My first reaction to the new WikiReader device, which houses the entire Wikipedia on disk and enables you to browse it, was "huh?" My second reaction was "wow." Let's face it. If you travel, you'll find yourself with long stretches of un-connected time. If you had only one Internet resource available to you, the Wikipedia would probably be it.
[ See also: What kind of digital nomad are you? ]
A company called Openmoko announced the WikiReader today. They say it's the creation of a former Apple designer. It runs on two AAA batteries, which power the device for months, according to the company. The gadget has "instant on," and uses an Amazon-Kindle-like black-and-white screen. The WikiReader costs $99 at Wikireader.com and amazon.com. For $29, you can buy an annual subscription for updated microSD cards. The WikiReader appears to be targeted at children and luddites. But I think the WikiReader is probably a really great gadget for most digital nomads who travel internationally. Not only will it enable you to do real research (which you can verify against other sources later), but it will also give you a ready reference useful with travel. For example, when I was in Greece last year, I placed a large number of Wikipedia articles into my Amazon Kindle, which I carried around and used almost every day. But I could never have anticipated the Wikipedia entries I would have liked to have referenced. A WikiReader could give you a world of information without a connection. It's also nice that it uses AAA batteries. If you're doing extreme traveling, where even outlets are scarce, lug-along batteries are nice. The WikiReader also gave me an idea. The netbook market is struggling for a business plan. The devices tend to be commodity gadgets with razor-thin or non-existent margins. Why not create one with a massive hard drive that holds the entire Wikipedia, a dictionary, and other major reference works. Writers would love such a device. Better still, add software that makes it auto-update the resources when you do find a connection. What do you think? Do you find yourself without a connection long enough to justify a stand-alone gadget that gives you access to part of the Internet? Are YOU interested in location independent, digital nomad living? Please add this blog to your RSS reader and follow me on Twitter!