Saturday, January 23, 2010

E-Reader Home Invasion

Don't let the title of this post mislead you. My place wasn't broken into by a legion of self-aware Kindles. But I did consciously invite the e-publishing revolution into my home when I purchased a Sony PRS-300 E-Reader earlier this month.

I will always have a soft spot for books, and never stop buying them. Few things thrill me more than the delivery of a big box from Amazon or Chapters. But now that e-readers have dropped in price, more bibliophiles are taking a chance on them and discovering that they like the option of carrying a virtual library in their pockets and purses. As a working writer, I have to be sensitive to trends that affect publishing, so I bought Sony's basic reader at my local Best Buy and began my new learning curve.

Because I live in Canada, the Sony product was the logical choice for me. Until recently, Amazon's Kindle was not available here. That has since changed, but at a price, so to speak: the device ships from the USA and incurs some hefty customs fees when its value is declared at the border. I opted for economy and convenience.

The PRS-300 is Sony's lowest-priced reader, and doesn't have the bells and whistles that the more expensive models offer, such as a touch screen and audiobook support. That was fine by me; I was primarily interested in the reading experience.

This unit utilizes E Ink screen technology that makes digital pages resemble their paper counterparts. The font size is adjustible, a nice option for those who prefer large print, and the pages are turned via a multidirectional button beneath the screen. The bookmarking feature 'tags' pages for later perusal, and each time the machine powers on, it remembers where you left off during your last reading session.

Not bad. But what what I really appreciated was access to thousands of public domain books in Google's database, digitized in a reader-compatible format and available for free download through Sony's online store. Many of these are vintage crime stories like those I have blogged about in the past. Another portal on the Sony site lets me log into my local library account and check out e-books from the hundreds of available titles. 512 MB of onboard memory permits the storage of up to 300 books at a time, making it possible for me carry a wealth of reading and research material in my purse. I love it.

A week and a half has passed, and I don't regret my purchase. It has added a whole new dimension to the literary experience, and judging from the fact that e-reader sales continue to climb, they are no  longer a fad item. Some will decry the threat, however weak, to the beloved physical book, but as a writer I'm happy to see that the love of reading is alive and well in the Digital Age.

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