Sony eInk-eBook revisited

Retroactively posted February 7, 2005

At previous BOSPDAUG meetings we'd discussed electronic ink display technology, which both is low-power and has the high resolution and readability of paper. And in particular we mentioned the Sony Librie, which is an ebook reader released in Japan that used this sort of technology with a beautiful 170dpi grayscale display.

Originally, I had dismissed the device due to its horrendously restrictive DRM (i.e. you could only load books you had purchased from Sony, of which there were less than a hundred available, in Japanese of course) despite it being a cool piece of technology otherwise.

But now it looks like it's been opened up sufficiently for people to load (converted) PDF files of their own onto the device, which suddenly becomes highly useful for all sorts of purposes... it's not possible to deal with restricted ebook formats from other vendors yet, but PDF is pretty universal otherwise. So this device deserves a second look.

It's available for import in a couple of places. Conversion to English isn't apparently easily possible, but instructions are available for how to convert PDFs and load them onto the device through the Japanese interface -- since the user interface of an ebook reader is relatively simple, the language barrier probably isn't a huge hindrance with a little help and experimentation.

Japan Direct has it for $439.

Dynamism has it for $599, which is more expensive but probably also comes with more involved technical support and warranties.

The apparent home of the instructions for converting PDFs so they work (loadable through USB or preferably via MemoryStick) is this group.

I can't quite justify getting one just to play with myself, but if anyone has the need to carry around a lot of reference material and had been lamenting the miniscule displays of PDAs...