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Old 11-04-2010, 02:01 AM   #1
nojojojo
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Device: PRS 650
Sheet music and O'Reilly programming ePUBs: Reading experience?

Hi all,

Background
After reading/watching reviews of the PRS 650, I have to say I am very impressed with the device. I have been wanting to get one, but before I do that, I thought I had better do some "simulation" of the eBook reading experience, since I haven't owned an eBook reader before.

My main book genres
My main reading materials on the reader will probably be programming books - specifically, some "In A Nutshell" software development titles from O'Reilly, and *maybe* some PDF music sheets while on the move.

Some "simulation" of reading experience on the PC
I deduced from online screenshots of the device and the published specs, that the actual screen estate of the 650 is about 3.5 x 4.7 inches (or 9 x 12 cm). So, what I did to simulate the 650 reading experience on my PC was to load up an O'Reilly ePUB (software develeopment title with code samples, and some tables) in Stanza on my windows desktop, and resize the reading window to the above dimension of 3.5 x 4.7 inches (or 9 x 12 cm). I then adjusted the font size to "sort of" match up with what I see in the 650 review pics.

"Simulation results"
My initial reaction form the above "simulation" is: It feels akin to reading a book through a small cut-out window. I lose the feeling of "context" that I have in a real book. With a real book:
  • I have immediate visual gauge of how far into the whole book I am at.
  • I can glance at the peripheral text and immediately feel where within a chapter/section I am at - what has come before, what will follow next.
  • Within a page, or between 2 facing pages, I can jump quickly back and forth without a page turn to re-read/reinforce/associate nearby concepts.
An eBook reader probably has some facility to achieve the above, but with less immediacy (e.g. I feel that even a "page X of Y" display is not as immediate as seeing how much into the whole stack of paper leafs you have currently thumbed through. With "X of Y", I feel that I have to go an extra step of translating that figure to a visual image of "oh ... that's roughly this thick a stack of pages I have covered and so there is this much stack of paper more to go". Anyway, probably not everyone feels this way.).

Questions
I'm afraid that the above simulation doesn't actually do justice to the REAL experience of reading on the 650, so I would like to seek some opinions from actual users:

Q1: When you read technical books (e.g. programming titles) on the 650, do you feel that you absorb the content/meaning slower, compared to on a physical book? Would you say that it is an effective gadget for reading programming books? (ePUB, PDF, some tables, line-art graphics, some code samples)

Q2: PDF Music sheets - how is the reading experience?

I understand that the above questions are also relevant on other eBook readers, but I thought to post it specically on the 650 category in case its superior text display quality offsets/nullifies the above 2 concerns that I have.

Thanks for reading!

Last edited by nojojojo; 11-04-2010 at 02:21 AM.
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Old 11-04-2010, 04:15 AM   #2
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PDF piano sheet music hasn't worked too well for me because the page breaks tend to fall in the wrong places (i.e. the treble part will display at the bottom of one page, and the bass at the top of the next). You'll end up having to do a lot of zooming and panning manually, which doesn't lend itself to quick page turns. If you transform the sheet music so that the page size is exactly the size of the reader it works better but this is a lot of work.

Programming books fare better but the diagrams often end up too tiny (although it's easy to zoom in). I find it easier to read technical books in landscape mode, although there is more scrolling, most tables and diagrams fit better that way. The programming books that I've had real trouble with are the 'Head First' series because they tend to have a lot callouts and things going on in the margins, as well as a layout that assumes you can see both pages at once. Also books with large blocks of code are frustrating because you can't see the entire class/function on the one page.

I prefer to use my iPad to read both of these types of content and use the 650 for reading novels and papers (which are more text-based).

P.S. Welcome to MobileRead!
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Old 11-14-2010, 01:34 PM   #3
ShowTime25
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Device: Torn between PRS-650 and PRS-950
I'm also in a market for ereader to read programming books. I'm thinking about 650 or 950 but I have the similar concerns and couldn't phrase them any better.

I see that you've listed PRS-650 as you device. Have you bought it? What do you think?

What is you experience with reading on LCD? As a developer I spent 8-.. hours on front of monitor. I don't mind reading news, blogs etc but I can't stand reading books ... my eyes feel tired ... plus I feel all those things that you've raised in your concerns/questions (no visual gauge, can't glance at the peripheral text, harder to re-read/reinforce/associate nearby concepts etc)
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Old 11-14-2010, 07:05 PM   #4
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I bought the 350 (awaiting delivery) primarily for my oreilly books. I think having had a kindle you will be happy if you adjust your expectations. I had a kindle and have a dx. the thing is, even thought the dx is better for reading, it still comes nowhere near the experience of a book. Let me ammend that...it is not great for technical books but fine for getting lost in a novel.

The reasons then that I have gone for the smallest reader (the 350) and for the sony are as follows...

1) you can never get the same experience with an ereader that you would with a technical book so accept that and get somethng really portable and think of it as a supplement. A reader to pull out of your pocket on a line or while double parked to keep your skills fresh.

2) after using the clunky kindle keys to navigate I realized how important touch is to accessing the toc. For me technical books are nothing like paperbacks and require constant jumping around. also the ability to flip through pages quickly is a real plus.

3) finally (if it has not changed) remember oreilly lets you buy ebooks for $4.99 if you can prove you own the actual book.

Aanyway that is my reasoning for getting the 350. I hope it does not let me down
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