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Ebooks - Ed's journal
sobrique
sobrique
Ebooks
OK, so I now have a Sony Ebook reader.
's rather nice.


Interface is nice and easy to use. There's not many buttons, but it's dead easy to drive even if you can't be bothered to RTFM. 3 zoom levels at a button press. Remembers your place, in multiple books at once. And you can read one handed. With either hand.

Form factor with the cover is basically the same as a DVD case (I just compared, it's virtually identical). A little bit thicker if you've got the padded 'deluxe' case, but nothing too extreme. A bit wider than my very scientific sample of first paperback off the shelf next to me, but about the same height, and substantially narrower.

Text quality is lovely - sharp, and 'book like'. For those that are unaware, the technology in use is 'e-paper' which is a light-reflective material - much more like a book, than a display screen. It comes with a leather casing thing, which does the job. I've upgraded to a 'deluxe' one, which is a bit thicker on the padding.



Battery life is allegedly some 6800 pages. So, enough to read all of the 'Song of Ice and Fire' end to end (at least, all that's published so far). Because it's not an 'active' screen, it's basically only using power to change what page you're on. But anyway, I'll be checking how well it holds out.

Software installation is straightfoward - you get 'ebook library' which is the Sony utility to import books, and you get Adobe Digital Editions for handling PDF style encrypted docs.

Ebook library can do:
"Books
eBook (.lrf or .lrx file extension)
An eBook in BBeB format can be imported.

PDF file (.pdf file extension)
PDF version 1.4 or before can be imported.

EPUB file (.epub file extension)
EPUB (OPS version 2.0) can be imported.

Text file (.txt file extension)
RTF file (.rtf file extension)
Word file (.doc file extension)

Word files can be opened by launching Microsoft Word from eBook Library, but cannot be read directly within eBook Library. Word files can be opened only if Microsoft Word is installed on your computer.

Notes
Word files will be automatically converted into RTF files during transfer to the Reader or a compatible memory card. Word files are converted into RTF files during transfer only if Microsoft Word is installed on your computer.

Adobe DRM protected PDF and EPUB files are supported only if Adobe Digital Editions 1.5 or later is installed and authorized on your computer."

Can also do some audio and picture formats, but I don't much care about those :). (You can
play MP3s, and get GIFs/JPGs to display)

Getting some of my sample files on there was fairly easy. If you use ABCLit you get the ability to support Microsoft Reader '.lit' format, too. I suspect that's probably not entirely legal, but as far as I'm concerned you shouldn't be prevented from reading something you've paid money for just because the format was the 'wrong kind'. Wouldn't recommend that latter for the 'non tech savvy' though, as it's a bit unwieldy.

Anyway, I'm off - I found a copy of a book I'm wanting to read - William Gibson's latest 'Spook Country'. Got it as a PDF, and loaded it with Adobe's utilty, not the ebook reader. Worked just fine, and is lovely and legible on the reader.

But it's not quite all sweetness and light. First off, Sony's Ebook store - you don't get to buy stuff off it if you're in the UK (as in, it Just Won't Work, you have to use the library reader thingy as an interface). Which is presumably part of the partnertship deal with Waterstones. This would be fine, if the Waterstones website wasn't a complete crock of shit for finding Ebooks.

I mean, really. They have a category for 'ebooks' and just kinda lump them all in together. You can filter down a bit, but really 'browsing' just isn't viable.
Even if you know exactly what you're after, you can use their search.
William Gibson.
Spook Country.
Format: Ebook.

And it gives you a list of 4 options, which on closer inspection NONE of them are eBooks.
I mean, really. Flicking through all 131 titles in "science fiction, fantasy and horror" ... well, for starters it's not very many, and to follow up clicking through your list in alphabetical (or bestselling) order isn't particularly helpful. I'm spoilt by Amazon, I know.

But anyway.
For acquisition of Ebooks, I'm still looking for good sources. Penguin seem to have made a good start on their 'USA' website, with most of the titles having the choice of formats. Or would be, if they actually sold to the UK - their UK website doesn't do the same.

Thankfully Google let me to Powells (http://www.powells.com/) which are sensible and allow international purchase of digital stuff. Just ignore the bit where it mentions shipping charges, they disappear again if there's nothing to ship. Oh, and use IE not opera, because the ebook download popup thingummy doesn't work otherwise. (Link can just be pasted into a handy copy of IE though, so it's not too bad)

Amazon, sadly, are all too focussed on the Kindle. Not that the Kindle is available in the UK. But if it was, it would be a comparsion point to the Sony eBook reader - it's a bit more flexible, and has some more 'frills' to it, but I think if what you want is just a straightforward electronic book, the Sony has it beat. Looking at it, the Kindle is moving more towards the PDA, where the Sony PRS505 is a lot more simple and elegant at it's job.

It's also rather hit and miss as to which authors are available, and what the pricing structure is like. Even on the Waterstones shop (Sony's UK partners) there's some books that clock in at costing more than a hardcopy would, and some that are significantly less.

Oh, the eBook Reader comes with a useful selection of 'classics', which mostly looks like they've picked out a CD load from Project Gutenberg.

Webscriptions looks vaguely promising though.

Well, I've got one ebook to start me off, and got my eyes on a few more on the waterstones bookshop (Waterstones, incidentally, do a 'buy ebook reader, get 20quid credit for 10quid' deal).

http://www.adobe.com/uk/epaper/ebooks/ebookmall/ has a list of a few of them.

Bottom line: This is lovely, but be checking you can actually find what you want. Some may not be available at all, through 'official' sources, and others may be annoying to get hold of and/or just not for sale in the UK (*cough* piratebay *cough*). Sony/Waterstones need to get their shit in gear, because when Kindle hits Europe, it's going to stuff them if they can't deliver a comparable quantity of books that people want to read. Otherwise they _are_ going to lose out to piracy in a big way.

For the record - I have no objection to paying for ebooks. I have too many hardcopy books as it is.
I have no problem even with paying 'hardback' prices, for the big releases - for me, the fact that I don't end up with a bulky hardback is worth paying extra for.
I might even be persuaded to re-buy some of my favourites, for the sake of getting them in ebook format.
But if they're a) not available, and b) I already own a copy, then I'm not going to have much moral compunction over acquiring from 'other sources'. I'm not going to advocate piracy, because long gone are the days where that's been something that I've done - if it's worth spending time on, it's worth spending money on. But I am also going to advocate that the retailers drop their current format war, and just let me buy stuff that I _could_ just download from somewhere, illegally.
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Comments
jorune From: jorune Date: November 30th, 2008 10:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think that the current e-readers are a little too early for prime time, when will the data crystal reader come out?

I notice that Steve Jackson games e23 forum has some posts on peoples experiences with e-readers.
ehrine From: ehrine Date: December 1st, 2008 12:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Another place to look for ebooks - http://ebooks.whsmith.co.uk
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