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E-Reader Devices and Software

e-Reader Devices


The Franklin eBookMan 911

Available in the first quarter of this year, the Franklin eBookMan models run on a proprietary 32-bit RISC microprocessor and provide 8MB or 16MB of memory, providing expansion through a standard multimedia card slot. The touch screen displays 87 percent more pixels than a typical handheld device and can display about 175 words at a time. A scratch-scroll area of the touch-pad allows users to move up and down or pan left and right. At 6.5 ounces and 5.17 inches x 3.39 inches and just over half an inch thick, the device is "pocketable" and runs on two AAA batteries. Hardware features include a USB port, headphone jack, speaker, and microphone. Accessories and applications include a USB cable, stylus, Franklin Reader and dictionary, calendar, phone book, and a host of others. These features allow users not only to download and read e-books, but also to download and listen to music or audio texts, record messages, write notes, and synchronize with Microsoft Outlook.

REB 1100
The Gemstar REB 1100 is a dedicated reading device that includes a touch-activated dictionary, stylus for taking notes and underlining passages, options to change font size and page orientation, and the ability to bookmark pages. The 1100 ships with 8MB of memory and is upgradeable with SmartMedia cards (8MB to 128MB). The device has a USB port, 33.6K modem, backlit monochrome touch screen, and runs on rechargeable Lithium-Ion internal batteries capable of running 15 hours lit or 35 hours unlit. The screen measures 4.75 inches x 3 inches, and the device itself weighs 1.1 pounds.

e-Reading Software

Microsoft Reader

Examples of the Annotate and Library features of Microsoft Reader.

This software application delivers and displays e-books on the screen of a Windows-based PC, Pocket PC handheld device, or other selected e-book device. The software is free, can be downloaded from the Microsoft Web site, includes a free dictionary, and comes pre-loaded on a variety of Pocket PCs that run on the Windows CE operating system. Microsoft Reader "reflows" text, allowing readers to choose how a page will look--including font size--custom-drawing the page to fit the reading device. Other features include the ability to highlight text, take notes in margins, draw on pages, create an index of annotations, click on a word for a definition, and search for words and phrases.

Adobe Acrobat eBook Reader
Formerly the Glassbook Reader, the Acrobat eBook Reader software application enables on-screen reading of digital texts. Unlike Microsoft Reader, however, Adobe is not currently targeting the handheld market--its PDF-based format is better accommodated by Windows or Macintosh PCs and laptops. The software d'es not come pre-loaded on any hardware, but is available for download free on the Glassbook Web site. The dictionary version, the Plus Reader, is $39. In both versions, the page that appears on the screen is exactly like the print version of a text, retaining fonts and design--particularly important for graphical texts such as art books or those with charts or maps. The software features include text-to-speech capability to "speak" definitions from the dictionary, the ability to use embedded hyperlinks, a search tool, annotation and highlighting, display rotation, a two-page view, print capability (as allowed by the publisher), and a sharpen text enhancement tool for subpixel rendering.

Are e-Books Our Future?

Digital textbooks could provide a number of benefits to students and faculty: e-reading software features allow speedy word searches and instant definitions, course texts would not have to be ordered months in advance, students could "lease" a text only for the duration of a course, individual chapters or selections could be assigned and purchased, and one laptop could hold all of the texts required for an entire semester. In addition, text-to-speech capacity could mean that those with visual impairments will have equal and instant access to texts.
All of this, though, presupposes that high quality academic content is available in digital form. Many publishers are reluctant to change from a print-based model to a digital one and risk control of their material. In order to ensure the protection of intellectual property, the e-book industry has focused much of its attention on digital rights management. Some e-books require that users activate software or register the reading device before downloaded secure texts can be opened and read. This step enables encryption technology that limits what a user may do with purchased material. Other possibilities include texts that are downloadable to only one device and may not be transferred. In some cases, a text can be "loaned" to someone using a different device, but the original owner cannot retain and read the file until it is returned. Some products may also limit cut-and-paste or print capabilities.
Another move to encourage e-publishing is outsourcing. Several companies have put together a process that allows publishers to choose a business model and turn over copyrighted material for conversion, encryption, and distribution without the cost of building a separate infrastructure within the company.

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