Monday, July 07, 2008

Forget Kindle - I Wanna Readius!

Well, maybe.  The thing about the Interwebs is that bird in the bush always seems more attractive than the one in the hand - not that I have a Kindle in hand, just that I would like one.

Well, maybe.  The NY Times had an article on an interesting new "mobile device" this past Sunday, the Readius, billed as the first pocket eReader. Like the Kindle, you'll be able to read books, subscribe to newspapers, read email, and receive other content - such as podcasts amd mp3s - on the Readius.  Unlike the Kindle, the Readius uses a flexible display, one that can be literally unfurled from the pocket-sized device.

Fueled by way too many science fiction novels over the years, I've had this vision where someday I'll have this thing that looks like a sheet of blank paper, newspaper of magazine-sized, that I'll simply tap, and voila - I have the front page of the Times, or the Globe, or Wired. Or anything I want to read.  That vision has probably been best illustrated in a throwaway scene from the movie Minority Report, as described in this 2005 article from The Washington Post:

In the scene we're interested in, a Metro passenger is reading a USA Today. It LOOKS like a USA Today in that it's a full-page newspaper (called a "broadsheet") but instead of a handful of papers, it's a paper-thin video screen, thin enough to fold up and put under your arm. Instead of static photos and text, it's constantly changing text, video and perhaps sound. Think of it as a combination paper, television and Internet, presumably wirelessly connected to a futuristic Wi-Fi, perhaps the next generation of the new Wi-Max super hotspots that are rolling out and cover several square miles instead of several square feet.

We're getting closer to that vision all the time. As Andy Ihnatko notes in his review of the Kindle (warning: Ihnatko's site always takes a tremendously long time to load every time I visit it, I dunno why), the world-changing thing about the Kindle isn't that it's a very cool eBook reading device, which from all reports it is. But the ultimately cool cool thing about the Kindle is that it's a very good - and since its Internet connectivity is subsidized by Amazon, very free - portal to the Web.

"At its core, the Kindle is a light, compact device that (metaphorically) contains the Wikipedia in its entirety; the complete text of every RSS-enabled site that you care to follow through Google Reader or Bloglines…as well as tens of thousands of commercial titles" - Andy Ihnatko

That's what the Readius could become.  Well (all together now), maybe.  Someday.  we'll see.  For the moment, the Readius is an announced but not-shipping product, first to be released in Europe for an unknown price, and scheduled for U.S. rollout sometime in 2009.  Again, price unknown, although the Readius CEO notes in the Times that it will be priced higher than the Kindle - currently at $345 U.S. And it's unlikely that the Readius will have a free Internet connection either.

But we're getting there.  First the Kindle.  Next the Readius.  Someday - maybe someday soon, the Minority Report "broadsheet."

Below, a video of the Readius (somewhat) in action:

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