Revisiting the ebook reader debate

Its been almost a year since I wrote the post Joining the ebook reader debate … or my 2 cents and I thought I’d revisit my experiences with them since there has been more inquiries on our state listserv about them.  Since writing the original post I have purchased a refurbished 2nd generation Kindle for $100 at the Amazon Warehouse Deals when they had a one day only special deal running.  So now I have two ereaders to compare first hand – but I’m still waiting on the 2nd generation iPad!  Also since the original post my public library has begun lending ebooks.

3309970958_f1cb34d54c_bKindle vs. Sony

Image: 2×2 Comparison Amazon Kindle & Sony by John Blyberg (edited to show my two models only)

There are advantages and disadvantages with both of these eReaders.  I sill prefer reading on my Sony.  It is smaller and slimmer than the Kindle and feels more substantial, less fragile than the Kindle yet not noticeably heavier than the Kindle.  It also has an awesome organizing and displaying/menu options over the Kindle.  With the Sony and your computer you can organize books into collections.  With the Kindle, your stuck with just author, title, or most recently downloaded.   And again, the Sony has the SD card slot allowing virtually unlimited memory capacity – you just have to keep buying the SD cards.

The advantages of the Kindle are instant download from the device – no computer required.  You can also download a preview of the books before you buy.   I previewed the Stephen King book Under the Dome and it was about three chapters free – enough to get me hooked so I bought it!  I can buy books before their publication date and they download as soon as I turn on the Kindle on the release date.  I can read the books on my iPhone with the Kindle app and/or on the computer and pick up right where I left off no matter which device I used last.   I also like that I see my reading progress – how far I’ve read (percent) and how much of the book is remaining.  One great advantage is that the cost of most of the ebooks are slightly lower than at the Sony Reader Store – which is STILL a pain to use/search as it is clunky and slow.  And of course the note-taking, dictionary, web browser, etc. features of the Kindle are things my Sony doesn’t have.

Disadvantages for the Kindle are that you have to go through a huge rigamarole to convert documents to read on the Kindle and for me keyboard is a pain – gets in the way.  You can reorient the screen to display “upside down” which helps – also helps when you are charging the device and reading at the same time.  Both the Kindle and the Sony have the a/c hookup right smack dab in the middle of the bottom of the device – making holding the devices while charging a bit cumbersome.  I also find the Kindle’s “joystick” device super sensitive – just the slightest knock to it will cause something to be selected or displayed.

Overall, the reading experience on both is the same – I don’t really see a difference in quality from one to the other.  Again, I think the Sony fits more comfortably in my hand for reading than the Kindle.  However, I purchased a case for the Kindle that allows it to stand on its own (even in my lap) and this helps the reading experience.  In fact, I like the case so well I’m ordering one for the Sony, too!

eBooks from the public library

Since my original post, my public library has begun lending ebooks for the Nook and Sony eReaders (or your computer/laptop/Adobe Digital Editions).  You can borrow up to 10 ebooks at a time for 7, 14 or 21 days.  If the ebook is already on loan to someone else, you can request a hold.  Once your hold is available you have a week to download it before it goes back in the que.  The problem (and discussion on the listserv) is that you cannot “return” the ebook when you’re through reading it.  You just have to wait for the loan period to expire.  There are two problems (in my opinion) with this method.

From the libraran standpoint, the first problem I see  with not being able to “return” the ebook is what if it is a popular title with a lot of other patrons waiting on the holds list.  If I’ve chosen the 21 day loan period – which lets be honest, most of us will – and I finish the book in three days then the ebook will sit in my Reader for over two more weeks.  Thats two weeks it could have gone on to the next person waiting.  If you’re a large public library and this is a very popular author then you’d better have more than one ebook to lend, just as you do physical books, otherwise people are going to get tired of waiting for the book.

Second, lets say as a patron I’ve already reached my 10 ebook limit.  I have three I’ve finished and seven still to read.  Then another ebook I’ve placed a hold becomes available; however, none of the three books I’ve finished nor any of the ones I haven’t read will “expire” in time for me to download the book on hold (remember holds are only held for a week before going back into “circulation.”)  I’m out of luck on the book I placed on hold and will end up having to put myself back on the holds list.

Now it was suggested on my state listserv that the reason you can’t “return” these ebooks is to prevent people from “abusing the system” by checking out their limit, copying those items to their computer/USB drive, returning the ebooks and checking out new ebooks and continuing the pirating/sharing of the ebooks.  This person goes on to say:

“If you know you are “stuck” with the book for x amount of days and you can’t get anymore [books] until that time expires, you may be more prone to go ahead and listen to/read the ones you have while waiting on the time to expire. Unfortunately, there are people who abuse any system AND there are also regulations and stipulations placed on the materials being converted to eBooks and audio files which require some sort of stated procurement and use guidelines.”

I totally disagree with this statement.  Ebooks and audiobook downloads (specifically from libraries) are DRM’d and you can’t do what is suggested above unless you have a program that can strip the DRM and then length of borrow time doesn’t mean a hill of beans.  The person who is going to pirate the materials will find a way.   The problem of not being able to “return” ebooks has nothing to do with abuse of the system, it has to do with the fact that the vendors haven’t built in (or haven’t thought of and/or figured out a way to add) a feature to allow the return of the book by the reader.  This is something that needs to be fixed.

Bluefire Reader App

Another new development in ebook arena is a new iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch app has come out that also allows me to read my Sony ebooks AND books I check out from the library on the iPhone.  The app is the Bluefire Reader and from within iTunes and the app screen you can select the Bluefire app, then select ebooks from your computer (Sony eReader library) to load to your iPhone.  For a more detailed description of how the app works, visit this Dear Author blog post.  The latest update from Bluefire allows for the transfer of library/OverDrive ebooks to work, too!  No eReader device?  No problem, it works just as well from the Adobe Digital Editions download on your computer.  It is freaking awesome!  While I still don’t prefer reading on the iPhone (too small, device gets hot, eyestrain, etc.) it is great for when I have the opportunity to get a quick few pages/chapters read when I don’t have the eReader or Kindle with me.

I hope some of you have found my ebook journey of interest and/or of use and I apologize for it being so long.  I should have slit this up into two posts, but its late and that was too much trouble.  Sorry!  I also realized after re-reading my original ebook post that I never did get around to writing up a post on Calibre.  Will have to get around to that one of these days!


4 thoughts on “Revisiting the ebook reader debate

  1. Thanks! That was said loud and clear several times at the SLJ Summit-that vendors need to figure out what we in school library land need. Nice and timely (LOL) post, as Melanie and I are looking at getting a Nook and a Kindle so we can use them, understand them, and look at getting some for our library program.

  2. Thanks for the update, Heather. I am still waiting on a dedicated ereader that will read multiple formats OR the publishing industry to agree to adopt one format for all books. Might just be waiting for a long time, huh?

  3. Kindle and Sony ebook readers have the same display technology.But the difference in features are quite big.

    The Kindle does not need the computer at all.While Sony lacks this important wireless feature which plays a major setback for Sony.

  4. @Sam – very true, the Kindle has more preferable features over the Sony (or at least the one I have, can’t speak about the newer models); however, the ability to put books into collections and the SD card slot still make my old Sony better than the Kindle. Its the librarian in me, not the reader that says this.

    I will have to write another post as I think the Nook Color is going to surpass my love of the Kindle as it has both the good features of Sony (SD slot and a collections type feature) and the Kindle (no need for a computer) AND the ability to access library books! However, the Sony is still the one I like for reading due smaller size.

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