I never seriously considered purchasing a digital book. For the price, you can buy quite a few paperback books. Digital books are not significantly less expensive than printed books, so it would take hundreds of books to realize the savings. Netbooks, though not as convenient and compact as digital book readers, have a lot more power for a similar price.
Besides, I simply love a paper book. You can’t take a digital book to the beach or in the bath or by the pool (or in the pool, as I sometimes do). Electronics tend to rebel against sand and water. If I drop a paperback book, I might bend a page, but if I drop a digital book, well, it might not be pretty. How does an author autograph a digital book? My favorite autographed books, if I don’t drop them in the pool, can be passed on to the next generation.
This brings up the issue of licensing. I am 100% against piracy, but if I buy a book, a song, or a computer program, I would like to enjoy the personal use of it wherever I please for as long as I live. DRM may protect the rights of artists, but it is often at the expense of legitimate purchasers of their art.
My upcoming trip to Scotland kindled (pun intended) my interest in digital books. Although I will be busy, there will be times when I will crave a book, but I won’t have the space in my suitcase. A digital reader seems like the perfect solution. Thanks to SBTB, I have the chance to find out for myself. I am only a few days into the test drive, but I have made some observations.
The Sony Reader PRS-700 is only slightly larger and quite a bit thinner than a standard paperback book. It weighs only 10 ounces and fits easily in my purse. Mine came with a black leather-look case – it looks a lot like a dayplanner. I could be reading Virginia Henley’s Enslaved or Tolstoy’s War and Peace – no one would ever know the difference. (If I am riveted and blushing, it is probably Enslaved.)
When I first got it, I had to charge it overnight, and then I had to install the Sony eBook Library software. No instant gratification here. I had some difficulties installing the software – the original version I downloaded was not compatible with Vista 64, and I had trouble uninstalling it. Eventually, I worked out all the kinks with the help of Sony’s technical support chat. I used the Sony software to download ebooks from the Sony site, but others that I already had on my computer I added to the Reader with a simple drag-and-drop. The Reader is recognized as another drive on the computer.
Many of the books you will buy are under Digital Rights Management (DRM), a kind of access control that licenses the files to particular devices in an attempt to protect copyrighted material. The Sony Reader recognizes several media formats: DRM Text: BbeBook (Marlin), ePub; Image: JPG, GIF, PNG, and BMP; Unsecured audio: MP3, AAC; and Unsecured Text: BbeB, ePub, TXT, RTF, Adobe PDF, and Microsoft Word. The reader will hold approximately 350 novels, but with the use of removable memory — SD card or Memory Stick Duo — you can have your entire library at your fingertips.
And not just your library. Handy things like ferry timetables, maps, and event schedules can be downloaded from the Internet in PDF format and saved on your Reader. Nice!!!
The 6-inch grayscale touchscreen allows for page turning with a sweep of your finger or stylus. You can also turn pages with the back and forward buttons at the bottom on the device. There is a little glare from the screen, and I have found that, except in very good light, I read best with the backlight. Supposedly, you can read for two weeks without charging the battery, but my experience is that when you use the backlight, expect to charge it every night. You can charge the battery through your USB port on your computer or with an optional AC charger. It takes about 4 hours to fully charge through the USB, only 2 with the AC charger.
There are five print sizes you can choose – very nice for those of us over 40 whose eyes aren’t what they used to be. The backlight feature really works. You can read in bed without needing a light or disturbing your partner. (The light comes from the sides, so the center of the page is a little dark. I don’t have problems reading it, though, if the print is set to large.)
The Sony Reader came with three sample photos installed. The grayscale screen doesn’t do them justice, so I wouldn’t consider it a portable photo album. It also came installed with two sample songs that you can listen to by plugging headphones into the headphone jack. I could see storing a few audio books on an SD card. The sound is quality is fine, and I was surprised to find that you can listen to music while reading the book.
The Sony Reader makes reading easy. No need for bookmarks – the Reader will start where you left off last time. You can search, bookmark, even make notes for your own reference. Having a library in one little package is irresistible. It is early yet, but when the trial is over, I believe I will hate to say goodbye to the Sony Reader.