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KAREN KAPLAN, LATimes Staff Writer spent a couple of weeks testing two electronic books now on the market: NuvoMedia\'s Rocket EBook and the SoftBook Reader by SoftBook Press. Read it HERE
All in all, the e-books are reminiscent of the early personal computers from the 1970s. You can tell their time will come, but it\'s not here yet. Someday, books printed on paper will be replaced by lightweight digital readers that can store hundreds of titles, download books from the Web that cost a fraction of the price of their pulpy ancestors, and even eliminate the need for a light while reading in bed at night.
That day is still far away.
Among the shortcomings: It\'s hard to tell on a Rocket EBook how many pages are left in a chapter and how close you are to the end of a book. The SoftBook Reader prevented me from turning past a certain page because the book I was reading had \"crashed.\" And the library of contemporary e-books available for the devices is extremely limited.
Then there\'s the high cost. If the Rocket EBook is a stretch at $199, the SoftBook Reader is absurdly overpriced at $599.95. (SoftBook\'s device is also available for $299.95 if you agree to spend $19.95 a month for 24 months at their SoftBookstore.) And you have to pay extra for the books, which can cost more than conventional books.
These and other problems will likely be solved within a few years, thanks in part to more powerful and less expensive computer chips. Gemstar International Group, the deep-pocketed Pasadena firm that created VCR Plus, bought NuvoMedia and SoftBook Press earlier this year and plans to invest in technology improvements for the readers. As the devices become cheaper and more widely deployed, publishers will presumably make more titles available to customers who prefer to read digitally.