Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Electronic Ink?

So, ereaders and ebooks. People have been asking me why I would consider some gimmicky electronic alternative than tried and tested paper and ink. Well, actually, that's a lie, nobody's asked me. But I have been thinking about this for a while. Partially due to not having a lot to do with my time but mostly because I like gadgets.

There are a few advantages to ereaders over books that I see. Firstly is the weight, a pocket sized ereader is a lot smaller than a shelf of books, and is lighter even than one novel. The Sony e-reader is about the size of a novella. The storage on even the smallest Sony ereader is large enough to store over 300 books. That's probably more books than I own. Lastly, ebooks seem to be on average cheaper than paperback and significantly cheaper than hardback books, and classic books are available for free through Google Books.

While there aren't a lot of benefits to an ereader, the few benefits that I have found are arguably significant. There aren't all that many negatives to it either. The e-ink display is as natural to read as paper and it draws so little power that the battery lasts up to two weeks. Unfortunately, it does have a battery, and will eventually need to be recharged. Also, because of the nature of e-ink, the pages take a moment to refresh. Problems you won't encounter with a real book.

In the end, the matter is one of gadget novelty and utility versus the utility and nostalgia factor of a traditional book. Certainly, I love books. I have shelves full of cheap paperback novels at home and I've picked up a few in my stay here. I enjoy reading books, and I'm not sure that an electronic device will ever have the same tactile feedback as turning a page. Nor will a harddrive of files give the same sense of pride of ownership as a shelf of volumes.

However, I have at times found books weighty and cumbersome, mainly as I read large books. The idea of a small, light, tablet like device that I can read easily on and store many books in appeals to me. Certainly, it would be a help with weighty technical manuals and textbooks, particularly as O'Reilly tend to discount a random ebook to $10 every day.

An ereader is certainly a device I'd like to have, and one I'd find use for. The only real issue is cost. The Sony PRS-300 Pocket Reader is a small high-quality ereader, and about the cheapest that I can see. It has virtually no features aside from its small size and high contrast screen. However even this is about €150. While it may eventually pay for itself in the hands of a voracious reader, the initial investment isn't exactly a pittance.


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  2. It does take like a second to refresh, but you would have spent that second change the page in a book in anyway.

    I love my ereader, its so much nicer in bed to read at night, don't get as cold as only need one arm to hold / change page. I do miss not having the book on a shelf somewhere, though in fairness I don't find myself reading a book twice, and they just take up to much room.

    The one huge disadvantage that I never really saw anyone else give out about, is that a lot of ebooks aren't released till a few months after the paperback :( You might think shrug, but that's nearly a year and half by the time its left out in America for some. I only found this an issue once where I had just finished a series of books and saw that a new one had been released, I had to wait only 2 weeks for it, but if i had started that series a month or two before :(

    Anyway, they will pay themselves off.

    OH one last point, you can't read and charge at same time. I have found this an issue a few times.

    ok this is my last one. I personally wouldnt use it for tech books, only novels. You need a huge ipad or something to really read a tech book and have color.

  3. Hmm, lack of new novels aside, I'm almost sold.

    My tech books aren't in colour, so I imagine they'd be okay-ish on the ereader.

    The lack of the latest releases bothers me, but I suppose there's lots of great old books I haven't read.

  4. E-readers are the one gadget that do fascinate me, but, like the i-pod, I'll probably wait until there is a relatively cheap, user-friendly & functionally streamlined version. The recharge time doesn't sound too bad - 2 hours is about what time it takes my i-pod to charge - & the memory sounds good.

    Much like CDs, I probably buy a physical format of what I like; not so much out of nostalgia, like buying vinyl records, but rather the intangibility-accidental-delete/random-encryption-changes - but the cheaper books overall for things I'd like to try would be good.

    Colour might eventually be an issue - I'd be thinking about digitized graphic novels here, which would be the hardest to get in physical form & the biggest advantage - but such mass digitization is probably as far off for the indie comics as efficient colour is for the cheaper e-readers, so I'll wait on the fence a while longer.