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eReaders February 18, 2009

Posted by Lee in Books, Future formats.

We’ve been thinking about eReaders in the office, and wondering whether to get one. They’ve been pretty popular with editors, recently, and with good reason. Carrying multiple novel submissions in hardcopy isn’t practical, and reading from a computer monitor is ok for a short while, but not for long periods of time (and again, it’s not practical to take one everywhere you go, just on the off-chance you’ll find some spare reading time).



droppedimage_5A dedicated electronic reader, though – that’s a practical option. They’re generally the size of a hardback book, and the better ones use something called electronic ink – a process that makes the screen as easy to read as paper – with little or no glare from other lighting sources, and readable in bright sunlight.



There are a few problems with eReaders at the moment, though, and although they have generally been solved there is a geographical disadvantage. The Sony PRS 550 eReader, for instance doesn’t allow you to annotate manuscripts – the replacement PRS700 does, but it’s not available here in the UK, yet. Likewise, the Amazon Kindle (and Kindle 2) is a US-only device.



The problem was largely solved for me recently by a friend who gave me an iPod Touch (everyone should have friends like that).



On her recommendation I downloaded an eReader application called Stanza. It was the work of but a few moments to ascertain how to get the Angry Robot submissions list onto the device, and while it doesn’t allow annotation, it’s small enough to put in my pocket wherever I go, and that’s a good trade-off.



The screen is big enough to make reading pleasurable, and extremely clear. In fact, the more I use it, the more I wonder why manufacturers of dedicated eReaders feel it necessary to make them ‘book size’. Surely, the advantage of an eReader is that it can carry hundreds of books in one – size and weight is evidently a major factor, so why not go the whole hog and reduce the dimensions?


 Perhaps the reason is that at over £200 a device, the manufacturers feel it necessary to give some physical substance to the device.


Personally, I don’t want something bigger. I’m perfectly happy with Stanza on my iPod. It works well, so why carry something bigger? I can carry the entire Angry Robot submissions list with me wherever I go, and it weighs no more than a mobile phone. Surely that’s the point of an electronic book…



1. George Stirling - February 18, 2009

The iRex iLiad does allow you to mark up files. I’m half-tempted to get one for editing purposes, but the sheer outlay is putting me off.

As for dimensions: the greater book-reading public need coaxing into the ‘e-book revolution’, and giving them something with familiar dimensions is part of that. Also, anything that’s designed to be displayed as a full page (illustrations, cleverly typeset material, etc.) will work better when displayed as intended.

Give it another five years, and e-readers may get there. I suspect we need a reduction in cost, full-colour, decent refresh rates, the ability to annotate, a user-friendly interface and format freedom before then.

Oh, and let’s not forget that the majority of readers don’t read many books. There’s no sense in buying a dedicated e-reader if you only read five books a year.

2. Matt Keefe - February 19, 2009

An iBrary, you might say…

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