Saturday, April 5, 2008

I Don't Like My Sony eBook

I confess, I don't really like my Sony eBook (officially called the Sony Reader Digital Book). Fortunately, I got the device as part of a Continental Airlines promotion, so it only cost me 5000 frequent flier miles, and I avoided the hefty sticker price of $299. For those of you tempted to buy the thing, here are some points to consider:

The reasons why I don't like the eBook:
1. The eBook reading experience just isn't the same as holding a nice, real book. Instead, I end up feeling like I'm checking my e-mails or reading a document for work. For me, this is the dealbreaker.
2. eBooks aren't cheap. Most new releases are about $15. That's $15 more than checking the book out from the library. It's about $10 cheaper than buying a hardcover, but an eBook doesn't have the satisfying heft, smell, look, etc. of a new hardcover. And even though you might be saving $10 per eBook you purchase instead of a hardcover, you won't be back in the black until you've purchased 30 or so eBooks for which you would've paid full, hardcover price.
3. It's very difficult to navigate around in an eBook. Want to go back and check that bit of dialog you recall from about 30 pages ago? You're out of luck. You'll be flipping back page by page, with each flip costing you several seconds. Then you'll have to flip all the way back to where you were. With these limitations, it's difficult to really interact with an eBook as you're reading it.
4. The selection of eBooks is still limited (though it's getting better every day). You can get all the bestsellers as eBooks, but if you're interested in something off the beaten path, the eBook probably doesn't exist.
5. Other than bookmarking pages, the eBook doesn't have highlighting or note making functionality. If you like to write in your books, you will feel limited by an eBook.

Some of the good things about an eBook:
1. The eBook is very thin and light. It's very easy to travel with and easy to read on an airplane. The eBook is much easier to pack than a stack of books.
2. There are some good, free eBooks available for downloading (see, e.g., wowio), and it's much more pleasant to read these eBooks on a device like the Sony eBook than straight off your computer screen.
3. If you're traveling with your boss, you can read an eBook, and he/she might think you're doing real work. (The associated downside is that you'll feel like you're doing real work--see point 1 above.)

Bottom Line: Not worth the price.

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