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Old 02-19-2008, 11:11 AM   #1
Taylor514ce
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Hello. Hopefully this first post won't completely reiterate previous threads.

First, a brief profile. I'm an avid reader, multiple genres. I'm very computer literate, in fact I'm an application developer, software project manager, and a corporate software trainer.

Here are my ponderings on eBook Readers. First, I stare at computers enough, so I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to books. I like paper books. I'm very intrigued by the eInk technology, however, and understand it. From what I've seen, for me personally it boils down to the Sony device vs. the Cybook. Kindle is just, frankly, too ugly.

Onward to the questions and issues where your opinions would mean a lot to me. First, the functionality.

It seems to me that navigation is a big issue. I review a lot of technical manuals, and need to very quickly flip from TOC to a specific page, back a few pages, forward a few pages, then to the index and to specific pages listed in the index. After playing with the Sony device, it appears you can either start from the beginning, from where you left off, or from a bookmark. Is the Cybook any better? PDF support? The Sony seems to take a long time to turn pages in a PDF. Even their owner's manual on the device seems tortuously slow to page through.

Does either device have a search feature? I often want to pick up NEAR where I left off when reading a novel, perhaps rereading from a certain remembered passage onward.

Next, features. When reviewing technical or training material, I'll need to annotate the text. Yes, I know these devices aren't laptops, and I don't want a keyboard on a Reader. But what about voice annotations? Does either device, does ANY device, support annotations?

Next, price and the economy of the eBook market. I'm sorry, but $300.00 to $400.00 for a device seems outrageously expensive. That's my first reaction, but I'm willing to be persuaded. Perhaps the device will "pay for itself" because the content will be cheaper. Really? How much cheaper? Will I be able to get the titles I want? New releases, classic SciFi, biographies? Non-fiction new releases? Which publishers?

In terms of physical media (printed books), there are qualitative differences in editions. Hardcover books are generally better quality than paperbacks, and I prefer trade cover as a nice compromise. In other words, I understand that I'll pay more for a hardcover than for a paperback and can qualify the cost difference. But when I look at eBooks, I see "new releases" still cost more, still in the $18-20 range... not that much cheaper than a hard cover, but with no qualitative difference between an old and a new "edition"! Why does a "new" eBook cost more than an "old" eBook? $300.00 plus for a device, to get content that isn't that much cheaper, with a pricing policy that is irrational... I'm just not sold. If the price of a new book is only cheaper by a few dollars, then the Reader shouldn't cost hundreds of dollars.

Device support. I see vague references to Sony's invasive software. Can someone elaborate? I see shipment, warranty service request, and customer service problems with Bookeen. Is it too early to buy a Cybook? Are they simply too immature at this point? Is Sony any better in terms of support, warranty service, and customer service?

The gadget lover in me wants one right now. The Cybook, specifically. But the practical side of me sees overpriced, limited devices from companies with significant customer service issues in a market with irrational content pricing, and the voice in my head is saying, "wait about three years".

Whew! A long post, I know, but that's my current state of mind. I'd appreciate any discussion of the points I've raised. Thank you!

Last edited by Taylor514ce; 02-19-2008 at 11:16 AM.
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Old 02-19-2008, 11:39 AM   #2
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It seems to me that navigation is a big issue. I review a lot of technical manuals, and need to very quickly flip from TOC to a specific page, back a few pages, forward a few pages, then to the index and to specific pages listed in the index. After playing with the Sony device, it appears you can either start from the beginning, from where you left off, or from a bookmark. Is the Cybook any better? PDF support? The Sony seems to take a long time to turn pages in a PDF. Even their owner's manual on the device seems tortuously slow to page through.
All the current devices are primarily intended as fiction readers where you read from cover to cover. They do that extremely well. They are not well suited for reference material where one wants to go in at a random point.

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Does either device have a search feature? I often want to pick up NEAR where I left off when reading a novel, perhaps rereading from a certain remembered passage onward.
No.

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Next, features. When reviewing technical or training material, I'll need to annotate the text. Yes, I know these devices aren't laptops, and I don't want a keyboard on a Reader. But what about voice annotations? Does either device, does ANY device, support annotations?
The iRex iLiad allows you to annotate PDF files. The Kindle allows you to annotate files, I believe, but is of course only available to a small minority of people.

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Next, price and the economy of the eBook market. I'm sorry, but $300.00 to $400.00 for a device seems outrageously expensive. That's my first reaction, but I'm willing to be persuaded. Perhaps the device will "pay for itself" because the content will be cheaper. Really? How much cheaper? Will I be able to get the titles I want? New releases, classic SciFi, biographies? Non-fiction new releases? Which publishers?
Reading is my main hobby. I spend far more time reading than I spend watching TV. Would you hesitate to spend $400 on a TV? I wouldn't hesitate to spend $400 on a good bookreader. For my, the main benefit is storage space. I live in a small house; I only have room to store a few hundred paper books. I have something like 15,000 eBooks on a small external USB hard disk, backed up onto a handful of DVDs. I have several lifetimes of eBook reading awaiting me.

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Device support. I see vague references to Sony's invasive software. Can someone elaborate? I see shipment, warranty service request, and customer service problems with Bookeen. Is it too early to buy a Cybook? Are they simply too immature at this point? Is Sony any better in terms of support, warranty service, and customer service?
These devices are very reliable provided you treat them with a reasonably degree of respect. Bookeen ship 2000-3000 devices per month; a handful of people have had problems. They can be a bit slow to respond to customer support requests, yes. The overwhelming majority of customers will never need such support. Certainly not an "immature" product; I've had my Gen3 since early November and it's the best eBook reader I've owned, and I say that having been avidly reading eBooks for 20+ years.

Hope that's of some interest to you. Feel free to ask if you have any further questions.
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Old 02-19-2008, 12:15 PM   #3
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Reading, too, is my main hobby (well, playing guitar... and Euro-style strategy games like Catan, PowerGrid, etc.). Plus I travel 60% of the time, which is a salient point I should have mentioned: the main appeal to me is the ability to travel with a library of new and old favorite books.

The TV analogy is interesting, but it breaks down a bit when I think it over. Once I have a TV, and a "subscription" to a cable service, then the content is essentially free. The TV has a lot of "add-ons" to allow it other capabilities (game consoles, VCRs, music channels, etc.). Multiple people can watch a single TV. I can record content. And so on. In the market, what does TV compete against? Movies at the cinema? Tickets to a live sporting event or concert? In that relative economy, TV is a much less expensive alternative.

In the book economy, I can buy a trade cover edition of a book for about $17.00, essentially the same price as a new release ebook, and the paper book's reader is free: my eyes, and the navigation (my hands) is extremely versatile. That's the market where ebook readers live, and I'm finding it very difficult to justify the price in terms of a single convenience (having multiple books at hand). If this convenience were combined with a few other factors, such as excellent navigation and MUCH cheaper content, then I'd have an easier time justifying the price.

Thank you for your excellent reply.
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Old 02-19-2008, 12:45 PM   #4
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The TV analogy is interesting, but it breaks down a bit when I think it over. Once I have a TV, and a "subscription" to a cable service, then the content is essentially free.
There is, of course, a huge amount of out-of-copyright content available free of charge.

One of my interests is 19th century novels. The huge benefit of eBooks for me is that I can download thousands of such books, completely free, from sites like PG, and, in fact, they are far easier to obtain that way than as paper books, since most of them are long out of print. Eg, consider the English writer of adventure stories, Sir Henry Rider Haggard: go into any bookstore today and you'll probably find two of his books - "King Solomon's Mines" and "She". Go to PG, however, and you'll find his complete works (about 65 novels), all completely free.
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Old 02-19-2008, 03:35 PM   #5
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Agreed - content is an extremely important consideration. I've been leaning toward the Sony Reader, mainly because I could drive a few blocks to Borders and pick one up today. Ok, so on to Sony's online bookstore to do a few searches... hmmm, well, of course I'd love the entire Patrick O'Brian "Master and Commander" series. The Orson Scott Card "Ender" books. Tolkein. Stephen Baxter's new "Time's Tapestry" series looks very interesting. I like Historical Fiction with a twist, let's try Jack Whyte's "Camuold/Eagle's Brood" series. Might as well search for an old favorite of mine, Richard Adams (Watership Down). And let's also try a recent non-fiction title just to be thorough, Dava Sobel's "Longitude", as well as a favorite non-fiction author, Simon Singh (The Code Book, Fermat's Enigma).

Zero. None of the above.

No other considerations matter, at this point. No platform, regardless of style, support, availability, or technical features, can be considered when not a single book in my ad hoc, impromptu list is available. By this criteria, it looks like Kindle is the only option - and it's out of stock, too expensive, and to my mind burdened with unnecessary features. Ah well. I did try.
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Old 02-19-2008, 03:38 PM   #6
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Taylor, if you have been reading the forum, you'll know that you can get eBooks in MS Reader and convert to LRF very easy. Also converting from Mobipocket is not just as easy. Search around the forum and you'll find the relevant threads.

So basically, the Sony has as much going for it as the Cybook in terms of content. In fact maybe more since it also has the eBooks available at Sony's eBook shop.
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Old 02-19-2008, 03:44 PM   #7
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No platform, regardless of style, support, availability, or technical features, can be considered when not a single book in my ad hoc, impromptu list is available.
One thing to check, before you consider your list too definitive, is whether the books on it are e-vailable anywhere -- many books still aren't available as in e-versions ... well, not legal ones, anyway. If that's what's going on with your list, then you're not going to find any device that can meet your criteria.

Tangential to that, most electronic readers can handle books from some other sources/stores, provided you're willing to do some conversion. The Sony is particularly good about this, as it handles RTF files natively, what with RTF being so easy a target to hit.
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Old 02-19-2008, 03:47 PM   #8
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With that in mind, then, could you recommend an ebook provider website, with support for the formats you mention, where I could check a few titles and authors? Assuming I find and purchase oh, say the Lord of the Rings in one format, convert it to Sony's and install it. Is that legal? Will a software/firmware upgrade remove those titles?
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Old 02-19-2008, 03:49 PM   #9
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Fictionwise is the first one that comes to mind, and it's a good general one.

If you'll hang on a few minutes, I'm sure you'll have a good list here.
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Old 02-19-2008, 04:01 PM   #10
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With that in mind, then, could you recommend an ebook provider website, with support for the formats you mention, where I could check a few titles and authors? Assuming I find and purchase oh, say the Lord of the Rings in one format, convert it to Sony's and install it. Is that legal? Will a software/firmware upgrade remove those titles?
I'm also partial to BooksOnBoard to purchase eBooks.
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Old 02-19-2008, 04:11 PM   #11
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Ok, FictionWise:

William Gibson: yes, multiple titles
Patrick O'Brian: none
Stephen Baxter: yes, multiple titles
Simon Singh: one title... well, it's non-fiction on a site named FictionWise...
Orson Scott Card: limited titles
Tolkien: none
Neal Stephenson: yes
Ian M. Banks: none

Ok, so it's spotty at best. I can get some old favorites, classics, and new bestsellers (which are mostly junk, IMO).

I'll check some other threads about the side-effects, if any, of converting Microsoft Reader to RTF. This thread has been very educational, thanks for all the replies.
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Old 02-19-2008, 04:15 PM   #12
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If you plan on getting a Sony Reader PRS-505, you can use lit2lrf to convert the LIT into LRF for a better reading experience and a MUCH FASTER conversion process as well.
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Old 02-19-2008, 05:10 PM   #13
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I just can't bring myself to do it... if someone wanted to get me an expensive gift, fine, I'd tell them about the Sony Reader. Or if Borders Rewards sent me a 40% off coupon that didn't exclude the Reader (fat chance). But it seems other e-ink/e-paper technologies are about to hit, and I want to see eBook prices much lower than they are relative to printed books. After browsing this site and others, I don't think I'm 3 years out like I first posted - more like a year out.
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Old 02-19-2008, 06:28 PM   #14
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That's your call alone to make, Taylor514ce. Which is as it should be, since you're the one who has to live with it.

I'm glad you were able to decide that you're not ready to jump before you spent the money. It's always much better that way.
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Old 02-19-2008, 06:59 PM   #15
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That's your call alone to make, Taylor514ce. Which is as it should be, since you're the one who has to live with it.

I'm glad you were able to decide that you're not ready to jump before you spent the money. It's always much better that way.
Indeed. That was the purpose of this little web foray. I wanted to talk it out, get some other opinions, and make up my mind.

This is a well-run community, highly focused and helpful. I'm sure I'll be back... eventually.
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