Shirley Hyatt used to tell me that she routinely downloaded electronic text to one of a variety of PDA type devices, extolling the benefits of changeable font size, portability, and being able to carry a number of books in a pocket rather than in a wheel-aboard. The idea never grabbed me, and in the dozen or so years of one or another ebook-reading devices have been around, i've yet to see one that had the slightest appeal, especially against an actual book.
Tonight I saw a contender. One of our semantic web discussion group attendees brought a Sony Reader with him and showed it around. Slim, light, aesthetically attractive. But as its owner Brian said, the web images don't do it justice. It looks like just another instance of a slick, nicely designed tablet display device... yawn.
To see it in the flesh is to realize that the technology has turned an inflection point. The display is 4-level gray scale and sharp. But that isn't the half of it. The display technology is reflective rather than emissive... no bright-light washout or angular attenuation. It has some faults... a slow page refresh rate (about a second), and it lacks the instantaneous usability that iPod has made seem so easy. But to see it is to say...oh... I'll have one of those one day, and like it.
Image: a wildflower in the Union Bay Natural Area by Lake Washington. ID Welcome.