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Books Handhelds Build Technology

E-Books On a $20 Cell Phone 116

Posted by timothy
from the embracing-constraints dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Moon+ Pro Reader, FBReader, Kindle, you name it--many popular Android e-book apps can run on a smartphone available for $20 and shipping. The trick is to respect the device's limits and keep down the number of apps you install. This fun isn't for eager multitaskers. On the bright side, the $20 phone can do Acapela TTS, includes a 4GB memory card and works with cards of up to 32GB--easily enough for scads of pre-loaded books. Plus, the WiFi is great. And the screen of 3.2 inches isn't that much smaller than the 3.5 inchers on the older iPads. What could cell phone e-reading mean in the many "book deserts" of the U.S.? And how about the U.K. where miserly pols are closing libraries even though the Guardian says "a third of UK children do not own a single book and three-quarters claim never to read outside school"? The smartphone post on the LibraryCity site tells how librarians and others could start "cell phone book clubs" to promote the discovery and absorption of books as well as smarter use of technology."
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E-Books On a $20 Cell Phone

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  • Seriously? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drdread66 (1063396) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @07:07AM (#47815301)

    Reading e-books two or three lines at a time on a 3.2-inche screen would turn anyone off of reading. If you're trying to interest people in reading more, it's going to have to be a pleasant experience.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That is exactly how I enjoy reading: few lines of large print I flick through at a reasonable pace. My eyes often go to the wrong line when read larger books and smaller print. I also prefer the weight and size of my phone over a book. Also, I am annoyed by the effort it takes to keep a paperback open wide enough to see the text closest to the spine.

      • I used to read on a Droid Eris (2009 phone with a 3.2" screen), and it was perfectly fine for my purposes. Well, not for the Kindle app. That worked very slowly at first, then they "upgraded" it and it was unusable. Aldiko worked and looked great, though. In fact, that was pretty much all that phone was used for after a while, since it wasn't connected to any cell phone service. With it on airplane mode, the wifi off, and the brightness at minimum, the battery would last several days. I've since gradu

    • Re:Seriously? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Bohnanza (523456) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @08:01AM (#47815511)
      Reading e-books two or three lines at a time on a 3.2-inche screen would turn anyone off of reading

      I prefer to read on my phone over any other format. I can hold it and turn pages with one hand, and since only one paragraph fits on a page, I never lose my place even if I am distracted. I read MUCH faster on my phone than when reading from a paper book.

      My current phone is bigger, but I read many books on my Iphone 3, with a screen size of only 3.5 inches, so I think the experience would be similar with these small phones.

      And I am not alone, e-reader apps have always been among the most popular.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        You have no idea what you're talking about until you've read a book on an Archos Jukebox using the RockBox mod.

      • I have a different experience because I am visually impaired. I find that using a 19" screen with a zoomable PDF reader is actually better than reading the hard-copy book. It is a bigger font size and I have the option of reversing the background and forground colors. I don't have the usual eye condition that requires reversal of screen collors for accessability but with a cataract it turns out to be helpful. So it is actually easier for me to read and edit on a computer screen than to use a paper book.

        O

    • by AC-x (735297)

      3.2" is a bit small, but you don't need a massive screen either. I read many books on my Nexus S, even though it only has a 4" 233ppi screen it was fine for reading on.

      • by amiga3D (567632)

        I've tried a 4" screen but found it to be too much strain. I now use a samsung media player 5 and the 5" screen is just about perfect and it fits my pocket fine. I think it really is a matter of personal preference and with all the variable size tablets and phones available I think anyone can be happy.

    • If my eyes were on their way out, such a small screen would be truly brutal; but if smallish print isn't an issue small screens really aren't bad(for texts that reflow well, PDFs, technical documentation, images/diagrams, etc. are a total clusterfuck). Back in the day, I burned through a lot of Project Gutenberg stuff with my Visor Edge [wikimedia.org](mine was silver; but same 160x160 pixel screen) and Weasel Reader. Slim, light, good battery life, backlight was alien-abduction-green but perfectly functional, and zTXT for
    • by DrXym (126579)
      I used to read books on a Palm Pilot and I still read them on my phone. Handy for a train other idle moments although nowhere close to ideal.

      Anyway, I see a $20 e-reader as something which is viable and useful particularly if governments started issuing them to kids instead of a heap of text books. It's not even clear to me why governments pay (or expect parents to pay) for text books from publishers when they could use the same money to commission the text books and then distribute them electronically an

      • by pnutjam (523990)
        My daughters school required Ipads this year, which parents had to either purchase or rent. They indicated they would offset books by using resources on the Ipad, since the rental fee was about the same as book fees usually are.
        Oddly enough, when book fees came out, hers were twice the normal amount.
    • Not at all. My first foray into ebooks was way back on an old Sony Clie back in the PalmOS days.

    • by Dan East (318230)

      I've read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, and dozens of other ebooks, on a Blackberry Pearl, which has a 2.25" screen. It's really not that bad. The text size / appearance is the same as anywhere else, you just have to manually interact with it more often. But, the smaller the device, the easier it is to comfortably hold and thus easier interact with to turn pages.

    • by pnutjam (523990)
      Recent studies show some people have less trouble reading on a small screen. I love reading on a small screen. I've been using ebooks since I got my hands on a palm m505. http://www.fastcoexist.com/167... [fastcoexist.com]
    • by MacTO (1161105)

      Reading on a 3.2" screen isn't all that bad, but I wouldn't present that as a solution for children. Books for the youngest are illustrated, and present part of the story as part of those illustrations. Early chapter books use larger text, presumably because the audience is still learning the shape of letters. Even later chapter books have illustrations that would be difficult to enjoy on a small screen.

      Yet the real problem with closing libraries in favor of elending is the lack of availability of ebooks

    • by ghighi (1416473)
      I have read a lot of books on my Galaxy S3. A lot more on my IPhone 3G before that. A fair amount on a freaking P910i and a M600 (look them up, they have screens like your average contemporary cellphone) before all this. And on my palm Tungsten... You get the idea. The "nothing beat the paper experience" mantra and all its variation are getting old. These are books: the fun is in the words. Now that being said I now read on a 13" Yoga 2 pro and it's great too.
    • by ncc74656 (45571) *

      Reading e-books two or three lines at a time on a 3.2-inche screen would turn anyone off of reading.

      I did just fine reading ebooks from an iPhone 3G back in the day. If you can only fit two or three lines at a time on-screen, you're doing it wrong. It'll be less than you can get with a tablet screen, but it's certainly usable. The iPhone 4 was a nice step up (smoother text), and the tablets I've since picked up are better still (7" is plenty...I do most of my reading on a Galaxy Tab 2 7.0), but I still

  • by aliquis (678370) <dospam@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @07:10AM (#47815309) Homepage

    But it is much smaller than the iPads screens.

    It is less than 1/9 the size of the 10" of an iPad.

    Also can I expect the resolution to suck too?

    Why cares? Why is this slashvertisment posted on /.?

    It may not be much smaller than an old iPod Touch and maybe it doesn't have worse resolution either who knows but so what? It's still poor and shitty. Small, low-res and no e-ink.

    "Shitty smartphone can do smartphone stuff although shitty" - You don't say?

    I know the later may come out as trolling but .. it's just the truth.

    • by asylumx (881307)
      Ya, I have to imagine they were talking about iPods and typoed the iPad --- I'm pretty sure there never was a 3.5" iPad, at least not on the market.

      Also, agreed, this sounds like a very obvious slashvertisement for the specific phone they are referring to. Especially this part:

      the $20 phone can do Acapela TTS, includes a 4GB memory card and works with cards of up to 32GB--easily enough for scads of pre-loaded books. Plus, the WiFi is great.

      Either way, this is a terrible story.

    • by evilviper (135110)

      Why cares? Why is this slashvertisment posted on /.?

      You really think linking to a $20 phone is a slashvertisment?

      It's actually an interesting subject I've discussed around here quite a bit lately. Cheap smartphones are immensely useful, for everything from WiFi video surveillance cameras, time-lapse cameras, inventory/barcode scanners, etc. A little thinking out-of-the-box, and these dirt-cheap cellphones can replace a lot of expensive equipment.

      "Shitty smartphone can do smartphone stuff although shitty"

    • It is less than 1/9 the size of the 10" of an iPad.

      You either entirely missed the point of the submission or you are actually trolling despite implying that you aren't.

      The $20 cell phone is less than 1/15th the cost of the cheapest iPad. There are a lot of people who don't have an extra $300 for an ebook reader and live in areas without easy access to books [laschoolreport.com].

      A $20 device may not be the best reader available, but it's affordable and provides access to books that might not be available any other way.

      Why cares?

      This may be hard for you to believe, but some of us aren't entirely self-centered and we actually give a shit about poor people who can't afford the same access to information that others have.

      Why is this slashvertisment posted on /.?

      A slashvertisement would be an article about a specific product, not a general discussion of $20 cell phones and their capability as ebook readers. If you're going to throw insults around, at least try to make them relevant to the thing you're insulting.

  • "older iPads" (Score:4, Informative)

    by Oliver Wendell Jones (158103) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @07:11AM (#47815311)
    What "older iPads" had 3.5" screens? Did you mean iPhone?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Did Carlos Slim buy up Dice? Makes a lot of sense if so.

  • >how about the U.K. where miserly pols are closing libraries even though the Guardian says "a third of UK children do not own a single book and three-quarters claim never to read outside school"?

    So, the argument here is that at least 75% of the children never use libraries, so libraries should be kept open? Interesting but, I'm afraid you've lost me there.

    I don't really see reading books on a phone. The text is too small. On a tablet, sure, that works, and I've been very happy to dump all my shelves and

    • by umghhh (965931)
      Phones are out of the question. I also gave up on tablet though as this was too cumbersome. If I read I use either a PC or dead tree versions.
      • Phones are out of the question

        Don't knock it until you've tried it; While a proper e-ink screen is nicer, new phones with large, high-res screens are really nice to read on, and even older phones aren't bad (I read loads of books on my 4" Nexus S). More importantly phones have the big advantage that you have it with you practically everywhere by default and they're almost always connected.

        On a train? Read a book on your phone. Waiting in line for something? Read the same book on your phone. Waiting for a late friend? Read the same book

        • More importantly phones have the big advantage that you have it with you practically everywhere by default and they're almost always connected.

          And the disadvantage that upgrading from a dumb phone to a smart phone may inflate your cellular bill by $300 per year or more. One may have to upgrade from $7/mo low-minutes voice-only service to $35/mo voice and data service if the CDMA2000 carrier refuses to activate voice-only service on a smart phone or the GSM carrier exercises a provision in the boilerplate terms of service to automatically add a data plan the subscriber's voice-only SIM [slashdot.org].

          • by AC-x (735297)

            Wow, US phone companies really have you guys by the balls eh? Anyone in Europe can swap a dumbphone for a smartphone without any contract change or even having to contact our provider.

            Of course this isn't really relevant to this thread as zephvark and umghhh aren't talking about not having a smartphone, they're talking about not wanting to read on a smartphone.

  • sponsered phones. (Score:5, Informative)

    by leuk_he (194174) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @07:22AM (#47815343) Homepage Journal

    These phones are sim-locked and sponsered by the provider. So the 20$ mark means not much, the real price is 10-40 dollars higher.

    Using a phone for reading zaps through your battery life (1-3 hours) to light the screen.

    But the discusssion stays, since for $99 you can get a reasonable e-paper reader. How to get content for this.... i leave to your imagination.

    • by stoolpigeon (454276) <bittercode@gmail> on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @07:34AM (#47815397) Homepage Journal

      For $70 you can get a fantastic e-ink reader. The 6 inch kindle with offers is $69.

      Team that up with Calibre on a PC and you are all set. That is how I do all my reading now.

      • How is the modability of the Kindle firmware these days? I know earlier versions are relatively tamed at this point; but any time I see 'with offers' my loathing gland swells.
        • I know there are methods to remove the ads - but I have to say that when they planned this out they did it right. I've never felt a need to remove it from mine. They only show up on the home screen (where they are crazy small) and on my screen saver thing. When I'm reading there is no difference. I really don't spend any significant amount of time not actually "in" books on the thing so I forget about it. Every so often it will remind me to connect to wi-fi if I haven't done so in a long time but if it real

        • How is the modability of the Kindle firmware these days? I know earlier versions are relatively tamed at this point; but any time I see 'with offers' my loathing gland swells.

          I bought the B&N Nook for $99 and rooted it. Works great, I use it to study with Ankidroid.

        • by Nimey (114278)

          You can always pay $20 or $30 (whichever it is) to turn off "with offers".

    • If you have to buy a device locked to a particular prepaid carrier, you could always carry it alongside your existing dumb phone, just as people who couldn't afford an iPhone used to carry a dumb phone and an iPod touch. Use the phone to make calls and the $20 PDA to read books.
    • by wren337 (182018)
      You can pick up a CDMA smartphone with a bad ESN for next to nothing on ebay, and with wifi it's a pocket-size game and internet platform for kids. No need to activate a call plan.
    • http://www.mobileread.com/ [mobileread.com] --- forum for books where the members create nicely formatted books, and are willing to fix errors when reported
      http://www.gutenberg.org/ [gutenberg.org] --- mass-produced books by the masses --- getting errors fixed is a bit more difficult, but can be made to happen

      http://onlinebooks.library.upe... [upenn.edu] --- The Online Books Page, John Mark Ockerbloom's attempt to list all freely available electronic versions of printed texts.

  • The phones are only that cheap because they're subsidised. If too many people bought them just for books then they would stop being so cheap.
  • I would rather read a book printed on business cards than a cell phone. I'll stick to my kindle, eink (most important part, I think) and a decent sized screen.

  • Generic E-Readers are cheaper than that.
    http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html... [ebay.com]|R40|R40&_sacat=0&LH_ItemCondition=3&_nkw=ereader&_udhi=30

    You can even get used kindles for between $5 and $10

    Those librarians need to kick the hobos browsing porn off the library computers so they can get on ebay.

    • by Nyder (754090)

      ...>

      Those librarians need to kick the hobos browsing porn off the library computers so they can get on ebay.

      Great idea, pick on the homeless.

    • It's a real pity that the 'lemon market' [wikipedia.org] effect is so strong on the dodgy end of the a variety of categories of electronic devices...

      In terms of specs, such devices are obviously inferior to their more expensive counterparts; but you often don't need as much power as the expensive stuff offers. In terms of quality and niceties like warranty support, it can be iffy; but solid-state gear can be pretty durable once the infant mortality period is over, and if it costs little enough you can 'self insure' rath
      • For $20, it's a burner device ... no support.

      • What on earth are you talking about? I have piles of these things (I love e-readers) they are like like MP3 players, you dump the files in flash memory and all the thing needs is a way to select files and turn the page. The Sony Ereaders are $30, are those lemons? lol
        I can walk down to the local grocary store and they have them on end-caps for under $40.

        • It's not that they are lemons, it's that amidst the vast sea of cheap and minimally known devices, you don't know which are or aren't lemons.

          That's the lemon market effect: It doesn't mean that all devices are lemons(many aren't), it's that if you have no particularly good way of determining which are or aren't lemons, you are forced to be more cautious than would otherwise be good even of devices that are not lemons.
    • >> Those librarians need to kick the hobos browsing porn off the library computers so they can get on ebay

      A political friend of mine was on the local library board and he was wondering how to handle the problem of porn browsing on the library computers. I suggested a large sign right over the computers that were "open" with no filters. The sign would be right over the unobstructed faces of the users. It would say "PORN ENEABLED COMPUTERS" and be well lit in bright colours.

      He told me he was afraid I'd

  • by c0d3g33k (102699) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @07:37AM (#47815413)

    What could cell phone e-reading mean in the many "book deserts" of the U.S.?

    Citation needed. I've never heard of this phenomenon. Sounds like a made up term to add extra drama.

    • I'm not certain what the category is called(there must be a term for it; but I don't move in linguistics circles); but 'book desert' is an example of a specific class of made up term, the one that is novel; but is an explicit extension of an earlier and better recognized term(the best known example I can think of is, at least in the US, the ability to add "-gate" to almost anything to imply that it is a scandal. The result is always a made up word; but it creates a direct connection to 'Watergate').

      In th
    • by kamapuaa (555446)

      Of course the idea is that some areas don't have libraries (and likely don't have bookstores). My current city is fairly large, 225,000 people, and basically only has one library.

      Reading on computers and phones and e-readers is indeed an alternative for people who live in such areas. I love my e-reader, but just because it's easier I read on my cell phone almost as much. It may seem ridiculous, but you quickly adapt and honestly I don't really mind it. It works for fiction, not so much for a cookbook or

    • by MacTO (1161105)

      Sigh. May I suggest working on your reading skills? Determining meaning from context and imagery are important aspects of literacy. While they may not have a place in technical writing, where the precision of language is essential, they do allow for more engaging reading experiences.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by c0d3g33k (102699)

        Sigh. Another /. response that opens with a veiled insult in the form of an ad hominem argument. I hope your self esteem got a little boost, person who is clearly better than I.

        The problem wasn't determining the intended meaning of the phrase. That was pretty clear: it implied that "many" areas in the US are literary wastelands devoid of life and nourishment (for the mind) with haggard readers thirsting for relief crawling slowly along in the dirt, bathed in the harsh life-sapping light of modern media,

  • by kenh (9056)

    And the screen of 3.2 inches isn't that much smaller than the 3.5 inchers on the older iPads.

    You mean iPod Touch...

  • What is this I don't even

  • by umghhh (965931)
    I mean for powers that be we are all prols. Why would any prols need any reading?
  • "This fun isn't for eager multitaskers."

    Fun?!? Did you perhaps mean "phone"? I really wonder sometimes if you even read the submissions at all or do you just automatically approve every Nth one.

    So much for the new corporate overlords classing up the joint any.

  • by c (8461)

    A feature phone with a Java-based reader [albite.org] worked decently for me prior to getting an Android phone. Screen sizes wasn't huge, but as long as scrolling doesn't get in the way it's manageable.

    Not sure how this is news?

    • by zlexiss (14056)

      +1 same here, used Sensybook on my dumbphone for a few years. Calibre on the desktop to convert any format into plain text.

  • It's free, it's fast, it's regularly updated and the reading experience is quick and convenient. I've tried Moon+ and it's good too.

  • My eyesight would never accept trying to read on a screen this small.
    But I have used this same approach for creating a dedicated device to assist with tracking my diabetes.
    A used $20 phablet + android diabetes tracking app = great diabetes tracking device
  • For those who can't find the link to the original article, here it is: http://librarycity.org/?p=1097... [librarycity.org]
  • It's obvious American kids aren't reading enough, and the impact and consequences of not reading are pretty well known. But this is a cultural problem, not a technical problem, and proposing a hardware solution is not the right way forward and therefore won't work.

    If kids wanted to read, they could do so basically for free already by getting a free library card and going from there. New hardware won't fix this.

    • Your suggestion assumes all American kids have either 1.) A library within walking distance, 2.) Access to transportation.

      • by ncc74656 (45571) *

        Your suggestion assumes all American kids have either 1.) A library within walking distance, 2.) Access to transportation.

        The schools they attend have libraries, don't they? If they're not within walking distance, there's a bus that will take them there. For ~9 months of the year, your "problem" is sorted.

    • I'm getting a bit worried to be honest, these days I'm running into more and more people of all ages, but younger people in particular, who almost proudly admit they don't read for pleasure.

  • by TheGoodNamesWereGone (1844118) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @08:42AM (#47815689)
    I have a phone with a 3.5" screen. It's just about useless for e-reading. Also, the idea that if all the troubled youth were just given books they'd read them is bogus. They *can't* read and if they could they still wouldn't want to.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Youth won't read until they aren't forced to by their schools. I was forced to read all the literary classics, most of which are depressing and a product of their own time. Their biting commentary on the state of things is lost on the current generation that isn't living through it. As a result, you couldn't get me to go near a book. But I would read. I'd read the news, I'd read useful articles, I chatted all the time in the dark days of text only, and I'd read things that helped me achieve something I want

      • Most kids, left to their own devices, either won't read or will read shit. That carries over into young adulthood-- witness the slouching beast that is pop culture. Take one look at the magazines at a grocery store checkout, or the lad mags. The human brain has a limited capacity, that can be filled with good stuff or bad stuff. Things like Hamlet or Great Expectations or 1984 are still relevant today. I'm like you; I could've done without some of the more boring ones, but looking back I'm glad I was given
    • by Chelloveck (14643)

      I have a phone with a 3.5" screen. It's just about useless for e-reading. Also, the idea that if all the troubled youth were just given books they'd read them is bogus. They *can't* read and if they could they still wouldn't want to.

      I know I'm a dinosaur, but I was reading ebooks on my Palm III with its grayscale 160x160 pixel 3.3" screen. It's certainly not a "useless" form factor. I even preferred it to reading paper books, just because I could carry more around with me. Of course, I like to read. I agree

  • "eager multitaskers" synonymous with "distracted liability".

  • by evilviper (135110) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @09:40AM (#47816055) Journal

    The trick is to respect the device's limits and keep down the number of apps you install.

    What?!?! That phone has better specs than the highest of the high-end $600+ smartphones just 4 years ago. It's got specs as good as my $200 mid-tier smartphone from 2 years ago.

    They could handle multiple apps back then, they can now, too.

    • by mlts (1038732)

      Even earlier than that, my ancient HTC Wizard, a 2006 vintage device, could handle a couple gigs on its miniSD card, and for e-books, that can hold a lot of stuff. The 2009 vintage Motorola CLIQ with a MicroSD card, similar.

      It doesn't take much for a device to handle e-books.

      • by c0d3g33k (102699)

        Indeed. I first started reading ebooks on my original Motorola Droid (the backlit screen allowed me to read in bed without disturbing my wife with the bedside lamp on). It was a decent enough experience with the phone held in landscape position and using a reasonable font size. I had quite a little library on the microSD card. And plenty of apps and games too.

        The only problem was not being able to have most or all of the text equating to a printed page on the screen at once, which prompted me later to g

    • by Nimey (114278)

      Sure, if you want to stick with old apps.

      You sound like people who have a Pentium 4 and load it up with modern programs, then wonder why it's so slow - it used to run the same number of programs lots faster, after all... it's just that this was in 2002 and they're not using Windows XP RTM and Office 2000 anymore.

      • by evilviper (135110)

        Oddly enough, MP3 players aren't using up any more resources today than they did 4 years ago, so no.

        And being that this phone runs Gingerbread, yeah, some of the newest apps won't be available.

  • Trying to read on that little cellphone screen might eventually drive you nuts though... You'd be better off buying a Chinese-made 7" Android tablet like I did. (I four of them for ~$40 each, half off though.) Make damn fine readers, and good for a lot of other tasks, too.

    Though I also picked up an Android phone with a bad speaker for $13 on eBay that I use as a wifi mouse/keyboard and Mediaplayer remote for my PCs. All in all, a pretty good supplement to my 'digital life'.

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