Earlier I made comments about a number of new offerings, the Kindle amongst them, and I figure it’s time for follow-up. I received a Sony Reader as a holiday gift, and then an Amazon Kindle for Valentine’s Day. The Kindle was supposed to be a holiday gift as well, but Amazon was well behind in shipping. First a little on the Sony, and then I’ll talk about the Kindle.
I took the Sony Reader with my on a trip to Hawaii loaded with 9 books. I read 5 of those on the trip. The Sony lives up to expectations on battery life (it seems to not use the battery, somehow sucking its power out of the air). The device is well thought out, so is the software on the device. In addition to reading on the airplane I used the Sony Reader on the beach. It survived the sunscreen, sand, and other assorted assaults just perfectly. And it was actually easier to read on the beach than a book (less glare). What I don’t like about the Sony Reader is (a) the software one runs on the PC is of poor quality and usability. It crashed on me about every other search. And (b) the selection of books available is just pathetic. Sony’s web site tends to blame this on books not being available for electronic distribution, but Amazon has something like 5x the books so it seems its more a question of Sony’s ability to ink deals than publishers’ willingness to make content available!
The Amazon Kindle is an amazing device. It’s ergonomics are not as good as the Sony, but what they’ve packed in makes it a sure sign of the future. If you buy one, just keep in mind that it is a V1. The Kindle has a permanent home in my briefcase. I keep it loaded with a set of books to meet my mood, as well as subscribing to a number of publications such as the NY Times and Denver Post. In fact my wife and I have long debated if we wanted to maintain our subscription to the paper edition of the Denver Post, most of which go straight into the recycle bin without being read. I already thought it was a waste to buy the paper edition as I get most of my news over the Internet. Now that I get the Post each day on my Kindle, I’ve even wiped out the couple of scenarios where it was nice to have the paper edition around. The only one remaining, using newspaper to cover things when I bug bomb the house, doesn’t seem to justify maintaining the subscription :-)
So, as you might guess, the amazing thing about the Kindle is its wireless capability (and business model). It’s great to be able to buy books on a whim without connecting to a computer (and without directly paying for wireless service). And it’s great to have the subscription service. So what are the downsides? The Kindle is a power hog (by comparison to the Sony) and, unless you turn it physically off when not in use, you’ll have to charge it at least a couple of times per week. And the layout of side buttons on the unit makes it almost impossible to pickup without accidentally changing the page. I’ve found this latter problem diminishes with use, but you can’t hold a Kindle as easily as the Sony Reader. This is one reason why the Sony Reader feels more like a book while the Amazon Kindle feels a little more like a computer that has been specialized for reading books.
For those considering an ebook reader, if you are into high-tech gadgetry then the Amazon Kindle is the better choice. But if what’s important is maintaining the physical book experience, such as the way you hold the book, balance it in your hand, or even approximate the feel of turning the page, the Sony Reader is actually the better choice. In my case, the Sony Reader sits on my desk at home, unused for a couple of months. The Amazon Kindle is with me as always.