Last Wednesday morning, while eating breakfast and scanning the Wall Street Journal, I stumbled across an article by Lee Gomes. He wrote a long piece about reading Ian McEwan’s novel “Amsterdam” on his Blackberry:
“Contrary to all of my previous expectations, not only was I reading the novel on my cellphone, I was enjoying it, too.
Until a few weeks ago, my assumption had been that a useable electronic book would need to resemble a Gutenberg book as much as possible, with, for example, pages of screen text about the same size as pages of print. I had heard reports that Japanese commuters were using cellphones to read books. But I figured that was sort of the thing only Japanese commuters would ever see fit to do."
I burst out laughing and handed the article to my husband. Henri has long maintained that reading an eBook on a small device is a terrible idea. He's not even interested in trying to read a book on a handheld device. I have an ongoing (and so far unsuccessful) campaign to convince him to be more open minded.
He scanned the article and then grudgingly conceded that Lee might have a point. He was quick to add, however, that he remained unconvinced. And then he couldn't help himself. He pointed out that I was possibly a hypocrite -- since I got my Cybook last November I haven't really used anything else for leisure reading.
That evening as I was in the middle of reading Marisa de los Santos' Belong to Me, my Cybook froze. That is a story for another day (and it ended up to be no big deal). The point of this story is that for the first time in six months I had use another device to finish the book.
I had almost forgotten the reasons to read on a handheld device, but as I started to use the Palm they came back to me:
- Backlit - I can read in the dark
- Portable - I can have all my important info with me and still read anywhere
- Touch Screen - easy to scroll and move around
- Vivid Color - I really like color
- Wireless - instant connectivity to the rest of the world
The bonus discovery: the thumb button in the middle of the device is much easier to use and more intuitive than the button on the right side of the Cybook. I also found that the ergonomics of holding and balancing the device were really comfortable.
There are really only two advantages to reading on the Cybook -- a bigger reading surface and the ability to read in bright and direct sunlight.
I am not sure that those advantages really outweigh the advantages of reading on the PDA. specifically the touch screen and the wireless access.
Just to check myself, I pulled out a very old Windows PC based PDA and charged it up. All of the advantages of the Palm PLUS I was not so confined by the DRM. Suddenly I could read protected PDF, Palm and MS Lit files.
For the price of a Cybook or Sony Reader you can buy a Pocket PC that runs windows, has a touch screen, adds a keyboard and includes a cellphone.
Friday morning I got the Cybook functioning again, but I'm still reading on the Palm.
Of course, I am now actively considering upgrading my Verizon phone to an XV6800.
Turns out, that small screen isn't so bad after all!