I bought a Sony Reader last year. It’s not a perfect device, in truth. The screen could be bigger, the software could be more intuitive, it could have backlighting, and it could even incorporate other functionality like holding all of my portable music etc, but it’s mostly been a good and faithful device.
So, how have I used this new piece of hardware? Well, I’ve not bought an e-book, even though I’ve had it for a year. I can’t imagine that I’ll ever want to do that, though it could happen. No. I use my reader to read manuscripts of magazines, anthologies, collections and such that I need to read for the ‘year’s best’, or to preview novels that are going to be reviewed for Locus. It’s light and flexible and the screen is quite readable. It also doesn’t strain my eyes the way a computer monitor does.
I’ve used the Reader on planes, in airports, in cafes, restaurants and wherever. In fact, mostly I use it when I’m away from home. When I look back, I used to get on to planes with an absurd amount of carry-on. I’d have CD players, cds, headphones, magazines, printed manuscripts and at least three or four books. My carry-on was *heavy*. Now it’s not. I’ve got an iPod, a pair of noise reducing headphones, and the Reader. What else could I need?
Now, I’ve seen some folk around and about declaring that the arrival of eBook readers is the death of the printed book, or some such. I just don’t see what ever happening. I have a Reader, but I love printed books. Lovelovelove them. I recently started buying the Subterranean editions of the Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg just because they’re so damned handsome. Same for their Powers’ books. And, damn it, if Subterranean were doing the complete Heinlein library instead of the Virginia Edition people I’d be buying those too.
My own feeling is that eBooks and printed books do not make some kind of either/or equation. You can have both. Last year I bought a brand new valve amplifier and accompanying high end cd player, and am currently lusting after speakers to make the system complete. There’s nothing like being in a room with a great sound system playing wonderful music. But. I have an iPod. It goes everywhere with me. Wouldn’t be without it. It’s my portable music fix. I want BOTH. And it’s the same with eBooks and printed books. I want both. Actually, what I’d love is if print book publishers gave away the eBook with the print edition. That would be cool.
Oh, and a last note. I’m jonesing to see what the Apple tablet iPod is like. It could be the answer.