Exactly 3 months and 6 days ago I made the great leap of faith into the world of electronic reading when I was given a Sony Reader in sangria red (my favorite color!) for my birthday. So far I have used my birthday gift to read a total of 24 books. The way I figure it, now that a good amount of time (and books) has gone by it is time to pass judgment on the eReader.

Many people out there have made the jump from Hardcover to Hardware and started clicking “buy now” instead of trekking to Chapters. However for those of you who may still be clinging to the edge, I will now lay out the eReader basics.

Without further ado, let us start at the beginning:

What is an eReader?
In a nutshell, an “eReader” is a small, hardware device used to read electronic books. This can further be broken down into the different brands such as the Kindle ($299 US, Amazon), the Sony Reader ($279 US, Sony), and the new Plastic Logic Reader from Barns & Noble. All of these brands are available to Vancouverites via the web, however only the Sony Reader is sold locally.

Who uses these darn things anyways?
Anyone and everyone who likes to read. Not just books either, most Readers also allow the user to download newspapers and magazines as well as read pdf files. Some can even store your music and pictures!

What will I like about it?
The convenience. The most obvious convenience is that an ebook is smaller than a paper book, like megabytes smaller. The average eReader can hold hundreds of books. Can you imaging trying to tote all that around in your backpack? Whenever I go traveling, I always take at least 3 books with me (I’ve usually read all the airport paperbacks anyway). Having my Sony Reader has made traveling with books so much easier that I was able to go 2 weeks in the Okanagan without breaking my back (or the zipper on my suitcase).

Another notable convenience is that you don’t have to physically go to a store, or wait 6-8 weeks for your ebook. Let’s say its midnight and you just finished Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (book 6 of 7 for those who are paying attention to pop culture) and are dying to find out what happens next. Normally, you would have to wait until 10am the next morning to head out to your local bookstore to buy the next book. But Wait. When you have an eReader, all it takes is a couple of clicks online, a USB cord and you’re off reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (that's book 7 by the way). What could be more convenient than that?

The sustainability. This one may be self-explanatory but without any paper needed to print on, ebooks save trees!

What will I not like so much?
The inconvenience. Of course nothing is perfect. Such is life with an eReader that not every aspect is better than the old-fashioned way. Since the music industry has not set the best of records when it comes to digital rights management (DRM), the publishing industry holds tight to its digital rights. This has resulted in each ebook brand creating its own proprietary file format for its eReaders. What does this mean for you? If you have a Kindle, you can only buy books from Amazon. If you have a Sony Reader, you can only buy books from the Sony Store, and so on and so forth. So no sharsies, okay?

Fortunately, this has only once been a problem for me personally when I was unable to find a book at the Sony Store that was available on Amazon. I’m not entirely sure what the eReader companies hope to achieve by this restriction, since in this situation, I did not go out and buy a Kindle just to get that specific book. Instead I simply chose to buy a different one from Sony. Problem solved.

The electronic aspect. For all the amazing things that technology can do, it will never be able to replace the feel (or smell) of a good book in your hands while you’re curled up in a comfy chair. For someone who loves books as much as I do, seeing files on my computer will never compare to seeing all my favorites lined up on a shelf. It seems inevitable, but I dread the day when our public libraries are nothing but a row of computers (if they exist physically at all and solely not in cyberspace).

Other than my own emotional reluctance to give up the past, the worst problem I could come up with was the death of my battery. Although I have to admit that is a major flaw when it occurs in the middle of a page-turner with no outlet in sight.

So there you have it, the basic ins and outs of electronic reading. I can honestly say that I have jumped off the edge and enjoyed the thrill of my Sangria Red Sony Reader. Of course, I still enjoy spending time perusing the shelves of my local bookstore, running my hands along the spines as I search for my latest favorite. What has changed is now, I simply note the name and run right home to buy it online.

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eReader book availability

Thanks for the article. You've summed up my experience with the Sony eReader as well. Just one comment: you can get books for the eReader from other places, because (unlike the Kindle) the eReader can read other formats, such as pdf, lrf (which Fictionwise.com sells) and ePub (which Project Gutenberg books come in). So, even if you can't find it at the Sony store, there's a chance you can find it elsewhere. This is one advantage the Sony eReader has over the Kindle, with its proprietary format.

re: eReader book availability

Hi Terry,

Thanks for the suggestions! Especially if it helps overcome the proprietary file format issue.

:-)
Meghan