I hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday. I got some new toys to play with, one of them being a Sony e-Reader. I have been playing with e-readers for a little while now, though not in any professional or scholarly way. I thought I would use this post to do a very brief comparison of the e-readers I’ve played with so far.
I suppose my first run in with e-readers is through my own library. We offer an increasing number of ebooks, some which require specific software to be installed in order to read. I must admit, I have yet to be impressed by this software. I find many of the programs used on computers very clunky. If this was my only introduction to e-books, I think I would be hard pressed to see a rosey future for e-reading.
My next introduction came through my iphone. I installed both the Kindle e-reader and the Barnes and Noble reader. I will admit that I did not use these for quite some time. I’m not sure what the impetus was for finally starting to play with them – perhaps it was finding sites that allowed me to download books in iphone format. Perhaps it was the fact that I always have my phone on me. I found myself going out in the summer with my lunch and forgetting my book – but then I remembered I could still read! I used the iphone for reading quite a bit in the summer and was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading from it.
Both readers have advantages and disadvantages. Lately I find myself leaning towards the Barnes and Noble but this could change on a whim. Both readers function quite similarly and are quite intuitive. Pages turn very smoothly and easily with a tap or a swipe, there is a built in dictionary, the page can be reorientated according to how it is held, bookmarking is easily done by turning down the corner of a page and there is a night screen (most handy for reading in bed without disturbing anyone). The Barnes and Nobel reader also provides internal links for sites which offer more books for their reader, which is incredibly handy.
For Christmas, I was spoiled with a PRS-600 from Sony (for a great comparison of e-reader privacy, check out this site from the EFF). I quite like the size of this e-reader, it is relatively light and sleek. I am impressed with the screen – it really doesn’t feel like reading from a screen (except for the glare). It does have a more natural feel to the screen/page. I love the fact that I was able to immediately (once I downloaded the reader software) load 30 books on it.
I had certain expectations from this e-reader thanks to the iPhone, especially since this is a touch e-reader. I expected smoother page turning. I set it up to swipe pages like my iphone, assuming I would use it this way. Since I’ve started reading, I find it is more natural for me to use the buttons to move the pages than the swipe, as this is where my hands are anyway. Bookmarking takes an extra step on the Sony reader but is still available, as is a dictionary feature, highlighting and notes (all available features on the iphone readers). So far I’m generally happy with my Sony reader. I can take notes with it using a keyboard (again, similar to the iphone so an easy transition) or by hand using the stylus. It also stores audio and photos, which I have not used yet. I have not had any books yet with graphics or complicated illustrations, so I’m not sure how this reader will handle them yet.
So, what does this mean for my reading habits? I still love my physical books. I love the tactile aspect of reading and my favourite books will still have a space on my bookshelf. I do love to have my books surrounding me. What I suspect will happen is that I won’t be buying a physical copy unless I really enjoy the book. I may start with an e-book version and then decide to make the extra investment, both monetary and physical space, in a “real” copy of the book. The whole notion of “real” vs. “virtual” books is an interesting one I may come back to at another time. There are limitations to ebooks (can’t take them in a bath, what happens if there is no power), so they won’t be my sole means of reading. I doubt I will be able to walk out from a bookstore without purchasing a book, but I may come out with one and a list of others for downloading.
The e-readers offer other advantages though. I have 30 books on one device ! This will make travelling much easier. I suspect that I will still be using both the iphone readers and the Sony. The latter will likely be my primary e-reader, used for longer books or books I am particularly interested. The iphone will likely be for more casual reading – books I am in no hurry to read or which don’t take much concentration. As I almost always have my phone on me, it will be the device I turn to when i have forgotten my other reader.
I am waiting for e-books to catch up to my desires. I’d like to see the Sony with an option for night reading, and wireless access. I think I’d also like to see some kind of screen saver for it. I have walked away and it has been there waiting for me, which in a way makes it feel more like a physical book, but I fear burning the screen. Wireless access and e-readers also makes a lot of sense to me. Not only can books have built in dictionaries, you could include links to related information. A knitting pattern book could link out to a YouTube video showing how to do the stitch. I think there is still a lot of potential for e-reading and will be interested to see how this develops.
Maybe not such a brief comparison, but it is still in my early days of playing with and discovering potential in e-readers. The Kindle only recently started selling in Canada, but if you use one and love/hate it, lemme know!