While all of twentyfivefortyone's ponts are valid, I love my e-book. When I bought it, I was looking for a light weight laptop I could carry around all the time, but I wasn't happy with any laptop I saw. Lots of them are hard to read in the sun, so working outside would be annoying. And the battery life tends to suck right now, or it is really heavy.

I bought the e-book to fill the gap while still looking for a laptop. What I found was that 1/2 of my laptop needs are fufilled by the e-book, and another 1/3 could be ignored as long as I have near by network access.

Mostly, I wanted to be able to read electronic documents offline without wasting paper by printing stuff out, especially documentation for free software. Also, I was sick of carrying around normal books.

My e-book does less than a regular PDA, but it makes up for this with a screen about the size of a paperback book.

To address the points above directly:

  • My e-book claims to have a battery life of 20 hours. I recharge mine about once every two days of heavy use. This is a lot better than a laptop could do right now.
  • I don't misplace my e-book, because it is now the only thing I carry, instead of a heavy bag full of oddly shaped slipping books.
  • There's a huge collection of free e-books I haven't read yet. Also, I can get the newspaper in e-book form, so I don't have to carry that or get the newspaper ink on my fingers.
  • Rumor is, you can put your e-book in a ziplock bag and read it at the beach, shower, bath, pool, whatever. (I've not tried this.) Try turning the pages of a regular book in a ziplock bag.
  • I picked my e-book specifically so I could read it in bright sunlight. It is far easier to read it than any laptop screen I've ever seen.
  • I keep my *gasp* booklist in my e-book. I take my e-book to bookstores and libraries just so I can remember what I am looking for, and not accidently pick up a book I'd already read or already own. I use to print this list up on a regular basis, and then not have it when I wanted it. It was awful.
  • Reading LCD and CRT screens is more difficult than reading paper, but I find the e-book about the same as regular paper.
  • With my e-book, I can flip between several books in the e-book with ease. It remembers where I was in each book. I can even bookmark them and name the bookmarks, and the bookmarks don't fall out or warp the pages of the book.
After getting the e-book, I started using it for all kinds of things I hadn't thought of when I bought it. Here's a list of things I have used mine for that you can't do with a normal book:
  • Normal books are annoying to read in the dark. My e-book is backlit. (And will run 20 hours with the backlight on.)
  • Normal books are annoying to hold open when you are doing other things with your hands. Turning pages can be even less fun with a regular book when you're short on free fingers.
  • You can fit the text of multiple normal books in the flash ram in an e-book. Adding another doesn't make it heavier, so you can carry things you might otherwise not have.
  • Things like phone lists that get updated frequently don't have to be reprinted and won't wear out if you carry it with you all the time. It's better than a written book, because you won't have to copy it over when the book fills up and gets out of order. (And you can search and index it in the e-book!)


N.b. I still read regular books. I do enjoy their feel, and not everything I want to read is available in electronic form. I got my e-book more for the reverse problem -- I had too much to read in electronic form that I just didn't want to print, and didn't want to read tied to a computer instead of outside enjoying the sun.

Ideally, in the future electronic paper will show up on the market, and you'll be able to take your e-book out of your pocket and unroll the screen to its full 20" size, along with a full size keyboard....

The e-book has a place in my life, quite different from the place that tangible books have in my life, but just as important. Neither can replace the other (yet).

Just to emphasize the correctness of diotina's excellent writeup (below), my e-book supports a subset of html, so it is fully capable of handling a fully hyperlinked document. Even so, the best linked document I've found is the jargon file. Even though 90% of what I put in it originates as hypertext, very few documents have much more than the table of contents linked to anything. Even online FAQs have this problem. (The perl and samba documentation seem to be well internally hyperlinked, but most of the rest is just linked table of contents with references I still have to search to find.)

The real failure of the e-book is in commercial content. I don't think anyone (consumer or publisher) has been happy with the copyright protection schemes or distribution methods used by e-books. Also, most e-books are not programmable, which severely reduces their usefulness. The success of e-books and continuing shrinking computer have inspired the tablet computer industry.