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Best PDA To Read e-Texts On? 390

GabrielStrange writes "I've been thinking for a while now that I'd like to own some sort of portable device on which I could read e-Texts. This device should be able to read both simple text files (i.e. Project Gutenberg e-Texts) and more complex formats, like Plucker, Acrobat or Microsoft Reader. It should have a fairly high-res display with a backlight that would be easy on the eyes... but doesn't particularly need to be a color display. I'd like it to work with at least one (if not both) of the machines on my desktop, which run Linux 2.6 and MacOS X Panther... And to use a USB port. And I'd like it to have a built in, rechargeable battery, because I already have enough devices to worry about batteries for. And, of course, I don't want to pay very much for it. Anyone got any recommendations for such a device? It's proving to be almost impossible to even obtain an actual list of devices that have these features."
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Best PDA To Read e-Texts On?

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  • No such thing? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Carnildo ( 712617 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @07:59PM (#9069046) Homepage Journal
    If you drop the battery requirements, you can probably find a few PDAs that will fit the bill.
    • Re:No such thing? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Trejkaz ( 615352 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:08PM (#9069119) Homepage
      Even _with_ the battery requirements, the GameBoy Advance SP can be set up to read eBooks. The only problem is the screen is a little smaller than some people may like. Nevertheless...
    • Re:No such thing? (Score:5, Informative)

      by homer_ca ( 144738 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:48PM (#9069421)
      More than a few. Just about any PDA would work. On the low end, the $99 Palm Zires have 8MB and a rechargeable battery. It's low-res, 160x160, so I'd suggest the next step up.

      I'd really suggest something with at least a 320x240 screen like a low end PocketPC or a mid range Palm like the Tungsten E. Should be under $200. On my PocketPC I've used the uBook and Vade Mecum (port of Plucker) readers. Storage is never a problem with the price of SD cards these days.
      • Re:No such thing? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Sancho ( 17056 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @09:13PM (#9069565) Homepage
        I read ebooks on a Palm IIIxe some time ago, and it worked beautifully. I recently had the chance to play with a Tungsten E, and while the screen itself was much, much nicer, the batter will be something of a problem. If it's possible to underclock, that may help somewhat, but even with the brightness turned all the way down and only using the reading software, the battery dropped to about half charge after only a couple of hours of reading. Charging up is quick, but still this is an issue for someone who really wants a portable solution.
        The OP needs to realize that high resolution screens are a huge drain on the batter, as is a continuous backlight. The Zire may be a better option for reading books, since I suspect you'll get more hours out of it (though I haven't seen any real numbers on the Zire yet.)
        • Re:No such thing? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TCaptain ( 115352 )
          I am lucky to have one of the Tungsten E and I find it curious that your battery life is so short. Was it a very used one?

          I don't dim my screen often(since I read outside a lot) and I do more than a couple of hours on it in a day (beyond reading there's the tasklists, notes, docstogo, the occassional game of bejeweled and listening to mp3s for the 45 mins walk home in the afternoons) and I find my battery level at the end of the day is about half...maybe a quarter if I've played more games than usual...

      • Be very wary of the Zire series though, not all of them have backlights. Find a used Clié or M515 instead, for around the same price.
  • iBook (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tyler Eaves ( 344284 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:00PM (#9069053)
    You can probably pick up a used iBook for under $500. I can't imagine wanting to read large volumes of text on any PDA.
    • Re:iBook (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JesseL ( 107722 ) * on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:06PM (#9069100) Homepage Journal
      You have a very crippled imagination. I've read nearly 100 books on PDAs, first my handspring visor and later my ipaq 3150 (monochrome). These include some fairly long books like Cryptonomicon and The Count of Monte Cristo. I've never found it particularly straining or anything. In fact, I find it preferable to paper books these days.
      • by schwaang ( 667808 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:17PM (#9069203)
        Indeed, I dug my gf's old PalmV up from its grave a couple months ago. Have been happily reading e-books and NY Times using Plucker (& JPluckX) since.

        I don't prefer it to a book but do like it better than my desktop's 17" LCD for lengthly reading. Having it in hand makes the experience more book-like. (Every try taking a 17" monitor to bed? Don't answer that.)

        • by Anonymous Coward
          Ever try taking a 17" monitor to bed

          I choose not to anwer this question.

        • "Every try taking a 17" monitor to bed?" While I am sure you are joking I did this. When my computer room needed new carpet I had to move my computer into my room. I didn't have a desk so I set the computer on the floor and put the monitor on my bed. Thankfully I am not addicted to my computer to the point where I would sleep with the monitor in my bed.
        • Tablet PCs (Score:5, Informative)

          by antek9 ( 305362 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @09:37PM (#9069719)
          I've been reading 'Shogun' on my Jornada cover to cover (if you can say that in this case), and it was okay, while not perfect. The perfect reading devices these days nevertheless are of course tablet PCs, although the slashdot crowd does not seem to subscribe to that. If you get a slate like the Fujitsu Stylistic or a Motion, then they are portable and lightweight enough, they got real screens from 10 inches onward, do in fact run all the reading apps you might ever need, sport reasonably sized hard discs and will, if you so desire, run linux with only minimal discomfort. Original poster of article didn't name price limits, but if that's a problem, try to get a good deal on a refurb or via eBay, obviously. Worked for me, works great, I hardly ever need to leave my machine alone now, reclining chair, terace, uni, bed (yes indeed), bathtub. Better strike out the bathtub, though...
    • This isnt that far off topic. I agree with the parent, I have a zaurus and an ibook and i cant imagine having to read ebooks on my zaurus.

      the problem is, is there isnt enough screen space to accomidate a normal ebook. also scrolling gets really annoying if you have to scroll every minute or so like did.

      find a small laptop
      • Re:iBook (Score:4, Interesting)

        by JesseL ( 107722 ) * on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:16PM (#9069189) Homepage Journal
        I always liked the limited amount of text per page on my ebooks. If I get too much text on the screen it just makes it easier to lose my place when I get interupted. Next page and previous page buttons make scrolling pages much less of a chore than flipping paper sheets.
        • Re:iBook (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Next page and previous page buttons make scrolling pages much less of a chore than flipping paper sheets.

          Yeah, it's pretty damned hard to flip those paper sheets. I get all exhausted after about ten pages of a regular book. Thank god for technology!

      • Re:iBook (Score:5, Informative)

        by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) <akaimbatman&gmail,com> on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:17PM (#9069196) Homepage Journal
        I use a Sony Clie SJ-20 model for ebooks. I find it much more comfortable than laptops or even real books. The big advantages are:
        • Hi resolution for sharp text
        • Pure white backlight
        • Easy on the eyes (I've got eyestrain)
        • Scroll wheel to scroll efforlessly (no need to hold it in an unnatural fashion

        The biggest disadvantage is the loss of formatting. It's not a big deal for fiction, but technical manuals (especially with diagrams) are a no-go.

        • Re:iBook (Score:3, Informative)

          by OsCarJ ( 141083 )

          My vote also goes for the Sony Clie SJ-20 (or SJ-30 if you want color.)

          These also have the advantage of very good battery life on rechargable, user-replacable batteries. I get about a week of use on a single charge with mine.

          Can't say if it works with MacOS but I've been using mine with Linux since the first day. I don't think I've ever synced it to a Windows box.

      • Re:iBook (Score:4, Informative)

        by Kazymyr ( 190114 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @09:43PM (#9069753) Journal
        "...if you have to scroll every minute or so like did"

        That's why most ebook readers on portable devices these days have autoscroll. I particularly like CSpotRun on my Visor for ebooks - it's also *gasp!* open-source, and reads the widespread DOC format.

        • Re:iBook (Score:3, Informative)

          by Myuu ( 529245 )
          sorry, I was going to address this in my orginal post. I never truely appreciated autscroll because it puts too much pressure on me to read fast and i read at really varying rates.
      • Re:iBook (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ducman ( 107063 )
        I think my PowerBook Titanium works extremely well. I open a text file in a word processor and use Mac OS X's ability to print to a PDF file. Then I open the PDF file with the Preview app, rotate it left, and view it full-screen. Then I hold the computer like a book, and turn pages by clicking the mouse button.

        High resolution text, a bit larger than a hardcover, page at a time display instead of annoying scrolling, 3-4 hours battery life...perfect
    • I can't imagine holding an iBook in one hand on a crowded bus.

      The advantage of a PDA is its small and convenient size - smaller than a paperback. You're reading mostly linearly anyway, so you don't need a large screen (paperbacks are much smaller than iBooks). All you need is crisp text, a backlight, decent battery life and an easy way to turn pages (I prefer a thumbwheel myself).

  • by frankmu ( 68782 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:01PM (#9069061) Homepage
    zaurus []is what you are looking for.
    • Yes. I concur.

      The Z is amazing for this, in fact utilizing the software available on the popular downloadsite [] including flite (festival [] lite) the Z can provide an excellent Reading/TTS environment complete with shell scriptable goodness.
    • by geeber ( 520231 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @09:05PM (#9069532)
      Except, he said "I don't want to pay very much for it."

      I think at $699 that pretty much rules out the Zaurus.
      • by stuffman64 ( 208233 ) <> on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @10:05PM (#9069881)
        True, but no PDAs in the lower price range can even come close to the screens on the Zauruses. The screen on my SL-C860 is so incredibly bright, crisp, and legible that in my opinion, no other PDA can match.
        The 860's (and 750 and 760, for that matter) screen is native 640x480, and is truely remarkable to look at. If he doesn't want to drop $850 on the SL-C860, the 760 is almost identical and a few hundred cheaper. Even the 750's screen is a wonder. The SL-6000 [] mentioned earlier today looks promising, but I'd pay the extra for the clamshell 860 over it any day.
        The new Toshibas with the 640x480 screens look promising, however, since I have not used one, I cannot make a fair judgement. Also, since the Zaurus runs Linux, free software abounds. The PDF reader is quite nice, but don't go porting all of your protected ebooks over, we all know what happens when you mess with ebook protection! []
  • Check out the PDA reviewed earlier today. It's a Linux PDA, and has a 640x480 screen. If you turn on subpixel antialiasing and have a view at that resolution, you couldn't want anything else.

    Plus you'll have a lot more control over font sizes, orientation, etc with Linux. Even simply using a web browser would make for excellent reading at that resolution, and you could whip up some scripts to format whatever texts you like for HTML in no time at all.

    (Posted via proxy -- I wish Slashdot would unban my home IP subnet. When will Slashdot be done beta testing their IP subnet-based karma system? Not all of us work at VA and have our own subnet.)

  • Toshiba e800/e805 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:02PM (#9069071)
    I use a Toshiba e805 (same as the e800 but with some image software thrown in). It has 128MB of built in memory and both a SDIO and CF expansion slot (along with built in 802.11b) so you can load it up on storage or (as I did) add bluetooth to access the web via a cell phone. Its got a very nice 480x640 screen that is perfect for reading text on (its larger then most PDAs) with a 2MB ATI graphics accelerator. Granted you need to install some third party software to get the default mode to be anything other then 200x320, but once setup right its very slick. If you poke around you can also find 480x640 skins for many apps such as PocketPlayer, MS Media Player, PocketDV and others.
  • Tungsten T3! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jameslore ( 219771 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:02PM (#9069073) Homepage
    While I'm sure I'll be mocked (since Palm OS isn't Linux), my T3 is great for ebooks.

    + Palm Reader is all good, and plenty of other choices.
    + Large library available (
    + Small device, great resolution (320 x 480, potrait or landscape).
    + Lots of other software :-)

    - Anti-aliasing is mediocre at best. Resoltion does make up for it somewhat...
    - T3 battery life is very mediocre. Perhaps a Clie instead, if this is a concern.
    - Not cheap.

    Cheers - James
    • Re:Tungsten T3! (Score:3, Informative)

      by Gilk180 ( 513755 )
      Tungsten C!!!

      much brighter
      better resolution
      better battery life
      built in wifi
      the list goes on.
      • Re:Tungsten T3! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by metlin ( 258108 ) * on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:43PM (#9069400) Journal
        Hmmm, I've a Palm Vx, and use it to read when I fly. Its backlight is not too bright, and the text has a very soft greenish-glow, which makes it quite easy on the eye.

        Its small, cheap, robust has good battery life and is easy to carry (since I do not really have to worry too much about losing it or breaking it :).

        You can get one off eBay for as little $20 and odd, and its really handy.

        Ofcourse - this is solely for the purposes of airport/flight reading, and I hardly use it for anything else. But its really simple and handy, and is a constant companion when I travel.
    • Re:Tungsten T3! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mclove ( 266201 )
      DeepReader ( hasn't been updated in a while but has *great* anti-aliasing - not sure how well it'll work on your T3 but it's worth a shot for unprotected eBooks at least.
    • I have two wonderful recommendations for you

      First, the M100, which can be had on ebay for incredibly cheap. This is crappy little PDA that does just about everything you need. no this isn't a contradiciton.

      It's slow, clunky, and has a low res screen. That screen is only good for showing text, and maybe a calendar.

      This is where the catch comes in. That's all you need. The res is perfectly comfortable for reading books (I've read over 15 books on the M100) and the indiglo backlight is unoffensive to the ey
  • Try 2 of the 3 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by chrispyman ( 710460 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:03PM (#9069076)
    Ha... nice try, but no such device exists. You can only have 2 of the 3 items... Take your pick of:
    1) Good resolution
    2) internal battery
    3) low price
  • by ItMustBeEsoteric ( 732632 ) <> on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:03PM (#9069078)
    The Zaurus series is pretty much a geek's wet dream. Being open source, you can pretty much get any readers you would like, they use rechargable Li-Ion batteries, USB, and you can even connect them via TCP/IP over the USB port...meaning essentially if the OS works with USB you shouldn't have much in the way of trouble.

    I read Red Badge of Courage and a couple others on my SL-5500 during downtime at work, and it was fine for me--and my vision is pretty far from 20/20 (though it is fine with glasses). The 5500s can be gotten pretty cheap these days, though I imagine the new 6000 series with the 640x480 screen would be wonderful....*drools*.

    Just my 0.02$
  • by Warlock48 ( 132391 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:03PM (#9069084) Homepage [] ... Whenever it's available!
  • Why not a PDA? (Score:5, Informative)

    by rgarcia ( 319304 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:04PM (#9069091)
    I've used my Tungsten for the last 12 books I've read. With an SD card, you can fit all you like and the screen legibility is great, although it may be that I'm just used to it. I know some people have issues with it.
    You may not think color is important, but the change I made from b&w to color (Palm IIIxe to TT) improved legibility incredibly. The increased resolution was also a great factor.
  • by Elrond, Duke of URL ( 2657 ) <> on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:05PM (#9069092) Homepage

    I would strongly suggest finding an older used Sony Clie. I'm using a Clie S300 model. It's B&W with a 160x160 screen. Admittedly, this is low res by current PDA standards, but the text is still very readable.

    The best aspect of this model is that the contrast on the screen is superb and excellent for reading. I previously used a Palm Vx for the same tasks, but comparing the screens is like comparing night and day. Even with the backlight on, the Clie's battery (internal LiIon) lasts for several hours.

    As for reading software... I'm a little biased. I'm the author of Weasel Reader. It runs on Palm OS and is under the GPL. I wrote it specifically for reading Project Gutenberg texts, but you can read any text file. See for more info.

    • Weasel Reader review (Score:5, Informative)

      by WiliLojik ( 58505 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @01:25AM (#9070869) Homepage
      I've been meaning to write a review of Weasel Reader for a while now so I just did. The original work in progress is at Weasel Reader review [].

      While there are many formats for eBooks and a few dedicated pieces of hardware on the market I've found that after trying out everything I could find I've settled on just a few choice technologies that I have gotten the most actual reading out of. In fact just one aspect of one piece of software in particular pretty much wraps it up for me: Autoscroll Mode: Screen Wrap as found in Weasel Reader. Every other text reader autoscroll I have come across forces the eyes to contantly move, often very unsmooth, much unlike a book with its clear sharp letters that stay firmly in place. I believe this common misfeature leads to far greater eye strain and a lower overall acceptance of eBooks because of it. The only possibly superior scroll mode I would like to see added would be a flash mode where words or phrases are flashed sequentially onto the same spot allowing you to read without moving your eyes at all, then you just have to remember to blink on the periods!

      Weasel Reader will run on most any PalmOS device which gives you not only a wide range of PDA hardware to choose from but also desktop emulators should you really fall in love with the Weasel! Having a good selection allows you to choose a device that fits well in your hand, has an easy to read high contrast screen, and enough capacity to store a selection of books. I'm currently using a Handspring Visor Prism and keep a few dozen books on hand to read at night after the wife goes to bed with the lights out or in the queue at the grocers or any other place those nasty slowdowns in our fast paced moderns lives creep up.

      All that said Weasel Reader can be a bit overwhelming to configure so I offer the following as suggestions to get the most out of this great piece of software:

      * Options, Preferences:
      ** Check Skip Project Gutenberg license
      ** Show zTXT size in index
      ** Always remember position.
      ** Use Scroll/Bookmark Buttons

      * Options, Display Preferences:
      ** Line Spacing -2

      * Options, Scroll Preferences:
      ** Autoscroll Mode Screen Wrap

      Once the above are set open up a book and you will see a status bar that has a return to menu arrow, percentage of the book complete, the time, battery indicator, and access to the bookmarks menu. Frankly, I don't care about any of that and as long as "Always remember position" is checked as listed above that is the only bookmark I need. Thankfully a simple tap anywhere on the left hand letter side of the silkscreen hides this menu leaving our screen chock full of text and only a slim progress bar at the bottom to give us an idea how far we are along in our read.

      Now for the fun bit: Press the Address Book button and a dotted line begins decending the screen, a virtual page flip in progess pacing your reading. Too fast you say? Tap the down arrow a few times. Want it faster? Just tap up until you are zipping along. I find myself automatically adjusting the speed as I read and punching the Address Book button when I take a break to rest my eyes. Once out of the auto scroll mode the up and down buttons move up and down a page at a time but I find myself tapping the top or bottom half of the screen with my fingernail quite naturally.

      Overall Weasel Reader is an excellent piece of software I've gotten many hours of enjoyment from. Enjoy!
  • My lovely SL-5600 is up to the job.

    It only costs $289 from Amazon (if you live in the US), and you can easily download a decent plucker reader for it.

    Oh, and it has a 400MHz xScale processor, and runs Linux. And Java.

  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) ( 613870 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:07PM (#9069104) Journal
    The primary function of my T|3 is book reading. In has a large (well, until I read that Zaurus review) 480x320 screen that's easy on the eyes and yet it slides shut to something that really does fit in your pocket. It syncs fine with MacOS X.

    I actually use Palm Reader because the selection of books available in that format is large, even though it's proprietary. (It's about day's work with debuffer [] to crack the encryption BTW, though it's more than my life's worth to actually say whether or not I've done it.)

    Palm Reader has a great built in reference mode. I have the entire unabridged Webster on it - fantastic!

    I've configured the side button (usually to activate the voice recorder) to launch the reader so if I'm waiting in line at Safeway it's about 1 second to go from boredom to reading a good book.

    On the down side - you can read for a few hours, but don't expect to read all night without a recharge.

  • by CAVE^MAN ( 23423 )
    works well with linux(mac os shouldn't be a problem)
    lots of reader software available(not sure about microsoft reader for a palm)
    it's got a usb cradle for syncing/charging
    fairly long battery life(no week long hikes in the mountains tho)
    the screen is easy on the eyes, at least for me, and this tends for by subjective.
    cheap on e-bay.
    if you back off the cheap requirement get a newer palm based device, they are worth it. and some of then even play mp3s while you read :)
  • My guess is that a Sony Clie NX60 (which you can get for like $130 refurb) would fit your needs well. uses USB, syncs with Macs & Linux, hires 320x480 display, good backlight, rechargeable, replaceable LiIon battery, Plucker works great on it.
  • I was especially interested in using it as an ebook reader when I first got it. It retailed for about $600 at the time, but the specs look more like the current crop of $200-$300 PDAs, so you can probably find one for less than that on EBay...

    Anyway, it's not great as a text reader platform. The screen is high enough res to render text in a crisp -- but not jagged -- and nicely readable format. It's Pocket PC (2002), and runs both MS Reader and Pocket Acrobat Reader well enough. There are various utilities
    • I think I'd have to chalk it up to personal prefrence. I've got a 3650, and have had pretty much the opposite experience. No problems at all with screen size, I find it easier to go back than with a book since I can use the search feature, and the small size to me makes it more comfortable to read than a book.
  • For Ebooks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheKidWho ( 705796 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:07PM (#9069114)
    I would definetly recommend the Tapwave Zodiac, the orientation of the device, and the size of the screen make it perfect for ebooks.
  • My school is 100% e text book this year with all books in pdf format. I tried reading it on a pocketpc 2002, but it doesn't look too good. Is there anything short of a super thin laptop that i can use?
    • Screw them (Score:3, Informative)

      Print them all out on paper, put them inside of decent folders. Complain that your student loan wasn't big enough to cover a laptop, or just say you "like being retro"...

      Just because it's in electronic format doesn't mean it has to stay. Print them out in the library while your at it.

  • Sony CLie SJ22 (Score:5, Informative)

    by brownja ( 184673 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:08PM (#9069125)
    I read tons of Gutenberg e-texts on my Sony Clie SJ 22. Good res, great backlight, cheap, etc. etc,
    Jog dial is very handy for reading e-books.
    I use makedocw and cspotrun to create and read files.
    • Re:Sony CLie SJ22 (Score:2, Interesting)

      by bigNuns ( 18804 )
      I use an SJ-20 and it rocks... hi res screen for fairly cheap... and the job dial on the left rocks... this is a big deal... the newer sonys moved it to the bottom and i have no desire to upgrade because of this... of course its all i use it for (reading), so...
  • I have recently been reading a large number of etexts on my Palm Tungsten T. It seems to have great, rechargable battery life, and a nice screen.

    I used to use Weasel however I have recently ditched it for Plucker because I can read a number of html texts with images.

    Although I can't read books on a computer screen (I think my eyes will start bleading after the first two hours) I seem to be able to read them without any discomfort on a PDA screen, probably because it is LCD or something.

    I imagine that a T
  • I too am looking for a e-book reader at the
    moment. Should have specified a minimum screen
    size. Something the size of a Star Trek datapad
    would be good.

    Looking around on Google, there are eBook
    readers that aren't PDAs, they generally have
    slower screen-refresh rates.
  • screen screen screen (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Incy ( 635621 )
    Its all about the screen. I have been reading ebooks exclusivly for the last 2 or 3 years. I really like my palm t3 for its nice large screen. Its nice not to have a nightstand light keeping the wife awake when I read at night. Also nice to always have a book with ya when your get bored and have a minute or two to kill. I think there are plenty of PDAs that will fulfill most of your requirements... cept maybe price.. cuz you didn't say how much you wanted to pay..:)
  • Sony CLIE w/ iSilo (Score:3, Informative)

    by monopole ( 44023 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:11PM (#9069150)
    The CLIE PEG TJ-35 or TJ-25 are available as remainders and have the best screens I've encountered for E-Book Reading. High Res, paper white, jog dial, very easy to read for extended periods of time. The battery life is middling but the purchase of a external battery pack from resolves this problem.
    check out this article as well for other nice clie's for ebook reading.
    In comparison the TJ-37 has a somewhat irregular screen.
  • Zire 21 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Kesh ( 65890 )
    Just pick up a palmOne Zire 21 []. Less than $100, B&W 160x160 screen, USB, 8 Mb storage. It'll handle all the formats asked for, and runs quite a long time on its rechargeable battery.
  • Crisp display, long battery life. I've read all of my books on this since buying it.
  • I bought a Sony Clie SJ-22 a few months ago mainly for reading. I got it for $170CAD, which works out to about $120USD these days. It'd be even cheaper now. So if you can find one it's a great deal. I use Plucker almost exclusively, but I also have Acrobat's reader and AvantGo installed too.

    As far as the hardware is concerned, it's a very sharp little package, really great screen (excellent backlight, works great in direct sunlight, and is colour), and has enough built-in memory for my purposes (16MB). Its
  • by jonabbey ( 2498 ) * <> on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:14PM (#9069180) Homepage

    I've had a Sony Clié SJ-30 for a year and a half, and I love it! It is an excellent size for my hand and pocket, it has a nice, bright 320x320 color display, a jogwheel for scrolling through pages, and a memory stick slot for plenty of storage.

    I use Weasel Reader [] for reading Gutenberg Etexts, Mobipocket Reader [] for reading etexts from Baen [] books, as well as Plucker for web clippings. I also carry along Ultralingua [] dictionaries so I can look up words when reading French language Gutenberg etexts (ahoy, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea!)

    My Sony makes a fantastic e-book reader.. I probably use it for that function as much as for anything else. At 320x320, the screen is easy to read, the high-res fonts are very comfortable, and the backlight is great. It fits easily into my pocket, and I carry it wherever I go. It's USB based, and I sync documents to it from my Red Hat 9 Linux system without problems.

    Honestly, any modern Palm OS based device should have USB and a good 320x320 screen, and any of them that you look at should make a good EReader. The Sony's may still be particularly good with their jogwheel, however.

  • What you mention in your requirements is all important, but there's one more aspect to take into account: easy text scrolling. The only PDA I know of that fits the descriprion are older models of Sony Clie, which have a scroll wheel on the side (newer models have it in the middle of the buttons; not very comfortable). The Clie has backlighting, rechargeable battery and a very good contrast. I've been using my Clie PEG-SJ10, which I've gotten for $99, for over two years now, and I'm still getting around 3
  • It's not a pda, but has a great form factor for carrying around at the office, fits in the car, in docor's offices, wherever you would actually read stuff. PDA's are just too small to read stuff on or do work with, IMHO. I own a sony Clie, and have many references/humorous stuff on it..bofh, bill of rights, perl stuff, the art of war, etc. But I find that I don't really read stuff on it.

    Makes a great network stumbler and portable jukebox too. Mine has a 30GB drive on it, running Linux. You can even u

  • Which only meets some of your criteria...

    Kyocera 6035:
    Resolution is lower than you specify, battery life is good, back light is dreadful.

    Still, I've read many a book using it. And since I always have my phone with me, I always have something to read.

    "Always carry a book with you, because you never know when you might be arrested." -- Emma Goldman
  • Zaurus SL5600 (Score:2, Informative)

    by mungtor ( 306258 )
    Since the 6000 has come out the price on the 5600 has dropped into the reasonable range. If you get a USB cable from SerialIO [] you can charge the Zaurus from any USB port without lugging along the power supply or cradle. You could get the DB9 cable as well and use it to config a router on console in a pinch too...

    Once you get the WiFi card for it, you can just ftp your files over to it or whatever you want to do.
  • What form factor? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Myself ( 57572 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:21PM (#9069221) Journal
    Technically the IBM Workpad Z50 and Vadem Clio (Sharp Mobilon Tripad) are PDAs, but they're clamshell notebook style. The Clio/Tripad has a flip-over screen that turns it into a tablet, but otherwise the specs are quite similar: 131MHz vr141 MIPS CPU, 16 or 32 meg internal storage, CF slot, PCMCIA slot, RS232 port, internal modem.

    You'll have to put up with the lack of a USB port, but RS232 works well for small transfers, and flipping CF cards is fast when you want to move a lot of data.

    Both the z50 and the Clio/Tripad have big screens with excellent contrast. They share great battery life, about 8 hours on the stock battery if you're not running a power-hungry PCMCIA card. (wireless) Optional double-capacity battery packs are available for the z50 that really do achieve 16 hours. Both can run the hpcmips port of NetBSD quite capably, but for reading text you might as well keep the stock WinCE.

    Personally, I'd use the Clio because of the flippable screen. Holding it by the hinge side is very comfortable, and the touchscreen allows easy page-turning even while in tablet mode. The z50 is stuck in a clamshell shape and uses a pointing nipple.

    Did I mention that both can be had on eBay for under $200?
  • Unstoppable object, meet impenetrable wall.
    Impenetrable wall, unstoppable object.
  • Zero power consumption, very portable, works in both bright sunlight and darker rooms.

    And if you're ever stuck in the woods without any TP? Well hey! You're set! Try THAT with your Palm (pilot).
  • You probably don't want an iPod for long text. I converted a couple of books from Project Gutenberg to a string of hyperlinked 4k Note files, and it was kind of a pain...
  • by steveha ( 103154 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:28PM (#9069281) Homepage
    I have a Palm Tungsten T. The screen is fine for indoors, but not good outdoors.

    The Palm Tungsten T2 is pretty much the same PDA, but has a "transflective" screen that is better than the screen on the T, both indoors and outdoors.

    Both are 320x320, and you can get very nice text on it for your ebook. I use it with Linux, no problem hotsyncing with the USB (I use J-Pilot).

    You can also use SD or MMC cards for storing your ebooks; you can get a lot of reading material on one of those, and you can just use any USB card reader/writer to write the ebooks onto it.

    If you check eBay, you can get a T2 for $250 or so. You can get a T for less than that.

    The T3 has the advantage of a screen that is 480x320 when you have it fully open. It has a 400 MHz processor, so it's fast... but the battery life sucks.

    You can get a device from Palm called the "Power To Go", which is just a lithium ion battery sled. You dock the Palm in the sled and the Palm draws power from it. You can fully recharge a drained Palm at least twice on a fully charged sled, or run the Palm from the sled to get very long run times. With one of these you could fly to Japan and read continuously, without running out of power.

    If you can stand a pixelated reading font, an old Handspring Visor makes a decent reader. It runs just forever on two AAA cells. That's what I have used for reading novels on a plane to Japan. But you specified a high-resolution screen for smooth fonts, so the older 160x160 greyscale devices are out.

    If you had to pick just one to buy, I'd say the T2. If you want the cheapest one, get a used T from eBay.

    Be sure to get a quality leather case to protect it. I use the EB flip case, the one that uses magnets to hold it closed.

    By the way, I read more novels as ebooks on my Palm than I read as paper, these days. And I have even started reading Slashdot on my Tungsten (using a PalmModem).

  • Does anyone know of any good ebook software for PPC platform? The Microsoft reader is gorgeous, but of course it only reas its own native (useless) formats. Ideally I'd like something with nice anti aliased fonts like MS Reader. TIA
  • by trawg ( 308495 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:29PM (#9069290) Homepage
    I recently bought an HP iPaq 4150 for the specific purpose of reading ebooks. I got sick of having to shell out AU$20 for a new paperback every week (I buy a lot of books) only to have them fall apart a few weeks later (or for my friends to pinch them, savage them, or lose them).

    The first thing I did was grab some Gutenburg books and have a read, then I bought Neuromancer from (after a lengthy technical battle - if your Temporary Internet Files in IE is full, you'll download your ebook only to have it not actually get installed. Repeat 4 times in confusion, then get told by Amazon that you've already downloaded it so you can't download it again. Punch monitor in frustration screaming about why this is so goddamn hard. Fortunately the Amazon guys believed my story and re-issued the book, cleared my Temporary Internet Files, downloaded again, and then it worked. But I digress).

    The quality of the screen on the 4150 is great. I've only used Microsoft Reader to try and read books so far, and it works - that's about all you can say for a text reader, I guess.

    I have a few minor complaints about Reader. First and foremost, there's quite a bit of whitespace around the edges of the page. This means that there isn't as much text on the page, increasing the number of pages per book - meaning you'll be turning pages pretty regularly. There's no option to shrink text (despite 10 years of staring at screens my eyes still surprisingly work ok) so you'll be doing quite a lot of page flipping to get through any decent amount of books.

    There's no auto page-flipping function. I'm lazy, I'd like to just hold the thing and have it turn pages for me. One of the main reasons I got it was so I could just lie in bed reading at night and try to relax so I can get to sleep; if it was flipping pages for me that'd be handy!

    A non-Reader complaint that I feel is a little relevant is that Pocket Word can't open large .txt files. The first thing I tried to open was The Iliad (800k), and Word bombed out. You can of course dump it on a proper version of Word and export it to Reader format with the press of a button, but if you're regularly reading large .doc files, then that might be a problem.

    I haven't tried Adobe Acrobat yet (in fact I don't even know if there's a version for this device) so can't comment on that.

    My only other comment is that I've been a bit disappointed with the range of available ebooks - I was hoping it would make my book-buying easier to get a lot of titles that my local bookstores don't stock (.. and have a 3-4 week order time from the US), but sadly quite a number of publishers don't make ebook versions available yet.
  • I've read on all sorts of devices, and the best so far has been my Apple Newton. You can pick one up for cheap with a rechargable battery. It works OK with OSX. It reads all sorts of files. The backlit screen is pleasant to read on and the interface is... well it's Apple. But the really brilliant thing is the form factor - it's just large enough to make holding it a dream. It's like a book and is very confortable in your hand. The screen size is large enough to get enough text on a screen to be usef
    • I have a Newton 2100 and love it. Unfortunately, I don't get to use it as much as I'd like to and the OSX support being put together by some of the Newton supporters still around is pretty good, though not nearly as robust as most people will be looking for. Tends to crash a bit, and I know that development stalled but was definitely not dead. The screen on the Newton is almost perfect for eBooks, I think, and the only real flaw with the Newton as a book reader is that there's no hardware switch that can
  • PHB sends Dilbert to talk to the marketing people.

    Dilbert: "Dave, tell me how marketing thinks the product should be"

    Dave: "It must have a 45" screen and fit a 007 suitcase. It needs to function as a phone and an air conditioner too"

    Dilbert: "Hmm"

    Dave: "It must cure fatal diseases and brush our teeth while we sleep! ... Ha ha! And it must be capable of time travel! And have a telepathic interface!"

    Dilbert slaps Dave.

    Dilbert: "I can write a program that will show some fish in the computer screen"

  • Tungsten E (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jason1729 ( 561790 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:32PM (#9069313)
    I bought a Visor Deluxe primarily as an ebook reader in early 2001. It did the job quite well.

    About a month ago, I replaced it with a Palm Tungsten E, and it is just amazing for ebooks. The colour 320x320 screen gives very crisp easy to read text in any lighting conditions. The Tungsten also has 32 meg to store books, the 8 meg on the Visor was too limiting.

    The only drawback is that the Tungsten has a built in battery that's only good for 1-2 days, so if it runs out of power of I forget to charge it, I can't use it until I get back to the computer to recharge it. The visor takes AAA's and I have a few sets of NiMH one that last about 2 weeks. By carrying a spare set, I never ran out of power, and I always had 1 set in the charger.

    I read about 2 novels/week on these PDAs. Jason
    ProfQuotes []
  • Zaurus all the way (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ruhk ( 70494 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:33PM (#9069323)

    Sharp SL-5500 Zaurus. Sure, its only a 320x240 screen, but its cheaper than almost every other PDA out there.

    I always thought I couldn't stand to read ebooks, and never gave them much thought, until I lost my job and needed another way to feed my book addiction. Surprisingly, I found that reading on my Zaurus was an absolute joy.

    I've been reading my way through the Baen Free Library CDs on it. I use Plucker to pluck the frameless version of the books I want to read. Before that I, wrote a perl scrip to rtf2txt it, then split the file on criteria I specified. I read these files on the magnificent OpieReader, which is as full featured as you could possibly want.

    I've found that I use three light settings. In the dark, or minimal light, I used the lowest light setting. The Zaurus has a continuous life of about five or six hours this way. In the mornings, in bed, reading my plucked streams before facing the world, I have to crank the light to max. Of course, I'm next to an outlet the entire time there. You'll get about an hour untethered time this way. Finally in pretty much any other lighting condition, I can just turn the light completely off. You'll want to embolden the text if you do this, mind you. You'll be able to read for days on end this way.

    One might expect that 320x240 might strain the eyes during long reading, but I have found that it doesn't bother me at all. If its problematic for you, you can always crank the font size up with the touch of a button.

  • Baen ebooks (Score:5, Informative)

    by steveha ( 103154 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:34PM (#9069331) Homepage
    Once you have your device, check out the Baen ebooks. I buy these. They are all science fiction and fantasy.

    Here are some free ones to get you started: []

    And you can buy more here: []

    No DRM. Just ebooks. They are trusting you not to be a pirate, and charging a fair price, and for that I reward them by buying stuff and recommending them.

    Let me say that again. No DRM! No serial numbers, no registration, no limit on the number of cards you can copy it to. No DRM.

    Even the ones they want you to pay for have a few chapters online for free. This is to give you a taste of the book, hook you in and make you want to finish reading it. If the book is a collection of stories, often one or more complete stories will be available for free reading.

  • Palm OS will do most of what you're asking for. There isn't much in the way of antialiasing, but palm PDAs do have really high resolution nowadays.

    If you're looking for bargain bin, I would say Tungsten E would cut it. SD card expansion for fitting more books, MP3s, and even Oggs. Doubles as a great PDA on its own, and $149-199 to boot.

    The tungsten T3 is even better, but right now it's a bit pricey. Its main advantage over the E is that it uses a virtual graffiti area, so you can use the entire screen
  • I upgraded from a Handera 330 (no longer available, dammit; before TRG renamed themselves, they rocked). It was darn near perfect as an ebook and general PDA. Real good battery life, rechargeable or disposable AAA at a whim; CF and SD. And a hi-res 1/4 VGA screen.

    Okay, the contrast on that screen left something to be desired. The color screen on the Clie eats batteries, but black text on a white background is kinder to my eyes.

    There's a freeware hack called "ThinFont" that makes the rather weak fon

  • I've read a few dozen ebooks (novels mainly) on my Sony CLIE NX70 palm pilot

    While the screen isn't as good as some mentioned in sibling threads it certainly is good enough - and would get no complaints from me.

    But to me the thing that REALLY makes the difference is the thumbwheel. It makes it very convenient to hold the Clie and scroll through the books page by page. And you dont have to switch your grips to scroll back to reread anything, you just use the thumbwheel.

  • franklin ebookman (Score:2, Informative)

    by Packets ( 8071 )
    The Franklin ebookman [] is a pda designed to read books on, its got a jog-wheel, touch screen, large screen, backlight. I've got one, and I use it constantly. It supports all the modern formats, and handles text files nicely.

    search ebay [], you can pick up one new with warrenty for under 50 USD last I checked.

    Don't get a secondhand one, becuase if its got a fault (looses memory after you change batteries, requiring re-sync) you'll want to send it back under warrenty (franklin provide a *new* unit to replace f
  • Doesn't anyone remember this []? The e-ink devices look like they will be much better for reading text than a traditional LCD on a PDA or e-book reader. Unfortunately it seems they're only available in Japan right now... [] lists the Sony one... I'm sure you could get it shipped to the US, but at ~$422 it's not exactly cheap, not to mention who knows if any of the interface/software is in English.. Plus, since it's Sony it's doubtful that it will work with anything but Sony PCs.

    Basically, this doesn
    • Re:e-ink? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by daymitch ( 699517 )
      As a person who can't stand to read longer articles (esp. scientific literature) on the screen, I've already been waiting a long time for e-ink.

      I vaguely remember a Popular Science (I think) article from the early 80's/late 70's describing thie rudiments of the E-ink technology.

      Man, it's a long haul from the lab bench to the store shelf, isn't it?

      Anyone else remember this stuff?
  • by gdad2 ( 740677 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:43PM (#9069398)
    Its funny you posted this. I've just delved into this for the first time with the old Handspring Visor I've been toting around. I paid $100 for it when it was new, but I just picked one up at a yard sale for $15. (Both 8MB) I used the Weasel reader, so I don't have to pay anything for that. (Although it doesn't like my version of ZLib. Throws a warning message but continues all right.) I've been reading Eastern Standard Tribe by Cory Doctorow and I got a copy of Free Cultre by Lessig. The Visor has a backlight that lets me read without waking up the Mrs. Its been a lot of fun for me because this is the first time I've really applied open source software. I've *read* about it all over the place, but this was the first time I ever really found a *personal* benefit. I've seen Tiger Direct advertising old Palms for $45. Doesn't seem to take much to get into the OSS EBook thing.
  • Turns out screen resolution and quality are not nearly as important as you would think. Most of the time you will be reading somewhere with decent light, including an airplane. A non-backlit screen has some big advantages -- namely it uses a lot less power, and that's pretty important.

    And sure, more screen resolution is great, but it's not a killer, more to the point it's not worth making the thing bigger and heavier to get it. You want to be able to lightly hold it in your hand without burden. And yo
  • Auto Scroll (Score:3, Interesting)

    by slapout ( 93640 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:52PM (#9069455)
    Whatever you get, make sure the reader program you use has some kind of autoscroll feature. Its way better than having to keep hitting a button to get to the next page.

    If you get a Zaurus, check out OpieReader at
  • I have been using PDAs for precisely this function for about 2 years now. I avoid eBooks like the plague because of DRM and other stupid old technology features (like pages). (For a good example of the limitations of eBooks read Chapter 10 [] of Free Culture [] by Lawrence Lessig). I also use PDAs to read news I gather from the Net. From my experience:

    • Zaurus:

      The webbrowsing and text viewing applications are fairly fast once they have been loaded into memory. NetFront (the webbrowser) supports CSS and

  • by FromWithin ( 627720 ) <stuff AT fromwithin DOT com> on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @08:58PM (#9069491) Homepage

    Any Zaurus from the following: SL-C700, SL-C750, SL-C760, SL-C860, SL-6000

    Beside that marvellous-looking new Sony thing with ePaper screen, there's really no contest.

    Opie-reader [] reads AportisDoc, Weasel (ztxt), Plucker, gzipped text, ppms text. It will also give html a go, but the built-in NetFront browser works well, and Opera is available for it.

    The 640x480 screen on the Zaurus means the auto-scroll is super-smooth, and makes other PDAs look like they have lego screens. The screen is incredible quality. It really is like nothing else. Super-clear and bright; it has to be seen to be believed.

    The clam-shell design has got a thumb wheel that can be assigned to scroll-speed (or whatever) when in portrait mode.

    The PDF readers read full PDFs, none of this Palm cut-down stuff.

    It runs Linux on-board, has got USB, has a removable rechargable battery (rechargable in-place via the AC adaptor).

    As to "pay very much", well if you buy an import, you'll pay a fair whack. If you get one direct from (in?) Japan you can get it much cheaper. I got my C750 for 60000 yen about two weeks after it was released in Japan. It's a lot cheaper over there now.

    My Zaurus has seriously changed the way (and the amount) that I read. So much so, that dead tree books are starting to really annoy me because they take up so much physical space.

    It's definitely one of the best things I have ever bought

  • by jimfrost ( 58153 ) * <> on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @09:41PM (#9069742) Homepage
    ...and have tried out an array of these devices, everything from the original Palm to the beta Zaurus.

    Skip the Zaurus, you won't be able to get readers for the locked formats. I presume the many other flaws I found with my Zaurus have been smoothed over since then, but it just doesn't matter if you can't get a decent reader.

    You're pretty much left with PocketPC and Palm devices. I'm not a fan of the PPC devices because they have poor battery life and a difficult to use interface and cost more than anything else, but since you can get all of the maintream readers for them they may be worth a look. I can't say I like their screens that much but they're a lot better than a low-end Palm.

    My personal choice, the one I've read dozens of books on, is a Clie PEG-NR70 (the flip-screen dragonball one). I don't believe this, or even its follow-on PEG-NX70 with the ARM chip, is still available but its big, sharp screen is the best I've seen on a palmtop. Sony has really done a knock-down job on screen quality.

    If I were to buy one right now, and I'm thinking about it because my NR70 has been beat to death, I'd probably get PEG-TH55. It seems to have the same screen, or at least a similar one, but I like the form factor better than the NR70.

    Palm's Tungsten T3 is very interesting, and I really like the way it collapses, but fails for me because there's no lid to keep you from smashing the screen -- you have to get one of those awful bulky armor cases.

    As always YMMV, but as I said I've been exceptionally pleased with the Sony device. At $400 it's not cheap, but at least it's not a dedicated ebook :-).

    About ebook readers: I haven't used Microsoft's reader at all so I have no comment about it. Adobe's palmtop ebook reader is total junk, the least usable most irritating ebook reader I've ever seen. It paginates strangely despite forcing you to spend a long time "formatting for your device" and has the worst DRM of any of them. Mobipocket is my favorite reader in terms of interface, but its DRM is mildly restrictive, allowing only 4 devices for any locked ebook. The PalmReader offers the best DRM flexibility (it's key is your credit card number; you probably don't want to give that away) and a clean, usable interface. When I am reading locked books I opt for Palm format whenever possible for DRM flexibility, but with unlocked books I prefer Mobipocket.

    So far I've had excellent luck finding ebooks in Palm and Mobipocket formats. has the greatest format flexibility of the ebook providers I've tried.


  • by nfotxn ( 519715 ) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @11:36PM (#9070370) Journal
    Not to troll or anything but what's so bad about good old paper? I have a 320x320 Clié TJ35 which is a fairly modern PDA. Even at a readable sized font I find the screen is too small to display a significant amount of information when reading just text. It's funny that as PDAs become more usable as alternatives to books they more they seem to be taking on the same form factor. The Tungsten T3 and Clié TH55 are both wide but interacting with the text in relevant was that even an elementary school child could achieve is still cumberson on a PDA. Worst off when studying I find I like to keep context by keeping my fingers between the pages which is impossible with any PDA. The software could provide an alternative but really most what I've tried for Palm OS is lacking in the finer aspects of usability.

    It's appealing to have an entire library in your pocket but because you have it does it mean you're going to read all of it? Of course not. Much the same way having a 40gb iPod is great for bragging rights but that much music is entirely impractical for any human being to consume on their own. I think carrying around libraries encourages unfocused behaviour and deprives us of any sort of intimacy with cultural works like literature and music.

    I believe that a lot of our electronic devices miss a lot of the basic things that books, paper, libraries, pens and record collections have provided for a long time. And best of all they're a heck of a lot cheaper.

  • Handera 330! (Score:3, Informative)

    by seebs ( 15766 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @12:47AM (#9070699) Homepage
    The best ever was the Handera 330, with the LiOn battery. 320x240 display, ran forever with the backlight on given the LiOn battery. It's been discontinued, of course.
    • Re:Handera 330! (Score:3, Informative)

      by killbill ( 10058 )
      This is a fantastic little unit, way ahead of it's time. Great display, takes 4 AAA if you want (goes for weeks on $8 NiMh), accepts compact flash cards and mmc cards, has a serial port with the old fashioned palm connector, runs plam OS...

      The battery form factor is fantastic. Use cheap NiMh's, and if they die while on the road, get a set of alkalines, use them for a month, and just throw them away and go back to the rechargables.

      It also has some a very nice "backup to compact flash" feature built into
  • by Mac Degger ( 576336 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @09:34AM (#9072644) Journal
    First off, no matter what device you go for, get a palmOS device. The reason for this is that you will be using the adressbook/agenda functions of your device too, since you already have the machine; it would be a waste not to. So make sure your device has decent versions of those apps: so get a palm.

    Second, don't get hung up on resolution: that doesn't matter that much for pure reading. 160x160 is enough and 32x320 is just overkill (although it is nice of course, it just isn't neccessarry for reading!).

    Thirdly, get a colour device. It's kinda obvious, but I'll say it anyway: with a colour device you can read in true black and white, which is best for reading long texts. All those monochrome devices out there are not black and white: they're grey and black, or green and grey or whatever: they will strain your eyes more than a true colour device.

    Fourth, find out where you read. Any device is good indoors, but if you do a fair bit of reading in sunlight, you will have to get a newer machine, because they have screens which can actually be read outside in sunlight.

    Fifth and finally, don't get hung up on memory that much. Sure, it's nice to have 128mb to spare, but remember that a large paperback takes up about 200-400 kb. That's less than half a meg. Old devices (like my IIIc) have 8 mb. Which means that with all the other apps I have on there (and it is a fair number), I still have about 8 books in there too.
    However, if you read a lot of pdf's (but why would you read that crappy format? It's better to copy/paste the text into .txt and use for example isilo to convert that), you might want to have either a device which has a bit more internal ram, or one which can take CF/SD/whatever card you might want.

    So, to recap: get a colour palmOS device, and the price will depend on if you read many, many large files and want to be able to read outdoors in bright sunlight.

    Or wait for e-ink devices to hit the market :)
  • Sharp Zaurus (Score:3, Informative)

    by John Goerzen ( 2781 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @09:36AM (#9072663) Homepage
    Get one of the 640x480 Sharp Zaurus units. No, this is not a huge screen; it's the same size as any other PDA, but the high resolution means that it is ultra-sharp. Examples of these units include the c760 (which I own), the c860, or the SL-6000. Depending on your model, it will come with either Netfront (the *good* version, not the crappy one you find on cell phones or Clies) or Opera. Most also come with Word and Excel editors, which work on untranslated files (no conversion between .doc and a proprietary handheld format).

    Then, install these apps:

    • OpieReader [] (aka QTReader). Reads Palm DOC files, zTXT, Plucker, HTML, plain text (normal or gzipped), and ppms text (I don't know what that is). It's very configurable for your Zaurus's hardware buttons, and Zaurus units have native screen rotation abilities already.
    • qpdf2 []. This is a full PDF viewer that will let you open standard, untranslated PDFs. There is no need for any sort of desktop "conversion" program like you see on some other platforms. It's an awesome program and handles embedded fonts and graphics just like you'd want it to.

    The device itself runs on Linux with Trolltech's QT/Embedded, and ships that way from the factory. Although there are not yet any Linux tools to sync with the newest ROM versions (MacOS X tools may exist), there are these workarounds available:

    1. You can install a VNC server on the PDA to help you with data entry, and use rsync to back it up. (This is my preferred method.)
    2. You can re-flash the unit with any of the numerous custom ROMs out there. Check out OpenZaurus [], which is a Free Software fork of the QTopia environment that comes with it. TrollTech's free QTopia Desktop is available for Linux and can sync with that, as can several other tools like KitchenSync. Or, you can check out PDAXROM [] (formerly Cacko) for a true X11-based environment.
    The device does use a USB port, and can do USB Ethernet to communicate with your desktop. I prefer to use a 802.11b CF card, though. Depending on your model, it comes with either the high-power or standard battery built in. Unlike many other PDAs, the battery is user-replacable if you remove the back cover (which is held in place by a lock switch). This is a nice feature; you can have spare batteries on hand if you will be away from AC for a long time.

    The one requirement of yours that it will fail is price. Depending on the unit, expect to pay at least $600 (some of the higher-end ones go for that much on ebay). But this unit is much more capable than $600 units from Palm, Sony, or HP/whatever. It really does behave similarly to a laptop, given that it runs a *real* OS. A quick scan of the Zaurus Software Index [] will reveal all sorts of programs, and you can easily compile others (yes, you can run gcc on the Zaurus itself, too). If you look at it in that light, it's good deal.

Never worry about theory as long as the machinery does what it's supposed to do. -- R. A. Heinlein