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The Other $100 Laptop: What a Reader-Commuter Really Needs

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Even as a librarian, as a bibliophile, a book-in-the-trunk (in every nook and cranny) sort of person, a web surfer, as a cereal-box reader since childhood (and you know you are one too) … even as all of these, I have always looked skeptically at the handheld, electronic “books” that get rolled out ever few years (though not for the reasons you might think – read on!). The latest e-book is just technologically more sophisticated than the first one – but it’s still wrong. (And I’ve started calling them Y-Books, for obvious reasons – don’t these tech designers commute?)

To me, apart from their tech/battery problems, the e-book creators never seemed to have grasped what a human Reader really is and what a human Reader wants and needs, especially the commuter or traveling Reader.

It’s incredibly simple:

Readers (and other travelers) don’t just want books: We want books, AND we want and need online news, stories, blogs, magazines, professional journals, and more. My commute is 3+ hours a day, 5 days a week. I want more than a succession of books to read and so do longer-distance travelers.

In a nutshell, I want a small, lightweight, sturdy (very important) computer that surfs the web. It’s not really rocket science (figuratively speaking, that is). We don’t want a fancy computer that needs lots of TLC and $$ to keep working. We don’t even need high-level security, because it’s mostly for reading (and maybe a little email, but my phone can do that).

If you ask me (and you should), that much maligned $100 laptop fits the bill perfectly for us commuters. It’s low-tech (relatively speaking), has a built-in mechanical power source (buses and light-rail are not known for power plugs), and is very sturdy (ever been on a crowded bus or train? ever run for a bus or train? – see what I mean?).

So, all you computer science engineers and designers fixated on fancy computers or on finding The Perfect Digital “Book” – Stop It. Instead, think “A $100 Laptop for Every Commuter.” That’s the ticket. If you build it right, you’ll make a killing.

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2 responses to “The Other $100 Laptop: What a Reader-Commuter Really Needs”

  1. Jim Milles says:

    I agree completely. I bought the earlier version of the Sony e-book reader, and pretty quickly gave up on it. That’s why I signed up for the Buy One, Get One program from laptop.org. I’m eager to get my hands on one of those for my own use.

  2. Liz P says:

    I’m interested in the One-Laptop-Per-Child item also. If you are, though, you should pay close attention to what’s happening – check out olpcnews.com for the latest gossip. It’s not clear when they will go on “sale” (time of day may be important, for instance.)

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