that principle.

I also regret the lack of collaboration features. I think it would be great if 2 or more students could share their annotations. Entourage also think this would be a great feature, and collaboration is on their to-do list.

Conclusion

The Edge isn’t for everyone. (No product is, for that matter.) But I do think the Edge is the best device in its niche. The goal was to come up with a practical digital textbook device, and I think Entourage succeeded.

Back to Pt 2

Entourage Edge Review, pt 2

Sorry about the delay; I had technical issues and then got distracted (my Spring Design Alex arrived on Wednesday). I would think that most people are familiar with the Edge, but just in case you’re not, here’s a brief description.

The Edge is an unique dual screen device the Edge is about the size and shape of a netbook. It has 2 screens, one is a 9.7” E-ink screen and the other a 10”LCD screen. (Obviously it does not have a keyboard.) Both screens are touchscreens; the E-ink has a Wacom screen and the LCD touchscreen is capacitive (fingertip friendly). It weighs 3lbs, and the weight is fairly evenly split between the 2 halves.

The LCD is on the right. There is a webcam above it, and 4 buttons and a jogdial next to it. There is a slot behind and below the LCD screen for a Wacom stylus; you' need that stylus for the Wacom touchscreen.

All the ports, card slots, and battery are on the left half of the Edge. There are 4 buttons immediately to the left of the E-ink screen. The battery is on the lower edge, and there is a sim card slot, SD card slot, mini USB port, and a Wifi switch on the upper edge. On the left edge of the Edge are 2 USB Host ports, volume buttons, microphone & headphone jacks, and the power button.

I came up with a list of questions when I started this review, but I’m not going to answer all of them. Now that I’ve used the Edge, I don’t think some of the questions are worth answering because they’re redundant or invalid.

How is the Edge and a laptop used in comparison to the same laptop and textbooks?

I could not comfortably use the Edge with my laptop. I did try, but it seemed to me that the Edge and my laptop both needed to occupy the exact same position on my desk. Shifting one to the side, or propping one on the other, was just too awkward.

But that’s okay. I think that the Edge by itself is a reasonably good replacement for a laptop & a paper textbook. It worked (for most things). Sometimes I need to type, and the onscreen keyboard just doesn’t cut it.

BTW, while I think the Edge can replace a laptop+textbook, the same does not apply when you add a second, third, or fourth book and use them all at the same time. I think you’re going to want to keep those extra books separate from the Edge. But, I did find I could use the Edge with the extra books, and it worked well.

Could the Edge be a complete replacement for a netbook?

Maybe, but it would depend on how you’re going to use it. If you want to use the netbook as a smaller version of a laptop then the Edge won’t suit you. The Edge is intended to complement a laptop, not replace a netbook. You use the Edge in ways that you can’t use a netbook. Also, I think you’d be better off with a laptop+Edge than a laptop+netbook because of how the Edge complements a laptop. I think it would be more productive.

Back to Pt 1

On to Pt 3

Alex – Second Impressions

I don’t normally do a second impressions post, but a couple people have requested one.

I bet some of you would like pictures. I’m only now starting to take some; I’ll post the pictures and a short video tomorrow. I regret that I haven’t posted them yet, but I honestly expected that at least one of the major tech blogs would get an Alex and take pictures. I’m surprised that I haven’t seen any yet.

If there is a point that you would like me to elaborate on, please ask in the comments.

Edge vs Alex

I’m really tempted to give the Alex a nickname: Edge Jr. That’s what it feels like.  The Alex doesn’t have the Edge Journal or Annotator, but it does have all the attachment abilities. I can create links to files, webpages, other books, or other locations in the book. I can create and link to a voice memo. I can also highlight, bookmark, and type in a note.

I wonder who developed the attachments originally. Obviously it’s not Entourage or Spring Design.

I’d say that the menus on the Alex aren’t quite as well designed as on the Edge. But  the Edge has so much more screen real estate that might not be a  fair comparison.

Nook vs Alex

UPDATE from 25 April: I just downloaded the Nook firmware update, and I’ve changed my mind. The Nook has improved significantly.

It’s not fair to compare the 2 because the Nook is just an ereader. (But it’s also $180 cheaper.)  Now that I have an Alex, I think the lawsuit Spring Design filed against B&N is ridiculous. Surely B&N would have done a better job if they had tried to make an Alex knockoff. It’s just not possible for someone to sit through a product demo for the Alex and then design the Nook. There are too many poor decisions in the hardware design (when compared to the Alex).

Reading

I’ve been playing around some more with the Reader. I’ve noticed that the you can bring a page down from the epaper screen to the LCD screen by pressing the little button between the 2 screens. The formatting is preserved when you go to the second screen, and there’s a zoom mode on the LCD screen. It’s going to be really useful for zooming in on PDFs.

Browsing

I’ve logged in to my Gmail account. It worked fine, but I don’t like thumb typing emails.  So I opened Google Reader instead. I really like that I can read the feeds on the E-ink screen. I said before that the Alex was a web tablet; this is why. Also, I like the Alex enough that I think I could get used to thumb typing the emails.

A couple of the feeds I follow are podcasts. It was easy to download one and play it. This is something I hadn’t thought of, actually. It’s probably not going to win out over an MP3 player, but it is nice.  (I’m listening while I type.) But I can’t do anything else while it’s playing, and I think it’s actually streaming the podcast. (I need to look in the )

Bookstore

The Alex is tied into Borders/Kobo, of course. But you’re also prompted with the option of downloading free ebooks from Feedbooks, PG, Smashwords, Google Books, etc. This is the first time I’ve seen an ereader promote free ebooks alongside the paid.

BTW, there are separate icons for the Library, Bookstore, and Reader. I like that.

What doesn’t work

  • I can install some apps , but not all. (Appslib didn’t work.) And I can’t open Android apps on the epaper screen, darnit.
  • The Alex has trouble with certain Wifi hotspots (Edge has the exact same problem).
  • The keyboard has a noticeable lag (ditto for the Edge).
  • There is a default setting which blocks apps that didn’t come from the Android Market. Guess what? The Alex can’t access the Android Market.
  • There is no landscape mode. I wasn’t really expecting it, so I’m not disappointed.

Apps

There is an email client. Unfortunately, the Alex won’t accept the security certificates from Google so I can’t test it.

I have the eReader app working, and I downloaded a few ebooks from Fictionwise. Even though it can’t use the epaper screen it’s still useful. I look at it this way: I can have 2 ebooks open at once.

There is a Youtube app, and it has the same problem as the one on the Edge. It can’t play everything, unfortunately.

Spring Design Alex First Impressions

So my unit arrived today, and I’m going to post my first impressions. My battery died fairly quickly even though it said it was fully charged, so this psot won’t be that complete. I used it for about 10 minutes before I realized:

The Alex is not an E-reader.

No, seriously, it’s not. The Alex is a dual screen web tablet. It does so much more than read ebooks.

hardware

The Alex has a 6″ epaper screen and a 3.5″ LCD screen. There are 2 buttons on either side of the LCD screen. I’ve heard a couple complaints about the fact both page turn buttons are not on the same side. Now that I’ve used it, I understand why they did that. I think you’re supposed to hold the Alex in both hands, or they don’t expect you to need it that much.

I can comfortably hold the Alex in either hand with my thumb between the screens, 4 fingers behind, and the Alex’s corner in the palm of my hand. I’d feel safe carrying it one handed on a commute.

Reading

I didn’t get to use it very long(battery), but I’m really impressed with the annotation abilities.  I didn’t have time to see everything but there were a lot of options and I successfully attached a voice note. Yes, the Alex has a microphone.

Browsing

Once again, I’m impressed. I could display a webpage on both screens at once. Note: the same page was shown twice, not shown split between the 2 screens. Again, not enough time to really get into it.

It also comes with a Youtube app.

key shortcuts

I haven’t read the manual, but I think there are some shortcuts that can jump you out of the browser. I was pressing stuff in random pairs and at least one worked. Shiny.

What’s in the Box

The Alex was shipped in a UPS envelope (in its retail box, of course), not a shipping box. I’m not pleased. Besides the device, the box also contained a charger, USB cable, a paper manual, and a case, which is crap. It looks like it cost about $1.50 to make, and it’s so flimsy that it can only protect against scuff marks. I don’t think it would be enough to protect the Alex if I dropped it.

Nook vs Alex

UPDATE from 25 April: I just downloaded the Nook firmware update, and I’ve changed my mind. The Nook has improved significantly.

If you own a Nook, I’d sell it and get an Alex. Do it today so you beat the rush. The Alex is that much better. I’m actually not joking. The Alex feels like Spring Design put a lot of thought into it.

Pocketbook 901

Yesterday I mentioned the Pocketbook 901. Rather than rehash old information,  I decided to dig up the following post on when I saw the PB901 at CES 2010 and repost it.

Note: The information in this post was current as of January 2010. It might be out of date now.

Update: Charbax shot a hands on video of the PB901 at Computex in June 2010. Surprisingly, they haven’t changed the design much (but they are quoting a lower price):

Pocketbook had a prototype 9.7″ ebook reader with the new flexible screen in its booth at CES. You might not be able to see it in the photos, but when I held it in my hands I could see the screen wasn’t flat. There was a slight bulge behind the screen from one of the circuit boards.

I asked, and I was told that there will be 2 models. The basic model (PB901) is projected to cost around $450 and be available in September. The PB902 will have Wifi and a touchscreen, and will be available later. Note that the one in the photos is not the production model. It’s a prototype that was thrown together quickly in time for a demo for the Russian Education Minister.

BTW, this isn’t the first mention of the Pocketbook 901. There was a couple pictures posted in MobileRead’s Deutsches Forum. But I do believe these are the first shots in the wild.

Entourage Edge Review, pt 1

This post was originally titled “How does the Edge compare to a netbook?”, but it seems to have gone sideways in a couple different directions.

When I first phrased the question, I was thinking of a laptop, not a netbook. But that was mainly because my main computer is a 12″ laptop, which is just barely too large to qualify as a netbook. (Netbooks are a subset of laptops, anyway).

BTW, I also wrote a post about how the Edge can export annotations. You can find it over here.

Two common complaints with netbooks are that the screen and keyboard are too small. This doesn’t apply to the Edge, and the reason why is rather interesting: The Edge is used differently than a netbook.

A netbook is used with the screen in landscape, and you input data on the keyboard and see that data on the screen. Since you don’t actually manipulate the data on the screen, there is a disconnect between what you type and what you see. I didn’t really notice this until I started using the Edge.

On the other hand, when I use the Edge, it is usually propped in a position similar to that of a textbook. It might be half in my lap and propped on a  table, or it might be on a table and propped up by my backpack. (BTW, I normally don’t lay it flat; it just didn’t seem to work.*)

So what was my point about the disconnect? It has to do with the editing process. The best way to edit a piece of writing is to print it out and go over it with a pen. (Ask any writer over 30.) Marking the paper directly is a different mental process than typing on the screen. I’ve known this for some time, but I didn’t really understand it until I got the Edge. On the Edge, you directly manipulate the data on the screen.

I think that the experience of using the Edge has more in common with a book or ereader than a netbook, and this is where the Edge excels. I also feel that the Edge was inside my personal space and that a netbook is at arm’s length.

Unfortunately, the Edge falls short when it comes to creating work instead of adding or editing it. The onscreen keyboard is barely usable. It works, but I’d much prefer a physical keyboard. In fact, I highly recommend that you get a compact keyboard to carry with the Edge. This would help fix the one way that a netbook is better than the Edge.

So there you have it. For some people, and for some purposes, the Edge is a serious alternative to a netbook. But could it replace the netbook? I don’t know.

*I didn’t like to lay it flat because it forced me to physically shift my body whenever I needed to switch screens. When the Edge was propped like a book, all I needed to do was turn my head. At least, that’s what it feels like to me.

Dear Authors, Your Next Book Shouldn’t be an App

There was another editorial on TechCrunch yesterday, and the author (like Paul Carr) has been caught up in the iPad hype.

If you, as an author, see the iPad as a place to ‘publish’ your next book, you are completely missing the point. What do you think would have happened if George Orwell had the iPad? Do you think he would have written for print then copy and pasted his story into the iBookstore? If this didn’t work out well, do you think he would have complained that there aren’t any serious-readers anymore? No. He would have looked at the medium, then blown our minds.

Needless to say, I think she’s wrong. Whatever you spend to make that app will be spent in a small, highly competitive market. There are 4 billion apps in iTunes right now. What makes you think your app will stand out, or that you’ll make a return on the investment? BTW, most of the material created to enhance the ebook cannot be sold elsewhere; there is no other market. (Okay, you could post the content on a website, but wouldn’t that undercut the app sales?)

The Edge & the right way to handle notes

Today  I came across a feature that the Edge got right. The main reason I noticed is that everyone else gets it wrong.

One critical feature that most ereaders miss is annotation. To be more exact, the missing feature is how to get annotations off the ereader. Okay, it’s not important for the basic models, but once you have the ability to edit an ebook on an ereader, what is the value of that editing if you can’t use them elsewhere?

When using the Edge, you can save the pen based annotations (and the page they’re on) as a PDF. You’re also supposed to be able to send that PDF as an email attachment, but that doesn’t seem to work yet. (Let me fiddle with that some more.)

I’m also pleased with the quality of the inking. BTW, now I understand why the Edge has a large bezel. It gives me extra space to rest my hand while I’m writing. This helps me a lot, because my penmanship was never very good to start with.

So long as I’m on the topic of inking, I’d like to point out that you can also create "journals", which are collections of handwritten notes that aren’t attached to any ebook. With a single button press, you can switch between having an ebook and a journal on the epaper screen.

I’m really impressed with all the writing options. You can write in 6 different line sizes, 5 different shades, and there is even undo and redo options. I think the best comparison would be a b&w version of MSPaint( but that’s not an exact match). About the only option not offered is typing a piece of text into a journal instead of writing it.

sample 1

sample 2

Entourage Edge Review, pt 0

I know I’m a couple months behind everyone else, but this is one situation where I like it that way. This is not going to be an easy review.

I’ve had an Edge for 3 days now, and it has reinforced the impressions I got when I saw it back in December. It’s a fascinating tool, and it’s going to be a lot of fun to play with. I’m already beginning to form an opinion, but I won’t share it here.

This isn’t an ereader; it’s so much more than that. I don’t know that I will be able to make a clear recommendation (for or against) because there are a dozen or more reasons that might affect your decision.

E-readers are comparatively simple. They display text, and some let you annotate that text. Like I said back in December, the Edge can do so much more. The closest tool to an Edge is a netbook, not an ereader.

Just to give you an idea of where I’m going to take this review, here are some of the questions I plan to answer:

  1. How does the Edge compare to a netbook? What can one do that the other cannot?
  2. How is the Edge and a laptop used in comparison to the same laptop and textbooks? (ditto for desktop)
  3. Could the Edge be a complete replacement for a netbook?Would a desktop PC partnered with the Edge be better than the same desktop partnered with a netbook?
  4. Would a laptop partnered with the Edge be better than the same laptop partnered with a netbook?
  5. How does the Edge compare to an ereader in terms of usability?

ThinkGeek now selling E-ink Tattoos!

From the product page:

How many people do you know who regret their tattoo? You grow up, you dump (or get dumped), or maybe you picked a tattoo "artist" that learned their craft in prison using ballpoint pens and a sharpened paper clip. At that point, your choices are: deal with it, get it covered up, or get shot with lasers to take it off. And nobody wants to go for a job interview only to be given the evil eye because you’re a little more inked than the current employees! Body modification discrimination is a sad fact of life.

What do you do when you want a tattoo but don’t want the commitment of permanent ink? The moodInq system is a breakthrough in tattoo technology, using a skin-safe proprietary E ink encapsulated pigment system that lasts a lifetime but can be configured to display any design (or none!) to suit your mood.

So how does it work? We have partnered with leading physicians and technicians in the cosmetic surgery industry to implant the E ink grid, called a canvas. The canvas can go anywhere on your body and be configured to the size and shape of the body party you’d like to ink. After a short healing period (usually 2-3 days), you can begin using the moodInq software included with your kit to change your canvas to display the tattoo you desire!

A Brief Review of the SmartQ V7, pt 1

My SmartQ V7 just arrived in the mail, and I thought I’d post some thoughts. I’m going to compare the V7 with my SmartQ 7, which is the previous generation. I’ll post a more extensive review later, and this will cover all 3 OS options that come on the SmartQ V7. Both models are available right now, and I’d recommend EletroWorld if you want to buy one.

The 2 devices have a lot in common; they literally have almost identical hardware. They’re a 7″ touchscreen LCD tablet design with a curved off-white back panel. There are 2 speakers & a flimsy kickstand on the back, 3 button on the upper edge, 3 buttons to the left of the screen, SDHC card slot & reset button on the lower edge, and power, headphone jack, & USB Host on the right edge. The only major visual difference between the 2 is that the newer model has HDMI out.

Both devices have Wifi & Bluetooth, and they run the same custom Ubuntu Linux firmware. The V7 also comes with Android and WinCE pre-installed. The V7 has more RAM (256MB vs 128MB) and more internal storage (2GB vs 1GB).

I’ve been playing with the V7 for a couple hours now, and I can’t see any significant improvement in its performance over that of its predecessor. This is something of a relief for me because I’ve so desperately wanted a V7 ever since it was announced.

I’ve had the SmartQ 7 since August, and I like it. It’s not a terribly fast MID, and it doesn’t have Flash support, but I’ve found it to be a more than adequate ereader. It comes with FBReader and Midori (web browser), and you can also most common Linux apps.

When I use the SmartQ 7, I like to alternate between reading an ebook, browsing blogs & forums, and reading RSS feeds. The general e-reading experience is where the SmartQ devices excel. Actually, this is where LCD tablets usually beat epaper based ereaders because there are times where a fast screen refresh is worth it.

My Opinion

I haven’t used the Android or WinCE firmwares yet, so I can’t comment on them. But I will say that I like the SmartQ as general ereaders, and I’m beginning to lean towards recommending the V7 over it predecessor.  I wouldn’t replace an existing SmartQ 7, but if I was making a new purchase I would get a SmartQ V7. I think the extra RAM, Flash, and OS options might be worth the extra cost ($189 vs $225 at Eletroworld). On the other hand, the SmartQ 7 is a very adequate in its own right, and you should ask yourself if you really need the extra features.

Pocketbook 302 Review, pt 2

The Pocketbook 302 is just coming on to the market, and I was lucky enough to get one of the first review units. This is part 2 of the review. I posted the first part of the review last week, and it has a fair amount of detail. If you haven’t read it yet, you should. This part will cover entirely different material. Also, you might be interested in the hands on videos I shot.

My Opinion

I’m putting this section first, rather than last, because I think I spent a little too much time pointing out the flaws of PB302. I like it. I could easily see having one as my main ereader. It’s the first dedicated ereader that I’ve seen that really lives up to the term ereader. Most every other device is just an ebook reader; the PB302 is more because it has an RSS Reader and a browser. These features are slightly flawed, yes, but they are features that you can’t get on any other ereader without a hack (Nook, Iliad). (The Kindle doesn’t count because in most countries you can’t use the browser).

In my opinion, the only ebook reader that can compare with a PB302 is a (hacked) Nook. I’ve thought about this for some time, and I can’t say that one is clearly better than the other. This is great news for the PB302; it costs $80 more. I think I would go for the PB302 myself; I prefer its hardware design.

Reading

I was planning to simply say that the 302 uses Adobe RM and FBReader, but I’m beginning to realize that that would be inadequate. The software is on so many devices now that the qualitative differences between one implementation and the next might be a deciding factor. I think it’s worth noting that FBReader is fully implemented, and has enough options to satisfy the pickiest of users. On the other hand, I’m not happy with how the 302 handles annotation under Adobe.

Highlighting is not supported, but bookmarks and note taking are. The PB302 handles notes slightly different from other ereaders I’ve used. You can make a note by copying part of a page, only you’re not copying text. Instead, you’re taking a partial screen shot and saving it as an image. Once you create the note, you can then draw or write on it. There is no text based annotation.

The note taking is a disappointment. You can’t access notes from inside a book; you have to exit the book and go back to the main menu. I’d say the note taking really has no value until they fix the accessibility issue.

The Shiny Screen

Like I said in the first part of this review, I’m happy with the PB302 as a reader. Even though the screen doesn’t bother me, it might bother you. It is nearly perfectly reflective. I used it as a mirror one morning; it’s that shiny. If you are concerned about the screen, then you might want to wait for the later matte screen. Also, I’ve been told twice by 2 different people that Pocketbook will replace the shiny screens upon request.

Battery Life

My testing was not all that rigorous, but the battery lasted about 10 days with a lot of reading but not much Wifi use.

Apps

The PB302 comes with 9 apps (and you can install more). The 9 apps include a calculator, chess, solitaire, clock, dictionary, Snake, Sudoku, and a web browser. The games are a nice diversion, but they’re really nothing special. You might find one that you love, but I wouldn’t pick the games as a reason to get the PB302.

The web browser is very useful, and when the bugs are ironed out it will be even more so. But before I enumerate the bugs, let me say that the browsing experience is good enough that the bugs are actual disappointments. I like browsing on the PB302. In comparison, the Kindle browsing experience is poor enough that I would not have bothered to complain about these few bugs.

There are 2 bugs in the web browser. The text entry parts of web pages don’t display correctly (this prevents you from logging in anywhere), and the other bug is that when the browser downloads a file, it tries to open it as text.

Here’s what I’d like to see as an app: an email client. It’s the only type of e-reading that I can’t do with the PB302. I can read blogs, forums, RSS feeds, and ebooks, but I can’t read my email. Even if all I could do was view the emails (and not respond), it would still be useful.

RSS Feed Reader

This feature is reasonably well thought out and implemented. Rather than pulling the feeds itself, it instead contacts Pocketbook’s servers. The servers check the feeds for updates, gather the new posts, and create ebooks for you to download (one per feed). Using external servers results in a very fast process. The only delay is the time it takes to download the ebook.

But it’s not quite there yet. There are a number of parts that need to be improved, including how you enter the feed names, link support, and the file format used. I had to type in each of the feeds one at a time. I follow nearly 200 feeds, and I would much prefer to simply upload a list. I also think they should change the file format used. They’re currently using FB2, and they should use Epub. Switching to Epub should also fix the problem with html tag support. Also, it would be good if the links leading out of a feed post worked. This last point is well within the abilities of the 302.

Like the browser, this is almost (but not quite) the WOW factor for the PB302. It’s very useful, and it works rather well. Even though I have issues with it, I still think the RSS reader is one of the best things about the PB302. If I kept the ereader, I would use this feature.

Kindle not all that great as a Digital Textbook

The Financial Times had an article yesterday on the Kindle textbook pilot projects. I already knew most of the details just from my personal experiences, but it’s good to have confirmation from another source.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business was one of the first to issue a Kindle DX – the larger display version of the ereader – to a selection of new MBA students.

Darden is the second-biggest publisher of business case studies and teaching notes after Harvard, so it was interested as a publisher, and as an educator, in whether e-books could be a useful format for students.

But that meant converting many documents into Amazon’s format because simply putting them on to a Kindle in standard PDF format would in many cases render them unreadable; fonts can be too small and the text can’t be highlighted or enlarged.

Once the texts were on the device, sorting through dozens of cases was a challenge, because documents can only be sorted by author, title or most recently used, with no scope for categories or other file structures.

The Kindle’s monochrome screen is not ideal for viewing charts or illustrations and the lack of touchscreen means highlighting or annotating data in tables or spreadsheets is cumbersome, Mr Koenig says.

Note-taking was also a problem, because of the small inbuilt keyboard. Up to half of a Darden MBA’s grade is based on performance in the classroom, requiring heavy preparation.

“If the technology you use to organise your thoughts slows you down compared with taking notes by hand or on a computer, we told [students] to put it aside,” says Mr Koenig.

Most did just that. Of the 63 students randomly selected for the trial, 10 to 15 per cent remain “heavy users”, with a very small percentage using Kindles in the classroom. Almost three-quarters said they would not recommend the Kindle to an incoming MBA – even though the vast majority said it was a great personal reading device.

In spite of the ereader’s faults, many liked having their notes to read en route to interviews or to use its text-to-speech features to listen to cases while driving or at the gym.

“They have created a fantastic consumer device,” says Mr Koenig. “Those who have it, have a library that travels very easily.”

continued here

Pocketbook 302 Review, pt 1 (hands on video)

I got one of the first PB302 while I was at the O’Reilly conference last week. I’m going to follow my usual pattern of posting my impressions before posting a full review. I’ve covered the Pocketbook 302 before, and I’ve taken several photos (here and here).

It’s a 6″ ereader with touchscreen. The design is sparse, but the buttons are well placed. There is a stylus, microSD card slot on the upper edge, and the headphone jack & 2 USB ports on the bottom edge (it has USB host). The battery is user replaceable (there is a panel on the back). The PB302 also has an accelerometer, Bluetooth, and Wifi, and includes support for WPA and WEP security. The Wifi works rather well.

There are only 5 buttons on the front of the PB302. There are 2 on either side of the screen, and an escape button below the screen. Normally, I’d name all the buttons based on their function, but here’s the first neat feature of the PB302: you can remap the 4 buttons so they perform different actions. They default as page turns, but you’re offered a broad selection of alternatives. I’m frankly surprised at how many different actions there are; I honestly can’t think of one that’s not in the list. You also have the option of mapping functions to the power button. Press and hold will always turn off the 302, but tap and double-tap can be set to any of the options.

Reading software

It’s using Adobe Reader Mobile and FBReader. It appears to have full feature support for FBReader. Screen refresh is slightly faster than the Nook. Since we know the Nook has one of the latest generation Marvell chips (and the 302 doesn’t), I’d say that the PB302 comes out ahead in this comparison. I’m quite happy with it as a reader.

General Impressions

The touchscreen is highly reflective (I’m told they’re working on it). Even so, I’m satisfied with the PB 302 as a reader. It meets my minimum requirements: sleep mode, adequate format support, & one handed operation. I’ve gone though most of its abilities and I can’t find any shortcomings.

Extra Features

With the 302, you have the option of installing your own apps. It comes with about a dozen apps installed: games, dictionary, clock, sketchpad, web browser, RSS feed reader. It was the browser and RSS reader that originally caught my eye. Both of them work rather well.

I wish it had an email client, though.

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