Is text input essential?
#1  wallcraft 12-21-2006, 10:54 PM
My first e-book reader was an eBookwise-1150, and now I use FBReader on a Nokia 770 and a Pepper Pad 3. It was only recently that I realized that the touch screen is a significant factor in the usability of all three devices. In principle, almost all that is needed for e-book reading is a big next page button. However, HTML requires a method to select and follow links, and there are many uses for text input (customizing library info, search, dictionary, bookmarks/annotations). A touch screen isn't the best interface for an e-book reader (why require a stylus to read, or put fingerprints on the screen), but it is flexible enough to do whatever you want and the software is already available.

Is text input essential? Of the E Ink reader vendors: IRex and Hanlin have touch screens, Amazon will apparently have a keyboard, STAReBOOK and Bookeen appear to be taking the minimal input route, and Sony Reader is in between (more keys, but limited support for them?).

Reading on a cell phone is limited by the screen size, but there is definitely a keypad that can be used for text input.

Touch screens are expensive, and extra keys add cost and clutter. So is minimal best?

I am now very used to a touch screen, and I can't imagine being satisfied without either a touchscreen or about a dozen keys for text input and menu navigation. The row of keys at the bottom of the screen on the Sony Reader could be a good approach, but how does it work in practice?

#2  Jadon 12-22-2006, 12:46 AM
No, text input isn't essential, just nice to have. I use my eBookwise every day, and I don't use text search once a month. Obviously I select books from the library listing with the touch screen, but other devices do that with arrows, and I could as well. For a low cost, I could live without the touch screen.

My ideal reader would have an OLPC screen, 300 dpi in mono mode, 4.5 by 6.0 inches. Down the left side I'd have two big buttons, the page-forward/page-back of the eBookwise. Along the top I'd have two similar buttons, for reading in landscape mode. Down the right bezel I'd have 15 or so small alpha keys, with 'AB;' and 'CD:' and so on, mostly two letters and a punctuation mark, so you could text in most anything needed. The bottom has number buttons: '1![' and '2@]' and so on.

Each corner has a button. Perhaps a rotate/zoom button, another a menu popup, the third a library button, etc. Most things can be done from menus using the big page buttons as cursors. Inputting text is a bit slow, but workable. The frame is rubberized for a good grip, the battery is a user-replaceable cellphone type, storage slot is likely SD.

Color mode is a nice extra. The base hardware shouldn't be incredibly expensive (not $50, but the OLPC's estimating $140 for its unit, with full keyboard and more, distrubution and training and stuff not included). It should be able to read all the usual formats. Late 2008, maybe.

#3  nekokami 12-22-2006, 09:45 AM
Well, I consider it an essential feature, but then, I want my eBook reader to replace my notebooks as well as storing content that I or others have written previously.

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