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My New Toy

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So I got a new toy last week from woot.com. If you’re not familiar with Woot, they offer a different deal every day, and only for that day. Now this can be dangerous if you’re a big impulse shopper. It’s also not for those who always know exactly what they want, since you never know what the deal is going to be. But if something comes up that happens to be something you’ve been thinking about getting, it’s probably the best deal you’re likely to find.

So. On Wednesday, I just happened to hear about that day’s Woot deal – an enTourage Pocket Edge DualBook for $119.99. These are going on Amazon for $198.99 or $189.95, depending on whether you want black or red. (Both are from third-party sellers, but the prices seem consistent with what you can find elsewhere.)

I’d heard about these before, and I always thought it was a pretty clever idea. It opens like a book, and one side has an e-ink screen, with an LCD screen on the other side. You would typically use the e-ink side to read books (EPUB and PDF) and the LCD side to do typical tablet functions. I had some fun money saved up, and at that price it seemed like a pretty good deal for a tablet, even just to play with. I also should be able to use the reader to read ADE ebooks, like those from the library. You can also send a web page over to the e-ink screen, which seems like it would be great for reading long articles and such. It always seemed to me that this would be perfect for students – you could have your textbook open on one screen while using the web on the other. Now I don’t use e-texts myself, and don’t plan to, but I still may be able to use it effectively for research. We’ll see how that works out.

Before I go any further, I should probably tell you that enTourage, the company that makes these, has closed the store. The website still has a support page consisting of the device manuals and a few FAQs, but, for all practical purposes, there is no support for this device. If that bothers you, definitely do not spend almost $200 for one of these. But if you’re like me and are OK with getting support from Internet forums and the like, there may be more great deals to come as resellers burn off their existing stock. There is a good community of support at mobileread.com, including a port of the official enTourage forum (which is now gone).

I’ve been playing with it a bit and getting to know its features and navigation. It runs Android (an old version, Donut, I think, but I should be able to update it at least to Froyo), and although it doesn’t have the official Android app store, it will run some apps. I hear the Amazon app store works nicely with it. Since I have had an Android phone for a while, it hasn’t been too difficult to pick up the interface. It has wifi, so I can use the Internet as long as I’m at home. It also has a camera, cleverly placed above the e-ink screen, so you can take a picture of yourself as a front-facing camera, or fold the screen back to take a picture like a rear-facing camera. There is bluetooth, although I haven’t yet determined whether this can be used for data transfer, or only for accessories, like an earpiece. There used to be a bookstore associated with enTourage, but now they are pointing people to Google Books for content. I haven’t tried Google Books out yet (and not likely to do any serious reading with it for a while, since I just started An Echo in the Bone on my Kindle), but I do want to try to get a free classic or other cheapie soon to see how it works.

Bottom line, this device isn’t going to replace either my Kindle or my netbook any time soon. It is much heavier than the Kindle, especially the new one, and no way I’m abandoning the hundreds of Kindle books I’ve already purchased. On the other hand, it is quite a bit lighter than my netbook (an ASUS Eee PC that is a couple of years old). I’m not willing to give up the productivity of a real keyboard, though, at least not until I’m done with school, although I may feel differently after. I think it will make a fun little Internet device, though, especially for using in bed when the phone just isn’t big enough. I’m also excited by the though of reading library books on an e-ink screen (even though I have a ton of unread books on my Kindle, and will not have a lot of extra reading time once school starts, and Kindle-compatible library loans are supposed to be available by the end of the year). I’m also hoping that I can put some of the freebies I’ve picked up at the Sony store on it, and there are always the free classics.

So does anybody out there have one? I’d love to hear what you think about it and what you’re using it for!