Trying out an e-reader

10 12 2010

"Sony Reader, Touch Edition"I’m not the most technologically-gifted human on the planet and I’m also a big fan of curling up on the couch with a real book. And I hate reading (for pleasure) on a computer screen—my eyes get tired. So in the ebook debate I have been hovering on the fringes, interested, but not rushing out to buy an e-reader.

Then Sony contacted me to ask if I’d like to review one of their Readers. As it turns out, I was very grateful for that Reader—not long after it arrived, I found myself in hospital.

I was sent a Sony Reader, Touch Edition (PRS-650). It arrived with Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children* loaded on it (as well as a few other ebooks that previous reviewers perhaps requested) and my husband loaded a few Jane Austens on to it too (I like some Jane Austen when I’m sick in bed). I gave that Reader a good workout because I couldn’t eat for 10 days and reading was pretty much all I was up to.

I haven’t tested out any other e-readers, so I can’t compare it to others. One of the nurses said another patient had a Kindle but she couldn’t remember which patient, or I might have headed down the corridor for a comparison.

These are my thoughts after using the Touch.

Things I liked:

  • It was a good thickness and weight for me—it fits into my bag with no problem. When reading, it felt similar to holding a book. The screen size was comfortable for me.
  • I could use the stylus or my finger to turn pages. (I preferred to use my finger.)
  • I was surprised to find it quite comfortable to read. I’ve heard many people say that e-readers make for more comfortable reading because they are not backlit like a computer screen. I found it was indeed very much like reading a page of a book and not like reading a computer screen.
  • You could adjust the brightness.
  • You can adjust the size of the text. This was handy because at night I found I liked the text to be much bigger—the light in my hospital room was not great once the sun went down.
  • It has a built-in dictionary.
  • You can bookmark a page by double-tapping the corner of a page, so that each time you turn it on, you can go straight to that page.
  • You can use the stylus to write notes while you read.
  • I had heaps and heaps of books loaded on it. Without an e-reader, I would have had a huge stack of books by my bed.
  • The battery lasted the entire time I was in hospital and longer (over 10 days). In that time I read approximately 7 books.

Things I didn’t like quite so much:

  • It wasn’t QUITE the same as reading a book. I do like the rough papery feel of a book. (A small quibble.)
  • The in-built dictionary was an American one. It had definitions for many common words. Some less common words (when I would want the dictionary) were not recognised by the dictionary. (When I looked up the Sony website it says the Touch has a number of dictionaries on it, but I couldn’t find another on mine.) [Update: in the comments, Marg points out that hers also has 12 dictionaries, so I’m guessing mine did too and I should have searched harder!]
  • I like knowing (by touch) how many pages are left in a book.  (At the bottom of the screen on the Touch you can see how much you’ve read of the total number of pages, but I like to feel how many pages are still to go!)
  • You can’t see the covers of some of the books—there’s just a page of text with the title and author. Some do show the covers, but they are black and white. I confess that looking at a paper book with its cover adds to my reading enjoyment, and I did miss a real cover.

Some other points to mention:

  • The Sony Reader Touch is in black-and-white. That, plus the screen size, means you couldn’t use it for reading picture books. But for novels and books with black-and-white internal drawings, it was excellent.
  • It was quite easy to work out how to use and I enjoyed using it.
  • You can listen to audiobooks on the Touch.
  • You have to connect the Touch (via USB) to your computer to charge the battery and to transfer books.
  • You can get your ebooks from online bookstores and websites. (Tensy Farlow was from Borders.)

After testing the Sony Reader Touch I am more enthusiastic about ebooks. I can’t imagine ebooks ever replacing traditional books at our house but for my hospital stay it was brilliant, and I can see that it would also be handy on a trip or holiday where you don’t want to pack lots of books (or rather you do want to, but have to be careful of luggage weight.) It’s small enough to carry about in a bag—the Touch is much like a thin paperback—so would also be good for times when you find you are waiting around for offspring to finish at school/choir/band practice/sport or to read on train or bus trips.

The upshot: I’m a fan. I’m a bit sad to have to return the Touch to Sony, and would be very happy to find it in my Christmas stocking this year. 🙂

*Yes, I will be reviewing this book here soon.

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12 responses

10 12 2010
Glowless

Awful that you were sick but I bet yours is the most thorough review because of it!

I like the idea of loading heaps of books on there when travelling – I will only ever take one because of luggage constraints, so this would be brilliant.

10 12 2010
boobook

Hi Glowless. And don’t you think that owning one would be a good excuse to book some travel? 🙂

13 12 2010
Marg

This is the e-reader I have and I love it! There are definitely 12 or so dictionaries on it, so if you do happen to get one for Christmas then play around because they are there.

I don’t see e-readers totally replacing real books, but I do like reading from it. My plan is to borrow books from the library to download and read instead of borrowing physical books as well as to buy some ebooks. There will be some books that I will still go out of my way to buy actual books though.

13 12 2010
boobook

I agree, some books I will want to own the paper version but there will be many that I will be very happy to read on an e-reader. And obviously I needed to try harder to sort out my dictionary angst. 🙂 If I get one for Christmas, I will definitely persevere until I find the other 11!

17 12 2010
Michelle Dennis Evans

Great review… I’ve been looking at all of the ebook readers…. can’t get too much information on such a larch investment

30 12 2010
boobook

Hi Michelle—a friend read somewhere that prices are likely to be down a LOT by the end of 2011. And Choice magazine recently did a comparison of lots of different ones, not sure if you can access some of that info on their site if you are not a subscriber, but some articles they put up for general public. (The Sony Touch did well in their article!)

30 12 2010
Colin Wee

Rebecca – I wonder … how would they ensure you return the reader back to them? Colin

30 12 2010
boobook

Just trust! And they pay for the courier to come and get it back. Mine’s gone now. 😦

30 12 2010
Colin Wee

Seems a bit mingy – shouldn’t they just give it to you? After all, you not only reviewed the product, you advertised it, and gave a very good review.

17 01 2011
boobook

Ah, it’s a tough gig, Colin. 🙂 And they couldn’t know if I would love it or hate it when I agreed to review it.

5 08 2011
Angela Kenny

Yes I agree with Colin Wee, they should just give it to you. You went out of your way and reviewed the product and helped them by advertising it also.

17 08 2011
boobook

Thanks for stopping by, Angela. I’m fine about it being a loan, that’s life. 🙂

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