Friday, February 29, 2008

A Digital Notebook?



Looks like iRex is coming out with the first e-book reader with a built-in Wacom digitizer. What exactly does that mean? It means you will not only be able to use it to read books and PDFs, but you can also use it to write and draw on like you can a regular piece of paper. Now your e-book reader is not just a digital book, it's a digital notebook as well!

Here is a quick overview of the iRex iLiad from Sierra Modro:

  • Best screen visibility - by FAR, over the Sony Reader or the Kindle. Totally subjective, but wow.
  • Larger screen - 8.1" diagonal vs. 6" diagonal
  • Digitizer - allows both book annotations as well as free-form note taking on blank sheets of e-paper
  • Sudoku - 'Nuf said.
  • WiFi - I connected to my WPA encrypted access point at home in just a couple of minutes. Transfer files, etc. Although the reader doesn't officially support web browsing, there are solutions for that available on the web (like enabling the browser that actually ships in the system but hidden/disabled).
  • File formats supported : PDF / HTML / TXT / JPG / BMP/ PNG / PRC (Mobipocket)
  • You can read the full set of product specifications on the iLiad website.

Before you ask, yes, all of this goodness comes at a hefty price. The official US sales portal is eReader Outfitters who list the iLiad at $699. Yes, for that same $699 I could buy a decent laptop. But for those people who really want a portable note-taking solution, this could be an interesting slate. I plan on checking this out as more than just an e-book reader so that I can see how far into the slate computer category this can stretch.

This sounds really interesting. If implemented well, this could be a perfect solution for students -- allowing them to not only carry all of their textbooks in something the size of a thin paperback, but also take all of your notes on it too. This sounds particularly appealing with all the casebooks I have to carry around for law school.

I could see this technology becoming hugely popular with a variety of audiences and help propel e-book readers even more into the mainsream. If the Amazon Kindle were to add this feature and match the iLiad in the file formats it could read, I would buy one in a heartbeat.

A few features I hope they develop for this technology include:

  • The ability to select from various backgrounds for the paper including ruled paper, graph paper, and story boards.
  • Being able to export the files into standard formats such as PDF.
  • Incorporating software that would allow handwriting recognition and searching once notes are transfered over to a PC.

At $699, the iLiad is too highly priced for mainstream consumption, but if the digitizer works as well as I hope, this is bound to make it popular and put pressure on Amazon and Sony to add digitizers to their e-book readers too. The future of digital books is suddenly looking even brighter than before.

3 comments:

Adam Gurri said...

One more thing I'd point out: according to the Wikipedia article, iLiad's OS is Linux-based, meaning that third-party developers can come up with all kinds of additional features as well.

thinking said...

Very intriguing...but one feature of the Amazon Kindle I do like is its free 3G connection for anytime, anywhere downloading of content.

That is a far better solution than just WiFi, which is not nearly as ubiquitous...plus, if you are travelling, often it is not free.

There are many flaws to the Kindle, but one stroke of genius was to partner with Sprint to incorporate this feature, without requiring any wireless access fee.

Adam Gurri said...

Yeah...that's the problem, isn't it? All of these readers have some things about them that are great, but they're generally different things.

I can only hope for the patience to hold out until the next generation of readers is rolled out...hopefully integrating many of these features.