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Ebook readers: sledgehammers cracking nuts?

Ebook readers are one of those bits of tech that some people can’t see the point of. I’m not entirely sure about them myself.
Written by Sandra Vogel, Contributing Writer

Ebook readers are one of those bits of tech that some people can’t see the point of. I’m not entirely sure about them myself. I love books. I even have a room dedicated to them. I hate throwing them out when the shelves get too full. I love to sit and read. Turn the pages. I love second hand bookshops. The smell of paper, wondering how many others have read the book I’ve bought. Oh dear, there I go into a reverie.

I’ve seen (and indeed I have), several ebook readers. Enough, really, for me to have formed an opinion either way. My all time favourite is Sony’s, reviewed here. You can also read my reviews of theiRex iLiadandBookeen Cybook. And more recently I’ve had the COOL-ER. In purple.

But I’m just not sure.

On the plus side they let me carry a lot of text in a small space. My reading tends to be a mix of classics and modern stuff, and the classics are available for free download. Any ebook reader I carry is always crammed with them.

On the minus side there are three key points.

The Sony Reader is available from Waterstones for £180. The Cooler costs more at £189 and is available direct. You can buy a lot of books for that kind of money, especially if you are a fan of the second hand. Or you can get them for free from a public library.

Then there is the software and usability. E-ink is good. It is sharp and clear, and I can read for hours without getting eye strain. But you can’t flick back and forth between the pages as with paper. The tactile feel is gone. And the short time between page refreshes is jarring, even if it is minimal.

Finally, power. All I need to read a paper book is the book itself and some light. An ebook reader also needs power. Let the battery run down and it doesn’t matter how desperate you are, there will be no reading.

I’m completely discounting the ability of some readers to play music while you read. Yes they can, but so can my phone, my iPod, and any radio I happen to be near.

So in the end the added value seems to reside just in the ability to carry more words in less space. Depending on how fast a reader you are that may not be such an add.

Even given all that, the Sony Reader, iLiad and Cybook, and more recently the COOL-ER, have all been used at some length. What does that prove? Maybe just that it is hard to suppress my inner geek (well, it isn’t so inner, actually). I’m not sure, but determined to find out. So roll on the next reader.

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