Thursday, January 12, 2006

Sony Reader

So Sony has unveiled it's new e-book reader. It's new technology that is easy on the eyes and holds hundreds of hours of battery life. And, unlike the Japanese incarnation, they're allowing more than just the DRM protected files they offer. You can upload PDFs to the machine.

The price tag will be steep: $349.99. But then, the iPod I got for Christmas cost over $300. And I love reading, a lot. Wouldn't it be worth that much to me?

Now obviously, I don't want to jump at this thing with out getting some more information. I want user reviews and details on its use and exactly how I can get those PDFs to work. Also, I want to see what the competition is. There are a couple of other ereaders on the way that sound very exciting. I don't want to jump on Sony's bandwagon without hearing about the others. One of them is the Iliad from iRex. The iRex also notes it will support multiple formats and allow you to "write comments, mark or underline sections, for a true two-way paper experience." The third reader is from Jinke, called the Hanlin. It also claims to support multiple formats, including TXT, HTML and PDF.

The fact that probably the biggest name in electronics is getting behind a good ereader is good news to me. It means more to come. People are trying to make this thing work.

I want an ereader so I can then go to Project Gutenberg or Black Mask Online and pick out all kinds of public domain and out of print works and read them at work, waiting in line, or laying in bed. Whatever. I want it and I want it bad.

This makes me think about the portability of books. This is what makes mass market paperbacks and small hardcovers great, you can throw them in a jacket pocket or a bag and read them anywhere. But nowadays, most books I want to read come out in massive trade paperbacks and normal sized hardcovers. I want small books to carry around!

But the ereader solves that problem, by allowing you to put numerous books (and even better, short
stories! Imagine having all of SciFiction on a single device.) in one place in an easily portable package.

Ed Champion had a post about the Sony Reader in which he complains that the ereader will try to "supplant the reading experience." He says:

To me, reading involves stopping, perhaps writing key passages in a notebook, or rereading a particular paragraph or two, and sometimes skipping around. An academic or a student, for example, couldn’t compile information without this technique. Now that the sensation of flipping between, say, page 6 and page 125 has been lost, I’m wondering if the Sony Reader will cause the retention of information to dwindle. Assuming it succeeds, will the Sony Reader create a new generation of otiose readers?
I don't think so. First of all, why would an ereader limit you from stopping and rereading? Or even skipping around? I'm pretty sure these things would operate with page numbers, so you could flip from page 6 to page 125. Even if it doesn't I would be surprised if there wasn't some bookmarking program involved to let you jump back to key paragraphs. (It's certainly something that should be looked at when the product is released.)

And similarly why couldn't you write key paragraphs in a notebook? You couldn't write anything on the page, but I don't do that anyway. To me, I can't see Champion's complaints actually being a problem.

Anyway, I'm going to try and keep up with the news about these products. By spring, maybe I can have my own ereader.

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