Plastic Logic's Que eBook Reader is big and indestructible. 

There were over 100 eBook readers on display at CES. It was one of the "hot" trends at the show - it even had its own pavilion (a cluster of booths with related products).

Probably the most famous eBook reader is Amazon's Kindle, although it wasn't the first. I have a Sony reader that predates the Kindle. Kindle's distinction was its ability to download books anywhere.

Quite a few of the readers I saw at CES have wireless content downloading, many from competing Barnes and Noble.

Of all the readers I saw, the one I'd most want is Plastic Logic'sQue. The size of a pad of paper, about 1/3 inch thick, and weighing less than many periodicals (about a pound), QUE features a 10.7-inch shatterproof plastic display - the largest display in the industry. It has a touchscreen, so you navigate through a book or periodical (I was readingUSA Todayon it) using gestures. And it can display standard Office documents (after converting them to PDF) so you can keep up with the office on it, too. You can also highlight and notate, just like a paper document.

Almost all the eBook readers being shown used a display technology called e-Ink, which looks a lot like printed ink on paper and allows the typical reader to operate for 10,000 page turns on a single battery charge.

Beyond the personal uses of an eBook reader, there are business applications to our industry.

The typical field service technician has severalfeetof service manuals for the products they may service. And usually those service manuals are at the office where they can't help with a problem in the field. So the simplest solution is to call the manufacturer for help.

Instead, all those service manuals (at least 30,000 pages of them, which is more than any manufacturer I know of has) could be pre-loaded onto a paperback book-sized eBook reader which could easily be taken along on every service call. Rather than call the manufacturer, or go back to the office, the service technician could refer to what they need on the spot.

In addition, most eBook readers have the ability to search the content, making it possible to find a solution even if the service technician doesn't know where to look. Or perhaps a solution for one problem is documented in the service manual for a different product.

Some of these eBook readers have prices below $200, which would make them cost effective replacing 5,000 pages or so of printed service manuals. Plus their cases could be customized for the manufacturer or service company that is bold enough to make the jump, associating their brand with high tech service.

I think I’ll go back to reading Clive Cussler's latest novel on my Sony reader...