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Old 11-13-2006, 12:36 PM   #1
Xenophon
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Exclamation Sony Reader physical ergonomics

I've now spent about a day with my new Sony Reader. I love it, the screen is great. That said, I have a few beefs with the physical design of the device.
  • Button Placement: No matter how I hold the Reader, the next and previous buttons are poorly placed.
    • Held in my left hand with the reader well balanced in portrait mode, the "next-page" button is about 1 to 2 inches below my left thumb.
    • Held in my left hand with the reader well balanced in landscape mode, the circular silver button is about 1/2 inch too far up the reader to hit it with my left thumb.
    • Held in my right hand with the reader well balanced in portrait mode, the "next-page" button is once again about 1 to 2 inches below my right thumb. And the text is upside down (and how 'bout a fix for that, eh Sony?).
    • Held in my right hand with the reader well balanced in landscape mode, the joystick is almost in the correct location -- just a bit too high for my right thumb. Of course the text is upside down , and even if it wasn't, the joystick won't advance the page anyway.
  • Screen resolution: 180-or-so dpi beats the heck out of the RCA REB1100 I've been using. But for really comfortable reading we need a display up in the 600dpi-or-more range. Over 1000dpi would be much better. To see the difference, compare a dot-matrix print-out with a paperback book, and then look at a high-end textbook or coffeetable art book or a fancy glossy magazine. There's a real difference in long-term readability with the higher resolution printing. Of course, the Sony reader is the best (resolution-wise) of what's available today. (OK... easily available in the US, anyway.))

I strongly recommend that Sony (and any other eBook device maker) have their designers take a close look at the physical design of the REB1100. I know that the screen sucks, the device is too heavy, etc. BUT... No matter which hand you hold it in, when you have the reader well balanced in your hand the next-page button is right under your thumb. And it's a biiiiiiig button, so that's true whether you have giant hands or the tiny hands of my youngest niece. The device is designed so the battery is in a bulge that rests directly in your hand -- makes it easy to hold onto. The battery placement also means that the side-to-side center of balance of the device is well off-center towards the battery-and-button side -- the side that you'll naturally wind up holding in your hand. That's muuuuuch better and more comfortable than the Sony eReader. And if you choose to switch hands, you can trivially tell the REV1100 which side of the screen is the top -- and it automatically switches the next/prev buttons around so that the one that is under your thumb is always "next-page".

To sum up: Yes, the eInk screen's readability clearly trumps all of these other considerations. But Sony really should have worked a lot harder on the ergonomics of the device. There's no excuse for doing this much worse than a well-known (at least within the eBook world) previous device.

Dean
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Old 11-13-2006, 03:49 PM   #2
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I agree-- button placement was poorly thought out.

I don't understand why they put both sets of buttons on the same side of the reader and so close to each other. If they would allow us to rotate the screen 180 at least we could have a chance to switch hands. at least let us have an option to switch the functions of the joystick and disc while reading.

I've been wishing lately for a next page button at the top right of the device to mimic the placement of turning a page in an actual book.

Hopefully the next version of the reader will be designed with actual user feedback in mind.
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Old 11-13-2006, 04:03 PM   #3
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Yep, a page turn where the joystick is (or that use of the joystick or ring) would be nice. I'd like bigger buttons on the left also. And an option to flip the page would be great.

I think the right hand side of the device was limited because of hardware limitations... that part of the device was so full of "stuff" that it didn't allow for more controls.
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Old 11-13-2006, 04:55 PM   #4
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I guess this all comes down to how people hold books, which is obviously different, I find the setup great for how I use it anyway, just folding the front cover back behind the reader and holding it with my left hand puts my left thumb right on the buttons on the mid-left side. I do agree that there should be more options for the page buttons on different sides of the device so it could be a truly ergonomic, hold-anywhere device.
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Old 11-13-2006, 05:04 PM   #5
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Here's a really wild idea ... what if the remote page turner discussed elsewhere could be placed on the end of your finger like a thimble (except comfortable) or ring, and then to change pages, you just pressed it against whatever was handy: the tabletop, the back of the Reader, another finger, your chin, the cat, etc.

Then it wouldn't matter where the buttons were located on the device. And now that I think about it, when the remote wore out, you could just replace the remote -- no big worries about the longevity of the buttons 'cause they're not built into the Reader itself.
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Old 11-13-2006, 05:06 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peregrine
I guess this all comes down to how people hold books, which is obviously different, I find the setup great for how I use it anyway, just folding the front cover back behind the reader and holding it with my left hand puts my left thumb right on the buttons on the mid-left side. I do agree that there should be more options for the page buttons on different sides of the device so it could be a truly ergonomic, hold-anywhere device.
I agree - holding it like that, I find the buttons well-placed. If I move it to my right hand to read, the tip of my thumb overlaps the bottom left button - so for either hand, when reading one-handed, I find the controls perfectly placed. When I go two-handed (not often, just when I've got a minute and want to sneak in a couple of pages), though, there's nothing near any of my fingers or thumbs for page turning, and I have to awkwardly stretch a finger over to poke at the "next page" button.
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Old 11-13-2006, 05:24 PM   #7
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I switch back and forth between my left and right hands while reading... I find the buttons well-placed when holding the book with my left hand, but obviously when holding it with my right there is no button at all. I have to use my left hand, or reach across it.

I love the idea of a remote page turner that would fit over a finger or somesuch... That would be great for this problem. (It would also be nice to use while reading the book in landscape mode, propped up on the edge of the bathtub. Right now, when doing that I have to be very careful to dry my hand before turning pages. I guess this means I would like the thimble-remote-page-turner to also be waterproof!)
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Old 11-13-2006, 05:47 PM   #8
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atreis, try the MobileRead patented Waterproof (well, resistant) E-Reader Case -- otherwise known as a Ziplok bag.

Others have reported good results with this product.
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Old 11-13-2006, 08:46 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NatCh
atreis, try the MobileRead patented Waterproof (well, resistant) E-Reader Case -- otherwise known as a Ziplok bag.

Others have reported good results with this product.
Also known as the all-in-one spill-proof bag. 8)

Ziploc should really come up with such bags that fit the size of PDAs etc ... ...
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Old 11-14-2006, 04:18 AM   #10
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I'm left-handed, but the placement of the two smaller buttons on the side is still a bit off. What about two shoulder buttons like on a Gameboy?
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Old 11-14-2006, 11:28 AM   #11
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Holding books differently

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peregrine
I guess this all comes down to how people hold books, which is obviously different, I find the setup great for how I use it anyway, just folding the front cover back behind the reader and holding it with my left hand puts my left thumb right on the buttons on the mid-left side. I do agree that there should be more options for the page buttons on different sides of the device so it could be a truly ergonomic, hold-anywhere device.
Indeed, the way we hold books is obviously different. If I hold the Reader in my left hand so that the page buttons are under my thumb, it's top-heavy. And that puts extra strain on my wrist and fingers -- a bad thing for those of us with carpal tunnel problems. By comparison, on the REB1100 (and also the 1150, I think) the page-turn buttons occupy 2/3 to 3/4 of the side of the device (dividing right in the middle). This means that the next-page button (the one you use the most!) is always under your thumb. And if you choose to hold the device by the bottom left corner (I never would, but maybe someone does ), you can reverse the meaning of the buttons so that the bottom one becomes "next page." (Of course, swap left for right on both hands and button-sides as needed -- something we can't do with the Sony.)

I do want to make sure that I'm clear about one thing, though. The difference in display quality is SO LARGE that I'm not going back to the REB1100 -- it's going on eBay real-soon-now (unless someone here PMs me about it first).

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Old 11-14-2006, 12:45 PM   #12
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I guess I addressed most of what you're dealing with by adding a wrist lanyard. I can wrap it over the back of my hand and down between my index & middle fingers and it supports most of the weight for me. I just have to keep my fingers flat along the back of the Reader and I'm good. To turn pages, I just bring my thumb over to the button and click -- no having to clamp the Reader in my hand to hang onto it, so I don't have the strain that you're running into.

You might want to give that a try if you have a lanyard handy from something else (why they didn't include one just baffles me), it may help.
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Old 11-14-2006, 02:33 PM   #13
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Nathan, I saw you mention that, and I'm glad it works for you. Can't possibly imagine that being more comfortable, though. And definitely not as comfy as just laying it on the bed next to you, if you are reading late at night!
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Old 11-14-2006, 02:39 PM   #14
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Well, now, bed reading is an entirely different matter, of course!
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Old 11-15-2006, 01:26 AM   #15
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In addition to the ziplock bag approach for the tub, might I suggest throwing a dessicant packet in there (if you don't happen to own any, just keep the ones that come with a new pair of shoes. This eliminates the condensation issue that may crop up due to excessive heat from the tub (or maybe I just take really hot baths )
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