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WikiReader scratches sudden Wikipedia urges

New palm-size, touch-screen device lets you tote Wikipedia around without needing an Internet connection. But would anyone really need this in an age of smartphones?

Uh-oh. It kind of worries us that these people are looking up the Donner Party in the middle of the woods. Let's hope they get a cell signal up there, too. WikiReader

Now, this is rather odd. Taiwan-based OpenMoko is out with WikiReader, a palm-size, touch-screen device that lets you tote 3 million text-only Wikipedia articles around offline. Given that we're in the smartphone age, we're not quite sure who would jump for this thing.


Then again, there may be people with so-called dumb phones (or no phones at all) who get frequent, sudden urges to look up the Battle of Verdun or the history of the kilt while out and about.

We also tend to agree with Thomas Meyerhoffer, a former Apple designer known for his unique surfboards. He designed the WikiReader and thinks the gadget could prove a handy learning tool for kids.

"Because it's offline and offers parental controls, the whole experience happens within the device," he said. "I can give this to my 9-year-old, and I know he's only going to get content that is fine for him to read."

The WikiReader--which launched Tuesday and is available for $99 at the WikiReader Web site and Amazon--runs on two AAA batteries that the company says will last for months due to the gadget's lack of a backlight.

Articles (in English only for now) are stored on a microSD card. Updates for the device are provided quarterly and can be downloaded for free from the WikiReader Web site. A yearly subscription plan for updated microSD cards is also available for $29.

OpenMoko, you may recall, hit major snags earlier this year in the development of its open-source FreeRunner smartphone.