Anyone who has been keeping up with my twitter feed of late knows that I’ve been looking at the latest models of eBook Readers recently. I’ve been focusing on the two main competitors: The Amazon Kindle, and the Sony Reader.
I’d decided that I would get an eBook Reader for two reasons:
- I’m rapidly running out of space for my (physical) books
- I’ve been travelling a lot recently, and found that I’m flying through books on the journeys I’m taking
Running Low on Space
I really am running low on storage space for my books. I’ve got FIVE 6ltr plastic boxes under my bed filled to the brim with books, and a further TWO cardboard boxes which are that full they are falling to pieces. On top of that, I’ve got books lying around the house (a pile in the bathroom cupboard on top of the towels, a pile in the living room, etc.), because there isn’t enough room for them on my bookshelf.
Clearly, space is a problem for me.
I’ve been travelling a bit these past few weeks – mostly to interviews. One of the things that I’ve found is that I get very bored while travelling on trains (my main mode of transport out of the city).It’s only the journey that is boring, though.
I’ve found that reading helps to alleviate this boredom. I’ll read anything: Magazines; Books; My own notes. Anything.
Because of this I’ve spent quite a lot of money on books for when I travel; read them once or twice and dump them in a storage box never to see the light of day again.
(I don’t thrown books away, because I feel that’s not that great for the environment. But I’m am looking at recycling some of them, though)
Instead of buying a book – printed on paper, taken from trees, which give us oxygen and burn carbon dioxide – and wasting all that paper, never to be read again. I decided to get an eBook reader. That way whenever I buy a book, it’d be in an electronic format and not printed on mashed up trees (research tells me that the average books is made of, roughly, 6 trees)
Then, of course, there’s the financial stability provided by an eBook reader. The average novel costs around £10-£15 (not counting the epic novels, like Romance of the Three Kingdoms or the Tale of Genji, both priced at £25 each), whereas the electronic version is a lot cheaper, as there are no intermediary manufacturing processes. Some of the books I’ve looked at are as little as £2.50, that’s 75% cheaper than the price of a physical copy.
Physical vs. Electronic
A lot of people have told me that an electronic version of a book is never going to be the same as a physical copy of a book. Another argument is that books add character to a room.
However, most books are quite large – especially long novels, or scholarly texts (both the primary target for my reading) – and have little space for you to add notes. They can tear easily, and (as I’ve found out on several occasions) don’t like it when you spill coffee on them. Whereas, eBooks are infinitesimally small (as they have no, real, physical presence) and most, if not all, eBook Readers give the user the ability to add notes.
Okay, enough of the ‘benefits’ of using an eBook Reader. On to my decision process.
I actually have a large selection of PDF and text ebooks on my PC. But, I’ve found that I simply can’t enjoy them – or learn much from them – when sat at my PC. My retention of the information is pretty poor when reading from a computer screen.
So, my idea was to test whether I’d be able to retain more when using a eBook Reader (more on whether I achieved that a little later) rather than staring at a screen, hoping that the information would sink in. (‘Throwing paint at a wall, hoping to cover it?‘)
There are a whole bunch of ebook Readers on the market, each with different prices and (understandably) different features and file format support.
My first question was that of file formats: Which readers had support for which files?
I’ve got over 5 Gb of eBooks on my PC, in differing formats, and would like to read most of them (if not all) at some point. Most of them are in PDF, others are raw text files, yet a few are in strange proprietary format, too. I settled on looking for a device that could read both PDF and TXT, since most of my eBooks are in this format.
Through my search, it turned out that most of the readers supported TXT (great for fellow Project Gutenberg users); whereas only a few fully supported PDF.
It turns out that many of the devices state that they can read PDF, but most of these devices can only handle text based PDF – although, technically, since the device is reading the PDF in text mode, it is still reading the file. This was no good for me, as some of my PDFs have diagrams – as they are scientific in subject. So, I had to find a device that could handle the diagram heavy files, too.
During my journey to discover this information (which readers could display diagrams?), I found that the spec sheets and manufacturers would either refuse to mention support, or mention it only in passing.
After a lot of deliberation with many (purely outdated) Internet based reviews, I ended up trying to decide between the Sony Reader and the Amazon Kindle.
While the Amazon Kindle has a massive selection of books, magazines and publications to choose from – using the Amazon service – the Sony Reader has support for music, and touted it’s PDF support prominently.
I consulted the Twitter-verse.
A Bad Idea
Once I’d sifted through the (literally) hundreds of spam bot answers to my question:
OK, user reviews amongst my twitterererers, please: Kindle or Sony eReader? Gonna order one or the other today
I ended up with the knowledge that the Kindle has support for PDF, too. Since both devices supported PDF, my deciding factor had changed. I was left only with price. The biggest deciding factor amongst them all for most purchases.
The price of the Sony Reader was twice that of the Kindle. So, I looked into what I would get for my extra money…
AAC support, and a web browser.
What that it?
I was left thinking that I wouldn’t want to pay twice as much for a device with 2 or so extra features and an iPod-like shiny metallic back plate (one that would scratch the second I took it out of the box).
So, I bought the Kindle. I’ve been using it for about 4 hours now (on a cursory 20 minute charge), and I’ve gotta say that it is so easy to use, and set up that even an idiot can do it.
Oh, and guess what? It’s got PDF support.
I’ll be sure to take a photo and upload it later (when I get home from work), but believe me that the support for diagram heavy PDF is there. In fact, when you put it onto standby, the Kindle displays a picture of many a famous writer (from Mark Twain to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly, and anyone in between).
Okay all images and diagrams are rendered in monochrome, but it’s still a nice little hidden (as in not advertised very well) feature.
Well done Amazon.
It’s also got MP3 and Audible support. Even better.
Your Retention, Please
I decided that I would use The Picture of Dorian Gray as my benchmark. It’s a classic title, written by Oscar Wilde, and completely free on Amazon’s Kindle store. Anyway, before writing this lengthy post – before leaving the house this morning, even – I read the preface of this mighty classic.
I’m now going to recall as much of the opening paragraph as I can, without checking (online, or otherwise) whether I can recall any of it correctly:
The artist is the creator. To reveal art and conceal the artist is the aim. The critic is he who can translate his impression of beautiful things.
Okay, so I’m being helped by the memory hacks pointed out by Derren Brown. But let’s see how I did. Here is a direct quote from my Kindle:
The artist is the creator of beautiful things. To reveal art and conceal the artist is the art’s aim. The critic is he who can translate into another manner of a new material his impression of beautiful things. – The Picture of Dorian Gray, WILDE Oscar, Preface, 1890
Not bad, eh? So I missed a few adjectives, but that’s still not bad. I got the main thrust of what Wilde was trying to say in his open paragraph.
Anyway, I’m off to read a chapter or two of ”Romance of the Three Kingdoms’ (which I bought, and downloaded when at work, for £2.80) during my break. Have fun,