November 11, 2008

iRex Illiad Review from ARS

Original Post from March 2nd 2008.

Here is a recent review of the iRex Illiad by ARS Technica is in general pretty standard stuff, so it won't have any new information for "regular readers of README", and what they pick-up on is the most interesting part of it....

They pick up on one of the Iliad's key differentiations: Pen/Stylus input on the screen:
"Writing directly on the screen makes the ebook feel that much more like a "real" book."
and then they explore a number of uses it can be put to, from photo mark-up to sheet music writing and comment.

This comment "One byproduct of the custom stylus is that the screen doesn't respond to fingernails, stray knuckle taps, or non-iRex styli. This is a Good ThingTM... until you lose your stylus." is an interesting one.

The *addition* of Waacom stylus input (vs. say, Sony PRS eReader and others) leads ARS to think of finger touch input - their thinking conditioned by resistive touch display devices like PDA's where the stylus input and finger input is with the same mechanism and do both work.

They then pick up on the correct fact that annotations via the stylus are then of limited use (or accessibility) outside of the device (or even inside the device):
"Chief among them is the fact that annotations can't be easily passed back to the PC."
This doesn't detract as much as it may sound from some positive reasons for having stylus input, but I think it does correctly highlight the limited extent to which handwritten input or "digital ink" is a full-citizen in our modern computing world and the current limitations in how we can manipulate it and what we can do with it....

Unfortunately Adobe keep PDF fairly locked-up with regards to adding "ink annotations" to existing PDFs, something we fought against in Digital Pen and Paper. iRex seemed to have tried to get around that by re-printing the PDF to a new PDF with a PDF printer, but I don't think the annotations will be *real* PDF annotations that can be switched on and off, copied etc etc.
iRex's choice of a proprietary format (even if XML based) for digital ink is arguable as well, and maybe they should consider inkML.

If your handwriting is good and you pay the extra money for the PC based Vision Objects ICR software, you can convert your notes to text on the PC, but that's more for note taking than annotating.

They go on to cover reading and getting content and the MobiPocket Reader which is the chosen iRex path for Book content. Which reminds me to use my MobiPocket reader more, it's got some interesting features around RSS feeds, blogs and other content and some fun newspaper layouts of them....

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