This week I’m the surprised user of a Sony e-book Reader. Surprised, that is, to be given it (courtesy of a sudden initiative to test them out at work) and even more surprised to be liking it. Not that I would prefer it to a book, but it’s certainly a lot more bearable than I expected. It’s light and slim enough to slide easily into handbag, and so I have been testing it in all sorts of places – waiting for a friend at the Bath Literary Festival, slumping in my chair at home, and waiting for a mammogram appointment; all the places, in other words, where one would usually pick up a book.
As the choice of reading was limited I picked a well-known blockbuster, something (intellectual snob that I am) that I wouldn’t usually read, but which I thought would provide a relatively easy read, and so it has proved to be. The ‘page’, of course, is smaller, and so I have 859 to get through. Daunting at first, but okay once you realise it’s like driving with signs in kilometres (more of them but they go faster). The screen is comfortable to read, though maybe a bit dim in the deserted Italian restaurant I found myself in on Monday. The font size can be adjusted, but not, I think, the font itself (for some reason a sans serif, although other book titles are in a conventional Roman font). All in all, although I miss the tactile element and the double-page spread, it’s an acceptable substitute for ‘the real thing’ and I can see ther are occasions where it might come in handy.
What does strike me, though, is that if it’s not quite as nice as reading from paper, it’s a damn sight better than reading from a conventional computer screen, something I spend a lot of time doing. I’d be more than ready to use the e-reader for all those files I end up scanning too quickly (and getting a headache) or sending to the printer. I would think it would be a lot more comfortable than a laptop (even a mini notebook) for reading through lengthy documents of any kind, assuming they don’t need to be edited. I’m also intrigued to learn that Amazon’s equivalent (Kindle 2) has a lot more functionality including a screen reader and the ability to read online newspapers and blogs. An e-reader would also be ideal for reading unpublished manuscripts (which I frequently exchange with fellow writers) without any of us incurring printing costs . (Although the reader itself costs £200! )
At this point I should be looking at the bigger picture and pronouncing on the future of the book as we know it, but I’m afraid all that will have to wait. I still have 200 of my 839 pages to read!
P.S. I’ve just remembered Scott Pack kept a Sony Reader Diary back in the autumn. Check out what he says here.