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Confessions of a Reluctant E-Reader Convert

Dear Sony,

redreaderfrontfA couple months after I joined Dear Author, Jane asked me when I would get an ebook reader.   I don’t remember my exact response but I’m pretty sure it included the following:

  • I love the tactile feel of paper.
  • I don’t read a lot of ebooks.
  • I can read on my laptop.
  • E-readers are expensive and I can’t justify the cost.

But Jane is a determined proselytizer, and every few months she’d ask me when I was planning to get an ebook reader.   And just as consistently, I’d spout off one of the aforementioned reasons and continue on my merry dead-tree-reading way.

Eventually, though, she wore me down, or the ebook discussions here on Dear Author did, or I simply grew frustrated with digging through the disorganized ebook folder on my computer and reading long swaths of text on my glossy widescreen laptop screen.   Maybe it was a combination of many factors.   At any rate, I was weighing the pros and cons of a dedicated reading device versus a multifunction device when the partnership with Sony came about.

Because I’m all about preparation, once I knew we were getting Sony Readers, I started researching the PRS-505, looking at user reviews and impressions.   Based on several recommendations, I downloaded both Calibre and ConvertLit and played around with the programs to familiarize myself with them.   I checked different ebookstores, comparing prices, title availability, and formats sold.

I won’t lie.   When it comes to technology, I like knowing what to expect in terms of function, performance, and user experience.   Obsessive?   I never said I wasn’t.   Since I’ve never used — let alone owned — an e-reader before, I wanted to set a baseline from which to gauge my experience.

My Sony Reader arrived the first week of January.   I have one of the red ones.   I didn’t even stop to think when Jane asked us our color preference.   I love bright colors, and I adore the color red.   It was a no-brainer for me.

As for the reader itself, it’s no surprise that Sony makes a stylish product.   I’ve owned a number of Sony electronics.   They’re a company who understands that style is just as important as function.   I see no reason why I have to choose one over the other; I want both.   But even with that expectation, I was struck by how thin and compact the reader was.   I love the fact that I can slide the reader into my purse and tote it around with me.   It’s so convenient and makes reading when I have a moment of downtime easy.   In fact, with the leather cover, it doesn’t even look like an e-reader!   My co-worker saw it and said it looked more like an appointment book than a piece of electronics.

Despite my fondness for overpreparation, however, I’m not one for reading instructions from cover to cover.   I’m comfortable with most electronics and can usually figure out how to use one just by playing around with it for a few minutes.   Yes, I’m one of those people.   My personal philosophy is that you shouldn’t have to read the instruction manual to learn basic functions.   So after I opened the box, I scanned the quick start guide for the three pieces of information I considered crucial: how to turn on the reader, how to turn it off, and how to charge it.   Once I located those things, I tossed the guide aside and hooked the reader up to my laptop.

It took about an hour and a half to fully charge, which wasn’t bad at all. I also want to confirm what everyone says about the battery life.   I usually dismiss what people say about battery life because it’s never accurate and heavily dependent on individual use and settings, but the charge does indeed last as long as they say it does.   Come on, I can’t be the only one who was skeptical, right?

As you might have noticed, I’ve made no mention of the software that came bundled with the reader.   That’s because I didn’t install it.   So for anyone wondering about that, no, you don’t need the included software to use the reader.   I manage my ebook library through Calibre, which sports a tagging functionality that saves me from my hopelessly disorganized self.   I’m not very good at setting up organizational systems and if somehow by some miracle I manage to create one, I’m even worse at following them because I usually forget what parameters I set.   Sad, I know.   The Sony Reader itself sorts loaded ebooks by title, author and date added.   When I add in the tags Calibre lets me notate, I can sort my ebooks into collections by genre and month published (useful to keep me on track for reviewing!)

Everything is just so astoundingly easy.   The button layout is intuitive and they do exactly what you’d expect.   The only thing missing as far as I’m concerned is some sort of feature that lets me mark what’s been read and what hasn’t.   It’s true you can use tags/collections for that but it’s such a basic thing I really did expect something of the sort to be present already.

Since I’m one of those readers who keeps her books as pristine as possible — no spine cracking, no folding papers to mark my spot (that’s what bookmarks are for!), no writing in the book — it turns out I didn’t miss the tactile experience as much as I thought I would.   One of the reasons I was so reluctant to convert was that, having never seen an ebook reader in person, I just couldn’t imagine the difference between a computer screen and an e-reader screen.   But the truth is there’s no comparison.   The e-ink screen really does look like a printed page.   It’s a very difficult thing to wrap your brain around but it’s absolutely true.

Looking back, I can’t help but laugh at myself.   I dragged my feet for so long, refusing to convert, but when I finally got my hands on one and had the chance to use it, I switched without looking back.   Talk about flimsy excuses!   The morning after I received the reader, when Jane asked me what I thought, I replied back with the following email:


In the end, I guess I wasn’t that reluctant after all.   So Sony, thanks for showing this book-loving technophile that an e-reader is not only logical, but ideal and perfectly suited for me.

My regards,

PS – This constant urge to hug and pet my reader is never going away, is it?

Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at [email protected]!


  1. Rae Lori
    Feb 01, 2009 @ 05:46:59

    This constant urge to hug and pet my reader is never going away, is it?

    Probably not! LOL. I still do the same to my Blackberry.

    Welcome to the dark side, Jia! We love converts. Hehe

  2. Danielle
    Feb 01, 2009 @ 06:14:20

    I love my Red Sony too — I love the fact that I can download books in PDF format.

    Now if only the price of book cover with the built in light will come down.

  3. Tae
    Feb 01, 2009 @ 06:40:56

    I also got a red Sony PRS 505 recently at the beginning of January and I’m really liking it. I had an ebookwise reader for about two months previously to test out the ebook thing and realized that I was definitely using it. I love it, except for the impulse buying.

  4. Kristen
    Feb 01, 2009 @ 08:24:49

    I definitely think I’d like to try a reader, but with this economy, spending money on a new gadget just isn’t going to happen for a while. Maybe I’ll get lucky and win one.

  5. J L Wilson
    Feb 01, 2009 @ 08:46:23

    Kristen: go over the The Wild Rose Press — there’s a contest going on for a Sony reader. It runs every quarter, so you’ve got a shot!

    I have a Kindle and an Itouch, and find both to be excellent for reading. I took both with me recently on the Cruise with your Muse, and found the Itouch great for the night (when spouse was sleeping) and the Kindle for the plane. I’m going to a conference in Chicago this weekend and will take both devices plus my Ebookwise since I’m on a panel about e-readers (as in, ‘is epublishing a viable publication option’. Duh.)

    I was talking to a co-worker the other day and he uses a mobile PC and has installed an ereader on it. He no longer buys paper books except for ‘art books’. I can’t remember the last time I bought a paper book … once converted, I was hooked.

  6. Jamie
    Feb 01, 2009 @ 10:24:12

    Ereaders make me SO happy! I have the ereader app on my iPhone, and that is how I read my books! I love that my favorite books are with me where ever I go, and any time I am waiting in line or whatever, I just pop open the reader and read away… I am so glad that they have them!

    I just hope that we can choose one basic format for them and stop worrying about the whole “I bought this book here, so I need to read it with this…”

    I want to be able to buy my books where ever… and I want to be able to read them on whatever I want to!

  7. Amy Wolff Sorter
    Feb 01, 2009 @ 12:54:43

    Hi Jia —

    As I write this, I’m thinking of the piles of books on the floor of my bedroom. Those books are on the floor because my bookshelves are piled high with OTHER books. The further irony is that I write e-books, but don’t have a e-book reader (I’m waiting for them to come down in price a little plus I’m with Jamie — I, too, would like to see a more singular format).

    But I’m thinking — these readers will hold thousands of books digitally, leaving more space on my bedroom floor :-). We’re starting to do this with our CDs and Ipods in our house. Hopefully our next step will be with the books.

    Thanks so much for your thoughts on this.

  8. Jeanne St. James
    Feb 01, 2009 @ 13:38:06

    *Sigh*, I want one so bad. Maybe, one day…

  9. Senca
    Feb 01, 2009 @ 14:50:11

    You know, the whole “I like the feel of a real book in my hands” is a line that is shot out the window once you actually get an e-reader.

    I used to be the same way. There was no way I would be converting to e-books, I liked the smell, look feel of paper books, etc. Yeah, I still like all that, but my e-reader is a thousand times better.

    You’re right about the difference between a computer screen and an e-reader screen. You can’t compare the two.

  10. Kayleigh Jamison
    Feb 01, 2009 @ 15:19:51

    This constant urge to hug and pet my reader is never going away, is it?

    No, it isn’t. :P

    I love my Sony reader with a passion I can hardly describe, and I write passion for a living!


  11. Jessica G.
    Feb 01, 2009 @ 16:30:25

    I say it in every post like this, and I’ll say it again. I *love* my Sony Reader. Those of you who are waiting, check for refurb models, and there are usually a few for sale for good prices on MobileRead’s flea market.

  12. missy_31
    Feb 01, 2009 @ 17:51:18

    I too would really like one but the price is still a little too much for me to justify especially with the economy being as it is right now-

  13. AnneD
    Feb 01, 2009 @ 18:17:44

    Just a thought for those of you longing for a reader…

    I got mine for free (kind of). I used my credit card points that had been sitting there, stacking up and doing nothing. Of course I didn’t get to choose a specific colour, but hey, I got it about 5 days later, and for free. I can’t argue with that.

    So if you have a cc sitting there earning points, check it out!

  14. MaryK
    Feb 01, 2009 @ 20:23:40

    Y’all are wearing me down.

  15. Jessica G.
    Feb 01, 2009 @ 20:53:21

    Oh and apparantly they are 20% off at circuit city (for the liquidation)

  16. West
    Feb 01, 2009 @ 20:58:54

    @MaryK- Yes. This is our plan. We *will* lure the innocent to our side.

    That being said, I second the others. I love my ereader in a ways that’s probably illegal in some states :) Aside from the fact that it’s so pretty and shiny and-by the gods- easier to carry around than a hardcover, I love having multiple books in a small space (so to speak). I’m a fast reader, so it’s great to just pull up another book. And I love that it’s easy to read with one hand- Hey! not like that! MOOG! It was just very convienent when I sliced my palm open and couldn’t really use my left hand for anything, and that included holding a book (sometimes letter openers go horribly wrong, you know?).

  17. Christine
    Feb 01, 2009 @ 21:28:48

    Love love love my Sony e-reader. I have techy friends (since I work in IT, I have a lot of techy friends) who are now considering getting similar e-readers for their moms and grandmas. Buy one, go forth and share the joy :-)

  18. Eve Vaughn
    Feb 01, 2009 @ 22:34:20

    I love my Sony e-reader. I don’t know what I haven’t bought a print book in months.

  19. Kaetrin
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 00:36:47

    I just received my Sony PRS700 reader from the US (via eBay!). I thought the eInk was black writing on a white page, but it looks like black writing on a gray page and the whole thing seems fairly dull. It also looks a bit blurry, like there is some kind of film on the screen. I can’t find any film on the screen to remove however.

    So, can someone tell me, is mine broken or is it supposed to be this way?

    If it’s supposed to be this way, how do I get used to it?

    Help! (please!).

  20. Jessica G.
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 07:46:45

    Kaetrin- the 700 screen is has less contrast and has a glare because of the touch screen. I would read for a while and see if you get used to it.

  21. Jane
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 08:17:10

    @Kaetrin Kaetrin, because of the touchscreen and the front light, the screen does appear to be black on gray. The better your ambient light, the more crisp the display will be. In low light conditions, I almost always have the front light on.

  22. Lynn M
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 10:11:36

    I just finished my first full book read on my PRS505. I admit a couple of times, in the beginning, I’d reach up to turn the page! But all in all, it was a good experience.

    My one complaint – besides my having a hard time tracking down the AC adaptor accessory so I could charge the battery without hooking up to my PC – is that sometimes I would press the page forward button either a little too hard or too long, and the story would skip forward several pages instead of just one. I’d have to page backwards until I could figure out where I’d been. I got so that I’d make a mental note of the page number in case it would happen.

    I made liberal use of the bookmark option, which is so handy when you are reading for little bits of time while in line or waiting for someone.

    Now I’m excited to put more books on it. Saving trees can be so fun.

  23. Jia
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 11:12:03

    @Tae: The impulse buying is probably the most dangerous aspect of having an e-reader. No running to the bookstore. No waiting for Amazon boxes. Pay and download. Plus, no having to worry about finding a place on your overcrowded bookshelf!

    @MaryK: It happens to the best of us. Believe me, I know.

  24. Mia
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 11:26:53

    Hi – I can think of a few options for gals who are thinking they can’t afford a reader:

    1. You do not need a reader to get started in eBooks, just put the software on your computer, whatever it is (eReader or Mobi or Stanza for mobile devices/phones, Microsoftreader or Adobe for PCs and/or Macs. The software downloads are free. (You can also download the Sony reader software to get a desktop version, but I’m not sure how you access the Sony store from it.) Downside/darkside: you will start reading your romances during lunchtime at work!

    2. For mobile reading, I am using a refurbished iPhone from AT&T that cost $99. It works just fine, and this is probably an option for anyone who may be getting ready to upgrade their wireless phone – along with the phone you get a lot of cool free apps, including the Stanza or eReader software which allow you to read books on the iPhone. Downside/darkside: right now phone service HAS to be AT&T.

    3. Valentine’s Day is coming up – noodge someone to buy you any of the portable readers if you can! Sony’s site and both have sales happening. Downside/darkside: new and ongoing temptation to buy a Red Sony one for myself…

  25. MaryK
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 12:45:37

    DRM is pretty effective at preventing me from making impulse buys. So I don’t worry about that. It’s a matter of justifying the expense of an ereader I’ll only use for small press books.

  26. Kaetrin
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 15:56:48

    thanks for the advice ladies.

    My hubby and I tried the reader in various lights last night.

    Turns out I usually read (basically) in the dark – he said that probably says something and I should get a good reading light for the lounge….

    thanks again.


  27. Kaetrin
    Feb 03, 2009 @ 00:37:42

    Just to add to my earlier comment. I took my Sony to work today to show it off and in the office light it was great. So…… SQUEEE!!!!

  28. Jane
    Feb 03, 2009 @ 10:33:17

    @Kaetrin Yeah. Would hate that you spent $$ and it wasn’t the experience that you wanted.

  29. Gail Dayton
    Feb 04, 2009 @ 15:42:31

    Yay, Kaetrin!

    I told my fella I wanted one for Christmas. Didn’t get one–I think he’d already bought my present. But I got Christmas money. So now I have a navy blue Sony 505 reader. (Navy because I don’t see well to start with, and I thought red would be too distracting, and navy would provide contrast.) I am one of those who resisted, first because I couldn’t imagine giving up paper, but mostly–because of cost. The Christmas $$ really helped ease that pain.

    It arrived when I was in the middle of deadline crunch and didn’t have a spare minute to fiddle with it, but as soon as the book got e-mailed off–I had it out plugging it in and reading the excerpts. Took me a little longer to actually buy a book. And I bought 3 my first trip to the Sony store, plus downloaded all the free Harlequins I wanted. (About 9 of them.) I am already seeing the savings in floor space. (Because, like many of you, my TBR books don’t all fit on my designated shelves.)

    I love it. I read STAY THE NIGHT by Lynn Viehl and THE BRIDE’S BABY by Liz Fielding (Harl. Romance) first.

    I have a bad habit of reading while I’m cooking. (I set the book out of reach of splashes!) and I don’t have to wedge the reader under the edge of the microwave or something to keep it open while I peel potatoes. And I can make the print larger so I can see it from farther away. And I can poke the page-turny thing with my pinky finger–or whichever finger is clean–to turn the page. I like that it has page turny things for each hand, so if I’m holding it in my left hand while I stir the gravy, I can poke the button with my thumb. This is me being happy. (Of course, sometimes you just have to shut the cover and go set it on the table and cook…)

    I have a whole list of books I want. I do think it’s poopy that they want to charge hardback prices for some e-books, but I think they’ve got LADY LUCK’S MAP OF VEGAS at a paperback price.

    I buy new books for the most part because I can’t find the books I want to read used. I got a fair number of them at Target, which gives a pretty good discount, but a fair number of the books I want have discounts at the Sony store. So, I honestly don’t think I’ll be spending any More money on books. And maybe, I’ll spend a little less. I’ll certainly have fewer books to store!

    Gail D

  30. GrowlyCub
    Feb 04, 2009 @ 16:59:29

    Okay, all you evil pushers. I caved in and got a silver 505 off ebay as well. Hopefully, it’ll be here by Friday. I told my husband he now doesn’t have to worry about my b-day at the end of the month any more and since I’m going to Portland for Celebrate Romance, I guess I’d better fill it up for that trip. :)

    So, I’m off to read all the stuff about calibre and conversions, etc., because before I buy tons of new books, I want to figure out how to get all my keepers on it. :)

  31. Angela James
    Feb 04, 2009 @ 17:17:07

    Oh dang it, Growly, I have a post set for tomorrow morning with all those pictures! But at least you can still see the comparison and I do think you’ll be happy with the Sony and Calibre.

  32. GrowlyCub
    Feb 04, 2009 @ 17:34:23

    Angela, sorry to have pre-empted you, but you all were singing the Sony’s praise and then the e-bay fever took over, what can I say. :)

    I look forward to reading your post and seeing the pictures.

  33. Angela James
    Feb 04, 2009 @ 17:43:12

    Oh, ha, no worries there, I just wanted to get to them sooner for you!

  34. Malin
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 16:16:47

    I have also given in to temptation and ordered a red Sony Reader on Ebay, which will be getting to me in Norway in a few weeks. I can’t wait. So many good recommendations from DearAuthor and other users.

  35. DG
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 20:16:47

    I have the Sony 700 and really love it but the Sony store does’nt get the new releases as soon as I like. Is it possible to strip the DRM from a Mobi book. I tried the Calibre and really liked the program and it is easy to use but I can’t change the format or is this a no no?

  36. Jia
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 20:21:18

    @DG: You can strip DRM from a Mobi book. I’m not familiar with the process myself since I believe that method requires some knowledge of python, which I’m not familiar with at all. Googling MobiDeDRM might give you some leads on that process though.

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