And in the world of ebooks, there isn't much that is more cutting edge than the new Sony Reader.
Having now owned one for a couple of weeks I can categorically say that if you like reading ebooks you are going to love the Sony Reader. It is just a beautiful bit of kit that starts every gadget lover who sees it salivating.
My one has several novels that I've downloaded and dozens of Internet marketing PDF ebooks that I've loaded into it.
Frankly, the Reader's ability to display PDF ebooks is a bit hit and miss.
Think about it. Almost all PDF documents are created for US letter size paper or International A4. Most have big margins.
When the Reader tries to display the pages at normal size, it attempts to display the entire page on its 9cm x 12.2 cm screen - approximately one-sixth normal size.
The resultant text is incredibly small. If you have really good eyesight, or excellent glasses, you can just about read it, but it isn't a comfortable experience by any means.
This isn't really a fault with the Sony Reader - it can only try to display what it is given.
Where an inherent fault does come in is that the Reader can attempt to magnify the page, but whether that magnification will work correctly is somewhat patchy. I think it depends on how the PDF was originally created, and on what because some ebooks magnify quite well, while others lose their text flowing or, in one of two cases, for some strange reason, make the text smaller when magnifying!
A recent firmware upgrade (which was supplied as standard in the UK launch, but US owners had to download) addressed some of the text reflowing issues, but it still doesn't work consistently. Again, I think this depends on the PDF creation software used, but I haven't tested enough alternatives yet to have a definite answer.
Anyway, it seems to me that as PDF ebook writers, we have a responsibility to ensure that our customers can get the best reading pleasure out of the ebooks we sell them. And with the Sony Reader (and others) gaining in popularity, it would be a good plan for us to create versions of our products that would work well in the gorgeous little machines.
I've been experimenting and have come up with some settings for Open Office that result in a perfectly legible and comfortable reading experience on Reader.
When you first open Open Office Writer, go to Format -> Page and on the Page tab set the page width to 9.0cm and the height to 12.2 cms. Set the left and right margins to 0.3cms and the top and bottom margins to 0.5cm.
Edit the styles as follows:
default: Times New Roman 12pt; Line spacing 'At least 0.52cm'.
Headline 1: Arial, Bold, 18pt
Headline 2: Arial Bold 14pt
Then save all that as a template called 'Sony Reader ebook'.
Now, when you create an ebook, open up a new document using the template and paste the text straight in.
Don't include any headers or footers or line numbers - they will just mess up the document in Reader and waste valuable screen real estate.
Remember that pictures can display in Reader, but only in black and white, and if they need to be fairly large to be seen on a regular sized PDF, they will be impossible to see on Reader. If you can avoid using too many pictures and explain with text, all the better. Alternatively, you could always provide a web page with any really important pictures that just can't be shrunk down to the small screen size.
I think that personal ebook readers of one kind or another are here to stay. And are gaining in popularity quite fast.
By embracing the challenges of creating our ebooks specifically for the new technology we can stay on the wave of progress - and earn a lot of brownie points with our customers.