or “what I got for Xmas this year”

I got a lovely new Sony Touch ebook reader for Xmas. While I had previously attempted to use Stanza on my iPhone, the ebook experience had never really appealed to me. But since I had the new toy, I was determined to give it a valiant effort. I just finished my first book (David Weber and John Ringo’s March UpCountry) and I thought I’d give the experience a review.


As I’ve mentioned I have an iPhone. I love the Apple user experience. From the first iPod I bought with its flawless install and seamless box to user process, I have been hooked on the idea of a great novice experience. Sad to say, the Sony system did not hold up.

First off the install is slow and the install files on the device are only a link to the Reader website. A pain in the butt when you are on borrowed internet connections at your parents house. Eventually we got it done though it was far from seamless.

The software itself, Reader Library, is a pale imitation of Apple’s iTunes. It maintains two different libraries, one on the device and one on the computer. The synch works but it is flakey and the actually location of the files on you computer is subject to a bunch of odd vagaries that I have yet to discover. Suffice it to say if you’ve added files directly to the Library on you computer, don’t you dare move the originals or you’ll spend hours trying to figure out why teh damn thing chokes on synching…

The hardware suffers mostly from two flaws: one is teh lack of light so the screen is dim (I read that teh touch model is even dimmer that the others). This results in having to spend more time finding the right reading position every time the light shifts or you move to a neew reading spot.
The other issue is more of a comparison to the iPhone. I love the touch screen on the iPhone and am used to its reactions. The Reader is a different technology all together and its taken quite a bit of time to get used to. IN the end I prefer the iPhone as it is responsive 100% of the time, while the reader often doesn’t understand you gestures due to difference sin pressure of directions.

Content was also a bone of contention until I figured it out. I guess the only flaw here is that I again compared it to Apple’s integrated system where files moved from one place to another magically and all the content in the world was at my finger tips. Sony has a store but I have yet to bring myself to buy ans ebook for $12.95. Being in the biz, I just can’t justify spending that kind of cash on an ephemeral technology that has very little physical cost associated with it.

There is no warehousing costs, not pp&b (print paper and bind) and the production costs can be spread over the paper editions. $5 and under I can see but there are $20 books out there…

Eventually I found Baen Books free site and downloaded something I actually wanted to read for free. I have book 3 in the series so it was nice to download 1 and 2 and in all likelihood I’ll pick them up next time they are released. A way better model than trying make me pay hardcover prices for something I’m likely to lose the next time my computer thrashes itself.

The Experience
As for reading the book… well it took a while to get used to. It helped that I found a book that I wanted to read and I had made a commitment to really try. I figure by about page 100 I was into the groove enough to zone out and forget about the rest of the world (my primary reason for reading sci-fi). As the pages went by I was more and more comfortable and as soon as I was done book 1 I immediately dove into book 2.

The light is an issue. It’s not a huge one and you can compensate for it. Given that the reader is lighter, easier to hold in one hand, has multiple ways of changing pages without having to shift position and “holds itself open”, I think the trade off is more than fair. I especially like that I can fall asleep and it will turn itself off and remember my page.

If the charge is as good as they claim, it will be the perfect traveling book. Instead of hauling 10 paperbacks to Europe, I can just bring the one. This of course will rely on the availability of books that are under $5, but I think I can make do.

I like it. It won’t replace all my books, but if something good comes along I’ll definitively download it and read it on the reader. It would be perfect if the pricing was more reasonable: I hate hardcovers and get annoyed having to wait 1 year+ to read book 6 of something. If they released the ebook for a reasonable price I could read it early and pick up the paperback when it was released. At least companies like Baen and Tor seem to get it… mostly. We’ll have to wait and see..