I read a lot of books. Whether they be computer related books, novels, comic books or whatever, I read them. My entire house is filled with books. Everywhere you look in my house there are books and/or magazines. For a few years now, I've been walking around with a Palm Tungsten E PDA. In my PDA, I have a 1GB Secure Digital card filled with various books. Whenever I have a few minutes to kill, I pull it out and start reading. It's a great way to carry books around without taking up much space. However, I've been finding it inconvenient to use lately. Most books these days are in PDF format, and the relatively low resolution of the Palm PDA doesn't make reading PDF files very practical.
I discovered the Sony Reader some time ago. It's a very nice little electronic book reader. It has an 800x600 pixel resolution, monochrome screen. It works with PDF files, RTF files, text files and even MP3 files. It also uses a fascinating new technology called eInk. This basically is a way of displaying text on a screen using essentially NO power! Once the picture is drawn on the screen, it uses no power to maintain the image on the screen. The only power used is to initially redraw the screen. This means that the Sony Reader can literally last thousands of pages without a recharge. Most of the time you are just reading the page, so it uses no power during this time. It comes with some internal memory, allowing you to store a number of books in it's memory. You can also put a Secure Digital memory card into it to store even more books on it. I have a Secure Digital card full of books already. This sounds like the perfect upgrade to my homemade PDA book reader. Unfortunately, it has some deficiencies that I think make it 'not quite there' for me.
First of all, this thing is expensive! It costs $350. That's one expensive book! My Palm PDA only costs about $200 and it does a lot more than just read books. If this thing were about $200, I'd be more inclined to buy it.
Next, it's slow! Page turns on this thing are very sluggish. It can take a couple seconds for a new page to be displayed. That's unacceptable.
Next, is the way is switches pages. It's rather annoying. Whenever you flip pages, the entire screen flashes black for a second, then the text appears. This black flash on every page turn is very disorienting. I would think that the entire screen would go blank between page turns, rather than going entirely black! It would feel more natural that way and I would guess more power efficient too. It must take power to draw the entire screen black before redrawing it with just the text.
Next, is the UI. If you are just reading a book, the UI is obvious enough. It's just the book page. There is a 'next page' button and a 'previous page' button to flip pages. That's about where the UI falls apart. Besides the two page flip buttons, there is a small 'joystick' in the lower right hand corner used for flipping through the menus. You move the joystick up, down, left and right to choose menu items and press the center of the joystick to select things. It's an odd arrangement. If you don't press that joystick just right, you end up pushing it in one of the 4 directions, instead of down. This causes your menu selection to change to the wrong item! There is also an odd little button built into the lower right hand corner of this joystick that is used for some selections. It's all very non-intuitive.
Next, is the screen itself. While I don't mind that it's monochrome (how often do you really need color while reading a book?), it isn't quite right. The resolution is nice and for the most part the text displays quite clearly. The problem is that if text is fairly small, it tends to fade from black to almost a dull gray. This dull grey on the very light grey background is kind of hard to read. You would almost need to read the entire book in a bold font in order to get around this problem.
It's a shame. I really wanted to like this device. It was so close to what I wanted in an ebook reader. If a few small things could get fixed on this device, I could see myself buying one. Unfortunately, it's not quite there yet. Maybe Version 2.0 of this thing will solve these problems, assuming they even make a newer version. Sony just doesn't seem to be doing a very good job with their products lately.