Exchanging my Kindle for another Sony Reader
I replaced my Sony Reader with a hipper new Amazon Kindle, and I’m totally disappointed. The Kindle has a few good ideas, but it is terribly executed. I’m returning it today (something Amazon is making pleasant enough) and buying another Reader.
Read on for more detail…
About 6 months ago, I bought a used Sony Portable Reader from a friend of a friend. I travel a lot, and have a lot of open-format stuff I wanted to read (pdfs, html manuals, etc). I’ve always through electronic ink was interesting technology, and buying used appealed to my cheaper inclinations.
Fast forward to a a month ago, and having an electronic book has changed my life. The Sony fits in my bag nicely, reading it is quite pleasant, and I can easily carry 50 books with me at any time. It has changed the way I read, allowing me to have several books going at once and switch between them based on my mood, something I used to do in high school. libprs500 (now Calibre) is pleasant to use on the mac and open source. I even used the Sony software to buy a few closed-format bestsellers at reasonable prices.
Unfortunately, my Reader broke, possibly due to it’s previous owner or just due to being dropped. It will no longer hold a charge or boot properly. I took it apart, following helpful Flickr directions for prs-505 disassembly, but to no avail. If anyone has a project that would benefit from the eink components, which seem undamaged, let me know.
Since I have a vacation coming up, and I’d so enjoyed the experience of having one, I decided to replace it. And being a consummate gadget shopper, I went looking for other options. I settled on the Kindle as the most advanced option, attracted by it having internet access and a way to buy and load books that would require Windows. So I went ahead and primed one.
I received it the morning I left for a trip to New York on Acela. This gave me some time to get started using it. My first reaction is that it is really bulky. It barely fits into the pouch of my laptop bag, while the Reader is about the same size as the Moleskine I keep there all the time. The Kindle came with a leather cover, but it doesn’t really fit into it well, and that just ads more bulk. The cover has a big elastic to hold it closed The on/off switch is on the back, where it is blocked by the cover. In contrast, the Reader has a cover that clips on, is held closed by magnets, and a switch on the top that is easy to access.
The Kindle could survive all these misfeatures, if the reading experience were good. It is not. I don’t know how they tested this thing, but anyone with normal sized hands can’t find a way to hold it without accidentally hitting buttons. They claim it can be held with both hands, but I have to rest it on a surface, or hold it gingerly with my right hand only. The big fear of the designers seems to have been that people couldn’t find the next page button, so they made it take up one whole side. A second next page button and a previous page button consume the other side. Which means if you want to hold the book naturally in one hand, you are going to accidentally palm those buttons, and lose your place.
The keyboard, which is necessary to make the buying and web experience possible, also takes up a lot of space on the device and risks accidental key presses. There is really only one point on the front of the device you can safely rest your thumb. And holding the same position for long periods of reading isn’t any fun.
On the bright side, the EVDO is a cool feature, and I like the idea of devices that come with infinite bandwidth. The scroll-wheel menu interface is also good, certainly better than the Sony ten-button menu interface. But these don’t make up for the difficult reading experience. And with a new iPhone coming, I’ll have a portable web browser anyway. I just need my electronic book to be a good book, not a digital convergence device.
I’d love to see a better E-Ink book than the Sony Reader. But the first generation Kindle is certainly not it. Don’t buy one.