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A New Gadget: My Sony Reader

Thursday, January 21, 2010, 21:07 EST Leave a comment Go to comments

Click to view image largerAfter pondering it since last spring, I bought myself an e-reader yesterday. I am a regular reader and live in a small apartment without any space for an expanding library, so it seemed to make sense. The Sony Reader Pocket Edition (PRS-300) is what I got, in silver. I am pleased with the purchase so far.

I chose this model because it is smaller than others and is the most economical for what I need. It usually retails for $200, but with a sale this week, I got $20 off. Even at the original list price, it is still much cheaper than other Sony models and Amazon’s Kindle, mainly because of the smaller size and absence of extra features. More on that in a minute.

I immediately purchased two ebooks from the Reader Store. Compared to the paperback versions, one title cost 7.5% less than Amazon.com and 28% less than my local Borders. The other title was $.30 than Amazon but 30% less than Borders. And keep in mind that with the ebook, I don’t have to pay shipping or sales tax. I also downloaded several classics, books now in the public domain, from free sites. My Reader now contains 22 books for which I paid a grand total of $22.65. It isn’t hard to see that a voracious reader could recoup her money in a relatively short period of time.

The downside is that I’m not sure if ebooks purchased for the Reader can be shared with other digital reader users. I don’t often share books, but someone who frequently refreshes her library by swapping with others might not be able to with an e-reader. I recall this being a problem Amazon’s original Kindle. Also, not all books are available in digital format.

But price and availability aside, I like my initial Reader experience. The device is small, about the size of a paperback but thinner (6¼ x 4¼” x ⅜”) and weighs about 7½ oz (yes, I weighed it). It feels solidly built, with a metal case except for plastic edges at the top, bottom, and right. The power source is a built-in rechargeable battery that, presumably, can’t be replaced. It came with the battery partially-charged, enough for me to be able to fiddle with the settings, load a few books, and try it out with plenty of juice to spare. Internal storage capacity is 440 MB, which might not be enough for people who want to carry their whole library with them rather than storing inactive titles on a computer. It comes with a USB cable for file transfer and charging the battery via your computer or a USB AC adapter; an AC adapter/charger as well as a car charger are available separately. It also comes with a padded nylon protection sleeve; fancier cases of different materials are also available separately.

The screen size is 5″ on the diagonal (3″ x 4″). The screen background is a light greyish and the surface is non-glare. Contrast is good, and clarity isn’t diminished by viewing the screen at even a very severe angle. Presumably, this is a feature of the E-Ink technology most digital readers use. The only time light reflection poses a viewing problem is when you’re viewing the screen at a 90° angle from the light source. I even tried it out this morning walking into work in full sunlight, and it was perfect. If you click on the image to view it larger, what you see is identical to how it looks on the device. The buttons are easy to use.

Text can be viewed in three sizes the smallest of which is still fine for me even without my reading glasses. Orientation can be set to vertical (portrait) or horizontal (landscape), with the text sizes being slightly bigger in horizontal orientation. File formats supported by the Reader are Adobe PDF, Microsoft Word, BBeB Book, EPUB/ACS4, Adobe Digital Editions, and text formats such as .txt files. The software, which gets installed onto your computer from the device itself rather than a disc (or downloadable from the Sony site), is compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems.

Unlike some other more expensive readers, the Sony Reader Pocket Edition doesn’t have wireless capability, audio playback, text-to-voice, touch screen, memory card slot, or lighted screen. My view was that since none of these features were important to me, it wasn’t worth paying more just to get a “better” reader.

The other thing the Sony Reader (and no other digital reader, for that matter) will give you is bookshelves full of physical books. It won’t give you the experience of flipping through the pages. For that reason, some people will never embrace digital readers because they consider the physical book to be one and the same with the work; you can’t have one without the other. I consider a “book” to be the work itself, the assembled words, the story. Whether I am seeing those words on paper or goatskin or pixels on a screen (or hearing them on my mp3 player or car stereo) is immaterial. For me, living as I do in a small apartment, physical books just take up space. Granted, I have some that are special which I will always keep. But otherwise, the Reader is perfect for me.

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