Editors Note: Thanks to Jean Kaplansky, author of the essay below. Jean had put in links to all the names in the post, but they didn’t come over when I copied it to the blog and I haven’t the time to re-create her work. My apologies. – Paul Biba.
Most of this started out as an e-mail to a friend. But it kind of got away from me and turned into a full-blown blog post. I could post it on my own blog, but the content seems spot on for a teleread reader contribution.
I recently had a friend dare to ask me about e-book hardware.
My response: “Oh, you had to go there…”
Followed by my spiel:
The choice of eReading hardware depends on what you expect from an ereader, where you are going to use the unit, and how much you want to spend.
I’ve looked longingly at the Sony Reader, but have never been able to justify the cost for what is essentially a single purpose machine. Also, I’m not that impressed by eInk. The fact that you need to use a book light to read in the dark removes one of the benefits of the whole eBook concept.
Yes, the Kindle is ugly. But people who have them seem to get addicted very quickly. I’ve also read that Kindles can be dangerous to your credit card because it’s too easy to say “Yes! I want to read the rest of this book” And poof… Up goes your credit card balance. Yikes.
For what’s it’s worth, I’ve never actually seen a Kindle in the wild. Furthermore, the DRM and hacked proprietary Mobipocket format are down right offensive to anyone who has built up a catalog of ebooks over the years. The same is true for the Sony Reader, except that Sony got smart and jumped on the ePub bandwagon, which has gone a long way toward mollifying many people. Since I’m in agreement with the general consensus that DRM, as it currently exists, is not a good thing, I’ll let you read up on the issues on www.teleread.org, instead of waxing philosophic here. Go ePub!!!
I’ve read eBooks on my Palm (including the original US Robotics Pilot), a Nokia N-Series Phone, and my Blackberry (and I really hope the grapevine is right and eReader for the Blackberry is released in the first quarter of 2009). Reading on the Blackberry is not that much different than reading on the Palm. But there’s a down side. I’m loathe to put genre fiction on my Blackberry, since there’s a direct link from it to my employer’s email servers. They don’t really need to know that I’m a genre junky.
So… Where to go from here? One of the things that really didn’t appeal to me about either the Kindle or the Sony Reader, or really any of the eInk readers was size. I want to carry small stuff and less stuff, not more stuff, let alone bigger and bulkier stuff. I want to be able to throw stuff in a coat pocket, or my bag if I need to.
OK… So along the way, I established that I’m not impressed by eInk (meh.), and that I don’t want to carry a big, essentially single purpose unit around. Especially something for which I spent ~$300. Been there, done that with the original Kyocera Palm phones. I want my device to handle multiple eBook formats, because that’s just they way things are when you’re a technology early adopter (AKA, gadget junky. I don’t necessarily like the multiple formats, but I’ve accepted the current situation as what it is…).
So I compromised with myself. I decided to read business type stuff on my Blackberry (stuff like David Allen’s Getting Things Done), and keep ye old Palm E2 around with a bunch of eReader and Mobipocket books to get my genre fix. And so there was peace in my ereading valley… Or so I thought…
Earlier this year, I stayed a week at a friend’s house while traveling on business. My friend is an independent Blackberry developer, who also has to make his stuff work with pretty much every mobile phone ever made, including the iPhone. Further, said friend’s house is pretty much wired with everything you can get with the discount you get when you pay the big bucks for the Apple Developer Connection subscription… And it just happened to be that he had purchased an iPod Touch right before I arrived. (BTW – I also found out during my visit that the Blackberry Bold’s screen really is that gorgeous.)
The iPod Touch has WiFi, does eReader, is small, doesn’t require a book light, and totally meets my requirements with an additional bonus: I could also use the Touch as, well… an iPod, too. (Yes, for all my early adopting, I never got around to getting a dedicated MP3 player. And let’s not get me started about my audio book habit.)
The iPod Touch has the Stanza app, which really opens up the possibilities for all of the eBooks I have squirreled away on my PC, and then there’s iphonebookshelf.com for a direct connection to Baen’s Web Library where I’ve got more stuff squirreled away. (As a side note, the guy who develops the iPhone Bookshelf app. is very cool because he has produced multiple tutorials for the product.)
OK… So having spent a week in the presence of my friend’s iPod Touch, (not to mention seeing it used as a remote control for all things media in the house… Oh! The Power!) I decided that I was due for a present: an 8 GB 2nd generation iPod Touch. This baby goes EVERYWHERE I go. In fact, I’ve become so focused on remembering to pick up my iPod before I leave the house, that I forgot to bring my Blackberry with me when I went on an extended shopping trip one day. Woops.
Guess what? Pay phones? They’re a thing of the past. I couldn’t find one at the mall, so I stopped at the AT&T vendor’s store, explained the situation, let them laugh at me, and then used their phone to call my husband to tell him why I wasn’t going to be answering his calls…
Back to my continued discovery of all things iPod Touch… In fact, within two months of purchasing my iPod Touch, I decided to get one for my dad (he deserved it for going above and beyond Retired Dad Duty when I needed him earlier this year). I’m pleased to note that Dad is now an iPod eBook junky, and he thanks me copiously during our daily tech support calls.
“So why didn’t you go all the way and just get the iPhone,” you ask? I already have a Blackberry. I just got it in May. There was no way I could justify an iPhone purchase when I have a perfectly good Blackberry. And yeah, there really was no way I could justify an iPhone purchase without really annoying my husband… However, I found a hidden benefit in skipping the iPhone: Since my iPod Touch is not connected to my employer’s server, I don’t have to worry about who’s reviewing my genre fiction addiction or any other personal content/interests, for that matter. Cool.
If I were to do this all over again, I probably would get the iPhone, because then I’d be back to carrying around only one small thing, and non-required WiFi to touch the outer world is pretty useful.
But here’s the thing… I’ve frequently found that carrying around only one thing isn’t so great when your phone is running low on battery, you want to read a book at an airport gate, and there are many, many people standing hungrily around the what seems like the one wall outlet in the concourse; which, of course, is currently occupied by three cell phone chargers, and some guy who is territorially guarding his laptop cord.
Carrying the iPod Touch negates this particular issue. Having encountered the airport situation more than once where the need of a phone overruled my need for electronic reading material, I’ve decided I can live with carrying around two small, multipurpose things. All-in-one is a great idea, and pretty much my gadget Holy Grail, but it I’ve resigned myself to the practical limits of technology, at this point.
For the money (<$300) and my requirements, the iPod Touch is my current eReading hardware of choice at this point in my eBook reading life. I even got a bonus when I realized two extra benefits that people often don’t think about until they encounter the need in the wild – reading material privacy and battery life.
Will this be the last eReading device I buy? Probably not. I am, after all, an admitted early adopting gadget junky… The iPod Touch definitely has my attention for the time being.
Editors Note: If you have an email or other material you’d like to turn into an article, please feel free to send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.