Feb 1 2009
A 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:
OMG, YOU WERE RIGHT. I WAS WRONG. I AM SO SORRY.
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.
PS – This constant urge to hug and pet my reader is never going away, is it?