eBook Hardware

I realised that given that I’m in the UK at the moment, I have the access to everything that’s avaliable on eBay UK. I figured that my Psion 5mx got damaged recently and I need a replacement unit for (only) reading ebooks. I’m not that interested in PDA features and I expect I’ll get a Sharp C3000 at some point. However the C3000 doesn’t seem like a good ebook reader. They is no native Linux readers for any of the common commerical ebook formats.

The main features I’ve been considering are:

* Battery Life
* SD or CF expansion port
* Min 320×320 screen
* Ability to be powered by the common AA or AAA batteries

Battery life is important, as I would hate for my reading device to be tied a charging station. I like to be able to pull out the book in whatever odd situation I’m in and being able to use AA batteries makes this easy.

My P800 mobile phone has a 208×320 screen. Using Mobipocket I find this resolution much too small. The Psion with a screen size of 640×240 is very easy to read. Although the form factor is sometimes I little difficult to hold with one hand.

Being able to use either SD or CF expansion cards is vital as reload

After a little research I figured the ebookman looked like the optimal option. However, production of this has stopped, new units are around 150GBP and its difficult to find them on eBay.

After a little research I discovered this thread about Tungsten E battery life and a post by Robert L. Smith, Jr. were he built a PDA charger with a AA Battery Holder . This opens up a whole new set of PDA based eBook reader options.

Even though the new Palms don’t have removable batteries, then seem to have the best general software support. This post suggested a very clever idea. The Palm Tungsten W (1500 mAh) design as a mobile phone has a very large battery. If you turn off the phone features and use it purely as a Palm with a 320×320 screen it gives you a very good base platform. The Palm Tungsten C (1500 mAh) also has had good battery life reports.

Of course the final decision is a balance of avaliablilty on eBay, cost and the specs. The best options now seem to be:

* Palm Zire 71/72
* Palm Tungsten W
* Palm Tungsten C
* Palm Tungsten T3 or T5 – huge 480×320 sized screen
* Palm Tungsten E – Seems to be a popular option for this situation.
* Sony TH55 – battery life reports are good, but it is now EOL and only takes Sony’s MS cards.

One last option is the eBookwise 1150 a rebranded Rocket eBook reader. Unfortunately only avaliable in the USA.


  1. Richard Parry Said,

    April 29, 2005 @ 9:38 pm

    If I was you, I’d probably go Palm – they’re solid units, and very good battery life. I don’t think I’d get one in a phone, it’s just asking for pain; we’ve got a number of PDA-come-phones around and they just, well, break. All the time. PDAs and phones as unique devices just seem to last a lot longer, and we’re not sure what it is – but it looks like the market’s just not mature enough.

    Have you checked out the new P900? The screen is probably too small but it’s worth a look.

    Now, if it was ME, I’d probably buy a Pocket Windows PDA. You get all your legit eBook software, you can run Linux, and they all have exceptional battery life and support for DRM standards. You won’t get running on AA or AAA, but that’s rare. Form factor is pretty good, just like a Palm, with significantly more grunt in the CPU. I’ve not seen any that are shite either, but have been reasonably impressed with Dell overall here.

    The other thing to look out – from left field – is the new dev work being done on iPods, someone sent me a URL (sorry, lost it) where someone’s deployed their iPod as an eBook reader sort of for this reason. Screen is probably too small for you. I think it was an iPod Photo.

  2. Nicholas Lee Said,

    April 29, 2005 @ 10:29 pm

    See the thing is I’m not buying this for either a phone or PDA. I’m still tracking the eBookman option, there are a couple deals I’ve discovered on eBay and one other one that I might chase up. I’ll probably keep looking at cheap cheap deals as well, since two units for 100GBP total is probably worthwhile.

    The P900 has the same sized screen as the P800, which means its not very good for reading books. Unless they have a good readable small font on the P900, it’s basically a couple sentenses at a time. Which just doesn’t work well with my reading style.

    With regards to the Tungsten W I’d be using it purely as a PDA, however looking closer last night it seems that the Tunsten C is basically the same unit but without the phone features. Making it maybe a better investment. Then again jumping into an older Tungsten T series with the large 480×320 screen might be a better option. Especially with the battery life balanced out by the external AA pack.

    I thought about a PocketPC, but remeber I’m not really interested in a PDA solution. I’ve done my research there previously and the C3000 is my definite choice for that at some stage. All the useful looking PocketPCs on eBay seem to be at least 50% more than the compariable Palm based useful systems. On the bonus side, almost all the PocketPCs have removable batteries.

    The iPod seems like a horrible device for an ebook. I saw some google references to this, and didn’t even bother looking them up.

  3. Nicholas Lee Said,

    April 30, 2005 @ 1:58 am

    Now this is interesting. A Palm on PPC emulator.

  4. Hellene K Said,

    May 1, 2005 @ 10:48 pm

    Have you considered the Tapwave Zodiac? It has a loooong battery life and 2 SD slots. It’s screen is excellent for reading ebooks. It’s currently sold as a Palm gaming PDA but its also an excellent Palm.
    I have almost 100 ebooks on it and read for hours before my battery runs down. Think about it.

  5. MobileRead Said,

    May 1, 2005 @ 10:50 pm

    Hunt for a suitable e-book reading device

    Nicholas Lee from Middle Earth Country is looking for a suitable PDA for reading his favorite Tolkien novels. Among his wish list is good battery life, a SD or CF expansion port, a minimum 320×320 screen, and the ability to use common AA or AAA…

  6. Nicholas Lee Said,

    May 2, 2005 @ 11:31 am

    I read about the Zodiac a couple times, plus the Handera 330, but neither seem popular on eBay. Today I just won an auction for a used eBookMan 901, so I’ll be seeing what that is like. I’ll probably look at getting a refurbished Tungsten E as there seems to be a few of these on eBay UK. The lack of the other options on eBay means I might not get a chance to try these out before I head back to the NZ later in May.

  7. Paul G. Said,

    May 2, 2005 @ 12:29 pm

    As an avid ebook reader since the days of my HP 100LX palmtop I’ve tried just about every device out there. I’ve previously used multiple Palm’s from a V to a T3, a Sony TH55, a Psion Revo and 5mx and many Pocket PC’s including just about every iPaq and HP Jornada.

    One of the key points that I can’t emphasize enough is the quality of the screen. It makes all the difference when it comes to extended reading time. What I’ve found as the two best ebook devices are the Sony TH55 and the iPaq 4700.

    When I switched to the Sony I though I had found the perfect ebook device. It had a good size and great screen with an unusual scroll wheel that falls right under your index finger when holding the device in a normal one handed reading position. It has solid battery life and you can get an external AA battery charger for it.

    As great as the Sony was when I saw the iPaq 4700 running in VGA mode there was just no comparison. This display is as close to paper contrast as you will find anywhere and the sharpness of the fonts just blows everything else away. In addition the screen is 4 inches diagonally which is pretty much the largest you will find on a handheld device at this time. I’ve already read for over 7 hours on an international flight and still had battery juice left. In addition it has replaceable and double capacity batteries as well. One other point about it that is really nice is the side flip cover. It works really well for holding the device in either a one handed or two handed manner much like you would hold a comparable paper back. It works even better when you add a Proporta leather replacement flip cover. I really can’t say enough about how great this device is as an ebook reader. I currently have over 200MB’s of books loaded using a combination of iSilo, eReader and Mobipocket and you can use either compact flash or SD cards for external storage. All in all a great ebook device.

  8. Nicholas Lee Said,

    May 2, 2005 @ 10:08 pm

    Paul, thanks for your comment. Very informative, especially the info about battery times when purely reading ebooks.

    I’ve read lots of good comments about the TH55, I was put off chasing one of these due to three things. Its EOL, still pricey on eBay (140GBP+) and I’m not that keen on investing in memory sticks. I was also not sure about their reliability. Many people I know with Sony consumer electronics have had problems with their equipment just after the warrenty period, and every comment I’ve read says that Sony service is useless. So I’ve formed a rule of thumb to avoid Sony equipment in many cases.

    The HX4700 sounds very interesting. I thouht about that as well. Especially since an external 3600mAH battery is a possible addition. However, at currently 230GBP+ on eBay (or wholesale for me back in NZ) its not quite matching the 40GBP I just spent on a second-hand eBookman, or the possible 65-75GBP for a Tungsten E.

    It looks like Proporta have a 4500mAh replacement battery for the HX4700! Thanks again, the Proporta site has some very nice looking kit.

    The 4700 is definitely on my radar now.

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