I am one of the lucky ones. My Sony PRS-700 reader has been as cooperative as can be. I took it out of the box, hooked it up to my laptop (which runs Windows XP since my husband refused to upgrade to Vista after seeing what it did to the DoD computers at work), and popped the CD in. Five minutes later I was shopping the Sony bookstore and as soon as my 700 had charged (which only took an hour or two) I downloaded my first ebook with my Harlequin gift certificate. I was off and reading! The battery charge lasted for days of reading and there was no learning curve on navigation. It’s comfortable to hold while I read in bed (my thumb conveniently sits next to the page turn button), the backlight is handy when my husband is sleeping and I will cry bitter tears when it has to go back to SBSarah.
Not much of a review, I know. But I have noticed that since I’ve started taking my reader everywhere with me a ton of people have asked me how hard it is to use, asking suspiciously how “user friendly” it actually is. An experiment was obviously in order.
So I handed my Sony over to my eight year old and asked her to figure it out. No instruction pamphlet, no coaching, no help whatsoever; I simply watched her as she tried everything out and interviewed her while she played with it. Here’s how it went. (Note: Yes, Miss K actually uses Yiddish in her everyday conversation thanks to the American Girl Rebecca Rubin book series. What can I say? Meshugeneh gens, meshugeneh gribenes.)
Here’s how it went:
Me: Here, see how easy this is to use. Hands Miss K the Sony PRS-700.
Miss K: You told us you’d hurt us if we touched this thing. This isn’t funny, Mom.
Me: It’s okay. I’m doing an experiment. I want to see how easy it is for the average 8 year old to use. Go ahead, try it out.
Miss K: Now I’m average? Thanks a lot, Mom. Yelling to sisters MOM’S LETTING ME TOUCH HER SONY READER AND YOU CAN’T!
Me: Just turn it on already.
Miss K carefully examines the top and bottom of the reader and picks the correct slide to power it on then watches while it starts up.
Miss K: Not too fast, are they? My Nintendo doesn’t take this long.
Me: Well, no, it takes awhile but it’s on now. Why don’t you find something to read?
Miss K pulls the stylus out and starts tapping her heart out. (All that Nintendo paid off.)
Miss K: Collections? Oh, it’s categories. Mommy reads rooooomaaaaance. I like this “Books” thing better, titles in alphabetical order. Oh, Marley and Me! I wanted to see that movie!
She loads the book and without hesitating pushes the correct button to page through the cover and information pages until she gets to the prologue.
Miss K: Geez, this is tiny. How can you read on this thing? HA! I bet this button here makes the words bigger. Cool…I can make them HUGE! I bet I could read this from across the room now. What do these other buttons do?
Miss K proceeds to push the other buttons and tap with her stylus
Miss K. Okay, it says notes but it’s not doing anything when I try to type in letters with the stylus on the keyboard thing-y. That’s stupid. Oh, you can search! Let’s see if there’s anyone in there with my name. Nope. How about “you”…I bet you can’t write a book without using “you.” There it is! Wow. There’s a gizillion “you”s in there. What else can it do?
She turns it upside down and slides the power button for the light.
Miss K: Oy vey! This thing is bright! You could use this as a nightlight.
Me: If you slide it again it gets even brighter.
Miss K: This would be great if the power goes out. Hold on a minute.
Miss K proceeds to go into the bathroom and shuts the door – without turning on the light.
Miss K: This sucker GLOWS! You could so read under the covers with this.
Me: Out, please. You need to look at the other stuff on there.
Miss K: Fine, Mother.
Miss K sits back down and taps some more and then points to the bottom.
Miss K: It has songs and a headphone thing-y like my MP3 player. I’m gonna get my headphones.
Ten minutes later (you should see her room!)…
Miss K: Oh, good sound! But yuck, how do you go to the other song?
She taps with her stylus again
Miss K: There. I bet this would sound even better if both sides of my headphones worked. Yawns Enough music, this is making me sleepy. (The song is called Sleepy Time, go figure.) What else do they have? Pictures…cute baby. I was cuter, though. Why don’t you have any pictures of me on here?
Me: I’m only borrowing it. If it was mine it would be filled with pictures of you.
Miss K: And Scooter. (The dog.)
Me: And Scooter.
Miss K: Cool, look at this…you can read sideways.
Me: You can? I didn’t realize that, let me see. Huh. Wonder why you’d want to do that. Okay, put it back. What do you think the grey things are on the top?
Miss K examines them carefully
Miss K: I bet that little thing that goes in the camera goes in one of those. (She’s right, the slots are for a memory card and a memory stick.) And the cord to the computer goes in here (points to the USB port).
Me: Okay, that ought to do it. Thanks for the help.
Miss K: Wait! I want to read Marley and Me!
Me: It’s only part of the book, honey, it’s called an excerpt. They don’t give you the whole book with the reader.
Miss K: That’s meshugeh! What cheapskates! For what they charge for that thing they should give you some whole books with it. You owe me a book now.
I would definitely give the Sony PRS-700 an A+ for being user friendly. An above average 8 year old (she made me put that in) can figure out how to navigate everything but the notes function without the manual or instructions. Installing the software and downloading books is a little more complicated but I bet my 13 year old could have handled it, especially with Calibre.
And guess what Miss K says she’s asking Santa for this Christmas?