Monday, November 26, 2007

Kindle, XO, Blah, Blah

This comment I'm leaving Doug Johnson is long enough to post here. It should sort of make sense on its own, but of course you can read the rest of the thread if you want. I start by fixing a link to a video of Brewster Kahle demoing the XO as an eBook reader:

Sorry, I munged the link above (or something). Try: Regarding readability, CRT's scan and flicker, LCD's don't. The Kindle display is more readable than LCD because it is reflective and high resolution. The XO's display has a reflective mode. A little casual Googling seems to indicate that the Kindle can display 167 dots per inch and the XO can display 200 dpi in monochrome mode (less in color), so in theory the XO display is sharper. I'm not sure those numbers are perfectly authoritative, though. My subjective memory of my experience is that you'd need brighter ambient light to read an XO in reflective mode than a Kindle-style display, but I've not done close to a side by side comparison, so I may be wrong. If the display Kahle is holding in the video above is in reflective mode, then my memory would seem to be faulty, but you can't really tell. As far as battery life goes, when used as an ebook reader with the battery off, the XO is designed to essentially go to sleep with the display on and wake up only when the display needs to be updated, so this should provide very long (all day) life. With the backlight on in ebook mode, it'll obviously take more power, but it will still have longer life than a conventional laptop. The power consumption on the XO should improve (from very good to outstanding) over the first year as the final kinks in hardware drivers get ironed out. On the other hand, you can do vastly more with the XO's display than with Kindle's. As Tim Lauer explains, there is a pause between each refresh of the screen, so not only can you not display video or any animation, as you can on the XO, you can't even draw a conventional mouse cursor! And of course, the Kindle can't display color, but the XO can. If you're ok with buying your own books for use on the Kindle, it is no skin off my nose. However, I think that, as I explain in this post, it is important to differentiate in this conversation between what you think is ok for your personal use and what you think kids should be taught and what good public policy is. I'm sure, for example, textbook publishers would be elated to support the kind of DRM the Kindle uses. It would give them more control than they have now with paper textbooks. I would expect, for example, textbooks to be licensed for a specific period of time, which would stop working when the new edition came out. What we really want to see is publically funded, freely licensed textbooks and curriculum of the sort Bob Tinker outlines here. That would save far more money and produce better results than buying DRM-laden digital texts from the big publishers.


Bill Kerr said...

Brewster Kahle: (the OLPC is)..."the best opportunity to get a digital library to the world"

internet archive + OLPC: beautiful synergy

Gnuosphere said...

Lessig mentions Kahle several times in "Free Culture" - an ebook readable on an XO. Free Culture is sold in tangible form for profit while licensed as CC BY-NC to respect file-sharers.