e-readers: which one?

Last month I asked if e-readers were all the rage. I wanted to know pro’s and con’s of owning them and using them to read. There were many helpful comments, but I’m still undecided. So, a poll:

Keep in mind that this is being considered from the point of view of reading manuscripts in a way that will decrease the back-breaking aspect of it. So, factors like note-taking and ability to port from computer to e-reader and back, have some weight.

Do feel free to comment on your choice, even if you pick “none of the above.”

I think, at least for the moment, I’m still something of a romantic about reading for pleasure and will continue to buy dead trees.

45 responses to “e-readers: which one?

  1. I’m still using my nine-year-old Rocket eBook Pros.

  2. actually, we’ve already got a Kindle2 — once you get past the initial idea that it’s not a paperback, you stop noticing that it’s electronic. It’s not like reading off a computer screen. Quite enjoyable, in fact, and it’s been awfully damn hard to pry it out of my wife’s hands long enough to use it myself.

  3. I like paperbacks myself. 🙂

  4. I answered “none of the above” not because I’m totally opposed to reading on a screen, but because I have an iPhone and would rather read on that than get an additional device. I’m not sure if I’d read novels on it, but I do read short stories in webzines that way.

  5. If you’re using it mainly for full or partial manuscripts, I don’t see any reason to choose the machine that charges you for converting documents, so I voted for the Sony PRS-700.
    Plus, there’s the shocking part where Sony is the one with the reader that uses the open standard and can be bought from more than one merchant.

  6. I have a Kindle, which I find extremely useful for reading manuscripts on. I voted for the Kindle 2.
    The one disadvantage with my Kindle is that it’s very hard to make notes on it; this may be different with the Kindle 2 or with a different brand of e-reader. Porting stuff back and forth between the Kindle is extremely convenient for me. I just e-mail the manuscripts to my Kindle. And if I ever want to, I can hook it up to the USB port on my computer too.
    ~Jenny Rappaport
    The Rappaport Agency

    • As I understand it, you get charged $.10 every time you convert a document that way. Is that in fact the case? Or have they recently made it a free service?

      • I have never been charged. I’ve sent hundreds of documents to it.
        And anyway, any charges would be tax deductible as a business expense.

      • You get charged the $.10 fee ONLY if you want it delivered wirelessly to your Kindle. There’s an alternate addy you get that does a free conversion; you can then transfer to the Kindle using a USB cable.
        This is, without a doubt, the most common misconception about the Kindle. No one seems to know about the free option.
        From Amazon.com’s Kindle product page:
        “If you are not in a wireless area or would like to avoid the fee, you can send attachments to “name”@free.kindle.com to be converted and e-mailed to your computer at the e-mail address associated with your Amazon.com account login. You can then transfer the document to your Kindle using your USB connection.”

  7. Keep in mind that this is being considered from the point of view of reading manuscripts in a way that will decrease the back-breaking aspect of it.
    I am voting ‘none of the above’ and vote for an ObamaBarry Curve or an iPhone — my reason for being: you can check email, save files, read files, make notes (though, maybe not as swiftly as you’d like to…). My only concern would be formatting issues with the small screen (it may break formatting outside a standard .txt file).
    Looking at the potential market longevity of your readers above, I would pick the Kindle 2 — you may want to give a ping to or check out her blogsite Spontaneous Derivation if you haven’t already. She all…ALLL about Kindles but gives a fair review of their pros and cons.

  8. I just still can’t quite justify, myself, that the Kindle currently costs *more* than what I paid for my netbook. If you want to be able to take notes and read regular documents as opposed to Kindle versions of books… well, I actually really like my Asus 1000HE. Battery lasts about seven hours with typical usage, list price is only a little more than the Kindle and there are some places with good MS Live Cashback rebates. It functions as a real computer, fits in a cute small tote I got from Target (with room for wallet/keys/mouse etc besides), and you can switch the screen orientation sideways for easier reading. But I think the only real way to choose these kinds of things is to find someone to let you try theirs out; what works great for one person won’t necessarily fit another’s habits.

    • what e-book software are you using with your Asus? I haven’t liked any of the Linux ones, but I would love to be able to read books on it!

      • Mine is Windows XP, and basically any normal software that runs on XP works just fine. Most of what I read on the computer lately is PDFs, though, or occasionally plain text, so I don’t use any particular software at the moment.

    • I considered just loading things on my laptop, but find that I can’t read whole manuscripts on-screen easily. Short outlines are fine but past that doesn’t go as smoothly. It seems the e-ink has a real advantage in that respect.

      • That’s where so much comes down to needing to try something personally. Probably because I’ve been using computers since forever for wayyy too many hours a day, the backlight doesn’t bother me, but I can certainly see why some people don’t care for it. 🙂

  9. I’m still holding out for PlasticLogic.
    http://www.plasticlogic.com/product.html
    (failing that, I’d go Sony for the not-being-locked-into-Amazon aspect.)

    • I agree it is tres tres tres nifty sounding. But I was hoping to have something before 2010.
      Plus there’s no price point listed. Which has to be a factor.

  10. I was one of those people who couldn’t imagine reading mostly on an e-reader, but then I succumbed to the lure of the Sony 505 for travel, thinking I’d stick with paper books at home.
    I LOVE my Sony. I can adjust the font size and I’ve been reading mostly on the e-reader, even at home. I picked up a new paperback last week and mentioned to my husband how inconvenient it is to have to hold it open all the time and how tiny the print is. I’m still surprised at myself! Paper books are more convenient if you just want to quickly thumb to a particular scene, but otherwise the Sony wins hands down.
    The Sony 505 doesn’t have note taking ability, so that wouldn’t be so useful for you, but I love the clarity of the e-ink, which isn’t as good with the 700 due to the touch screen.
    I won’t buy a Kindle because I don’t want Amazon to have control over my e-books and since any files you want to send to it are converted by Amazon, I’d be worried about what they might do with the files you send them.

  11. I don’t have a Kindle, but my friend gave me the grand tour of hers. The thing is light and compact, the text really looks like paper and ink, and it’s got features for note-taking. It looked pretty darn awesome to me. The note taking might not be exactly what you’re looking for to edit manuscripts, though. I guess it depends on how extensive your notes are.

  12. I have a Kindle 2, and I do a lot of document reading on it, not just books. I know it has the capacity to take notes, but I’m not sure how they show up in the document – I’ve never used it for that.
    You can mail yourself docs (at you@free.kindle.com) to have them converted to Kindle format for free – Amazon converts them and sends them back to your email address, then you download them to the kindle via USB. Or, you can email them to a different kindle address (you@kindle.com) for $.10 per doc, and Amazon will send them wirelessly to your kindle, without the stop in your email inbox. I’ve only tried this with text files and html files, and it works like a charm. I’m not sure how it will serve for Word docs. Supposedly PDFs work too, but I think that’s still in an experimental phase.
    There are also various freeware programs you can use to “kindle-ize” your own documents – Stanza for the mac is fabulous, I use it all the time. I know there are windows programs too, but I’ve never used any.
    Short form – I recommend the Kindle 2. You’ll love it for reading, it’s easy and light and it’s got to be better than lugging a laptop or a bunch of manuscripts around. My only reservation is the note-taking part. Hope this helps!

  13. I want to hold a book in my hands, feel the pages as I turn them, and cherish placing it upon the shelf of my home library when I have finished reading it. The spines are a rainbow of colors celebrating reading, literacy, and knowledge.
    In our house, books read are like badges of honor. Friends and family judge and get to know us as they scan the titles. We discover common ground when they pause to comment on a shared reading.
    I vote for none of the above.
    Lisa Iriarte

  14. I answered “none of the above”, but I imagine that my answer would change over the next few years — the Kindle 2, for instance, isn’t quite what I’m looking for, but I expect that the Kindle 4 or 5 probably will be.

  15. For me, I would buy none of the above. I have an iPhone. I like it. (I think there are even some for-pay apps which allow note-taking, if not portability.)
    For you… I don’t know enough about the abilities of the others; I’ve heard decent things about all of them, and the Kindle does the automatic “can read on both” trick. (Though it requires a swipe to turn pages, and not a tap; I hope they will fix that soon.)

  16. Hey, Jennifer –
    I use a Sony PRS 505 for manuscript reading and it’s super easy on the eyes. I can load about 50 partial on it and still have room for 30 full manuscripts. (Not that I’d ever have that many at one time but…) I keep a little Moleskine notebook with it to make notes.
    A friend of mine (another agent) has the 700, and the screen isn’t as clear because of the overlying touchscreen film and backlight. Not as much contrast.
    Good luck and let us know what you decide.
    Colleen

  17. Don’t think I saw this mentioned, but this June at the Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple has mentioned there will be a big announcement. Rumors are it could be about the new Mac Tablet, netbook or the mega iPod, any of which could function as eReaders.
    The iPhone may have too small a screen to function well to read manuscripts, but Apple will be releasing something larger that uses the same apps as the iPhone.

  18. It isn’t a e-reader per say, but I have a Nokia n810 which I use to read PDF’s. One thing I do like are the flowed PDF’s, which let me scale it up really big for my poor blurry eyesight.

  19. I like the act of owning and carrying real, physical books. I don’t have to charge them: they don’t have batteries that can die, after all. If I lose one it costs at most 15-20 bucks to replace. More books I like are available this way, too. I can go browse at a bookstore and find new authors. The act of browsing is wildly diluted on the internet–it’s only for going to buy something I know I want. I appreciate aspects of ebooks but I still cast my lot with the print books.
    But I love the internet writing movement exampled by Bear/Monette/Bull/etc’s “Shadow Unit” and Warren Ellis/Paul Duffield’s “Freakangels” among other things. Cory Doctorow’s “Little Brother” is another good example. Free books on the net are a wonderful idea. They don’t detract from print sales, as numbers have shown. (Even Neil Gaiman has done this.)
    I occasionally will get e-books for my PC, but I prefer the paper copies. And I’ve used e-readers; I simply don’t like them. I love my MP3 player. It’s handy. But I never need to carry around my whole damned library with me anywhere, especially not in an expensive format I could easily break or lose. They’re also too transient: think about how many new e-readers have come out recently. I’m okay replacing a game system every now and then. Having to reupload/redownload/etc my WHOLE LIBRARY is sort of insane. I buy too many books for that. (Note, I actually prefer PC screens to E-reader screens for my eyes. I have very bad vision.)
    For the record, I’m barely 19. I’m firmly a child of the data generation; I own a netbook, a laptop and two desktops for various purposes. I do all my writing on the PC. I just don’t see the necessity of e-readers for me or anyone else I know. Of course I also work in a bookstore and get discounts on all paper books. So.

  20. I got a Kindle2 as a gift and love it. I haven’t worked out how the document translating thing works, but someone already explained it so there you go! I get really bad eyestrain so the eink is great for long reading sessions.

  21. I voted none of the above. I have an Ipaq handheld device that I use constantly. I can move files directly to it via the active sync or an SD card, as either text files, rtf, or word docs (Word converts them on the desktop for you to save space or you can read them straight up). It will hold a full address book from Outlook, sync email, notes, and excel files, as well as favorites for wireless access. It does wireless and blue-tooth and I think there is a phone version as well.
    I can also listen to music, work with html files, there is a nice variety of programs you can install, and view pictures. It will copy tasks and also convert and sync any files dropped in a dedicated directory.
    The version I have will read SD and CF cards so I can have up to 1-2 gig of additional memory and file space. There is an application to convert Word files to be read in MS-Reader, and you can install Adobe and view PDF’s. When I’m traveling I have a bluetooth keyboard that I can use to work in the on board Word application.
    I’m not sure what the current prices are as my Ipaq is about four years old and as long as it doesn’t suffer any unfortunate accidents should be good for quite a while yet. I think I paid right about $400 for it. It lives in a Rhino Skin aluminium case and I highly reccommend those as well. My husband had to hammer dents out of my case after one of my kids threw it down the stairs but the Ipaq survived the fall without a scratch!

  22. With the amount of books I’m sent for review, I am getting to the stage where I am starting to think that one would be handy as I hate to read at the PC, but they are all FAR FAR too expensive, and so far, not waterproof. When the technology improves (and it will) as it did for phones and you can pick a cheap one up for £20, then I’ll indulge.

  23. I read books on my laptop and Nokia N810 internet tablet.
    I especially appreciate DRM free books. It’s so nice to be able to give someone a book and say “You’d like this”.

  24. I’m anti ereader. THere is just something so much better about having a bound book in your hands. I can’t trade it off for another electronical device.

  25. I have a Kindle. Having a keyboard to make comments was important to me. The Sony eReader doesn’t have one.
    The keyboard on the Kindle is not as easy to use as a real keyboard, though I find it easier than phone text messaging, because at least each letter of the alphabet has it’s own key.
    When making comments as a beta reader on friends’ mss, I still found myself keeping my remarks to one or two words, because of the hunt and peck method. If I’d been at a regular keyboard, I would have written more.

  26. I go with “none of the above” because there is not yet an e-reader that I think is worth the price. (Please note, however, I don’t have to read manuscripts for a living, so the value to you is probably greater than to me, who is perfectly happy with an $8 paperback or a library book.)
    My requirements for a reader that I would buy:
    1. e-ink, such as the sony reader and kindle have.
    2. Downloadable…everything. Books, newspapers, magazines, and my own files (PDF or text) at the very least. Ability to access the internet in general would be greatly preferred, but probably not practical given my point #6.
    3. Facing pages, each at least 4″ wide x 6″ high.
    4. Overall thickness no more than half an inch when folded (facing pages, see).
    5. Reasonable durability. I’m not asking for it to be waterproof, but let it survive a fall from four feet onto concrete easily. Requiring a slim case for this degree of durability would be acceptable.
    6. All this for less than $100. Because honestly, that’s what keeping me from a Kindle right now. $350? Are you f—ing kidding me?
    I would add:
    7. Ability to make notes on the pages with a stylus. For that, plus general internet accessibility, plus all of the above, I would be willing to go to $350. That changes the device from a reader to a general communications tool. I know that the Kindle 2 has some interactivity, but since it doesn’t have everything else I want (compact size, facing pages), it’s not worth it to me.

  27. I actually own the PRS-505. Except for the annoyance of having to convert e-books already bought for the Mobipocket platform (and other platforms), I love it.

  28. My vote would be “depends”. I think which ereader depends on the user and their needs. I have: an iPhone, an Asus Eee, Kindle 1 and 2, Sony 505 and 700, Ebookwise. Yes, all of those, and I’ve used them all as ereaders so I think I can speak pretty knowledgeably about the pros and cons of each. I’m happy to answer any questions without prejudice to any of them to help choose the right one. I do have my personal favorite but I fully recognize that what’s right for me isn’t right for someone else. I answer a lot of questions about the diff. readers for diff. people for that reason, and they’ve all chosen what works for them, not necessarily what I prefer.
    My offer is open to anyone wanting to buy an ereader, not just Jennifer.
    angelajameseditor AT gmail.com

  29. Sony 505
    Didn’t see this mentioned earlier, but I’m inattentive this morn, so — If you snag a Sony, go for the 505. The later model’s touchscreen feature make the text a wee bit less crisp, so I’ve heard. We here at SubPress have been reading manuscripts on Sonys for well over a year — we take notes on paper by writing down a searchable phrase and a few keywords to remind us of what we want to remember.
    I don’t like to read 4-5 books in a row on the e-reader, but I’ve found mine indispensable.
    Bill
    http://www.subterraneanpress.com

  30. E-books
    I bought a Kindle 1 and enjoy reading my books on it. I read at least a book a day and have so many books that I had to build a separate building that I call the Hall of Pages to hold them all. The Kindle 1 has the ability to bookmark but I haven’t checked out all the extras and now there is the Kindle 2, which looks even better.
    Of course, nothing will ever replace the smell and texture and experience of a brand new book, but my Kindle comes close.
    Marian Clough
    Mardclough@yahoo.com

  31. Considering your needs, I don’t think any of these choices will work. You need something that’s light weight and portable, which all of these choices are, but you also need something with the processing power and user interface (preferably both tablet and keyboard) to handle/edit large documents. In dream world, the editing is done with a real word processor that uses comments and track changes. That way, neither you nor your assistant will spend hours running red lines, trying to reconstruct your original opinion.
    I saw a TouchBook at a show not long ago and I think that might be a better option. A real operating system, 10+ hours of battery life, a tablet that detaches from the keyboard… Maybe I’m crazy, but that looks a lot more usable than the other options. (At 2lbs, it’s a pretty light little gizmo…) It uses Linux. If you must have Word on it, Word 2003 works well under both WINE and CrossOver Office. On my netbook, I run IBM Lotus Symphony (OpenOffice based freeware). The layout is the best I’ve seen for a small screen. It opens .doc, .rtf. .txt, and .odt files (.odt is the default format). Comments and track changes are under Edit > Revisions. The TouchBook won’t be available for at least another month, but they are taking preorders and it might be worth the wait.

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