E-inking a deal: Ghosts of U.S. TV makers past would find it amusing. Sony produced the world’s first e-ink device for reading books, some six years ago. While Sony is still in the e-ink reader game, U.S. giant Amazon now leads the global market. Amazon is set to land a second blow against Sony in the form of its much-anticipated Kindle DX.

Already released in the United States, Amazon is putting out a global version of the DX and its 9.7-inch e-ink screen on Jan. 19. The release follows the arrival last year of an international version of the 6-inch version of Amazon’s popular U.S.-based book-reader, the Kindle. Although the DX must be ordered from Amazon in the U.S. and delivered from there it will be usable in Japan, allowing wireless downloading of electronic books over 3G networks, reputedly in 60 seconds. Amazon claims a library of some 400,000 books for its various species of Kindle, but just how small a fraction of those are in Japanese is unclear.

Apart from more expansive screen real estate, the DX also boasts larger storage capacity with its 3.3 gigabytes of memory sufficient for up to 3,500 books. The extra memory is important, as there is no provision for augmenting it with flash memory cards. The all-important screen is 1200 × 824 pixels at a resolution of 150 ppi with a 16-level grey scale. The unit measures 264 × 183 × 9.7 mm and weighs a not-featherweight 540 grams. Despite the extra size compared to the regular Kindle the DX has a smaller keyboard, with the separate number keys ditched in favor of sharing duty with the QWERTY keys. The keyboard is useful for bookmarking and dictionary abilities. The format choice is reasonable but the PDF rendering precludes zooming and the increasingly popular and widespread ePub format is not supported.

The Kindle DX will set you back $459, a bit over ¥40,000 at current exchange rates. This is not much more than Sony’s groundbreaking Librie e-book reader cost some six years ago, indicating that while such devices have improved in size and ability, prices have not undergone a similar change. At that price the Kindle DX remains just for serious book readers, particularly as its ability to surf the Internet is limited as it doesn’t do color or video. Those into magazines and/or newspapers can also use the DX, but only if their favorites are suited to it. In fact that is one of two key questions for a prospective buyer: Is there enough content available to justify the purchase? Only personal research will answer that query. A similarly individualistic approach is needed for the other question — does an e-ink screen suit you? These screens are not common enough in Japan and prospective customers may have to rely on Internet research. The basic story is these screens replicate paper to an extent, they are easier on the eyes than regular screens and can be read in daylight.

If you can find enough reasons to read electronically and like e-ink, then the Kindle DX is a good choice. Be aware, though, that the e-ink market is young and rapidly evolving. Better devices are coming on the market all the time with color e-ink devices, and perhaps even video, on the way in the next year or so. www.amazon.com/Kindle-Wireless-Reading-Display-Generation/dp/B0015TG12Q/ ref=kinww-ddp

Lifeline for mini DV: Not so many years ago mini DV cassettes were a popular method of recording digital video footage. Now, flash-memory cards and hard disks built into camcorders rule. The problem is that the cassettes were only ever intended as temporary storage, so if you have footage on such tapes and haven’t transferred it to DVDs or something else contemporary, your time is running out. JVC has produced a solution with the SR-DMV700.

The all-in-one device can record, play and transfer a wide range of media. In particular it can use mini-DV tapes and DVDs. The idea is you insert a cassette and copy the footage on it either to the device’s included 250-gigabyte memory or a DVD for more portable storage. The SR-DMV700 can also be used to play video off the cassette on to any connected TV set. DVDs can be used the same way.

The JVC all-rounder is not built for displaying it under the TV set, its poor looks preclude leaving it in public when not in use. It beauty is in its versatility as it can record to or play from DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD-RAM DVD+R types of DVD and play only from DVD+RW, CDDA, VCD, CD-R/RW (JPEG, MP3, WMA) type disks. It also offers a selection of recording options, naturally offering more capacity at lower quality settings. The hard disk can take about 18 hours of video from DV tapes at maximum quality, or up to nearly 500 hours at the bottom-drawer level. The device also comes with an impressive range of connection options, although JVC does skimp a tad on the included cables. Considering it sells for ¥208,000, you would think the company could have thrown some more in the box.

The price is the biggest drawback of an otherwise impressive bit of kit. If you have a decent library of video footage to preserve, particularly on mini DV cassettes, the extra expense might be justified. This is especially so as decent options are scarce. www.jvc-victor.co.jp/press/2007/sr-dvm700.html

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