beach - CC photo - follow link“After some extensive ocean-side research,” a Washington Post reporter wrote of the Sony Reader, “I can report that it does a fine job of withstanding sand, suntan lotion and light rain.”

So which machine would you tote to the beach, why, and just what precautions would you take, such as a protective box? Any product recs for machines and accessories, especially based on your own experiences?

Complexities: Sun umbrella factor?

Needless to say, since E Ink actually thrives in the sunlight, a device like the Reader could be a natural. But then again you need to consider the sun umbrella factor or the shady-tree factor. What if you don’t want too much of a tan? Perhaps the sun reflected off the sand would still do the trick, especially with E Ink’s new Vizplex technology. Oh, the complexities!

I haven’t been to the beach with a Reader and would welcome some first-hand reports from the field.

Not just E Ink machines

Don’t just think Reader. Is it possible that, despite the glories of E Ink in sunny surroundings, a cheap PDA would be better, so you wouldn’t go into a coma if it got wet, or stolen? Which PDAs have screens that work in the sun?

Oh, and I’d also welcome thoughts on the advantages of e-reading on the beach—such as that a Reader with a 4G card could easily hold thousands of books. What’s more, at least in the future when BBeB isn’t the only commercial format the Reader works with, you’ll be able to read library books and not worry about their being lost or damaged. OK. Go to it!

Related: Jane Litte’s comments on travel-guide chapters you can buy.


  1. Any backlit PDA should do the job, and the cheaper the better, so you don’t need to worry about damage or theft. I recently bought a second-hand iPAQ 3970 off eBay for about A$120 and it’s perfect. But don’t expect it to last forever. Frankly, if you don’t scratch up your PDA a little and loosen its buttons a bit in the course of a few years, then you’re not using it enough.

  2. > Any backlit PDA should do the job

    No. If it uses backlighting it has to have a transreflective screen or somesuch for you to see something. Just try to take your backlit laptop outside and see how you can’t see anything on the screen. All PDAs with similar tft displays have this problem.
    Generally a frontlit screen is the best option outdoors.

  3. I don’t know anything about backlit laptops but both backlit PDAs I have had — the iPaq and a Palm — work fine outdoors. You can’t read them so well if the sun is glaring off the screen but the same is true of p-books, and it’s usually not hard to find some shade. Possibly a laptop screen, being bigger, might provide less luminance per pixel??

  4. A backlight doesn’t have pretty much anything to do with visibility outdoors. Furthermore, most screen types that support backlight are really, really bad outdoors.
    What matters is the type of the display. Your original statement denoting the implication “display being backlit” => “good outdoors” is simply incorrect. There are some backlit screens that work outdoors and some that don’t, and different PDAs have different types of screens.
    (OTOH, all frontlit screens (e.g. e-ink) work well outdoors (afaik) as long as they don’t have a surface that’s too glossy.)

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