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Posts Tagged ‘ebook’

eBook Reader

Posted by selinalock on 4 February, 2011

Sony eReader

Sony Pocket eReader

I’d asked for a Kindle as a Xmas present, judging that would be the cheapest to get. So, I was very surprised to get a Sony Pocket eReader (350 model in pink!) instead.

Have become a convert very quickly, as it’s great for carrying around in my bag, reading on the bus, or in cafés, and for taking on weekends away.

The plan is to use it to read lots of the freely available, out of copyright, classics I’ve never read. Loaded it up with titles from authors such as Dickens, H.P. Lovecraft, M.R. James, Edgar Allan Poe, E.M. Forster, Oscar Wilder, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Machen, Conan-Doyle, Bram Stoker, Jules Vern, and Mark Twain. Plus some Cory Doctorow  titles and some short stories by friends. Also found it good for reading drafts of novels/scripts that I’ve been sent to critique by friends.

Features I like:

  • Really nice size (a little smaller than the Kindle), which means I can hold it with one hand, while drinking a cuppa, and it doesn’t put any strain on my wrist.
  • The page turning buttons on the bottom can easily be pressed while still holding it in one hand, so no need to put my cuppa down. It also allow you to turn the pages via the touch screen but that’s a little more fiddly.
  • Touch screen is really easy to use.
  • Has a stylus for use in the trickier screens, like the touch screen keyboard.
  • Can type text memos.
  • Can handwrite notes on the books pages and highlight text (and delete).
  • Can add bookmarks (and delete).
  • Can draw pictures on it!
  • Double clicking on a word will bring up the OED definition.
  • Remembers what page you got to on any book/document you go into, so you can have several titles on the go at once.
  • Can read PDFs and if they are text only will also re-size/word wrap in the same way it does for the native ePub format – though you do get the odd formatting issue with PDFs.
  • Being able to sort books into self-titled collections.
  • and I haven’t even used all the functions yet!

Not so good stuff…

  • That you have to hook it up to your computer to add/delete books and recharge it. (No wifi).
  • The software provided for your computer (Reader Library), has a tendency to crash.  Though it’s fairly easy just to move stuff across to the reader as if it’s an external drive anyway without software.
  • You can’t do anything with the drawings you’ve made because they’re SVG (scalable vector graphics) & I haven’t been able to figure out how to convert them into jpgs.
  • Not really usable for comics. We’ve put a copy of an issue of one of our small press comics on in PDF and the pictures show up pretty well in b/w or greyscale (as the screen isn’t colour) but obviously they’re too small to read and it can’t resize them. Can zoom but really fiddly, so any comics would have to be done as a panel at a time, as they’re are for other small screen devices.

I still love printed books, but this is certainly much, much easier to use on the move.

I did a training session on eBooks and eReaders for some of our library staff yesterday, and they found it really useful to see the difference between our online library subscribed ebooks, and the type of ebooks you would download on to an eReader.

Posted in Technology & Devices | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Kindle: First impressions in the Library

Posted by gazjjohnson on 27 October, 2009

What could it be?Last week my boss asked me to go ahead and purchase a Kindle for the Library to trial.  Ordered it around 3pm on Friday and it was on my desk early yesterday afternoon.  First impressions (and comparing it to the Sony reader I trialed last December) aren’t bad.  Some gut reactions:


  • Wireless works out of the box* – with no set up
  • Manual almost not needed – intuitive to use
  • Access to Wikipedia and works flawlessly
  • Nice look and feel – keys and case
  • Navigation around the menus feels modern and slickFirst looks promising
  • Electronic paper impresses again with clarity
  • USB charger works happily with my PC
  • Joystick works well as selection tool


  • Screen smaller than Sony
  • Heavier than I expected
  • 3G Wireless crippled in UK (currently)
  • £200+ is still a bit much when it only comes bundled with a dictionary & user guide
  • Annotation of text bit tricky
  • No stylus or touchscreen functionality
  • Not in colour
  • Doesn’t recognise native PDF documents placed on it

I quite like the Kindle, even now 24hrs later when the “WOW!” factor is wearing off.  I’m finding the smaller screen (than the Sony) isn’t bothering me quite so much now.  I enjoyed flicking it on for the first time on the train last night (it needed a three hour charge first) and being on wikipedia less than 30 seconds later.  I even liked that it said “Hello Gareth” when it booted.

Sitting happily on the deskSo in terms of usability I would say the Kindle has the slight edge – certainly the plastic coated metal protected me from holding onto a cold metal object out of doors (something the Sony fell down on).  The keyboard layout looks slightly odd at first (it is QWERTY but aligned like a PDA not a keyboard) but was responsive to the touch.  Actually all the keys click nicely without too much of a clunk.

The shame is that the 3G mobile internet browsing has been locked out in the UK.  Can’t Google, can’t Twitter, can’t Facebook.  Can’t even read my email – so as a replacement for a netbook, 3G phone or PDA the Kindle fails.  Yes it looks nice and easy to buy books from, but I’ve not been able to locate any free ones nor have I been able to put my own PDFs on to read.  That alone would have made it very handy in the library sense – got an interlibrary loan?  Zap – there you go, read it on your Kindle.  So far as I can see so far though, this isn’t the case.

Close up of the joystickIn this regards the Kindle begins to raise the same worries in me that have kept me away from Apples iPod/iTunes network – the push to the proprietary media/documents only.  When I have an electronic reading device I want it to read my documents – not just the documents you choose to sell to me.  AntiPirary? Or just my inexperience…yes it appears the latter.  A search of the manual reveals that the Kindle can handle electronic texts, but only in Kindle (.azw, azw1), text (.txt), unprotected mobipocket (.mob1, .prc), audible (.aa, .aax) or MP3 formats.  That seems a real let down.

There is a service whereby you can email your PDFs to Amazon, and then for a fee (these are my documents remember) have them transfer wirelessly to the Kindle.  You can get around this by having it emailed back to you.  Unfortunately in terms of securely electronic delivery PDFs from the British Library, well frankly that wouldn’t work.  But for others, I can see it’s an area where we might be entertaining a little experimentation – if anyone else has tried this, let me know how it worked out for you!

Close up on the keysThat’s it – my first reactions to the Kindle.  Not perfect, not a world beater and by no means the must have item this Christmas.  Would I buy it for myself?  Frankly no, not as it currently is configured or priced.  Personally I’ll be waiting for a reader with flawless wireless, that allows me to upload and read native PDFs rather than passing them through a clunky two handed email exchange, and with touchscreen functionality.  Oh, and can I have two screens so it feels more like reading a book?  If the Nintendo DS can do it…

* Actually the only place the wireless hasn’t worked is right here at my desk!  Our building being somewhat of a shield for mobile phone signals.

Posted in Technology & Devices, Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Sony Portable Ebook reader review

Posted by gazjjohnson on 3 December, 2008

Sony EBook reader

The Sony Portable Ebook reader

In preparation for the HRH visit tomorrow I was loaned the library’s portable ebook reader.  As it turns out the turn I’m doing in the end won’t involve using it, but all the same I’ve had a couple of interesting weeks playing about with it.

If you’ve not had a chance to get your hands on one of these (and considering Amazon lists them at £219 last time I checked that wouldn’t be a surprise) what is most striking right away is the screen.  Designed to look more like a conventional page would to the eye without tiring it, which is something it does quite well.  What is a slight niggle is that it displays text (monochrome only) even at the lowest magnification a little larger than I’d expect, which makes even short books pages more in length than their physical counterparts.


Page turning thumb buttons

Why does this matter?  Well due to the biggest failing of the current model to my mind – the page turn.  To turn a page is simply a matter of clicking the thumb buttons half way up the right hand side, which is quite a natural option.  There’s also a dial button in the lower left that duplicates that function.  However, when it turns a page the whole screen goes black and then the new page appears.  It didn’t bother me much at first but as I read through The Importance of Being Ernest it got a greater and greater annoyance.  It wasn’t giving me a headache, it just took far too long to flick to the next page of what is simply plain text. 

All that said I did read the book throughout quite easily at my desk, waiting for the train, sitting in bed.  The feel of the reader and its leatherette case is quite comfortable weighing about the same as one of the more hefty paperbacks; considerably less than a hardback.  I will mention that its metal case scores in terms of ruggedisation, but loses points for freezing your hands off on a cold train platform.  A thin plastic veneer around the edges would go a long way to overcoming that problem.  Or naturally a pair of gloves for the user.

Oh and whilst I didn’t test it (this being a loaner) it naturally failed the bath test; or at least I don’t think I’d want to risk reading one of the 95 preloaded books in the tub.

Downloading books

In terms of battery life it does better than quite a few other portable gadgets that I own (sat nav and PSP come to mind) in not just the longevity of the charge, but also how well it retains that charge when switched off.  If I don’t use my TomTom for a week it’s as flat as pancake.  With not using the Ebook reader for a week, it had over 3/4 of its charge left.  Vital for something that I might want to pick up and use at a moments notice.  Recharging, and downloading new books, is via a USB 2.0 cable with a UC-E1 end (the sort your digital camera has most likely). 

I downloaded a book on marketing from one of the free ebook sites we recommend which worked fine as a simple file transfer.  There is software that comes bundled to manage the ebook’s books, but from experience of mobile devices I’m happier using explorer to directly plonk items to the flash storage.  One less piece of bloatware to clear off the home PC (and obviously couldn’t install on the work machine).

Unfortunately none of our subscription ebooks I could find allowed download to portable readers, so I couldn’t test that out.  Doubtless if I’d bought an ebook for myself I’d hope this would be just as painless a process.

Ports and controls


Top and bottom

In terms of other ports there is 5.2v DC in (not included with the reader I had), a standard walkman headphone jack and volume control on the bottom.  The top has twin slots for a PRODuo and SD cards as well as the sliding power switch.


Close up of screen and controls


Other controls on the main body of the reader include a bookmark, zoom, menu, menu navigation D-pad and numerical buttons down the right hand side.  Using these it is easily possible to navigate or jump to a specific page.  I confess I wasn’t overly fond of the numerical buttons in terms of look and feel; they felt a bit clunky and out of place with the smooth lines of the rest of the device.  But they worked, and function before form is something I can live with.

So overall a useful little device, with some software flaws and hardware niggles, but it does the job.  Would I buy one for myself?  The answer is no – I’d like to wait a couple of years for the developers to get the page turning faster and less looking like an etch-a-sketch at times, a revision to the numerical buttons and perhaps a warmer to the touch feel than cold metal.  And I’d like it for about £150 less and waterproofed thank you very much.  Not such a tall order is it?


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