With the first solar-powered Kindle cover debuting at CES this week, the "e" in e-reader could also stand for "eco-friendly."
The SolarKindle cover allows you to read all the Al Gore and Bill McKibben titles you can download in the greenest manner imaginable--no trees ground into pulp for the pages, no coal burned in power plants to charge up your Kindle's battery. In fact, the solar cover comes with a guarantee of three months of unplugged Kindle use under "normal sunlight environment"--I'm guessing that environment doesn't include Seattle in winter.
But, if you've fully charged your cover before venturing to the great Northwest, you will be able to use the built-in 800 lux LED reading lamp for up to 50 hours without having to tap your Kindle's main battery.
The SolarKindle will be on display tomorrow at CES. It will become available for purchase a week later on January 15.
There is one rather large catch to the whole deal--the solar cover costs the same as the lowest-price Kindle itself, starting at $79.99. That price does buy you a fair amount of flexibility, though. For those of you that spend months in darkness, as I did when I lived in Alaska, there's the option to charge up the cover's reserve battery via a USB port. Energy from the battery is used to power the built-in light or transferred to the Kindle to extend the e-reader's battery life.
Conversely, the solar panel on the front of the leather cover can purportedly collect enough energy from just one hour in sunlight to power three days of reading time. That means that if the reserve battery had unlimited capacity, you'd have more than 5,000 days worth of reading time if you left it out in arctic Alaska's unending summer sun. That's enough time to read the entire canon of environmental literature...or Haruki Murakami's "1Q84" at least once.