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Thursday, July 25, 2024

The Playdate makes a surprisingly good e-reader

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From the Boox Palma to the Light Phone 2, it appears that evidently everyone seems to be on the lookout for distraction-free studying, if solely that they had the fitting system. I don’t blame them: each time I pull out my telephone to mindlessly scroll, I do know my time might be put to raised use. However because the proprietor of many fine gadgets, I additionally don’t really need one other system in my life, so I used to be fairly excited to bump into a partial resolution with a gadget I have already got: the Playdate.

Sure, I’m speaking about that little yellow Game Boy from Panic and Teenage Engineering, the one with a crank jutting out of its aspect. Because the launch of its on-device store, Catalog, the hand held has change into residence to fairly a variety of experiences. I’ve been enjoying tiny city builders and dungeon crawlers and egg touchers. Even nonetheless, I used to be stunned to find Playbook, a full-fledged e-reading app. Maybe much more stunning is that it really works fairly effectively.

The app comes with a handful of traditional books preinstalled, and I examined it initially by studying by way of most of Frankenstein. The Playdate’s black-and-white LCD display is fairly nice for displaying textual content, which reveals up crisp and clear. The disadvantage is that it has no backlight for studying at evening, and the display is tiny. At one level, a single certainly one of Mary Shelley’s sentences took up all the show.

Lengthy sentences can take up all the display.
Picture by Andrew Webster / The Verge

However, just like the system itself, the app can also be very charming. You possibly can scroll by way of books utilizing the crank, which is bizarre however enjoyable in a tactile approach (you too can use the D-pad as an alternative). And as an alternative of telling you what share of the guide you’ve learn or how a lot time you may have left, Playbook has a candle that serves as a progress bar, slowly burning down as you learn. It’s much less scientific, however way more cozy, with the flame flickering now and again.

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There are lacking options — there’s no approach to leap round in a guide with out scrolling, as an example, and you’ll’t spotlight passages — however the largest hurdle may simply be getting books onto your Playdate. It’s not so simple as syncing your Kindle library. As an alternative, it’s a must to join your handheld to a pc, put it in USB mode, after which drag and drop recordsdata into the fitting folder. Earlier than that, it’s a must to convert .epub recordsdata to .txt, which is comparatively painless.

To check this, I grabbed a bunch of ebooks from Project Gutenberg, together with Dracula, The Fall of the Home of Usher, and The Turning of the Screw. (On reflection, my decisions could have been influenced by the thought of studying by digital candlelight.) The whole lot I added to the app labored simply nice, excluding The Full Works of William Shakespeare, which prompted my Playdate to crash each time I attempted to open it, presumably as a result of it’s so massive.

Now let’s be actual: a $5 Playdate app isn’t going to be your one-stop resolution for studying extra. It hasn’t been for me. I nonetheless hold a Kindle on my bedside desk and carry paperbacks wherever I go. However simply because the Playdate serves a complementary position, providing distinctive video games that aren’t meant to interchange a Change or PlayStation, so, too, does Playbook.

The app isn’t my important instrument for studying. But it surely works effectively sufficient and — crucially — is handy sufficient that it’s nice to have round in a pinch. Having a library of traditional novels on a tool the scale of a bank card is useful — and, if nothing else, it’s serving to hold me from shopping for one other gadget.

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