By Peter Svensson, AP Technology Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — When I was a kid, my dad bought a copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica. It had 32 volumes and took up 4 feet in the book case. I loved to sit on the couch and flip through it, reading articles at random.
Now, I'm returning the favor, giving my father an encyclopedia that has the equivalent of 1,000 volumes. Yet it fits in his pocket, and it costs just $99.
There are few better illustrations of the staggering advance of digital technology than the new WikiReader. It's the size of a thick table coaster, and contains nearly the entire text of the English-language Wikipedia. That's 3.1 million articles, written and edited by volunteers around the globe.
The WikiReader is sold online and made by OpenMoko Inc., a Taiwanese company. The founder, Sean Moss-Pultz, says the inspiration for the gadget comes from the electronic translation dictionaries that are common in Asia.
Now, a lot of cell phones can access Wikipedia, so why would anyone want a WikiReader? Well, the fact that the WikiReader carries the text on a memory chip, rather than using an Internet connection, means you can use it anywhere: overseas, on a plane, in the subway.
It's also faster and easier to use than most cell phones, and it has a bigger screen. The battery life is, to believe OpenMoko, outstanding.
It says two AAA batteries will last in the WikiReader for a year, if you use it 15 minutes per day. I certainly wasn't able to exhaust it in a few weeks.