Dear (ebook) reader

My wife asks me to put the following issue to the enlightened denizens of LiveJournal. Since I don’t know any, I’m asking you lot.

For some time now (and specifically after seeing them on The Gadget Show) Janet has been considering getting an ebook reader.

You must understand that my wife reads a lot of books. She owns a lot of books. She owns a lot of books she hasn’t even read. She and books share an understanding. She even makes books. It’s not that she wants to replace books.

However she does think that it would be cool to download books: it would save on shelf space, and it would be handy when going on holiday. Now that ebook readers use ‘e-paper’ that doesn’t flicker or tire the eyes but looks just like printed text on a page, she’s getting really tempted. It’s this Sony model which has caught her eye.

On the plus side it looks decent, is small and light, gets good reviews and supports a variety of formats including the new standard “epub” file, audio and image files. Waterstones are promoting it and if she orders it by 3rd September you get 500 bonus points. They’ll have more than 25,000 ebooks to buy from September. She could download new books instantly, and cart them around. Plus she’d be living in Teh Futur.

On the down side it’s still pretty costly (circa £200), and the technology is still in its infancy so it could quickly become out of date (e.g. although it can display images the screen is currently only black and white). Also the files seem to generally come with DRM restricting how you can use them — i.e. a max of six devices — which seems like it goes against the spirit of a book. Most worrying of all, there are proprietary formats it can’t play (including Amazon Kindle) so you can’t necessarily just download ebooks from the US where they are plentiful. This last one is really what’s made her stop and think.

Personally I suspect that I’d love to own one of these but I’d never actually use it. I’m also incredibly materialistic and like having shelves full of *things*. I still buy CDs, even though I immediately convert them to mp3. I’m also not keen on the inverted “negative” image you get for a moment whenever the page changes, which can be seen on this video.

Opinions and anecdotes gratefully received. She’ll probably ignore you and do what she was going to do anyway, but you never know…

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