Tuesday, August 9, 2011

E-Readers-Turning a digital page

While the purist may frown upon the idea of reading digital books, digital reading does have many advantages and e-book readers are now slowly gaining popularity. 

Flipping through the pages, the smell of ink, the feel of the paper, the fonts, the style, layout, the colors, and the cover all add to the reading experience. However, these days instead of pouring over big tomes, you will find people peering over their e-book readers or smartphones. In the digital age, laying your hands on the latest bestseller will take a whole new meaning. It would mean simply downloading the book from Amazon or another digital distribution service, rather than going to the bookstore to get your copy. 

Digitized books have revolutionalised the way we read. However, this is not a recent phenomenon. The journey of digitized books or e-books began in 1971 with the launch of Project Gutenberg, which was an effort to digitize and archive cultural works. It’s the oldest digital library and has well over 34,000 titles available for free. The first e-book reader was launched in 1998. The intelligent reading system, SoftBook, was developed by SoftBook Press Inc in the US.

Even though the e-book readers have been around for a long time, they gained popularity only recently with the launch of Amazon’s Kindle. Prior to that, e-book readers were limited to a niche and did not gain much popularity mainly due to lack of content. Another factor that has fueled the popularity is the growing number of smartphones. These phones come equipped with PDF readers, which is also a popular format for e-books. This has resulted in an increase in the number books, newspapers, and magazines being adapted for e-book readers and smartphones.

E-readers take reading to a whole new level by allowing you to customize font size, brightness, contrast, etc. for ease of reading. You can even look up meanings of words, search for text throughout the book, highlight text, add notes, and much more. Some e-readers also have a text to speech feature, which can be an added advantage. Additionally, most e-readers are Wi-Fi enabled so you can even browse the Internet, watch videos, and play music on them.

E-Ink or LCD Screen?

There are two categories of e-readers available in the market; one uses e-ink technology, while the other uses an LCD display.

An e-reader that makes use of e-ink or electronic ink technology, which gives the impression of a real paper thanks to its 16-level grayscale. Also referred to as electronic paper display, it consumes far lesser power compared to an LCD display. Another advantage is the fact that it doesn’t have a backlight and so it doesn’t emit a glare. As a result, you can comfortably read outdoors even in bright sunlight. However, the fact that it does not have a backlight makes it a bit difficult to read in low light, but this can be resolved by using a clip-on light. The biggest disadvantage of e-ink is that it is only available in grayscale. This works fine for novels, but when it comes to newspapers, magazines or even books for children, it could spoil the fun. The makers of e-ink have launched its e-ink color screen Triton, but it remains to be seen how soon it will be adapted.

On the other hand, devices like the Apple iPad or the Nook Color from Barnes & Noble use the LCD technology to provide a color display, but the LCD screen gives out a lot of glare. They use reflective screens, almost turning the surface into a mirror and making it impossible to read outdoors. 
PS: the above text type is The Kindle Font :)

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