So I’ve been looking at ebook readers for a while, as I’m a voracious reader and I am rapidly running out of space for all my books. Like with my iPod I wanted the freedom to have options with my reading on the go, not to mention not having to lug heavy hardcovers.
The main thing keeping me back at the time? The variety of formats and the price. There was no way I was going shelling out $350 Canadian for something when I couldn’t be sure I was going to be able to buy books wherever I want and read them on the device, and without trying it out first.
Enter the test drive (vroom vroom!). So far I’ve had my Sony PRS-505 for a month and I’ve found it to be much like my iPod was when I first got it: it fits easily into my life as-is.
Let me explain. I commute on the bus to work every day, and in the last month I’ve read more during that commute than I think I have in the 6 months before that. It’s easy to pull out of my bag and read, flicking from one page to the next, and whenever I need to stop I just turn it off and it remembers what page I was on. I can flip through my list of books and see what I feel like at that moment. Because of its slim size and reasonable weight, I find it easier to hold than some books, and it certainly sits open a lot easier when I’m reading during lunch.
When it comes to the Sony specifically, there are a number of other advantages. The slots for SD cards are handy for adding music to the reading experience as otherwise it does tend to take up a sizeable part of the hard drive. The music feature is also handy for when I’m at the gym and need something to get my heart rate up (and I don’t happen to be reading a smutty bit). The battery life is excellent and without using the music feature, I can usually go a week on a single full charge; and that’s with reading a couple hours a day at least. The contrast with e-ink is about the same as a printed book, with very little glare from the screen, and it’s about as easy to read in low light as a print book. For this reason I’m not missing a backlight or any other kind of light attachment, as if it’s dark enough that I’d need one, I would need a light to read a traditional book as well.
There are a few drawbacks, though. Like no books in the tub (don’t spread that around or I might be cast out of the library community). Or the way PDFs display on the screen. If you’re buying books from places other than the Sony store, Adobe PDF—with or without DRM—is one of the most common formats and the one that’s easiest to use with Sony Readers without futzing around in Calibre. It does, however, display fairly small on the screen when you’re talking a mass market paperback, or very small when you’re talking a PDF with a page size of 8&1/2 by 11. Sadly, one of the things I’d love to use the 505 for more—knitting patterns—is in the latter category. You can bump up the font, but with the larger-page PDFs it can take 30 seconds or more to change font sizes or pages which is aggravatingly slow.
And then there’s the Sony store. Now for those that have iPods and are familiar with the iTunes store and program, the learning curve is perhaps not quite as steep. Authorizing devices is a bit roundabout and it can be a bit tricky finding things in the store, which can also tend to crash the program when you try and do simple things (like tell it to display more than 10 titles per page). But once you’ve found what you’re looking for, it’s relatively simple to buy and load books onto the Reader. Similarly, it’s pretty easy to find files on your computer, add them to your library and then drag-and-drop to the reader.
However one problem with the store is the somewhat limited availability of certain books, and the price of some of those books. I’ve had varying luck with finding titles, with recent titles being the easiest to find, not surprisingly. It had all the Nora Roberts titles I was looking for, though many were at the US paperback price (which, at a dollar less than the Canadian paperback price, isn’t much of an incentive, once you do currency conversion) and only two of Julia Spencer-Fleming’s books, both of which were the same or more than the Canadian paperback price. I’d possibly be willing to pay for them if I knew I was going to keep my reader…and if it meant that I owned those books outright.
So at this point, if I had to pay full price for the Sony, would I buy one? Probably not. Not right now, at least. The Sony would definitely be at the top of my list of ebook readers to buy, thanks to the features it has that others don’t as well as having the store as another option for shopping. But with my part-time salary, it’s the kind of thing I’d wait to spend part of my income tax refund on.