Thursday, October 22, 2009

Enjoying 600 books (and how!)

Disclosure: I like my Sony PRS-600 Touch Edition.

The evening I bought it, I plugged it in, let it charge fully, installed Sony's incredibly convenient eBook Library, got my first book from GoogleBooks ("Fruitfulness", Emile Zola) and began to read. I was in a state of nervousness that perhaps I had made a bad choice buying the Reader and so I approached it more cautiously than I might have otherwise. Every negative comment I'd seen about it sprung to mind again, and I was certain that I'd be incredibly disappointed.

I wasn't. Two hours later, I was engrossed in my reading, taking notes in the "margins" (something I would never do in a physical copy, for fear of ruining it) and overall pleased with the device. The biggest point against the Reader was that the screen quality was poor but in all honesty, the glare was hardly noticeable. I suppose that for those eReader experts it might have been bothersome, but the screen didn't cause me eye strain, didn't bother at all, and served its purpose quite well in providing me with a book to read. The extra features are fun, easy and wonderfully convenient, like the dictionary and the ability to take notes in the margin (the stylus is extremely responsive and is fairly easy to use, just don't let your hand rest on the screen! A mess ensues...). Embarrassing side note about the dictionary: it is so useful that when I was reading from a print book the other day, I actually attempted to double-click on the word.

Another common complaint was that flipping pages was difficult and unintuitive. Quite the contrary. It took me a little while to get used to flipping the pages with my thumb across the touch screen, but once I figured out that a little bit of nail will help, it became quick and easy. Furthermore, the buttons are perfectly placed for how I hold a book, with my thumb resting at the bottom-centre and the rest of my hand supporting the book from the back. The movement is completely natural, as though I'm reaching for a page in the bottom right corner and I'm "dragging" it across to flip.

As for access to books, I was rather pleased. The idea of free library books sold me the device and I was happy to see that the process runs smoothly. Gutenberg, GoogleBooks, and various free eBooks filled up my library quickly and easily. My Reader now holds more than 50 books I downloaded and the grand total space used comes to... ~20 MB. ePub files are about 1 KB per page; PDF can take up to a few MB (e.g. a book with 640 pages is 2 MB). Some books have pictures in them and load a little slower but the images show up just fine in black and white. Some PDFs take longer to load the first time they are accessed (a slight downside to the Reader) and though they initially appear to be tiny, upping the font size on the PDFs will lead to readable texts (though the page formats will be a little funky - not a big deal, easy to get used to).

I have other qualms as well. Take, for instance, the occasional blips. GoogleBooks sometimes-to-too-often misreads/mistranslates the original documents, leading to strange mistakes. For instance, "j" may replace ";", "<" may replace a quotation mark, "111" may replace "ill", etc. It becomes easy to keep track of, but is still a definite drawback (although not exclusive to the Reader, as it is a GoogleBooks issue). The PDF issues listed above can also be frustrating at first but these became easy to manage once I getting into the book. It just means a bit more page flipping every once in a while. Formatting also tends to be an issue. Poems often are displayed weirdly, in such a way that indented lines start with a series of "?????". All in all mess-ups appear more often than one would like but don't do much more than irritate, in the same way an advanced reader's copy might annoy with silly goofs. Again, I note, in nearly all cases of formatting error, it is the fault of the source, not the Reader itself.

A lot of people may shy away from the lack of internet on this Reader, but as long as the internet provided remains 3G, somewhat limited, and not wi-fi, I'm okay without. The screen quality is quite good for those used to computers (I can't say about those upgrading from older Sony models) and reading from it is comfortable. Overall, the convenience far outshines the downsides and the device is both fun and useful.

The reader is obviously not right for everyone. There are many die-hard print supporters (though clearly this will not replace the printed book, they will coexist) but for those interested in technology and willing to dip their toes into this volatile market, I can say that Sony's product is certainly worthwhile. Here's to hoping the price will eventually drop, though. Perhaps soon enough that I'll get a refund as well...?


  1. When the touch screen Sony came out I briefly wondered if I should have waited longer before making a plunge and getting a Kindle. But I have become attached to my Kindle and like it very much. The Kindle has problems with PDFs too, the formatting gets a little goofy. I haven't tried poetry though so I don't know how that looks.

  2. I'm still debating which ereader I'd like to get, so this is useful information. I take so many texts from Gutenberg these days, it would be nice to have something smaller than my laptop to read those from...

  3. So far, I still vehemently resist the screen idea. But I see the convenience while traveling. I'm a long way from trying one, but I can imagine someday wanting one for a long vacation. By that time, maybe the glitches will be worked out.

    And they'll probably cost $18. :)


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