Rec: PDA for reading things
January 25, 2005 11:54 PM   Subscribe

Gadget question: I like reading, and there's lots of stuff online. HTML books, PDA's of court rulings and studies, "work offline" site downloads... anything and everything you could want. I can't stay at home all day and read it, and I'm not stationary while I'm out running errands, so I'm looking for a small, portable PDA thingie with a color screen and PC browser/reader capabilities. It's good if it's got herculean batteries and best if runs on AA or AAA, it absolutely must be available online, and I like if it's cheap/secondhand. Googling reveals proprietary ebook readers and powerhouse PDA's that do way more than I need. Has anyone had any experience with these kinds of devices, do you know where to look for one, any recommendations on what to buy?
posted by saysthis to Shopping (15 answers total)
I use a Palm m500. Uses a rechargable battery, but lasts about a week with heavy use. There are numerous programs to use to read, for example Plucker does HTML and Handstory does convenient clipping from a desktop browser (read something later by selecting, then right-click 'Save to Palm').

It's not color. Color will suck batteries, BTW. Only available used, ebay is good of course. Typically, your solutions will be be between old, monochrome and long battery life and the opposite.

There are doubtless other solutions.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 12:27 AM on January 26, 2005

Shameless plug for the defunct TRGpro. It's a mono screen, Palm III clone, but uses AAA batteries
and has a compactflash/microdrive slot for memory expansion, in addition to its own 8MB of storage.
You can pick 'em up cheap on eBay.

The PalmIIIc has a rechargable battery which can sometimes crack the rear casing of the PDA.
If you want color in a Palm unit, b1tr0t's right about the Clie.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:14 AM on January 26, 2005

Palm IIIc - Palm's first color PDA.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:15 AM on January 26, 2005

I'll sort of second the Palm solution, but with reservations: I've done a lot of e-text reading on Palms over the years (first on a Palm Vx, later on a Tungsten T). You want color: grey lettering on a light green background sucks for longer texts. Secondly, you want the highest resolution screen you can get: the reason is anti-aliasing which will further reduce the eye-strain but only works on better screens. So a Tungsten T or T2 or T3 would be a pretty good choice. OTOH, I've recently discovered Microsoft Reader (free download) on a laptop and it rocks; I hear the Pocket PC version is as good, but I haven't tried it.

If you can't get high-resolution though, definitely get the color screen for the contrast alone...
posted by costas at 4:24 AM on January 26, 2005

I do most of my reading on my Palm. I currently have a Tungsten E. Used to have a Clie SJ-10. Color's great, for the white background, but battery life is significantly reduced. 320x320 px is a bare minium, IMO.
posted by signal at 5:25 AM on January 26, 2005

I have a Blackberry now, but a couple years ago I did Palm + AvantGo for this very thing. I don't know how good their support for converting on-the-fly as opposed to sites that specifically support it, but a couple years ago, it took a little tinkering. But, at least on the Mac, a little script-savviness let me have Slate and Salon downloaded and ready to sync every morning.
posted by mkultra at 6:56 AM on January 26, 2005

Palm, yes. I run a color Handspring Visor that I picked up on ebay. I tend to go to sleep later than my partner does; instead of reading a paper book on the couch, or using one of those annoying battery-powered little book lights, I can read in bed without a light to bother her.

manybooks is a great source for material. They take etexts from Project Gutenberg and spin them out into a multiplicity of ebook formats.
posted by omnidrew at 7:26 AM on January 26, 2005

Palm IIIxe. Dirt cheap on eBay, and compatible with just about everything.

Or a Palm VII, which ought to be cheap since the wireless service is going or has gone away.
posted by majick at 7:30 AM on January 26, 2005

I'm highly pleased with my Palm and I found this page on RSS readers for the Palm. Personally, I use Sunrise, which is the successor to JPluck (which was #5 on the list).
posted by Handcoding at 7:56 AM on January 26, 2005

I've been much happier with my rechargeable Palms than when I needed to use AAs.

The Sony Librie is more than small, less than cheap, and less than easily available, but they've solved the original huge proprietary-DRM only drawback, and now you can convert your own texts to read on it.

E-ink is definitely the future of e-books. (But, for now and probably for a while to come, I'm still on my Palm m515.)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:25 AM on January 26, 2005

I also use an older Palm IIIxe. There are some great readers for it, and tons of utilities like screen reversers or rotators so you can read with black text on white or white text on black, or with the screen sideways, etc.

It's awesome to read quietly with in the dark, like when a partner is sleeping. Plus, the joys of auto-scrolling text are just fantastic. I love the fact I can just point my head at the Palm IIIxe and let text stream at me without having to constantly turn pages (I read very, very fast) and keep ruining the comfortable arrangement of the pillow under my chin.

Now if I could just get every dead tree book from my shelves converted cheaply, quickly, and accurately to text or PDBs. And every new book I buy should come with a CD, floppy, or link to the text.
posted by loquacious at 12:36 PM on January 26, 2005

a used psion netbook (or malaybook, or series 7: all basically the same machine under a different name) always has beaten them all handsdown for what i think you want to do (& *much* more). sorry i don't have time to google up this post, but i will say that anybody asking similar questions will not regret the time they spend finding out more about this wonderful machine.

are there any fellow epoc/symbian users out there with the time to back me up on this recommendation?

(p.s. avoid the netbook pro like the plague)
posted by n o i s e s at 2:18 PM on January 26, 2005

Response by poster: It seems like the old Palms have it. They're like $20 on ebay, and there's a backlight, so the color's not that important (it won't kill my eyes if I use the backlight right???). Most righteous, o gnarly ones.

Crazy idea - universal literacy is generally a worthy philanthropic enterprise, right? I have no idea if there's a way to set up a project to collect old PDA's and distribute them for use as ebook readers, or if anyone's doing that already, but how would you go about setting something like that up? It's 6 in the morning and I'm fried, so actively searching is out of the question. Does anyone have any experience with this, links, etc..? I had no idea they were so cheap or plentiful, but if people have old PDA's sitting out there like old cell phones just tend to pile up and rot, someone ought to put them to good use. And for that matter how about programs to view other languages on Palm OS?

There is NO off position on the genius switch. Thanks a ton! :)
posted by saysthis at 2:47 PM on January 26, 2005

I have no idea if there's a way to set up a project to collect old PDA's and distribute them for use as ebook readers, or if anyone's doing that already, but how would you go about setting something like that up?

Well, first, you wouldn't, because books require much less infrastructure than PDAs. You don't need a computer, or internet access, or a phone line, or electricity, or batteries to read a book. Besides, it's not as if there is demand for classic (public-domain) literature going unmet that could be met if only we could distribute it as e-books.
posted by kindall at 3:04 PM on January 26, 2005

I have an old Handspring Visor Deluxe - takes 2x AAA and has a B&W screen for long battery life. I never really felt the need for colour.

Weasel Reader is excellent, and supports zTxt for nice small ebooks.

I use Plucker for html things, it has a nice spidering engine as well.
posted by OldMansHands at 3:08 PM on January 26, 2005

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