iRex iLiad review by Andrew Marr: bibliophile meets book-killer

He liked it.

“Here is the first crucial thing: the screen does work. By “work”, I mean that the words stand out clearly without shimmering, and that you can certainly read it outside, in dappled light and direct sunlight, as you would not be able to read a normal computer screen. The effect is matt, not shiny, and black-and-white, not colour. Well, to be precise, not black-and-white so much as dark grey characters on a light grey background, which is perhaps part of the secret. The font is modern – not elegant, but effective – and you get far fewer words to the “page” than with a traditional book, though the half-inch borders and generous spacing between paragraphs help you to read. I tried it, reading some Tolstoy and then some Conan Doyle, in the garden, slumped in a chair inside, on a sofa in a dimmish room, and in the back of a car. In each place, it was easy to read; I have spent plenty of time reading it and so far, haven’t felt any eyestrain, or no more than I would have found with a book.”

“For me, the most important moment came reading a Sherlock Holmes story when I suddenly realised I’d been following the tale for several minutes having completely forgotten about the Iliad itself.”

True.

But he prefers books. He sees the benefit in replacing news – papery bits of ephemera:

“And yet … I can now see a way in which this, or its future rivals, could become useful to me. In our house, every day we get mounds of newsprint, much of it thrown instantly away. The stuff hangs around like intellectual scurf, and it’s depressing. For my broadcasting work, another great wodge of briefings, clippings and so on arrives, most days of the week. They pile up. Just looking at them saps the spirit. Then there are the pamphlets and instant books, the magazines and so on. The waste of time and space, as well as paper and transport, increasingly offends me. The energy cost of downloading such material and looking at it on screen is a small fraction of the energy used in printing it out on paper. Being able to download newspapers each morning, which is likely to be possible soon, or the RSS newsfeeds already available everywhere, would be a major bonus. The same goes for the work briefing. Yes, it’s another threat to traditional newspapers, since I would certainly screen out what I don’t read (fashion, sport, much of business news) ahead of time. If I can scrawl all over those bits of “paper”, making my own notes, better still.”

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