So after much thought, deliberation and research, I finally decided to seriously consider purchasing an electronic book reader. I wanted to buy it used because I’m on a budget, but that doesn’t factor into my review here. Instead, I will focus on the practicalities, in addition to the FAB (features – advantages – benefits).
I must admit that I didn’t want to like it. In fact, when electronic book readers became ubiquitous not so long ago, I was still staunchly against them. This was mostly due to the high profile debacles involved with the Kindle -stories of consumers’ entire book collections being deleted remotely because Amazon was too intimidated by the legacy publishing and/or established writer’s cartels to stand up for its customers only helped to fuel my anti-electronic book reader vitriol. Why would I possibly want to spend money on an appliance that was only going to screw me over and otherwise aid & abet the corporatocracy ‘s continued assault on Fair Use rights?
I was determined, nonetheless, to avoid any electronic reader containing a proprietary format (such as Kindle’s .mobi and Nook’s .epub). Proprietary formats serve to prevent customers from transferring content from reader to reader in much the same manner the entertainment companies seek to prevent the end user from transferring digital content from DVD to computer hard drive. The better to SCREW you so that you will have to separately purchase the same content in a different format to accommodate the use of different players. (This is what the Kafkaesque digital rights management is all about.)
Another factor that pushed me into wanting an electronic book reader is that I am going to self-publish Book #1 in a seven book series in the supernatural/gothic/horror genre very shortly and exclusively in electronic format. As a writer, it doesn’t sit very well with me to publish my work in manner that I can’t even see the finished product for myself.
And so with this criteria in mind, I found (ta da!) the Sony PRS-600 Touch.
Sony is not wedded to any particular file format; That is to say that while it does support proprietary DRM-infested formats such as .epub & .mobi, the consumer is not forced to purchase content exclusively in one format or another. Additionally, the Sony will also support .pdf, .doc, .jpg & .txt. While this is all very nice, the catch is that you must choose a single format because the Sony will not read multiple formats at the same time. For example, you won’t be able to read files in .pdf, .mobi, .epub & .txt file formats concurrently. So choose wisely should you decide to purchase this particular reader.
This limitation hasn’t been a problem for me, however, as the content I want to read is exclusively in non-DRM portable document format. (.pdf) (Note here that when I say non-DRM, I am referring to a plain vanilla .pdf file, not a .pdf that has been digitally signed with Adobe’s version of digital rights garbage.)
Ability to Annotate
I am a big fan of the highlighting, note taking and dictionary features, but then again, I’m a writer. I like to take notes. And while the built-in dictionary will be helpful to the average person, I find that both my vocabulary, as well as that of the books I read (mostly late 19th Century writers such as Blackwood, Bierce, James, Lovecraft, & Machen) is much larger than what the New American Oxford Dictionary has in its memory bank.
The PRS-600 has an SD slot to expand its memory. And with memory being relatively inexpensive these days, the sky is the limit.
Sony’s File Management Software
Upon having charged up the reader, the first time you plug it into your computer, it will immediately prompt you to install Sony’s file management software. I suppose this is helpful provided that the end user is unfamiliar with any other options, but Sony’s software should be avoided if you can help it. Although I have not personally experienced any particular problems, I have read numerous reviews written by other end users whose main complaint is with the software because it apparently does not facilitate the transfer of purchased content from vendor to reader very smoothly. (This hasn’t been an issue for me because it has never been my intention to purchase electronic books.) Additionally, if you want to avoid using Sony’s software then consider using Calibre, instead.
With the ability to annotate, you must calibrate the reader so that it recognizes the stylus. This is easier said than done. The process of calibrating the unit was very problematic. It took me over an hour and made me want to throw it out the window. Calibration should not be this difficult given that Apple also uses the exact same technology with its products and calibration is not like pulling teeth the way it is for the Sony.
Arbitrary Lock Ups
Since I don’t know the history of this particular unit, I don’t know why this model Sony inexplicably freezes. Perhaps the previous owner pounded the shit out of it and drop kicked it on a regular basis? I tend to think not since the casing isn’t scratched up or marred in any way.
Sony blames unit freezing on a corrupted file, but that’s a load of ca-ca in my opinion. It’s too easy to blame a file for a malfunction, particularly since my files are all in non-DRM .pdf format. In fact, it’s a lot like complaining to Caltrans about pot holes and being told that the ginormous holes in the road is due to the weather. Pffffffffft! Maybe that excuse flies on the east coast where it snows, sleets and the weather otherwise pulverizes the roads, but over here on the other side of the country, where the sun shines approximately 300 days of the year, not so much!
But then again, this is a used product and the locking up issue may or may not be attributable to previous use and abuse. The main thing I absolutely adore about an electronic book reader is that I can store hundreds of books on it and have them at my fingertips on a slim unit instead of hauling around dead tree books in my bag. (All that extra weight adds up when you’re a bus & bikin’ kind of person.) And also, real estate for extras such as books is at a minimum given my current living situation. For a bookworm like me, the ability to have instant access to the content that I don’t want to have to read on the computer is priceless.
In reading reviews written elsewhere, a lot of end users bellyached about the absence of sharp fonts and a glare problem on this model, but I haven’t been troubled by either as the glare issue is solved with a simple re-angling of the unit into another position. As to the fonts, this model lets you select the size of the font from five different sizes plus a zoom feature. So if you’re blind as a bat, then you’ll be glad to know that not only can you select XXL sized font, but you can also zoom in.
In the final analysis, I’m fairly happy with this reader. But fret not dead tree lovers, electronic book readers won’t replace printed books 100%, but it sure does wonders for portability and convenience of reading material.
Free Electronic Book Archives
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