As many of you know by now, after all my dithering over the whole question of an e-reader a few weeks ago, I finally did decide to buy one. When I happened upon a Sony Touch 600 E-reader on Ebay for $99, I snapped it right up.
This is not, for what it’s worth, the latest version of the Sony Reader, but I’ve never been the sort to need the latest and greatest when it comes to electronics. (I don’t even have a flat-screen TV or a mobile phone with web access yet.) The improvements made to the newest version didn’t seem worth the cost to me, especially since I don’t expect to ever do the bulk of my reading on the e-reader. It’s a supplement, for hard-to-find classics, e-galleys, and thick books I don’t want to cart around.
In my previous post, I mentioned some of the reasons I was leaning toward the Sony. Basically, I didn’t want an e-reader that was tied to a particular bookseller, as the Kindle is. I didn’t particularly want wireless access because browsing e-bookstores could actually distract me from reading, never mind how it could lead to impulse buys. I suspect that having to take the time to connect my reader to my computer will keep me from actually buying many ebooks. (If I’m going to purchase, I’d just as soon get the hard copy.)
Immediately upon getting my e-reader, I downloaded a slew of classics from Project Gutenberg, Girlebooks, and Manybooks.net, and a few galleys from Netgalley. But thanks to my commitment to the TBR Dare, I couldn’t actually read these new books. But then Frances’s effusive praise of The Children’s Book reminded me that I had it on my shelf, and its massive size is not even vaguely purse-friendly. My library happened to have the e-book available for loan, so with a few clicks, I had a light and portable version to carry around with me.
But what was the reading experience like? Almost from the first, I was impressed with how easy it is to read on the e-reader. I can immerse myself just as easily in the e-book as I can in a paper book. And I love being able to enlarge the font. If I’ve spent a lot of the day reading at work, as I sometimes do, my eyes can feel too tired for small print. Plus, having only a small amount of type on the “page” keeps my eye from jumping ahead several paragraphs. I’ve also enjoyed how easy it is to read while eating lunch or even folding laundry. Not having to hold the book open means having both hands free. This is much cooler than I anticipated!
I also really like the Sony’s note-taking features. This was perhaps the biggest reason I went with the Sony. I like to make notes in my books, and most e-reader users complain about the awkwardness of the note-taking format. As far as I know, Sony is the only e-reader that actually has a stylus for taking notes. You can highlight and make marginal notes just as you might with a pen. And when you’re done, you can go to your notes page to see a list of all the passages you’ve highlighted and pages you’ve made notes on. This could be incredibly handy for writing reviews! I did learn the hard way, however, that when a library book (or presumably an e-galley) expires from your reader, the notes will disappear along with your book. (This is why in the photo you’re looking at a random page from Can He Forgive Her? with some made-up notes instead of actual notes I made while reading The Children’s Book.)
So my e-reading experience was in some respects a very good one. But it’s not perfect. One big problem for me is the inability to easily flip back in the book. The Children’s Book had a huge cast of characters and I frequently wanted to look back and refresh my memory on their complex relationships. Eventually, I found a character list online, and I consulted that instead. I’ve run into this problem with audiobooks as well. With audiobooks, I can’t see a good solution, but there might be a way to use the notes feature to flag appearances of new characters or other important information for quick reference later. Something to experiment with.
Probably the biggest problem, though, is not knowing how long the chapters were. This may not seem like a big deal, but I often like to know how far I am from the next good stopping place. If it’s 15 minutes until bedtime, I might read another 5-page chapter, but not a 20-page one. More than once while reading The Children’s Book, I got sucked into a longer than expected chapter near bedtime or at lunch. Some readers have complained of not being able to see how much of the overall book they have left, but that hasn’t been a big deal for me because, as you can see in the photo, the Sony has a page count at the bottom of the page. It isn’t hard for me to make the mental adjustment from the thickness of the remaining pages to the number of pages listed on the e-reader.
I also want to note that this particular model of the Sony Reader has more glare and less contrast than some other e-readers. For me, this really isn’t an issue. The glare is never so strong that I can’t easily tilt the reader a bit to eliminate it, even when sitting in a sunny spot on the sofa. Another oddity is that the formatting is far from perfect if you enlarge the font. I saw lots of weird line breaks and hyphen issues. This might be less of a problem if you don’t zoom in on the text, but the zooming feature is, for me, a huge benefit, so I’ll just have to take the bad with the good.
I’ve also found that the battery life is not as great as I expected. I’ve had to recharge every three or four days, which could be a problem when traveling. A little online research, mostly at the extremely helpful Mobileread forum, revealed that some Sony users have found that the reader stays charged longer if they charge it on a wall outlet instead of their computer’s USB port. I’ve ordered a PSP charger and will see if that helps. I hope so, because a long-lasting charge will be essential for any overseas travel I might do in the future.
Overall, I’m happy enough with my e-reader. I’m not so happy that I’m ready to give up on paper, although I may end up switching my galley reading almost entirely to the electronic format. I think the best thing about the e-reading phenomenon is that it brings a new option to the table. As long as the old options remain available as well, I can’t help but be happy about that.