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Sony has essentially reinvented the concept of a product produced several years ago by a company called NuvoMeida, with its RocketBook "e-reading" device. I received one of the early RocketBooks circa 1999 as a (requested) Christmas present. And at an Internet advertising boondoggle somewhere near Lake Tahoe, I even had the opportunity to hear the inventor expound about how his invention was going to change reading as we knew it.
While the original RocketBook e-book was bulky, it certainly performed as advertised, and through a proprietary service allowed the user to purchase books via the Internet -- a great service for those cold and rainy winter days when venturing down to Barnes and Noble seemed like a bad idea. As with so many Internet boom ventures, though, the RocketBook bounced from one owner to another, and eventually was allowed to die a slow death under Gemstar's ownership.
Will We Still Have Cartoons???
Fear not, loyal e-bibliophiles. The Sony Reader is slated to save your papyrus-free day...but alas for now, is available only in Japan. Estimated to cost between $300 and $400 (according to Gizmodo), the Sony Reader will natively support PDF files and convert .doc files on the fly. Also, like the RocketBooks, Sony's Connect service will hang out a shingle to sell eBooks direct via the Net.
But as Gizmodo points out, the real thriller here is integrated RSS support, including images. Remember the e-inked USA Today from "Minority Report?" We could be on our way here, folks. Forget that rolled up wet blob in your front yard -- you know, the one without the plastic cover that the newspaper delivery kid forgot to put on? No, a device like the Reader with full-on RSS support could make the customized e-newspaper a reality, delivered to your e-book, overnight, everyday, updated all day...fresh news on the go, complete with pretty pictures (I'm sure rich media wouldn be far behind).
Yes, it might put a few of those newspaper delivery kids out of work (of whom I once was one), but what the heck, they're probably the ones already programming the RSS feeds that bring the e-newspaper to your virtual doorstep in the first place.