Monday, December 27, 2010
The Amazon Kindle, version 3 is a good candidate. It has a large, crisp, monochrome display which looks great in direct sunlight or under an LED headlamp at night. You can easily enlarge or reduce font size to suit your vision, and display in portrait or landscape orientation. You can page-forward and backward reasonably while wearing gloves, using the big buttons on the sides. Battery life is excellent; with the radio modem turned off, its rechargeable batteries last more than a week. It is lightweight: 10.2 ounces (289.2g). It supports PDFs, flat files, and several other formats, and they are easily transferable via USB. And while you will no doubt want to optimize files for the Kindle screen, the photo at left shows an unmodified PDF from an actual 200K RUSA permanent in NC, in a waterproof bag (click to enlarge).
As a bonus, the Kindle 3G model has free internet connectivity via AT&T throughout the US. Its browser and/or AT&T's service are slow and the tiny keyboard is tedious, but it works. I have read and sent email, viewed weather radar, browsed Google Maps, and even posted to Facebook while on the road. With no monthly fee. (And it can play MP3s as well.)
However, it's not perfect. It's not waterproof. It only works in moderate temperatures of 32°F to 95°F (0°C to 35°C). I don't know how well it will tolerate the bumps and vibrations of extended bicycling. And it is yet-another thing to prepare and carry and have fail on a ride.
On the other hand, devices like this are getting really close...