If you ever wanted to carry an entire encyclopedia with you, then this might be your opportunity. Openmoko has begun selling a wallet-sized portable device that includes the English-language content of Wikipedia (about 3.5 million articles).
The WikiReader comes with a 3.7” monochrome touchscreen and stores the Wikipedia text on a 4 GB microSD card, which means that you don’t need a wireless connection to run the device. Openmoko offers quarterly updates which are provided as a free download or, if you don’t want to download those mega-files yourself, you can subscribe to a $59-per-year-plan, which will hand you a refreshed Wikipedia content on a new microSD card once a quarter.
Since the device has a touchscreen, it does not need many physical buttons. In fact, there are just four physical buttons – the on/off button, a “search”, “history” and a “random” button. Typically you will start your search with the search button, which shows an onscreen keyboard to input search terms. The history button stores all visited Wikipedia pages and somewhat serves as a back button.
The software itself is a primitive web browser that navigates through a compressed html file that is created from the Wikipedia XML data dump. Openmoko says that the Wikipedia source file is about 25 GB in size and the fact that the company was able to bring it down to 4 GB is certainly impressive. And no, there are in images included. The Wikipedia file with images is about 72 TB, the company said and the monochrome 240x208 pixel screen would anyway not be suited to show nice pictures.
The screen itself won’t win any prizes, but is good enough to display content inside and outside, even if we found that the readability in direct sunlight is limited. The upside of the monochrome screen, however, is that it does not eat up much energy. Openmoko says that the device will run about one year on two AAA batteries when used about 15 minutes per day.
We are surprised that it took so long that someone had the idea to put Wikipedia in a portable device. In fact, using the WikiReader can get addictive. Bring it along on your vacation and access information about virtually any location from the palm of your hand. Or simply impress your kids.
About the Author: Wolfgang Gruener is the Editor of Single Parent Gossip, a website focused on empowering single parents, helping them to connect with other single parents, share experiences and learn about the joys of single parenting. Previously he was a Managing Editor for the news section of Tom’s Hardware and founded TGDaily.com, where he currently serves as a member of the board and advisor. You can reach him here.