Gary Gibson’s six months with a Sony Reader

Paul Raven @ 15-12-2008

Sony ebook Reader deviceBeen considering splashing out on an ebook reader? If so, you’ll be wanting the opinions of someone who isn’t just shilling for the company. While the Kindle seems to get the bulk of the blog coverage, there’s another big-brand competitor out there – and Scots science fiction novelist Gary Gibson seems to be a convert to the church of Sony Reader:

The answer is a very vigorous thumbs-up. I love the bloody thing, despite its many faults. God knows there are enough of them; it crashed from time to time, necessitating sticking a pin in the back to get it to laboriously reboot. Changing pages can occasionally also be a bit slow. It doesn’t come near the stated 7000-pages-before-needing-a-recharge stated in all of Sony’s advertising. And that’s just the hardware. There are endless problems to do with file formats – .lit, .mobi, .epub, and .on and .on and .on. […]

And yet, it’s still the greatest thing. The words are an absolute delight on the screen. It’s remarkably like reading words on paper. The text is clear and sharp. The machine is stunningly sleek and portable. And my reading has gone through the roof; I’ve read more books in the past six months than I’m usually likely to get through in a couple of years, if that. […]

I’ve made a point of being the first to describe the many discouraging issues concerning the technology. I suspect machines like this are really for the hardcore reader like myself; critics are right to point out these are not devices for the kind of people who might read one or two books in a year while on holiday. But for people who like to read, they’re an absolute godsend.

I expect I’m going to wait until the next generation of netbooks have full ebook functionality (I’ve been rammed into penury by sporadic displays of early-adopter syndrome before, a habit I doubtless acquired from my father), but if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t buy a new computer ever eighteen months, but who does tend to read a lot of books… well, are you tempted? Or are you going to stick with print on pulp until it’s pried from your cold dead hands [image by shimgray]

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6 Responses to “Gary Gibson’s six months with a Sony Reader”

  1. Ben says:

    You’ve missed another major platform for reading ebooks: the iPhone/iPod touch. There are a couple of decent ebook apps: the front runner seems to be Stanza which lets you access your Fictionwise bookshelf (provided you bought the book in the right format, annoyingly). It looks like it is going to get support for direct purchase from a couple of publishers, plus it has a big selection of public domain/Creative Commons titles to download straight from Feedbooks.

    The iPhone screen may not be as restful to read from as proper e-paper, but it’s high-res enough that, set to white-on-black, it’s perfectly fine for reading whole novels. Once you have a decent phone, it’s hard to justify a separate bulky reader – maybe a dedicated reader would be better for taking on holiday, but that’s about it.

  2. Paul Raven says:

    I’ve not missed the iPhone as a platform at all, Ben – if you do a search for ‘iPhone’ or ‘ebooks’ on the site, you’ll find I’ve mentioned both together quite frequently of late! That’s the main reason I ran this story, to be honest – you can’t go anywhere without hearing about the iPhone or the Kindle at the moment, and this is the first end-user review of Sony’s machine that I’d come across.

  3. Ben says:

    Sorry, I should have said that you missed the iPhone in your final list of choices as netbook/dedicated reader/print.

    I think the Kindle/Sony Reader market will be limited to hardcore readers (although they’ll tend to buy a lot of books), but you’ll get more people reading (perhaps more casually) on mass-market gadgets like the iPhone.

  4. Darren T says:

    I’ve been angling for a ‘loan’ of one of these for work purposes for ages… it’d be a great way to read manuscripts ahead of proof-publication without having to kill half a tree in the process.

  5. K. Eliot says:

    I’m also waiting for the next gen of ebook readers before splurging on one. What I’m really looking forward to is for eReaders to become a fixture of the Academic community. Goodlawd, I’d be in heaven if, rather then having to hunt down research papers, I could simply click on citations and footnotes and read them immediately.

    That’s what make eReaders so damn appealing to me. Not sure how long before my dream becomes a reality, though… Guess it’ll depend on the fate of the Open Access movement.

  6. Adam Roberts says:

    I was glad to read this, since I understand that Santa may be bringing me a Sony ereader in his sac. Er, sack. That said, when I mentioned this fact to one Simon Spanton, he expressed surprise, of the ‘why would you want one of those?’ variety. Or more specifically, ‘they give me one of those for work, so I can read the endless manuscripts I have to read on the go without needing to lug several hundredweight of paper everywhere, but why would you want one?’ Rather as if I’d said to a cleaner ‘Santa’s bringing me a mop and bucket for Christmas’; or to a US State Executioner ‘Santa’s going to get me an electric chair.’