My history with e-Readers


I am a gadget person. I have always loved tech, and have often been on the leading edge of trends and an early adopter.

One category that I dove into head first was the e-Reader trend. I first stumbled across them in 2006, when Sony launched the PRS 500. I didn’t jumped then, but I had my eye on them.

At the time, I was traveling the better part of 50% of the time. Being a life long reader, and a SciFi junky, I was always hitting the used book stores and carrying 10#’s of book with me on my 2 week international trips. A definite burden.

Of course, the idea of an electronic book with a large number of books stored on it was a dream.

The first touchscreen reader, the Sony PRS 700
The first touchscreen reader, the Sony PRS 700

When Sony launched their second generation reader with the first “touch screen” reader, I pounced. I bought one of the first PRS 700’s, and loved it. I bought lots of books, and even found a fair number of public domain free books (the Doc Savage series was a good, quick read).

I probably put 500K miles of traveling with that reader, a constant companion. I probably had 500 books on it at any one time. It allowed me to have a wide selection of titles, including my favorite Science Fiction, some contemporary fiction, some technical references, and some classics. My tastes range widely.

Then one day in 2010, somebody decided they wanted it more than me. So I found myself without a reader.

In the interim, Amazon launched the Kindle line of readers, and a pretty wide selection of ebooks. The first Kindles were toy like, and pretty cheesy feeling (I had many friends with them). However all my books were in ePub format (the “standard” ebook format), whereas the Kindle used a proprietary format, based on the common “Mobi” format.

So I really didn’t consider the Kindle a suitable replacement.

Off to Best Buy and I went home with the successor to the PRS 700, the PRS 600. Still touch screen, and my library transfered over smoothly. One of the nice things about the Sony readers is that they allow expansion of the onboard storage with the Sony memory stick pro, and SD cards.

THe PRS 600 was a bit of a disappointment. The eInk display was fine, but the resistive touch screen made it full of glare. It also missed the built in LED light to read after dark, something that I did enjoy on the PRS 700.

I used the PRS 600 for a long time, until I picked up my iPad in 2011. It was a far better reading experience, and since all my library was ePub, it was trivial to use it.

It did have one other weakness. The battery sucked. It never gave me the expected lifetime for reading. I probably needed to charge it after 12 hours of reading. And it died early. By the end of the first year, the battery stopped holding a charge.

Fortunately, it wasn’t hard to find one, online, and it was easy to replace. But like the original battery, its life wasn’t great out of the box. Whether Sony had to compromise on the battery capacity, or whether there was some constant draw, it was a bummer to have the battery expire as quickly as it did.

Fortunately the arrival of the iPad, it pretty much was relegated to a drawer.

Enter the tablet for reading

In 2011, for my birthday, I splurged ang bought an iPad. While it didn’t have an e-ink display, it did have a great display, and I had no trouble reading on it. All my library moved easily, and I had tons of storage space.

Of course, the iPad lasts for 12 hours of reading easily, so long plane flights are not a problem.

But the display wasn’t as satisfying as the e-ink display. That and the constant distraction of email notifications, facebook, or even a quick hand of solitaire.

The iPad still is in my stable, but I have augmented it with a first generation Google Nexus 7 tablet. Excellent display on a 7″ tablet, and good book reader applications. As well, a really good integration with the Google Play store books. I have bought many books from there, so it was really convenient.

But its battery sucks really bad. I can get about 4 – 5 hours of reading before it shuts itself down. Ok if you can charge it every night, and don’t count on it for a long flight of reading. But that is a pretty big limitation.

Back to a Reader

As my travel schedule is going to ramp up this year, I know that I am going to want a reader for my books. I remain a voracious reader when I travel, so it is an easy choice.

There are still a few options out there. Sony still has a full line. Kobo is a smaller, open option. And naturally the Kindle.

A lot of players have come and gone. Barnes and Noble’s Nook line, while still available, is becoming a weak player.

So, I started looking into the Kindle. I still have a huge library of ePubs, but that is less of a detriment than it used to be. The Calibre package makes it child’s play to convert to different formats.

As I mentioned in my last post, the Amazon store has a great experience, and a large selection of books. And since I have been buying dead tree books from them for 14 years or so, they have a pretty good idea of my tastes.

I started slowly, with the Kindle app on my Nexus and my iPad. A couple of free books to start with, and I think I can live with their eco system. My Paper White Kindle should arrive any day now. I expect it to have a great display, with a backlight, and a seamless ecosystem.

Next up: a detailed review of the Kindle Paper White

Once I get it, I plan on doing a thorough review. I will get it setup, connect it with my Calibre library, and try it in a variety of scenarios.

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By geoffand


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