Electronic Readers (updated x 2)

I want one. I read gazillions of electronic documents: friend’s manuscripts, pdfs, public domain books etc etc. I would love to have a portable device to read them on. I’ve tried various different reader software on my iPhone, and maybe I’m old, but the iPhone is too small.

The electronic reader I want doesn’t exist. I’ve been reading up on the two main models, the Kindle and the Sony Ereader, and while the Sony has more appeal there are problems. The biggest one being that the touch-screen version is not Mac compatible. Given that my main use for a reader is for manuscripts and research pdfs that’s a huge problem. (My iPhone has made me a touch screen addict.)

The main problem with the Kindle is that they charge you to download your own documents. As that would be my main use for a reader it’s a HUGE problem. Also I am not a fan of being tied to one retailer no matter how good that one retailer is. And this report made me even more nervous about the Kindle than I already was. Someone being able to turn off my library at the flick of a switch? Does not fill my heart with joy. Also they’re really ugly. Yes, that matters to me.

A reader is in the works from Apple. Right now it’s my biggest hope even though it means I’m most likely going to have to wait till 2010 for a non-DRM, versatile, touch-screen reader. Always with the waiting!

I’d be curious to hear from those of you have a Sony ereader. How’s it working for you?

No need to tell me about your Kindle experience nothing would induce me to buy one.

Update: Please stop defending the Kindle. I’m happy that you’re happy with it. That’s lovely. But I have many many reasons for not wanting one. See above linked story about Amazon turning one Kindle owner’s entire library off. Any reader that can be turned off? I don’t want it.

Update the second: Am turning the comments off on account of some really nasty trolling. Who knew people could get so heated about readers?


  1. Maureen Johnson on #

    I have someone sitting here RIGHT NOW with a Sony Reader. He says: “It’s got no wifi, unlike the Kindle, so it relies on USB. But that isn’t really a big problem. The screen is good, the battery life is good. It’s incredibly slow at formatting things with pictures in. One of my books sometimes takes two minutes to turn the page because of the formatting and picutres, so basically it’s unreadable. Overall, though, it’s been really positive. It’s easy to buy books and get them on to the device, it can play MP3s. To save shelf space and trees, I’ve decided to buy only ebooks now (apart from books with lots of pictures in).”

  2. Phiala on #

    I have an eBookwise. For fiction, it’s great. No (or minimal) problems getting txt, html, and such on it, including on a Mac. It’s an older reader, so LCD instead of eInk, but only $120 or so. And I like the LCD, since I can read it in the dark. (Under the covers, camping, etc.)

    NONE of the available readers work well for technical PDFs. If you can’t just extract the text from a PDF, you need to turn it into images, chop it into chunks that fit on the small screen. A pain, and doesn’t work well anyway. The Irex Illiad has a larger screen, and is the only one of the current crop that is even marginally acceptable for PDFs, but is $700 or thereabouts.

    Several different 10″ readers are anticipated for later this year. Those will finally be big enough to read full-page PDF files. Features are still a bit speculative at the moment. mobileread.com is a great place for the latest news on readers. If one of these larger models actually appears, and does anything like what the manufacturers are claiming, and is even marginally affordable, I’ll be buying one.

  3. Phiala on #

    Oh… completely unrelated to eBooks, or to much else either:

    Every time I mention you, Nick asks if you own a crossbow, and I have to admit that I do not know.

    So: Do you own a crossbow? Or have at least fired one a few times?

    (And do other people ever ask you that???)

  4. Sarah Olson on #

    “The main problem with the Kindle is that they charge you to download your own documents.” This is only true if Amazon sends the document to your Kindle email address. It’s free if they send it to your regular email, after which you can use USB to transfer it to your Kindle. Or, you can use the free Mobipocket Creator app to convert them yourself (from PDF or Word). I convert all my documents using that app, and for the most part it works great.

  5. Yanni Kuznia on #

    I love my Sony eReader! I was a skeptic at the beginning because I love the feeling of pages in my hand and because if it was anything like reading on a computer, my eyes would get buggy and burn. However, the screen they use (it’s call eInk or something, but don’t quote me) is very readable, much like reading a physical book. It’s quite easy for me to upload .rtf files , which are what we use for manuscripts at SubPress, and although they don’t render great, .pdfs as well, with the USB cable that comes with the reader. The .pdf rendering is going to be an issue no matter what ereader you have, as it is a proprietary software issue.

    And as I travel a not insignificant amount (although nowhere near as much as you!) the fact that I can carry 100+ books with me and they take up a fraction of the space of a hardcover is very very appealing to me. It also has a very nice leather cover for the style-conscious.

    Supposedly, the newest model allows you to do text mark-up with is also very appealing as well as other bells and whistles that I’m not terribly knowledgeable with since I have the two-year old model.

    I’ve also read smaller files on my Blackberry Storm. Not my preferred way of doing things, but it works in a pinch.

  6. Julia Rios on #

    I followed Colleen Lindsay’s Sony e-reader saga, and decided that even if I wasn’t a Mac user, ultimately I needed to wait for something a bit different.

    The Kindle doesn’t meet my needs because, like you, I read a lot of .doc and .rtf files from friends, etc. I’ve heard that Amazon will be upping the cost of downloads on those soon from 10 cents per document to 15 cents per megabyte, and honestly, I can’t see paying hundred of dollars for a device that charges me extra to put my own documents on it.

    The Iliad is what all my geek friends are drooling over, but I don’t know anyone who actually has one, so I can’t say how good it is in practice.

  7. Regina Doublemint on #

    Wait, do other Kindle users actually get charged for the .doc downloads? I’ve never been charged and I’ve done hundreds!

  8. Justine on #

    Thanks so much for all the really informative responses.

    But could you please stop defending Kindle. Is a waste of your time and mine. I’m not going to buy a device that has DRM files.

    Phiala: Thanks for the mobileread.com suggestion.

    (No, I own no weapons. And have never fired a crossbow.)

    Julia: I shall investigate the Iliad. First glance it looks a bit chunky. Yes, I am shallow. I want a reader that’s pretty!

  9. Jim Reardon on #

    There’s a bit of mis-information on the kindle’s handling of other document types. Just like any other e-reader you can put your own documents on the kindle via USB for free (and it works fine with the Mac, it’s what I use).

    They only charge if you want to WIRELESSLY transmit documents to the kindle; something that’s not even an option on other e-readers. You don’t have to do that, though.

    If it’s not in a natively supported format, you can convert it yourself (calibre is a nice ebook manager that will sync your ebooks, manage them, and convert them to kindle-friendly format) and then load them over USB. That’s free.

    Or you can email the document to kindlename@free.kindle.com and Amazon will convert them and email them back to your email as an attachment. Then you load it up via USB and you’re set. Completely free.

    The bit that they charge for is if you email to kindlename@kindle.com it converts the file then transmits it over the air to your kindle. So you don’t have to be at home, or near a computer. Just inside the USA (I think). They charge $.15 for this convenience, per document.

    You’re also not tied into one retailer. Amazon kindle supports standard Mobipocket books. I believe it does not support DRMed (locked) books from other vendors, though, without extreme fiddling. But if the books are DRM free, you can buy them anywhere.

    Again though, the pro with the kindle is if you *DO* purchase from amazon the books just automatically appear on your device in seconds (you can also shop from the device). It also supports snagging free samples of any ebook they sell. [Again, auto-delivery I believe is only in the USA].

    Sorry if that sounded like a huge commercial. Surprisingly I don’t work at Amazon, I just really like my Kindle.

  10. Jim Reardon on #

    Ooop well upon reload my reply was poorly timed!

    (Not all Kindle docs are DRMed, it’s up to the publisher).

  11. Phiala on #

    Real-people reviews say that the Iliad is close, but not there yet as a research tool (what I want, for reading my ridiculously large collection of science journal articles).

  12. Phiala on #

    Ack! It spontaneously posted my incomplete comment. mobileread.com is a good place for reviews and discussion as well.

    Justine, do you know why I asked about the crossbow? I sort of assumed you’d know, but I _do_ realize that not everyone lives with a medieval weapons geek…

  13. Justine on #

    Jim: Kindle is now in the moderation file. No more comments about it will appear. But to repeat: I do not want a device that can have its contents remotely turned off by someone else.

    Phiala: I’d love to hear from an Iliad user.

    Yes, I know what my surname means!

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