Monday, March 9, 2009

EBook Week: Homage to the Rocket eBook

by Pam Ripling

It's a ploy to get people to recognize that ebooks really are a viable format for reading good--and bad--books. Although I am thrilled that my books are available in paperback, as a reader, I prefer electronic versions for myself.

I'm sort of a pioneer. My first published novel, IN TOO DEEP, was published in ebook format first, and available on CD. I can't count the number of times people asked me if they could listen to it in their car. "Read My Lips: Not-An-Audio-Book!!" I got weary explaining to others that yes, it was a REAL book. Edited, even! Copyrighted! ISBN!

But read a book on a computer? Bah. Humbug. Mind you, this was over ten years ago, when lots of folks didn't even have CD drives in their computers. Then, enter the Rocket eBook by Nuvomedia. A device, 22 oz., about the size of a trade paperback, dedicated solely to reading ebooks. Wow! I bought one. I bought two (and they both still work) and took them everywhere with me. Oh, the first one was pretty complicated: you loaded by putting it into a "cradle", then connecting the cradle to your computer, via--get this--a serial connection. You semi-data-geeks will be jeering at that. A later version came with a super-futuristic-modernistic-high-speed (right) doodad called a USB connector.
The Rocket was just terrific. Built-in dictionary, ability to make notes and annotations, sounds, backlit, kept your place, held tons of books (4000 pages), went a week on a single charge. The first version read HTML, which MS Word conveniently allowed you to save your own work to. But as the DRM (digital rights management) biz began to rear its heads (and yes, it has two), the Rocket suffered over formats it didn't understand. Later versions read Rocket's own format, "*.rb", which likely sounded its death knell. What followed was a host of other devices, each better than the last, and each with its own proprietary format.

I gave it all up in favor of reading on a Pocket PC - the powerful little competitor of the Palm series devices. The PPC comes with Microsoft Reader, which became my new favorite format. I've been content with reading on this small screen, mainly because I read at night and like the brightness and the color and the adjustable type (which, by the way, the Rocket also pioneered.)

So now we have two forerunners in the new age of reading devices. Amazon's Kindle, and the Sony Reader Digital Book. These fantastic gems make ebook reading a delightful experience. I'm out of space for today so will talk about them another time; suffice to say here that the only thing keeping me from buying one of each is the price--these industry giants are bringing $300 - $400 each.

Oh, and the Rocket? Sold for around $110.00 with case. That's inflation for you.

Pam Ripling also writes as Anne Carter. Website: BeaconStreetBooks Add'l Blog: The Word From Beacon Street

1 comment:

  1. I'm definitely going to have to invest in one of these soon and to read my E-Books on them and have a break from the computer!