I recently purchased a Sony Pocket Edition Reader to see how the rest of the ereader world looks compared to my Kindle. The view from here is surprisingly good. The Pocket Edition is small, tight, handsome, and, it actually does some thing that my Kindle can’t do. Like check a book out from the library.
If you, like me, entered the ereader world through the Kindle, the idea of impulse buying has been deeply ingrained by the slick Amazon consumer model, based on instantaneous access to the most popular titles. With the discount price of no more than $9.99 per book, this system encourages the kind of anytime, anywhere buying that Amazon pioneered when it opened its online bookstore in July 1994. I personally succumbed to the Amazon system in the late 90s, and I have been a fan and customer ever since. When I saw the Kindle, I had to try it and to this day use my Kindle 1 more than any other device, including the print book, to read with.
But last night my daughter looked at my sony Pocket Edition sitting on the table and asked “Dad, is that your new favorite ereader?’ Stricken by a pang of guilt for having been caught loving an ereader more than my Kindle, I mumbled something to the effect of “Oh, for right now I am using it more.” But the truth is , maybe I do have something going on on the side with my Sony.
Aside from the sleek simplicity of the Pocket Edition, and its VERY CONVENIENT size, my current infatuation with the device has to do with its ability to do something my Kindle can’t do: borrow a book. My public library in Southern Maryland is part of a state-wide consortium that offers ebooks and e-audiobooks for download if you have a library card from a participating library. The process is simple. I navigate to the portal through my local library’s website, log in using my library card, and search or browse the catalog. What I am looking for are books I want to read that are formatted in the EPUB format that my Sony Pocket Edition likes. When I find what I am looking for, I check the book out for 14 days using the eBook Library software that came with my Pocket Edition. The interface is like the iTunes interface, except more primitive and a little buggy at times, but very workable. Voila! I am reading a book for a couple of weeks and my credit card bill is $9.99 lighter. Does anybody think that this isn’t how it will work in the future?
What are the downsides of this arrangement? Well, my local library has all of 71 titles available in the EPUB format. The eBook Libaray software does inexplicably “do nothing” at times when I ask it to do something on my Windows XP machine, though that has only happened once and it was resolved by closing the program and reopening it. The Pocket Edition has to be cabled to my computer to make any of this happen–zero direct internet connectivity. No keyboard for notetaking on the Pocket Edition, and the bookmarks I place are only useful as long as I have the book.
But for getting a popular title for free for two weeks, having it display in different font sizes clearly and reflow properly on what I would call a state of the art e-ink screen, on a piece of consumer electronics that feels solid and fun to use and that can truly fit easily in my pocket, the Sony Pocket Edition does things that I can’t do with my Kindle.