Why E-Readers??

I've been a fan of e-readers for at least 4 or 5 years, starting with Sony's PRS-500.  I purchased the upgrade PRS-505 a few years later, and in 2008 purchased an integrated light for the PRS-505.  Prior to the e-reader, I had been reading books on various Palm Pilots and on PCs.  Both of which (and cell phones now) are decent, but I found the battery life on the Palm devices didn't hold up to a lengthy reading session, and the PCs were not a very comfortable read (though the netbooks are getting closer).

I love these dedicated reading devices - the text is clear and crisp and can be read anywhere a "paper" book can.  The device feels like a paperback, and I've found that I've often been dozing off while reading and finding that I'm attempting to put in a bookmark, or overturn the reader as you would a paperback to mark the page.

I've read many books to my children off the e-reader at bedtime (notably all the Harry Potters and one of the Percy Jacksons).  The huge advantage is that I could switch to my own current book without moving or disrupting the little ones.  Having multiple books "open", that is, saved location within book saved, is a huge plus that I'm not sure I fully anticipated before buying my first reader.

Battery life is extensive on these devices - a function of the e-ink - which is excellent.  You can travel for several days and read lots without worrying about the battery life.  I'd like to say I don't pack my charger, but I do, I can say that I rarely have to charge it on the road.

None of my Sony readers have built-in backlights - as I stated above, I bought a light in an integrated cover for the PRS-505, which I like.  I originally thought of this as a problem, but having used them I now worry that devices with a backlight will destroy the battery life that I prize on the e-reader.  The Sony's do have MP3 capability, but aside from a test when my first device was new, I don't use it.  It does kill battery and I have more suitable devices for background music or audiobooks.  However, given all of this, if there was a device with 2 batteries - 1 for the e-ink reader, and 1 for the ancillary MP3 and lights, I'd consider buying it.

The "killer app" that I think might be useful is a full integration between text copies of books and audiobooks. I listen to audiobooks on my IPOD, which is fine, and read on my e-reader.  Sometimes I have both formats and it would be nice to seemlessly switch back and forth - that is, to read the e-ink format, then switch to audiobook format in the car or when you want to rest your eyes, then back to the e-ink.  Note, I think they will do the computer voice reading of the text to you, but I'm more interested in coordinating the nice-to-listen-to actors they have read the books with the author-written text.  EPUB format has taken a nice leap by standardizing the page numbering so you can read on your phone then switch to your computer or e-reader and find the location easily.

The only "drawback" from my perspective is that the devices can't always display PDF files - they display them OK, but with some graphics and scanned books they become unreadable in the smaller e-reader format.  I've been hoping for a larger (both dimensions) e-reader, but the only one I've seen (online only) has been the Kindle XL.  I'm a little brand-loyal to Sony for some odd reason, and like the sleek look of the Sony readers, and never really liked the exposed keyboard look of the Kindle - they tended to look toyish to me.  To be fair, I'd probably have loved the Kindle if it was my first love, and had just as much loyalty to Amazon as I have to Sony.

I've just recently purchased the Sony PRS-900 (Daily Edition) Sony reader, so haven't much played with it.  Not particularly ecstatic with the shape - longer, but no wider than the 6" versions.  Touch screen and 3G are both incremental improvements, though I don't know if the 3G connection will work in Canada or not.  I'm close enough to the border to deal with a US connection if required (I think both Windsor and Sarnia get US 3G signals).

Update (Nov 21, 2010): not really thrilled with the PRS-900 (btw the 3G does NOT work in Canada) - OK, but not a big enough incremental improvement over the PRS-505 I already had.  I did break down and purchase the Kindle DX (the big screen).  Really like it - the 3G works in Canada, the screen is very bright and sharp, response is quick.  The only "flaws" are minor - only one page turn button (would be nice to have "left hand" and "right hand" options); the page turn buttons are on the side where I often pick up the device, which changes the page inadvertantly; the "5-point button" is raised, and gets implemented when the cover is closed (I purchased a leather cover as well); Kindle doesn't support EPUB.  None of these points are significant, though EPUB would be an improvement - Calibre does a great job of conversion, so only a little time is lost when loading books onto the device, look is fine.

Update (June 2, 2011): went to a conference recently, where David Irvine was speaking ("The Authentic Leader" and "Becoming Real" are two of his books).  He was talking about communications tech (smart phones, texting, cell calls etc) and talked about authentic experience (e.g. shared, in-person experience) vs. inauthentic experiences.  This resonated with me about e-readers.  I'm often asked about which models to buy, etc. and with tablets now on the market, they often tend toward a PlayBook or an Ipad.  I point out that they are not e-readers (e.g. e-ink, long battery life, reader-only) but do provide a lot of additional functionality (colour for one, surfing, video).  However, I've still love the Kindle DX and have recently revived the PRS-505 (Sony) as it has the attached light.  The reason may be the "authenticity" of the experience - the Kindle doesn't promise to prompt you for e-mail, doesn't surf the web well (though it is fine for buying or downloading books), doesn't give you the option of watching movies.....however, it does what it purports to to - it provides you with reading opportunities, and does so on YOUR schedule - like a paper book, it can be read whenever you have the time an inclination.  This strikes me as an authentic experience, like book reading, not a communical, social, experience like e-mail, surfing and blogging (though my blogs aren't read by anybody, so they are "authentic" in that sense as well).  I'm not a luddite, I have several computers at home and work, including a new touchscreen Dell Duo to do the tablet-like experience.  However, all of these devices lend themselves to many different tasks and feed into the short-term, transitory nature inherent to connected media devices.

5 comments:

  1. In the past year or so, since the introduction of the successful iPad from Apple, there has been a distinct blurring of the line between Tablets and E-readers. You can read on Tablets, laptops, desktops and netbooks, but all have the backlit screen and some form of LCD or comparable. E-readers have e-ink, which is a distinctly different technology - it isn't good for much, but it is excellent for reading (not a great surfing medium, not suitable for movies...).

    E-readers have phenomenal battery life on a charge (a week or more) even with heavy usage. Tablets have an 8 hour or so charge, less so for laptops and netbooks.

    I'm not sure e-readers will survive the tablet wars, but they are nice devices, perfectly designed for the task at hand. Tablets have a much wider range of usage, but aren't e-readers, though go ahead and read off them if you like.

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    1. Update: Just received an IPAD through work - interesting to see if my opinion(s) change.

      Still have the Kindle-DX, and still liking it (have a waterproof bag for reading in the pool).

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    2. Purchase Kobo Vox for each of my children for Christmas 2011 (last year). My daughter immediately became a big user for Facebook and for reading. I've often pried the device out of her hands after she has fallen asleep - she has very eclectic tastes for a 13 year old - alternating between the "Twilight"-pop-vampire series and the Bible.

      My son used his Vox primarily for games, though recently has begun reading books off the Vox, which makes me very happy. He has a restless spirit and an appetite for stories - the more avenues he chooses to read in, the better. He virtually always falls asleep to audiobooks, though these are familiar stories that he plays for comfort, which is great, as at 10 years old he is required to fall asleep sometime during the evening.

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  2. As per a main post, I broke my Kindle-DX (dropped it) and now primarly use the Kindle PaperWhite as e-reader. Ipad is pirmarily a comic book reading machine - don't use it for books, though.

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  3. I purchased a Kindle Fire at a very affordable price and like it as a cheap tablet. To my surprise, I've been giving it a chance as a reader, and found that I do like it in that context. I do find having to recharge regularly (compared to the Kindle Paperwhite) a bit of a pain, and the homepage ad is annoying.

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