Why I won’t buy and e-reader (but would really like to)

I like the idea of e-book readers. Rather than printing versions of all the journal articles I’ve downloaded over the course of completing a PhD, I save the PDFs on the computer. I’ve transitioned to reading these articles on my screen at home and have a system where I can annotate the articles I’ve read. Simply, I would love the ability to take these files with me and read them places “normal” books are read (reading on the subway or not having to schlep pounds of paper around are especially appealing).

Now ignoring that Amazon’s Kindle looks like a beast, charges you money to upload PDF or Word files (so is quite the closed system and locks you into buying books from Amazon) and isn’t available in Canada, Sony’s reader is starting to look a lot better than it did just a while ago. The reader software was updated in the summer to allow any EPUB, PDF or text document to be uploaded.

Holding me back from buying any e-reader right now is the inability to mark-up documents. For me, annotation is key. Bookmarking is great, but I need some way when I’m reading to be able to mark a page and enter a thought or idea that is relevant to the text on the page. I can do this cheaply now when I read a book with a highlighter and a pen, but missing from that system is the searchability that my digital workflow allows: I can search for a term and up pop all the academic articles that have it

Just unveiled yesterday, however, is Plastic Logic’s entry into the market and it appears to be a marked improvement on Amazon’s and Sony’s readers:

Drool-worthy is the flexible touchscreen (missing from Sony & Amazon) and Wi-Fi connectivity (Kindle does connect to Sprint’s network in the states–but this is why, in fact, you have to pay to upload your documents to the Kindle. No one rides for free on cell networks). It also supports the ability to upload the regular suspects in terms of document files.

This product’s killer app is mentioned at 1:14 of the video above: the ability to mark-up documents, with drawing and text. If Plastic Logic is able to successfully integrate these features, this will have the potential to be an incredible device for my own digital academic workflow.

So, I wait with baited breath to hear more about this device.