Comparing Amazon Kindle to E-Book Readers of Yesterday and Tomorrow

Click to viewSo Amazon unveiled its Kindle yesterday. The fancy eBook with "free" EV-DO got a lot of attention and has a lot of people talking about whether or not digital books have a chance of taking on the paper kind. But the Kindle is far from the only eBook out there, naturally, and it's turned a lot of people off with how it charges you to read blogs, get RSS feeds, and load PDFs on it. In addition, there are some huge advances on the eBook horizon that, when released, will make the Kindle look like it was made in the late '80s. Lets take a peek at some alternatives to the Kindle that are both available today and will be in the not-too-distant future.

Sony PRS-505 Reader: The Sony Reader is $100 less than the Kindle at $300, and it won't charge you to load PDFs on it (the Kindle will take a dime for every PDF you allow it to convert to its DRM'd format). It also won't charge you to read blogs or get your RSS feeds, something else the Kindle nickel and dimes you for. This is probably the Kindle's biggest opponent, and, to be honest, would be my choice if I actually wanted an eBook (which I don't).

Bookeen Cybook V3:The Cybook sits between the Sony Reader and the Amazon Kindle pricewise at $350. Like the other big two, you can load MP3s up on an SD card and rock out to your tunes while you read books on it. It also can handle RSS feeds for you, free of charge.

Fujitsu eBook Demo: This is only a demo so it isn't available for sale yet, but Fujitsu's eBook is notable for how light it is. Clocking in at a mere 177g, it's much lighter than the Sony Reader (255g without the soft cover) and the Amazon Kindle (292g), which makes a difference if you're gonna carry it around all day. If that's important to you, maybe it's worth waiting for this guy to appear.

Seiko eBook Reader: Oh, did I say the Fujitsu was light? Well, it is, but not compared with this beautiful Seiko Reader that comes in at a nearly-immune-from-the-effects-of-gravity 57g. It's also a mere 3mm thick, making it the thinnest, lightest, and slickest of the selection here today. In addition, it has a crazily-high 1200x1600 resolution on its 6.7-inch screen. This is clearly the sexiest of the bunch, but there are few details on it and my guess is we'll be waiting a while for it. Patience is a virtue.

LG Philips Flexible eBook: This conceptual eBook from LG Philips features one thing that no other eBook does: flexibility. Yep, that characteristic of paperback books that we're all so used to feels conspicuously missing from these technological updates to the medium, it's sure to make the transition from dead trees to synthetics a little easier. This is more an e-paper display than an eBook at the moment, what with its 14.1-inch form factor way bigger than you'd want an eBook, but it's an example of what we have to look forward to in the future.

So what conclusion can we draw from all these products? Well, it seems like there's a lot of research and work being done in the eBook, eInk, and ePaper fields at the moment, which should mean that newer, better, and cheaper products will be coming pretty frequently. That means you early adopters might feel stuck with the $400 Kindle in six months when another eBook comes out with a better screen, free RSS feeds and weighing half as much drops for the same price.

And if you're planning to use your eBook to import a bunch of your own documents and use it to read a lot of material downloaded from the web, the Kindle doesn't seem like a great option due to the charges for doing pretty much everything on it.

But if you just want something to read books on (presumably books you'll download from Amazon), the Kindle seems like a good, albeit an expensive, choice. Just know that your Kindle won't be the hottest eBook on the block for long.