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e-book reader wishlist

Filed under: Question — Thomas @ 19:44


5 things I want from an ebook reader:

  • I should be able to take notes while reading. Bonus points for having decent OCR so later on my notes are searchable.
  • I want to use it to learn languages. So I want to read a book in Spanish, and words should be clickable or stylusoverable and give me the English translation. It's my number one annoyance when reading paper books in new languages, and I don't want to lug a dictionary around.
  • I want it to be easy to get books onto it based on my Facebook reading list, Amazon wishlist, O'Reilly bookshelf, ...
  • I want to be able to put my own texts on it; pdfs I've downloaded, manuals we make, .... No proprietary formats please.
  • I should be able to do this stuff from Linux.

Obviously this goes on top of normal requirements like 'be light enough to carry around in addition to my usual laptop' (I usually carry a book as well so that should be no problem) and 'have decent battery life'.

Does this already exist ? Can I buy it in Europe ?


  1. For decent battery life, it sounds like you’re looking for an e-ink display… but I don’t know if they allow taking notes :-/

    I did look into e-readers recently, and decided the market wasn’t ready yet : I’ll look again in a few months.

    I found the following link helpful : http://wiki.mobileread.com/wiki/E-book_Reader_Matrix

    Comment by Snark — 2009-08-28 @ 20:19

  2. It does not have all of your points, but if your looking for a dedicated ebook hardware the brand new sony reader “touch edition” feels like the closest one there is. (I am also hunting for a ebook-reader)
    It does annotations (mark words, scribbling, drawing), has at least an english dictionary, supports open formats (pdf, epub, png, txt, etc) and works in linux (works as mass storage device for transferring files)

    Comment by jedthehumanoid — 2009-08-28 @ 20:42

  3. btw, unfortunately the only european countries it’s avaliable in for now (or starting september) is UK and Netherlands.
    Come to think about it, maybe apestaart is a NL name ;)

    Comment by jedthehumanoid — 2009-08-28 @ 20:48

  4. there’s a new sony ebook reader coming to europe now/soon. it’s got a touch screen, so i guess it might meet some of your requirements (PRS-600 Touch Edition)

    Comment by sdf — 2009-08-28 @ 20:49

  5. You should want an e-ink display, because they are amazing!

    Comment by fosn — 2009-08-28 @ 20:59

  6. As suggested above, Sony PRS-600 Touch.
    – has stylus, allows doodling, highliting, making notes
    – light, relatively small, lasts close to 2 weeks on 1 charge (over 1 week with heavy use)
    – has built-in dictionary, currently English-English (American or British) but that means other dictionaries are possible in future
    – uses EPUB (open standard) for e-books
    – get Calibre: it’s open source, written in Python (hey, what a surprise), converts between multitude of formats, produces EPUB nicely, manages book library, automates downloading of RSS, sites (news, etc) and conversion to e-book using “recipes”, works in Windows, OSX, Linux with many e-books (http://calibre.kovidgoyal.net/)
    – there is also Sigil – an open source EPUB editing/publishing tool being developed
    – visit http://www.mobileread.com/ for a lot more information and goodies, check forums and developer hub

    There are other touchscreen e-book readers, PRS-600 is the one I just got and I’ve been using PRS-505 for a year.

    Comment by Alexei — 2009-08-29 @ 01:07

  7. I’m using such an “ebook reader” since about 2004. It’s a Palm Tungsten E device – very light, touch screen allowing taking notes, ability to install clickable dictionaries (I do read Spanish on it most of the time). The battery life isn’t great (3 hours of reading) and there’s no internet connectivity (though I’m sure newer devices have it), but it’s easy to upload books in any format onto it.

    Comment by Eli — 2009-08-29 @ 05:58

  8. The Illiad by iRex does most of these things. Don’t know about OCR but it runs Linux so you could add it yourself :)

    Note of warning: Batterylife is pretty bad (10 hrs max).


    Comment by anon — 2009-08-29 @ 07:14

  9. I have an Iliad and it does everything but your requirement no. 2. Then again, the device is Linux-based and you can unlock it to install your own software, so perhaps something like this is already out there.

    I’ve never tried OCR on the notes since my handwriting is bad enough that that doesn’t make sense. :-) It does have OCR in some other places, though, so the infrastructure is there.

    I don’t have an issue with the battery life and I seem to get more out of it than the 10 hours mentioned above. Depends a lot on what you do. Just reading and flipping a page every now and then consumes much less energy than actively using the device and making the screen change all the time.

    Comment by Hans de Graaff — 2009-08-29 @ 07:32

  10. For requirement number 2. you want eBook reader to support mobipocket dictionary. I have cybook reader, it has battery time of one week of extensive reading. It has support for dictionary, and there also exist software to create your own dictionaries, but I think it is windows only. The only trouble with reader is that it is very picky about USB ports, sometimes works and sometimes don’t. Since I have it I have written a script which takes a webpage and turn’s it into mobipocket file to be read on the reader. I read much more articles that way. :)

    When you are buying eBook reader you have to decide if you want to have big reader (A4) for reading manuals and A4 PDFs, or small (A5 or less) for reading novels. Because most of eBook readers don’t reflow text in PDFs and you have to move around.

    As Snark has already said, mobileread forums are very useful in choosing your reader.

    Comment by MaBu — 2009-08-29 @ 08:28

  11. I have an iRex Technologies’ iLiad since 2 years ago.
    I’s a superb ebook, only minor issues for me are battery (~12 hours) and lack of suspend.
    There is an OCR program, but haven’t tested it as only runs on windows
    Btw, there is a newer iLiad Book Edition, whose battery should run for 16 hours.

    iRex has a new, bigger model, DR1000, as well.
    Note they will release a new model in Q4, the evolution of iLiad, but only in USA.

    If you want, I can show you my iLiad here in Barcelona ;-)

    Comment by Iñigo — 2009-08-29 @ 09:25

  12. I’ve recently bought a Sony prs-505 6 inches. While a friend bought the irex dr1000s. It’s a 10 inches ereader with wacom tablet inside so you can take notes on books.

    Sony advantages:
    -Quite cheap: 193 euro from play.com and they ship it for free (I’m not sure but I don’t want to check)
    -they give you a leather cover, while if you buy it a part costs 40-70 euro
    -it’s easier to bring around because is smaller and lighter
    -it turns pages fast
    -Batteries can stay alive for ages

    -Many pdf files you find on Internet are made with pictures. The Sony prs-505 lets you zoom only to increase your font, not the page. So with pictures the zoom function is useless. You can read it in landscape mode, but if it is still too small you can’t do anything else. I tried to remove margins, resize every page, but it’s a waste of time.

    The Irex Dr1000s:

    -You have this 10 inches screen and you can read perfectly pdf made with pictures.
    -You can take notes with a pen
    -You can add your python scripts (I don’t know too much about this part)

    -More expensive, I think it costs 500 euro.
    -They don’t give you any leather cover, so you must buy it a part: 70 euro
    -It’s quite heavy and big to bring it around, it’s like going around with a notebook.
    -If you use the pen to take notes the battery will need to be recharged after few hours
    -My friend bought a better pen and so he spent other 70 euro

    So at the end my friend is really happy about his ebook reader, but he wants to buy a smaller one to bring around.
    At the same time I’m happy about my Sony but I want a bigger one to read books at home.

    One curious thing about ebooks, they’re much more expensive to buy then printed books (I’m not talking about kindle prices because in Europe nobody has a kindle). Compare books prices from ebooks.com with the prices of printed books from amazon.com.

    Comment by Marco — 2009-08-29 @ 10:08

  13. I also have (and like) an iRex iLiad; seems like your only option for the full featureset above, given that translation isn’t a default feature of other ebook readers, and the iLiad is the only one that’s totally hackable.

    Comment by Chris — 2009-08-29 @ 22:00

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