Thursday, October 26, 2006

Products I Love XX

I got my Sony Reader in the mail while I was at the Forrester Consumer Forum in Chicago. I ordered it at the end of September, was distressed by the back order, and was thrilled to get it so soon -- I expected it next month.

It's been a long time since I've felt the technolust I experienced upon learning about this ebook. (I was a little late to Scott's mention.)

What do I like? The form factor, primarily. The Reader is about the size of a half-standard Moleskine notebook and might weigh just slightly more. I also love E Ink's display technology. It's readable by ambient light, not backlit, which is much more human and natural. And I like the idea of being able to carry hundreds of books in my day bag -- rather than the two or three I usually tote around.

What do I dislike? Not being able to highlight text and annotate, which I do actively in "real" books. I also dislike the bookmark procedure. As far as I know, there's no way to delete bookmarks on the Reader itself, just in the PC-only (Were I not using a Thinkpad for work, I'd not have bought this.) desktop or laptop software. So I see myself accumulating more bookmarks than I need on the Reader as I read; I'm not sure if new bookmarks should replace old bookmarks in the same text, but there you go.

The Reader comes preloaded with some full texts -- 1984, for one! -- and a whole bunch of excerpts to tempt you to load up in Sony's online ebook store. So far, I've spent most of my new-purchase $50 allowance -- Freakonomics and The World Is Flat, which I've restrained from buying (This is the perfect way to read these books, I think.); Digital Hustlers, a history of Silicon Alley; and East Coast Rising, a manga about an underwater New York. Based on my read so far of the latter, I'm not convinced the Reader is good for high-resolution artwork -- some lines get dropped or distorted -- but it's good enough to read, if not to repurpose.

I've also returned to Project Gutenberg, which I think will be a mainstay. I've grabbed a 1920s history of the United States, Thoreau's Walden, and the King James Bible.

The Reader feels brilliant. And it's a good step forward for ebooks. We'll see if it catches on.

Cautionary tale: This afternoon, I went for a walk to see C., whom I haven't seen for several days. When we hugged, it got dislodged from under my arm, and fell to the sidewalk. The Reader didn't break. It got dinged, yes. On Day One of owning my new Reader, I scratched the matte-black surface in several places. But it didn't break, I lost no data, and I have anecdotal data that if dropped from waist height, the Reader will be OK. That's good engineering. (I still don't recommend it.)

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