WARNING: Extremely LONG post ahead.
There has been a lot of chatter from folks in my PLN over which ebook reader is the best option. Here is some of the most recent comments via Twitter:
twitter ebook discussion
Here’s a direct link to @technolibrary‘s (Carolyn Foote) Not So Distant Future blog post regarding ebook readers.
I’ve been corresponding with @booklover472 (Fran Bullington) for quite some time now about ebook readers and just had an email chat with her and @cathyjo (Cathy Nelson) where I gave some of my opinions on the matter and they suggested I write up a post. In @booklover472’s words: “Many of us are considering purchasing an eBook reader at some point in the future and having the input of a knowledgeable colleague is priceless!”
Now I don’t know how “priceless” my insights might be, especially since I only have considerable working knowledge with one reader, but I said I’d give it a shot.
I purchased my Sony eReader PRS-505SC in late 2007 (November or December I think as it was a gift to myself!) I had been wanting one FOREVER as I didn’t like reading ebooks on my desktop computer and my Gateway laptop had this funny quirk of only working when plugged in, but if you jiggled the cord even a LITTLE, it would freeze. So frustrating when you’re in the middle of reading! Anyway, the Kindle had just come out, but comparing it to Sony showed that Sony’s supported more formats. This is from the PDF spec sheet for my model:
Media Formats Supported
Unsecured Text: BBeB Book, TXT, RTF, ePub, Adobe® PDF10 , Microsoft® Word (Conversion to the Reader-requires Word installed on your PC)
DRM Text: BBeB Book (Marlin) Unsecured Audio: MP3 and AAC7 Image: JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP
Of course, it doesn’t support audiobooks and the image files are all black and white because it IS an eInk reader, but it still was better than the Kindle according to the data I had at the time and I didn’t buy it as a digital picture album but to read books!
At the time I bought my Sony the only way to load books was to use a PC and download from the Sony Reader Store. And all books purchased from the store were DRM BBeB format, meaning you can’t read them on another device except your Sony eReader or through the Sony Reader Library on your PC. Having converted to a Mac about this same time (late January 2008) this meant I had to go to a PC to purchase my books from Sony OR use a different ebook retailer with ePub format ebooks and use a third party program to transfer the files to my Reader and/or an SD card. Thankfully, the folks over at the Dear Author blog introduced me to Calibre an ebook management cataloging system that also manages transfers of files to/from your ebook reader. (This is an AWESOME program and a post for another time!)
Of course there have been two major updates since I purchased my eReader: Sony created a Mac version of the Sony Reader Library and just recently converted their ebooks to ePub formats that will allow you to read them on other readers. I think this last one was a major improvement for Sony as it potentially could bring in more buyers if their ebook prices are lower/comparable to other ebook retailers. Update 12/30/09: I contacted Sony’s customer service and was informed that even though they moved to ePub formats, the ebooks can still only be downloaded on Sony eReader devices. So much for my theory that they were widening their ebook market. Bummer! There are also new models that have touch screen navigation, allow for highlighting/notes, as well as wireless/3G purchasing of books. These all seem to be the same selling points on the Kindle and the new B&N Nook.
What I like about my eReader:
My Sony eReader
eInk screen – The one thing I didn’t like about reading on my laptop/desktop was that if I stared at the screen too long (reading!) I would get eye strain. With the eInk screen, it truly is like reading on paper.
portable - The size of the reader is perfect – just slightly taller & wider than a normal mass market paperback, but a WHOLE lot slimmer! It doesn’t weigh any more than a paperback, either.
ease of use – The ability to hold and read the reader in one hand. The location of the page buttons also makes it easy to turn the page with the hand holding the device. Great for multitasking, such as eating while reading <grin> Also, you can lay the reader flat or prop it up against something and not have to worry about holding it open to read the pages, like you would in a book.
bookmarking - The ability to place multiple bookmarks in an ebook file. Also, I can “continue reading” without having to even bookmark.
memory card slots - As I mentioned above, the reader has an SD card slot as well as a slot for a Memory Stick Duo. I’ve only used the SD slot.
menu options – you can choose/view your ebook lists by author, title, date downloaded, or view collections. You can also choose by bookmarks.
text size – you can choose small, medium, or large text sizes. Sometimes the original text sizes (particularly in PDF files) are way too small. The ability to enlarge the text is wonderful.
portrait or landscape mode – You can view your page in portrait or landscape mode. This is also great for PDF files. As mentioned before, sometimes the text on them is way too small even when you use the large text size setting. If you turn the page to landscape, the text enlarges even more.
made of metal - the device is made of metal, unlike the Kindle which is plastic. I made a comment to @booklover472 that I’ve dropped my eReader a time or two and it’s been none the worse for it. I just don’t see the Kindle holding up to that without cracking it’s plastic case. Granted, I’ve been lucky to have either not dropped it from too high a distance and/or dropping it on carpet.
download ebooks from your public library – If you’re lucky enough to live in a county that purchases ebooks for loaning, you can borrow books from them. My public library hasn’t begun offering them as yet, but our upstate does (Spartanburg and Charlotte areas).
Holy V8 Moment Batman! I just read on the FAQ section of the Sony site that you can authorize up to 6 devices to your ebook account!!!! I NEVER knew this. If this means what I think it means, you can have up to 6 people reading the same book??!!! I would love to test this out. I knew I could authorize multiple computers, but I didn’t know I could authorize more than one device! If I hadn’t been talking with @booklover472 about the Kindle allowing up to 6 devices, I never would have thought to go see if Sony had any written limitations or authorizations on how many devices you could load your ebooks to!
What I dislike about my eReader:
eInk screen - you have to have a light source since there is no backlight! Of course, if I was reading an actual physical book, I’d need a light source, too, so this isn’t that big a deal.
slow to load – if you overfill the memory, regardless if it’s the SD card or internal, then it takes FOREVER for the eReader to turn on. Sometimes I’ve even had to use the reset button multiple times to get the thing to turn on. Solution, use multiple SD cards and/or only keep your current ebooks on it and switch them out as needed. I do a little of both. I have multiple SD cards with “collections” on them as well as keep a few favorites/currents on the eReader itself. Since using this method, I’ve not had a problem getting the unit to turn on.
Update: forgot to mention here that “overfill” means I had more than 600 ebooks between the device’s memory and the SD card. Removing the SD card helped, leading me to the conclusion that the device had problems loading that many books! That’s when I split up the books over multiple SD cards.
Sony Reader Library Software – I HATE the Sony Reader Store/Software you have to download to your computer. It is slow to load the store portion. However, it isn’t any different than using iTunes (which the iTunes store is also SLOW) I just don’t understand why I have to download software to purchase ebooks. Why can’t they sell and download from the Internet (like Audible.com) and have just the library on your computer? Browsing the ebook store online on the Sony site is FAST but you can’t purchase and/or download from it – only see what books they have for sale. Browsing via the Reader Library software is SLOW and frequently times out.
No A/C power adapter included - You have to purchase an adapter as an accessory – another $30+ added to the eReader price. Not nice Sony <frowning face here> Also, the location of the adapter hookup on the eReader is smack dab in the middle of the bottom of the eReader. That is a horrible location when you’re trying to read and charge the device at the same time. Would have liked it to have been located on the side of the device or at least on one of the bottom corners instead.
Standard cover - the standard cover that comes with the eReader is horrible. Thin with plastic tabs that hold the reader in place. I don’t like to read with the cover on as it isn’t comfortable in my hand. After taking the eReader out of the cover a few times I just knew one of the times I’d break the tab. Then I found these covers. Not only are there slots for SD cards, the “tabs” at the top are elastic so I don’t worry when I pull the reader out of the case. It is also thicker (more padding) and has a flap to keep it closed. You can find the cases at M-Edge.
In case you haven’t guessed by now from my other posts, I have a tech gadget obsession and more recently an Apple obsession. I recently purchased an iPhone – Verizon buying out Alltel pushed me over the edge and I HAD to switch carriers because of that, so why not get what I wanted!? Anyway, I downloaded the Kindle iPhone app so I could take advantage of the free Kindle ebooks Amazon occasionally offers. As much as I love my iPhone, I wont be using it as an ebook reader. The screen is too small, meaning I have to “page” frequently as I’m a relatively fast reader. Also, eye strain! And last, the phone gets hot and the battery drains quickly if you read for long stretches at a time.
I’ve only seen/handled the Kindle for a short amount of time – and that was (I believe) one of the first generation Kindles, so I can’t knowledgeably provide a comparison, only to say it was only slightly less heavy than the Sony, but it “felt” “cheaper” – less substantial. I was afraid I’d break it. I also didn’t like the keyboard on the bottom. It was clunky in my hand and I was definitely not impressed. The only thing that impressed me was the lady who had it was able to download books immediately. We were at a conference and they were announcing this years SC Young Adult Book Award Nominees and she was able to download the ones that had Kindle editions right then and there. That was impressive.
I also cannot comment upon the Nook. I’ve not seen one or held one in person – only read about it online. I would love to test drive one out, though! What I’m REALLY waiting for is the rumored Apple Tablet as well as the Plastic Logic reader I read about ages ago and that never seems to actually be released.
PS: In case you were wondering, the other ebook retailers I use besides Sony are Fictionwise and Books On Board. Also, here are two other posts over at Dear Author that have some interesting takes on eReader devices and comparisons: To Buy or Not to Buy: The eReader Dilemma & Comparison Table of eReading Devices.