Now that I've had a couple of months to play around and get a better feel for it, it's review time!
For the moment, let's put the comparison to
Full disclosure: I'm a fan of gadgets. There are many people out there far more cutting-edge than I, but I have my iPod and my digital camera. My cell phone can flip around and be used as a keyboard for texting. The oooh-shiny factor for this is certainly high.
It's lightweight - just a bit bigger than a mass market paperback - and slim enough that I keep it in my purse. The interface is pretty self-explanatory, and the type is easy on the eyes. It's not like you're reading stark black-and-white words off of a computer screen. The font size can be increased or decreased to make reading easier.
You can bookmark pages in what you're reading, but at the moment there's no way to jot down your own notes about why you bookmarked whatever it was.
It can store a lot of books at once. So, if you're going on a trip and don't want to pack five different books into your carry-on (because you might finish this one, or not be in the mood for that one right now, or you only have a hundred pages left in your current one and your husband has been known to steal the backup book because he finished his first, leaving you with nothing but Skymall until he drifts off and you can steal it back from his sleeping grasp...), the Reader is a good way to carry a lot of books without lugging around your own weight in fiction.
There's an option to organize your books into collections - perhaps you want to keep the horror from touching the romances, or you have books you're reading for pleasure and books you're using for research. The program you use to transfer books from your computer to the eReader allows you to arrange them in whatever groupings make you happy.
The battery is supposed to last about 7,500 page turns before it needs recharging. I find mine to be draining much faster than that, closer to every 1,000. However it doesn't take that long to charge back up.
There are two different spots that control pageturning, one in the bottom left-hand corner and another along the right-hand edge of the reader. Most of the time, these are where your fingers or thumbs rest naturally when you're holding it. Unfortunately, I have a subway commute that occasionally forces me into strange, pretzel-like contortions so I can keep reading while everyone's shoving for space. It's times like those I wish there was one more pageturning button up near the top of the device.
For reading manuscripts my company is publishing, it's a nifty tool and it cuts way down on the amount of photocopying and distributing we've done in the past. I used to have shelves full of forthcoming books, some of which I might never get around to reading all the way through. Recycling them always brought a pang of guilt for the waste of paper. Now, I can go ahead and download those same manuscripts onto the eReader, and if I don't finish something, no trees were sacrificed for my fickleness.
But how does it compare to reading a real book?
As portable as it can be, as "green" as the device is, it is not the same as holding a book in my hand. Reading is as much a tactile experience as it is a mental one. There's something to be said for the feel of pages at your fingertips and the weight of a book in your lap.
If I fill it up, I will eventually have to delete old titles to make room for new ones. If I want to go back to something I've removed, I either have to download it (and pay for it!) again, or at least hook the device up to my computer and transfer the file back over. With bound books, you can simply pluck something off your bookshelf to find a line you want to quote, or a single chapter you want to reread.
Sometimes, it breaks.
No, really. It gets touchy. Several times I've had it hooked up to my computer to charge the battery or to add/remove titles, and after shutting it down and properly removing the hardware, it doesn't want to start up again. It will sit at the loading screen, frozen, the books I want to read completely inaccessible unless I can find a paperclip, a pin, or the back of an earring to push the tiny reset button imbedded in the back of the Reader.
Maybe other people carry paper clips and pins around with them. I don't; I was a crappy Girl Scout. And while my ears are pierced, on a normal day I'm probably not wearing earrings. So, when I get to the train station and the eReader hangs, floundering as it tries and fails to boot itself up, I am essentially left bookless on my hour-long ride home. Paper-and-ink books don't fail you like that. Nor do you have to remember to bring a cord with you to recharge them should they run out of battery power in the middle of your trip.
And, the thing that will always, always make bound books trump any kind of e-reader for me:
You can't share the majority of the books you download to your Sony Reader, or your Kindle, or any other electronic reader with your friends. How many times have you loved a book so much, you press it into someone's hands and say, "You must read this?" There are at least three people reading this blog whom I've done it to, and who have done it to me in return.
The books coming out from most of the larger publishers come with DRM restrictions. You can't port your e-book over to your friend's reader. I suppose you can let your friend borrow your eReader (if you each have $300 to spend on one), but then what are you going to read in the meantime?
DRM is another rant in and of itself, which I'd like to address in the future. However, the author of the book I'll be reviewing this Friday nails it in the intro to his latest (DRM free!) book. I'll be cutting and pasting bits of that as part of the review - what he says before the story even starts is just as important as the story itself. (And the fact that I'm reading it DRM-free might tip some of you intarwebz-savvy people off as to which book it is, or at least which author, but for now, you'll have to remain in suspense.)
But, as it relates to the Sony Reader, unless publishers lift their DRM restrictions and allow customers to pass along the e-Books to friends, it threatens to strike a harsh blow to word-of-mouth recommendations. In these days of $25.00 hardcovers, how likely is it that someone will take a chance on a book that a friend recommended that they haven't even flipped through? Consider instead - if I lend you a book and you love it, you are likely to go buy a copy of that book yourself, to keep. Then, since you are now familiar with that author - since you trust that author - you will also pick up his/her next book on your own when it comes out.
All the flash and sparkle of the eReader dims when you realize that that goes away, all because of DRM.
So, my final verdict - the Sony Reader is a great tool as far as work goes, but for replacing regular books in your leisure time? No thank you. I'll keep the walls of my rooms lined with full bookshelves and suffer the sore shoulder from the books weighing down my carry-on bag, thank you very much.