Today's iPad announcement reminds me to finish and post an entry I started a couple weeks ago.
There are now a bunch of ebook readers of various sorts out there, but none of them is yet what I'm looking for. Not even the iPad.
I should start by saying that I do read books and magazines from my iPhone. It's a fine experience. It's better than reading from the Treo screen (which I also did), but not as good as reading from a printed page. So I'm not exactly looking for an ebook reader in the first place; to get me to switch to a different kind of ebook reader, I'd have to see an experience that's better than reading from the iPhone. But if there were such a device, I might well get one.
Here is the single most important thing for me in that regard: I want an ebook reader that fits in my pocket. The American mass-market paperback trim size has demonstrated that it's a great size for reading; it fits easily in one hand, it has plenty of words on a page and long-enough line lengths for justification to work well, and if it's not too thick, it nearly fits in a reasonable-sized pants pocket. So let's say slightly smaller than that: say 4"x6".
And I want all or almost all of that surface to be screen. Little or no border/bezel around the screen; no built-in physical keyboard. This device is primarily for reading; I want to be able to take occasional notes on it, and to type in titles and authors and search words, but a software keyboard is just fine for that. Or an attached external physical keyboard. And it doesn't need much bezel because you can hold it in one hand.
I don't understand why nobody's doing this. Everyone who's making ebook readers seems to be aiming for significantly bigger physical dimensions. The Kindle 2 is 8" x 5.3", about a quarter again as big as I want an ebook reader to be. (And the screen itself is much smaller, due to keyboard and bezel.) That's the size of a trade paperback, which is a fine size for reading but not a good size for sticking in a pocket. The iPad is about 9.5" x 7.5"; kinda makes sense there, 'cause Apple already has the pocket-sized iPhone, and 'cause they want it to be more or less a computer, not just an ebook reader; still, a device that won't fit in my pocket is significantly less portable, for me, than one that will. I have to make a conscious decision whether to carry my laptop (and something to carry it in) everywhere I go; the iPhone is always with me, because it's in my pocket.
My ideal device also has to be thin, of course. The Kindle 2, at 0.36", is thin enough for my tastes, but even thinner would be better; I'd love to see it at credit card thickness, about 0.03". The iPhone is 0.48"; the iPad is 0.5"; both are nicely thin for a phone or a computer, but I want something even thinner.
I also want high resolution: 250 pixels per inch or more. The Droid and Nexus One are over 250ppi; they're the first screen I've seen on which I can't see pixels or blur when I look closely at text. Text on the Nexus One screen in particular is totally stunning—smooth and crisp. The Kindle 2 is 167ppi; the iPhone 3GS is about 165ppi; the iPad is about 130ppi; my 13" MacBook Pro is about 115ppi.
I want an ebook reader to be fast; no lag when turning pages. I would expect that to be a given, but I gather that some existing devices have a bit of lag.
I want an ebook reader to sync with a desktop and/or notebook computer—another thing I sort of take for granted as a base assumption, but not everyone does. (I'm not thrilled with Android's lack of built-in automatic syncing, for example.)
It has to have a touch screen in order to provide the onscreen keyboard I mentioned. I don't care so much about multitouch in this context, though.
If I'm really using the device entirely to read books on, then it doesn't have to be full color—but it sure would be nice to also be able to, for example, read magazines, and see full-color illustrations, and so on. But if I could have everything else I wanted but only in grayscale, I'd cope. (Especially if it were an ePaper-like screen: reflective and doesn't require power to keep display going.)
There are lots of other things it would be nice to have in such a device. WiFi, cellular data, downloading, a web browser, speech synthesis, speech recognition, a full-powered computer, etc. But really, size and resolution are the key things for me. Without those, I'll probably just stick with the iPhone for my portable reading needs.
(Side note: my favorite comment so far about the iPad: "If only they made a smaller version with phone features built right in. That would be awesome!"—ormstungu, on Gizmodo.)