Posted by: Corri van de Stege | January 23, 2010

e-reader

I have now joined the club of  e-readers, well and truly.  I found my e-reader under the christmas tree, it’s a Sony PRS-600 and having maintained a sceptical and reluctant attitude to the whole concept of ‘reading books on a screen’ I had to be convinced.  I guess the best way to find out is to actually be given one, take it with you and see how it feels.  Well, I’m converted – even if I don’t intend to give up the physical papery versions of books as yet.  How could I with such a pile of books that are there to touch, pick up and leaf through at random?

My bookcases are overflowing. 

What is most convincing though is that I wonder how would I have been able to read Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall last week whilst on the road for four days on end, a big bulky book that would have been difficult to haul along with me in my computerbag or overnight bag, the weight and size would probably have convinced  me that it would be better left at home?   I bought it as an e-book, downloaded it and smugly slipped it into my computer bag, next to my laptop, hardly noticeable, it did not take up much space.   Once on platforms or on trains, it’s so easy to hold and open it and read.

Richard, after my previous post, asked me to review this e-reader and here I am giving an ode to the thing, rather than being practical and giving you the pros and cons.  Trouble is I don’t have much experience as far as other makes are concerned, however, here are my observations. 

I like the fact that I can increase or decrease the font size on this Sony e-reader: it has five options and I like the medium size, it’s easy on the eyes, even in dim hotel rooms or rail carriages.  The first time I bought e-books (one of them the Wolf Hall) I could not see the books being downloaded to my laptop and kept hitting the download button until of course it stopped me from doing it again and I thought I had paid for nothing.   Subsequently I discovered how it worked and then realised that I had FOUR copies of one and the same book (Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger’) and not the Wolf Hall book.  Waterstone helpline was indeed very helpful and resent the link. The second time I got the hang of it.

What I also like about this Sony reader is that I can make notes, underline text and keep the references in separate note pages, or indeed write a memo to myself if I want to.  I can even do some (crude) drawing and keep it as a note page.  I can carry out a search, but haven’t used this option yet.  And then of course, I could download audio and pictures if I want to, but I doubt I will use that option as I’m quite happy with my Ipod and have all the music and podcasts I want.

I haven’t tried downloading PDF files yet, but that option is there of course and may come handy for work documents: easier than trying to read them from a computer screen when you’re on the move.  However it comes with a yellow warning leaflet that says that ‘due to the complex nature of PDF documents, in certain situatins when viewing these in increased sizes, only text will appear as some tables and graphics may be reformatted and altered during the reflow process’.  

And that reminds me: I could not really make much sense of the Family Trees at the beginning of  the Mantel book: they are best viewed in their original size, which however is so small that it is impossible to read the names.  When trying to zoom in, you only view a few names on the screen and the sense of the tree gets lost.  I ended up doing a quick search on my internet browser to find the relevant Tudor tree and printed a copy. 

All in all I do like having this e-reader.  However, straying into a bookshop today on a Saturday stroll through Norwich before seeing ‘The Prophet’, I of course walked out with more ‘real’ books…  There’s nothing so consoling as a bit of book retail therapy after a hard week’s work, don’t you agree?

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Responses

  1. Welcome to the dandy world of e-readers. I love the convenience factor, though you’re right that it’ll never replace print completely.

  2. Thank you Seachanges.
    I can’t help feeling we’re dealing with a half-technology with respect to the current generation of e-readers. The’re not quite there yet, even though they have been on the market for a decade. The next generation, jostling in the wings, will have better size, flow, colour etc.. I’m not referring to electronic notebooks or tablets. The pdf aspect in an e-reader is very important to me because so much information these days is in that format, not just the wonderful library of world literature and science available at the Internet Archive, but also all the academic and scientific articles available through ISI Web of Knowledge.
    Yes, I would go for the Sony at the moment for the touch screen, note-taking, highlighting facilties.
    I note that you have a couple of Ballards there in the pile next to your e-reader. An extraordinary British writer – I read his “Empire” years ago when I was living in Holland. I was then struck by the public polemic there over his description of the massacre in Shanghai, a number of national writers with experience in the East discounting it. My father, a one time Changi Gaol (Singapore) POW, confirmed that it was not exaggerated. We forget at our peril how “ethnic” much of that theatre of war was, and how much still is in our own time. Recommended, also by Ballard “the Kindness of Women”.
    Yes, print on paper is irreplaceable, I won’t forget being able to see a Merula: “Placaten ende ordonnancien .. enz” from 1605, at Leiden U, after searching for it for so long, and to hold it in my hands … goosebumps.

  3. Well, your Sony ereader does sound very good. Those additional features are cool too. Glad to see you are stocking up on the other kind of books too. That should see you through the winter!

  4. Andi – I know, I’m a late comer – however, becoming converted very quickly
    Richard – Ballard has been on my tbr pile for a while now and you are convinging me that he needs to come to the top of the pile soon.
    Pete – I am very busy indeed! Why on earth do I set myself such challenges?! Very enjoyable though…


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