“ The Rocket eBook is a portable electronic device in which you can store up to 12 books. Its features include a backlight, enabling you to read at night; a built-in Webster's dictionary; adjustable font sizes and orientation, allowing you to control the direction and size of the text you are reading; a search function; highlighting and note taking and a bookmark „
* Prices may differ from that shown
Do you like reading books? Well, I love books and I get great satisfaction by purchasing a book from a store and reading it from start to finish (without skipping pages)! I also love flipping pages of a lengthy novel and viewing how much of it there is left to read. Well, all that could change with the arrival of ebooks! Would you feel comfortable sitting in bed at night, shifting your eyes across a personal digital assistant (PDA)? Electronic-books, e-books for short, are constantly being talked about all over the world. Big name authors are signing deals to have their books being transformed into an ebook format and put up on the internet for a small fee (usually less than the paperback equivalent). If you are still baffled as to what an ebook is, here is a brief explanation: An ebook is a publication that exists in a digital format. Ebooks, can be downloaded (some free) directly from the internet. Software on the recipient’s device translates and decodes the messages into something a little more suitable, e.g. English! The most common recipient of an ebook, is a PDA . A personal digital assistant is a Palmtop device, which is an advanced organiser. The prices of these devices range from £80 to even £700! I currently own a Palm IIIe (£130.00) which I use to view my ebooks. Well what about how ebooks are laid out on the page? Well a common paperback book has an illustrated cover, pictures, text in chapters, and somewhere where you can rule off with a bookmark. The ebook, is very similar, if not better. Some ebooks, have a title page with a picture and the authors name. Some also have pictures and chapters. A feature that I really enjoy is that you can search up a particular word that is in the novel. There are other features that come with ebook readers such as a percentage, which shows how much of the book you have read. There is also a bookmark, so you can save the percentage that you have read. The next time you feel like reading, you s witch on your PDA, open up the ebook reader, look up the percentage you have read, type in the percentage and off you go! Ebook software is very fun to use, but not if you want to take it away from your desk. A laptop computer is one option of portability, but not if you want to take it to the park on a nice warm summer’s day. A handheld PDA is the best option. Any PDA can be used as an ebook reader so long as you can find a book in a suitable format. To get an ebook into your PDA, you simply download it to your normal PC from the internet, and then transfer it to your PDA using your cradle. If you would like to view your books on a device purely for it, then my advice would be to buy the new Rocket ebook. This chunky looking curvy machine does just one thing, but it must be noted that it does that one thing rather well. The Rocket has a backlight, so the text can still be viewed at night, even in an underground cave! This device will cost around £200 when it is released, but it is well worth it for its wealth of features. So, what is the future of ebooks? Well, many authors have had a lot of success with electronic books and have generated a lot of revenue. Ebooks are yet to take off in the UK, but when they do, who knows what could be next? Ebooks could mean the end of paper equivalents, as it is economical. Hundreds and thousands of trees could be saved and ebooks are much cheaper to buy than their paper counterparts. Who knows, even your children could benefit from not having to lug around heavy textbooks? Everything would be inside a small computer, built into the desk. There is a big future for ebooks, so watch this space.....
A library in the palm of your hand? Science fiction? No, you can get one now - but it may be tricky. The RCA eBook 1100 is the new generation product from Gemstar that replaces the Rocket eBook that I originally reviewed in suggested items for the electronics category. I have left that review intact below (apart from removing now obsolete references), and will provide an extensive update on the new developments that Gemstar have initiated. Last year Gemstar took over the two leading eBook dedicated reading device companies: Nuvomedia, which developed and sold the Rocket eBook (reviewed below) and SoftBook Inc, which developed and produced the SoftBook. The differences between the Rocket eBook and the SoftBook were considerable, although they both performed the function of a device on which to read electronic books in the form of files, with the output being presented on a screen. The SoftBook was about the size of a magazine, had a built in modem, so that files could be bought and downloaded from the internet, and was priced at $599 - about £427. The battery life was short (about 2-5 hours). The Rocket eBook Pro was about the size of a hardback novel, needed a connection to a PC or Mac by means of a special cradle or to a laptop, using an infra-red beam. The price was $269 - about £192. The battery was rechargeable and lasted up to 40 hours. Its predecessor, the Rocket eBook, cost $199 (approx. £137), and differed only in the size of its memory which was only 25 percent of the Pro. Having checked out the specifications for both the RCA eBook 1100, and the RCA eBook 1200, it seems that Gemstar have chosen to stay with the different products offered by Nuvomedia and SoftBook, and have improved both devices, whilst keeping a similar pricing structure. The Rocket eBook was aimed at the "ordinary" consumer, whilst the SoftBook was more of a business product. SPECIFICATIONS I f you want to get an idea of the functionality and appearance of the RCA eBooks, go to www.rocketbook.com/erocket/index.html and download the eRocket, a software-based version of the Rocket eBook, for free. You can read any of the free titles in rocket Editions available on www.rocket-library.com on this software. RCA eBook 1100 - based on the Rocket eBook Price $299 (approx. £206 ) This weighs only 18 oz - the Rocket eBook weighed 22oz. The size and appearance of the RCA eBook 1100 is almost the same as the Rocket at 5" x 7". The case is very similar, with the only apparent difference being that the page turning buttons are bigger. The screen size and resolution seems to be similar - it is still a monochrome, backlit touchscreen and 5.5”. The resolution is 320 x 480 pixels. You can still change the size of the text and change the page orientation from landscape to portrait. The RCA eBook 1100 has a built in 33.6 Kbps v.34 capable modem with a RJ-11modular jack. This is the main difference between the Rocket and its new incarnation - the Rocket had to be connected to a PC or Mac to download files. The 1100 has 8 MB flash ROM (read Only Memory). The Rocket eBook had 4MB, and the Rocket eBook Pro had 16MB, but the memory size was fixed and any extra memory had to be factory fitted. The flash memory of the RCA eBook 1100 can be expanded to 72MB, or 70,000 pages via Smart Media. The biggest the Rocket eBook pro could ever hope for was 48MB, with a factory fitted memory chip of 32MB. The built in lithium ion battery lasts up to 40 hours, which is the same as the Rocket eBook. The touch screen’s facilities for navigation, adding bookmarks, underlining passages, taking notes and searching seem to be unchanged from the Rocket eBook. There is still a built-in Random House Webster's Dictionary, as there was in the Rocket. Accessories: s tylus, power adapter, phone line cord, screen cleaning cloth, slip case, USB cable, EB Librarian CD-ROM RCA eBook 1200 - this is based on the SoftBook Price $699 (approx. £482) This weighs only 33 oz. The 1200 is about the size of a medium sized hardback book (7" x 9" x 1.2"). The original Sofbook was a little larger, and was approximately the size of a magazine. It looks like a larger version of the Rocket eBook, but with a possibly leather “cover”, like the original SoftBook. It has a high-resolution 8.2" colour STN LCD screen with a resolution of 480 x 640 pixels. The touich screen area is 400 by 400 pixels. The navigation is apparently similar to the RCA eBook 1100, which was taken from the Rocket. The RCA eBook 1200 also icludes a built-in 56 Kbps (Kilobytes per second) v.90 capable modem to support its analog phone based internet connection via an RJ-11 modular jack. It also has an Ethernet connection which includes Broadband 10 Base T Ethernet (RJ45) to support connections to LAN's, cable modems, and xDSL connections. It has 8 MB Compact Flash memory, which is expandable to 128MB. The battery is a built-in rechargeable, removable lithium-ion battery which should provide 5-10 hours of continuous use depending upon the backlighting - this is a big improvement on the original SoftBook, which only lasted 2-5 hours between charges. Accessories: these are the same as the RCA eBook 1100. The SoftBook, Nuvomedia, and Rocket eBook web sites are now redirected to www.ebook-gemstar.com. Technical support, customer service, and software updates for the Rocket eBook are available at: http://www.ebook-gemstar.com/support/rocketsupport.asp Technical support and customer service for the SoftBook is available at: http://www.ebook-gemstar.com/support/SoftBooksupport.asp WHERE DO I BUY THE RCA EBOOK? Both the RCA eBook 1100 and 1200 are available from www.bn.com from 3rd December 2000. Although only available from the United States at the moment, I believe there are plans for expansion into the European market in the future. At the moment I do not believe there are any compatability problems regarding using the RCA eBooks in the United Kingdom. I will be putting the RCA eBook 1100 at the top of my Christmas list - now I know what the money i have earned from dooyoo will be spent on!! We already have its predecesor, the Rocket eBook Pro, but my partner uses that for work, so i would love to get an RCA eBook 1100 for my own use. ORIGINAL OPINION Surfing the internet a few months ago, I came across a web page raving about electronic publishing. Nothing unusual in that these days, you may think, but this article linked to www.rocketbook.com, the home of the Rocket eBook (this site is no longer available, and redirects to www,ebook-gemstar.com). This remarkable device is not a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) like the Palm series, but a handheld electronic book reader, with enough memory to store up to forty books. After much thought and research on sites such as www.ebooknet.com, I bought a Rocket eBook Pro several months ago as a birthday present for my partner, who is a computer programmer, and has to carry a lot of bulky computer books around when he is at work. I live in the United Kingdom, and the Rocket eBook Pro is not available in Europe yet, so I bought one from the United States based Barnes & Noble web site, www.bn.com. When it arrived I unpacked it before gift-wrapping it for my partner's birthday and was amazed at how good it was. My partner was really pleased with his birthday present, and uses it to read computer manuals on at work. You can even save web pages and convert them to read on it, and create your own ebooks: Rocket Editions, to read on your Rocket, using RocketWriter, software that comes free with the Rocket Librarian software used to store your ebooks on your computer. Why did I choose the Rocket eBook Pro? BATTERY LIFE The battery life was remarkable compared to similar products on the market: the SoftBook Reader (www.SoftBook.com) has a battery life of only 2 to 5 hours, although the SoftBook does have a removable battery, so you could buy a spare battery to extend your reading time, much as you would with a lap-top. Most PDAs on the market also seem to have a relatively limited battery life. The Rocket eBook Pro has an internal battery that needs to be recharged after between 15 to 40 hours use, depending on how bright you make the adjustable backlight behind the monochrome LCD touch screen. We have found it perfectly acceptable to read on the Rocket eBook Pro with the backlight on its minimum setting, and in fact the lower contrast is easier on the eye when reading from a screen. The Rocket will switch itself off after a few minutes if you are not using it, in order to conserve the battery life. I found it much easier reading from the Rocket than I do from a monitor. I have not compared the Rocket eBook Pro with the Microsoft Pocket PC, as the Rocket and the SoftBook are dedicated reading devices, and the Pocket PC is aimed more at the PDA market, although it does feature Microsoft's own ebook reading software. FUNCTIONALITY The Rocket eBook Pro has an LCD touch screen which moves between pages by the use of a simulated page-turning feature. You can turn the pages of an ebook either by pressing one of two buttons on the case, which work like the Back and Forward buttons on the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser, or by using the stylus (or your finger) to touch the Rocket icon on the LCD touch screen, which is a shortcut that can be assigned either Page Forward or Page Back. <br><br> The LCD touch screen measures 3 ½” x 5 ½”, with a resolution of 106 pixels to the inch, and the size of the font can be adjusted, so the Rocket eBook Pro (and the earlier version, the Rocket eBook, which is the same in all respects apart from the memory size, which is considerably smaller) is very easy to read from for those people who have some visual impairment, particularly if the backlight is used at its most powerful setting to increase contrast. This backlight feature also makes the Rocket eBook Pro ideal for reading in bed without disturbing your partner, and the clicking noise that can be heard if using the buttons for page turning can be eliminated by using the Rocket icon to turn the pages. The stylus is stored in the back or "spine" of the Rocket eBook Pro when not in use. THERE ARE FOUR ICONS ON THE SCREEN: THE ROCKET - this performs page turning, and can be assigned to Page Back or Page Forward. THE BOOKSHELF - this contains a list of the books stored in your Rocket, and is used to open a book when you want to read it. It also contains the section About Rocket eBook, which displays information about the battery status, the amount of free memory, and number of titles stored on the device, as well as numbers of notes made. The other function contained within the Bookshelf icon is the Settings, where the font size and the degree of backlighting can be changed. THE BOOK - this contains the functions Lookup, Underline, Add Note, Set Bookmark, and a list of bookmarks that you have set. The Add Note function uses a virtual keyboard onscreen to input notes, and also uses the Allegro(TM) handwriting system. It also contains the functions GoTo, with a sub-menu of Find and First page, which takes you to the first page of the ebook you are reading. The Find function can be used to find Text, Underlines, Notes and Bookmarks. The Find function is also used to look up words in the dictionary that comes with the Rocket eBook, the Random House Dictionary. THE PAGE ORIENTATION ICON - touching this enables you to change the orientation of the page on the screen. This is particularly useful because sometimes you may wish to read from the Rocket whilst holding it like a book, and sometimes while it is placed in the cradle supplied with it, which enables hands free reading, and allows you to connect it to your computer. In addition to the four icons, there is a page navigation bar, visible when you are reading an ebook, which graphically shows you where you are in an ebook, as a percentage. Touching the page navigation bar will display the location within the ebook of the current page, and will enable you to skip pages and go to another part of the ebook instantly. SPECIFICATION The Rocket eBook Pro has a memory of 16K, capable of holding approximately 40 books (15,200 pages), depending on their size, much bigger than its predecessor, the Rocket eBook, which only has 4K of memory (about 10 books or 3,200 pages), but is still adequate for most users. You do not have to worry about ‘losing’ books stored on the Rocket, as it uses its proprietary Rocket Librarian software to store ebooks on your computer, and they can be re-loaded at any time. Any books you buy online (no shipping costs and quick download) are encrypted and can only be opened on your Rocket, and are permanently stored online, so that if your computer goes haywire and trashes your files, you can download your purchases again. The big difference between the SoftBook and the Rocket eBook Pro is that the SoftBook has a built in modem, and thus does not need a PC to store ebooks, as they can be downloaded via a telephone line to the SoftBook reader. The Rocket eBook Pro (and the Rocket eBook) must have a connection to your computer to load web pages or ebooks from the Rocket Libra rian software. This connection can be made by placing the Rocket in its cradle, or by an infrared connection with a laptop computer. Your computer (whether a PC or a Mac) must have a web browser and a connection to the internet. If you have a PC it must be IBM compatible, and a 486 or higher, with Windows 95,98, or NT 4.0, and at least 16MB of RAM. 10MB of hard disc space is needed to install the Rocket Librarian software. The Rocket Librarian software is supplied on a CD with the Rocket, and can also be downloaded from the site www.rocketbook.com, as can the Rocket Librarian manual, the Random House Dictionary and The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland, which are pre-loaded onto the Rocket. If you have a Mac, it must be a Power Macintosh (PowerPC 601) or higher, with Mac OS 8.5 or higher, and at least 16MB of RAM. 10MB of hard disc space is needed for the Rocket Librarian as above, for the PC, and it must have one serial port available to plug in the cradle. If you have a USB machine you will need a USB to serial adapter, which is supplied with the Rocket. The Rocket eBook weighs about 22oz, and measures 5” wide, 7 ½” long, and 1 ½” deep. It comes with a smart black leather case, which looks a lot like those leather writing cases you used to get, with a zip around three sides. You need to be careful when opening the case, as the Rocket is not held in by any straps, and could fall out. The only concern I would have about the Rocket eBook Pro is that, like the Rocket eBook, it has a hard body, and would presumably be more prone to damage than if it had a rubberised case. In addition to the case, the Rocket is supplied with a USB to serial adapter, for Mac users, a cradle, which is used to connect the Rocket to your computer, and a battery charger with a two pin American plug on it, which can be plugged into an ordinary British socket using a shaver adapter, which cost under £1. WH ERE TO BUY THE ROCKET I bought my Rocket from Barnes and Noble’s web site www.bn.com (shipping $35, about £25), and it was also available from www.ebookempire.com. Nuvomedia (the original makers of the Rocket eBook) and SoftBook were taken over by Gemstar, the giant American TV Guide company this year. I am not sure whether the Rocket eBook and the SoftBook are still available, having been superseded by Gemstar’s new products, the RCA eBook 1100 and the RCA eBook 1200. There is a link at www.powells.com (look at the left menu and click on RocketEditions), and it seems that Rocket eBook Pro devices are still available from here at the moment. The best bet failing this is to look on auction sites such as www.ebay.com. It is worth looking at www.ebooknet.com for current information and discussions on ebook readers and the electronic publishing industry in general, and the message boards are fairly informative and may be a good source of information on suppliers - I have yet to see information on the new RCA eBook readers, as they are not yet available. Although the Rocket eBook Pro could not replace the book as we know it at the moment, it adds another dimension to the reading experience, especially in terms of making your reading material more portable., for work or travel in general. You can get subscriptions to US magazines already for the Rocket, and some people have already written diary and calender add-ons for it, so it has a lot of potential as more than just a portable library. BUYING E BOOKS (AND WHERE TO GET THEM FREE) You can buy ebooks, known as Rocket Editions, from the Rocket eBook on www.bn.com (the Barnes and Noble web site), and through www.ecampus.com and www.powells.com, or you can create your own using the free Rocket Writer software free with the Rocket Librarian software you get with the Rocket. A search using any of the major search engines s hould turn up other smaller sites that also sell Rocket Editions, such as www.e-pulp.com, who sell crime novels and thrillers. Rocket Editions of main stream books still seem far too highly priced, especially as there are very low costs involved in their distribution, and the prices seem to be linked to the price of hardback books. An example is the Stephen King book Hearts In Atlantis: Rocket Edition $22.40 (£15.98) available from www.bn.com, and that is with their 20% discount already in place. There is a site called www.rocket-library.com where there are many free or very cheap Rocket Editions available, made up of self published works, works from small presses, and copyright free classics. Books on this site are from many different genres, in several languages, and both fiction and non-fiction. TEST DRIVING THE ROCKET - Still available. If you want to get an idea of the functionality and appearance of the Rocket eBook Pro, go to www.rocketbook.com/erocket/index.html and download the eRocket, a software-based version of the Rocket eBook. You can read any of the free titles in rocket Editions available on www.rocket-library.com on this software. It is a good idea to check out this site if you are studying computing, because there are a lot of free computer manuals available for download that you can read using the eRocket. An example would be Bruce Eckel's Thinking In Java, which is my favourite Java book, and very comprehensive. WEB SITES AND NEWSGROUPS OF INTEREST www.rocket-library.com www.ebooknet.com www.ebookempire.com www.ebay.com www.bn.com (Barnes & Noble) www.powells.com The newsgroups rocket.announce, rocket.ebook, rocket.library and rocket.library.voluteers are accessible through the rocket-library web site, and there are message boards relating to the Rocket eBook and other ebook related devices and topics on www.ebooknet.com. I used the Universal Currency Converter(TM) on the web site www.xe.net/ucc/ for all the currency conversions in this opinion.