Low Cost Open Source E-reader Project

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by BestFriend, Oct 9, 2010.

  1. BestFriend

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 22, 2010
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    Hi, let's try to solve one of the problems in the third world countries - lack of access to books. Since there are a lot of legitimate free e-books available in the web, I think that one of the feasible solution to this problem is to create a low cost e-book reader.

    I've tried using ybox2 and thinking of modding it a little to make an e-reader. However, the cost of batteries will make it unaccessible to low income households. It also have some parts which are unnecessary and some parts which it lacks. So I was thinking, that as a group, we make this thing a reality. Feedback much appreciated =)
     
  2. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
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  3. BestFriend

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 22, 2010
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    Hey, thanks for the reply.

    However, I think that an open source e-book reader would be very helpful to those people who live in poverty - wherever they may live in the world. And contrary to popular belief, not all third world countries are governed by extremists.

    I think this project would be a very good place to go for hobbyists or teachers who want to make a difference.
     
  4. BestFriend

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 22, 2010
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    I'm quite a fan of OLPC when it first publicly announced. I like how their pilot program. However, I don't like how they transition from student-centric to design centric.

    I think a simplified open-hardware e-book reader can achieve the goal of creating an educational tool for less than $100. And I strongly believe that if we can just add a affordable battery pack for Ybox2 like chipset, add an e-ink screen and create a simple program to read ebooks in the epubs format then we can even create something better than what OLPC did.

    And if you guys have extra time, let's try.

    Two facts about life is that we exist and that we will die. Let's do something that would make the world a better place.
     
  5. tom66

    Senior Member

    May 9, 2009
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    You should consider the Kindle or at least use a similar design. It runs on Linux, but uses a closed source software layer for the Kindle application. As it uses an ultra-low-power CPU and an E-ink display it gets 1 month battery life. The Kindle is proven technology, but comes with additional things, such as WiFi and 3G, which aren't necessary for your idea.

    I bet if you designed one using a small microcontroller (as it wouldn't need much performance, you could probably get away with a low end PIC24 or AVR) and an E-ink display you could get even longer battery life. Maybe 3 months or more. Then batteries would be less expensive and less of a problem. You may even be able to run it from a small solar cell.
     
  6. blueroomelectronics

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jul 22, 2007
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    The cost of eBook readers has plummeted since the iPad came out and will probably be below $100 by January 2011.
    It would simply cost more to DIY one than buy one.
     
  7. jgessling

    Active Member

    Jul 31, 2009
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    I've lived in Ghana and Nigeria for several years over my lifetime and I never thought that lack of books was much of a problem. And if it is, then how about sending them some books? A technology solution to a problem is generally not appropriate for the third world. Remember the recent effort by charities to give mosquito nets away in parts of Africa? Seems like a good idea, but the nets need replacing after 5 years when the insecticide wears off and the free nets destroyed the business of local manufacturers. Come 5 years, who will be there with new nets? No more local production, charities usually lose interest. I'm sorry to rain on your parade and I know your intentions are good, but if there's a lack of books, then send them books, not gadgets.
     
  8. tom66

    Senior Member

    May 9, 2009
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    This is probably the best solution. The OP should do some research.
     
  9. BestFriend

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 22, 2010
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    I've lived in a third world country for the majority of my whole life. When I was young, I've got friends who stick bubble gums in the dirt just so to get extra flavors when the sugar runs out. Looking back on all these years was just sad for me to bear. So don't tell me to research.

    Anyway, what we are doing here is not giving away free nets, free ebook readers or free gadgets. What the project is about is teaching them and the forum members (whoever they may be - teachers, hobbyists, NGOs) on how to build one. That is what the purpose of open-hardware is. Empowerment.

    And I disagree that the best solution to the problem is to send them books. That is exactly what the free-mosquito-net givers did. We can send them books, but that book would only last... what? two-three years before it becomes outdated? And as you say, come five years, who will be there with new books?

    But with an open hardware ebook reader, the teachers can get their books free from the net. They can teach their students on how to build an affordable ebook reader. And the best part is that we all win. All of us wins. The users of this forum gets insights on how to make a gadget as complicated as an e-book reader. I mean, isn't that what this forum is all about? Sharing knowledge and helping others out?

    I mean, it is still up to you guys. All I'm asking is for you to consider.
     
  10. tom66

    Senior Member

    May 9, 2009
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    Well, it's an interesting idea.

    But I think there are a few problems:

    1. There just aren't that many open source books (I mean, you can get Shakespeare for free, but few school textbooks. AAC is a good example, but it is incomplete.)
    2. In many third world countries internet access is often slow, expensive or unavailable, so downloading many books is not an option.
    3. You would need to compete with the One Laptop Per Child project, why not have a look at contributing to them? The laptop can do much more, and has built in mesh networking capabilities so internet access is less difficult.
     
  11. BestFriend

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 22, 2010
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    Thanks for taking the time to reply.

    First of, I believe that there actually are lots of quality open source ebooks out there. Project Gutenberg, Archive's open source ebook etc. all works towards the goal of making books more accessible to everyone.

    Regarding internet access, I can assure you that internet cafes and cellphones are not lacking. Yes, they are slow and not as fast as in the developed country - but we don't need it to be. We just need one teacher to download a copy of the e-book and distribute it to their students.

    I believe that the project isn't competing with One Laptop Per Child - which sustains itself by selling laptops to governments and donations. Moreover, they don't share their hardware design, circuit board blue-prints - they just uses open source software.

    Also, considering the issues of OLPC regarding students looking at pornography during class doesn't actually help solve the educational problem - but adds to it.

    Alright, Let's kick-start the project. Please list the things that we need to have - volunteers, time frame, specs, design etc.
     
  12. tom66

    Senior Member

    May 9, 2009
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    Well, the first thing you'd need is a hardware designer. I'd offer, but I'm no where near skilled enough to develop a project this big; it would involve very much intricate design. Hardware designers may offer their skills free if you ask nicely enough.

    You'd need to figure out a display. The cheapest option is an LCD, but those consume power. An electronic ink display may be used.

    You'd need to map out the kind of performance you want. You want wireless/internet access, so it's probably a good idea to find a CPU which has integrated wireless capabilities or is compatible with suitable components.

    Then you'd need to solve the power issues. You could use LiPo's but they are expensive. And of course you want low power consumption.

    OLPC v2 will apparently be open hardware, but v1 isn't you're correct.

    (What's to stop a student downloading a magazine?)
     
  13. blueroomelectronics

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jul 22, 2007
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    Unless you plan to make thousands a cobbled together DIY eBook would not be very useful. That device in the original post is just a Parallax Propeller that connects to a TV. Hardly a practical design.

    China made eBook readers are really cheap. Starting at $89 or less if you buy in quantity.
    http://www.bigboxstore.com/computers/e-book-readers
     
  14. BestFriend

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 22, 2010
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    Sweet! This is one of the reasons why you can lead this project better than me. You know this stuff =)Where do we start with the hardware design? I've already contacted e-ink a long time ago for quotations... and they have yet to reply. I'll try again.

    I don't think epub format supports magazines. Well, at least I haven't seen any free e-pub magazines yet.

    Otherwise, magazines such as newsgroup, popular science, the Journal etc could be used by the students as reference materials.

    Moreover, I believe OLPC had already scrapped OLPC v2 XO2 but skipped to OLPC v3 XO3 which looks more like a high end tablet.

    Wait, I just uncovered something sweet! $10 e-reader

    Maybe we can work with them?
     
  15. BestFriend

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 22, 2010
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    Oh, btw I can do the 3D model rendering. I know how to use Blender 3D.
     
  16. BestFriend

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 22, 2010
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    Indeed the Ybox2 to e-reader conversion was the initial plan. However, after looking at the cost of the batteries, it would not be ideal.

    Anyway, the Ybox2 is a great way to start. First of all, the circuit board layout is free and open. We just replace the micro-controller, add and remove stuff here and there, streamline the design and I think we're good to go.
     
  17. blueroomelectronics

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jul 22, 2007
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    How do you plan to get books on the reader?

    Why not just help out with the $10 ereader project you linked to. I've read through the site and it looks like someones final year college thesis. Current eBook readers will eventually become landfill and cheap as dirt, give it five years.

    IMHO the Ybox2 is rather useless as an eBook processor. You don't need an 8 core anything in an eBook, the old Palm Pilot Dragonball would be better suited. Must be a warehouse full of old Palm Pilots somewhere going for next to nothing.

    What's wrong with traditional paper books, besides I would think eBooks are pretty low on the Third World priority list.
     
  18. marshallf3

    Well-Known Member

    Jul 26, 2010
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    Many times there have been companies that tried to put out "under $100" PCs for the Third World - anyone have any idea if that ever went over?
     
  19. blueroomelectronics

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jul 22, 2007
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    Sure and everyone in the 1st world got Netbooks.

    I've always wondered how the 3rd world kids were expected to
    1. pay for it ($100 is how many months of food for a 3rd world family)
    2. keep it (not get it stolen)
    3. not sell it (to pay for food)
    4. connect to anything (Starbucks free WiFi everywhere?)
    5. maintain it (the battery will eventually not hold a charge)
    6. repair it
    7. use it productively (read the following link)
    http://edutechdebate.org/one-laptop-per-child-impact/olpc-how-not-to-run-a-laptop-program/
     
  20. tom66

    Senior Member

    May 9, 2009
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    Sorry, BestFriend, but I have a very important project at the moment and can't lead this one. I wish you the best of luck though.
     
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