Tatung Web PadThe old e-book-optimized Cybook, the one with the LCD, is dead. But you may be in luck if your heart’s set on a Web tablet more powerful than either the Cybook or the DT375 refurbs now going on uBid for $155.

New Web tablets, including some beauts that use solid-state storage and can run the XP operating system rather than just CE, are available from DT Research, maker of the discontinued 375. Notice the physical specs for the more recent WebDT 310, weighing just a little over two pounds, including the bumperlike protective rubber? Most Web tablets should be much more comfortable on your lap than the bigger, heavier Tablet PCs in traditional form. Prime possibilities for e-book lovers?

What’s more, with the right machines and software, you can use Web tablets to control your desktop PC, opening up zillions and zillions of possibilities for e-book software. As a bonus, “Web pads” tend to be fanless—absolutely silent. The sharp drop in the price of solid-state memory makes Web tablets all the more intriguing. It’s too bad that new, full-strength Web pads easily cost well over $1,000; in fact, the WebDT 310 may set you back more than $1,800.

WebPad TX-3000 hitting market

I don’t know the price, alas, but a Taiwan-headquatered company called Tatung is introducing the WebPad TX-3000 with a 10.4 inch screen (photo), about the size of a Cybook’s. The chipset is the AMD Geode platform, LX800, the processor speed is 500Mhz, the supplied storage card is a 1G CompactFlash, WiFi is 802bg, and the OS is XPe.

The 500Mhz won’t suffice for, say, demanding graphics programs, but the processor should easily be powerful enough for, say, Mobipocket or Adobe Digital Editions. More specs are here.

Screen res is 800 by 600 with a 1024 x 768 available as an option. Especially in the deluxe version, the TX-3000’s video from afar seems to be at least adequate for e-reading—especially if used with programs such as uBook, which enhance the perceived res. More specs are here.

Back to the basic Web tablet idea: What do you think?

So what do you think of the Web tablet concept?

While I enjoy PDAs for use around town or on the road, I want a bigger screen for home use even though 10 inches of the Tatung tablets might actually be a bit large for my recreational reading.

Personally—your needs may differ—I don’t need to see large illustrations in detail. The optimal size for my purposes is eight inches, just what the DT 375 offers.

Instant-gratification factor

Web tablets have other advantages. It’s fun to be able to discover a public domain book and download it immediately from the machine I read on, even if, in some cases, as with the DT 375, the Web browser sucks. The Cybook’s browser is still worse; it really wasn’t designed as Web tablet even though it piggybacked on the technology.

The downside for many is that the current Web tablets come with LCDs rather than E Ink. But that will change as E Ink and other e-paper technologies, such as Nemoptic, improve.

For people who like to read in the dark or enter text without the slow speed of E Ink, then, Web tablets are worth investigating.

And, yes, I’d definitely put the linux-powered Pepper Pad in the Web tablet category even if it comes up with a hard drive. It’s still silent and designed to be a secondary machine, especially with entertainment in mind.

One plus of e-book-only machine

Having praised Web tablets, let me give another side. The more I learn about Twitter and other new online services that can distract you while you’re reading, the more I appreciate e-book-only machines such as the Sony Reader and the forthcoming E Ink version of the Cybookl.

Then again, I suppose you can buy a Web tablet and maintain a little discipline and avoid distracters such as Twitter. Besides, with a virtual keyboard, you’re not as tempted to be interactive as with a real one.

A final word—on a promising Tablet PC

Finally, speaking of hardware and e-books, let me point you to Gerry Manacsa’s thoughts on the Lenovo X61T Tablet—a Tablet PC that seems lighter and slimmer than the typical TPC Gerry has one on order, and I can’t wait to see what he thinks. The big downside is the price, a mere $1,800+. But cheer up: in a few years, similar hardware will go for a fraction of that, if past patterns repeat themselves.

About the photo: I lightened it up to make the details more visible. That also made the image on the display seem brighter, but within LCDs, that isn’t as big an issue as with E Ink. I suspect you can make the image on the screen just as bright in real life as it looks in the photo.


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