Last year I bought a Sony Reader, I had my reservations about the whole eInk thing but I was so impressed that this year I bought an Amazon Kindle, I thought it might be useful to compare the two approaches to electronic reading.
Side by side
I guess before I get into the details of each of the readers I should compare them side by side. In some ways its a bit unfair as the Sony Reader is last year’s model and the Kindle is the just released UK model.
Well the first thing I should say is that I am a committed reader, I own almost 1,000 fiction books alone, I like physical books – or dead tree books as Jeff calls them. After owning the Sony Reader for less than a year I am now committed to electronic reading of some sort. I have enjoyed both of these devices, they are both winners over paper books. Maybe its because I am getting old but the ability to “zoom” any book to any font size means that its a no brainer for anyone who owns reading glasses. Also in the same manner that MP3 players allowed people to carry all of their music with them, electronic readers enable me to carry all my books, technical and fiction, with me.
The Kindle is bigger and feels a bit clumsy in the hand, it is not really a device that can be used one handed easily. The screen in the Kindle is so much better, the text is much darker and the device is faster to turn pages.
The Sony feels wonderful in the hand, is very pleasant to use one handed and really does fit most pockets.
Digital Rights Management. I did outline my reservations about this when I was buying the Sony reader. I have not really changed my view after a year.
If you do not mind that you might be only paying for the license to read a book for a limited time when you buy an electronic book then you have nothing to worry about you can simply use either device as the manufacturer intended.
However if you (like me) expect to own something when you have paid for it you will need to remove the DRM. I have to say there is little to choose between the two in terms of DRM, you will need to get there scripts to remove the DRM from the Sony ePub files for the Kindle the Skindle app seems to work. I would suggest getting a Virtual Machine with the requisite scripts installed, I’ve installed both in one VM and can read all my electronic books on either device, or on my phone..
I keep all the electronic books I have bought in DRM free ePub format. Then I use Calibre to convert and place the books where I want them.
Its lovely to hold, it works well in landscape and portrait orientation. Sony really do know how to make hardware, they provide a lanyard attachment point so a wrist strap can be attached to avoid dropping the book if you go to sleep reading - excellent. I’ve registered for a library and can borrow books on the device.
The reader is badly let down by only providing three zoom levels, this is so obviously a software restriction as the more expensive touch model has more and indeed this models successor has more, but as a person with limited eyesight I felt that Sony were deliberately trying to differentiate there models and in that process were making life difficult for me.
Another marketing decision that left a bad taste in the customers throat was that the device would only charge when connected to a computer, not a USB charger, meaning effectively you have to spend an extra 20 pounds on a charger. Thanks a lot Sony.
The screen is amazing, its so fast and easy to read, The device does feel a bit fragile in the hand, I guess the hidden cost for this device is that you really do need to buy a case of some description – and they are not cheap if you buy the official Amazon case.
However everything about the Kindle is a pleasure to use, it makes me smile just to own this device. There are a lot more font sizes available which is very good I can always read the device without my reading glasses. However the presence of the keyboard means that I am not completely happy using the device in landscape mode.
Downloading books is a joy, in general Amazon books are cheaper, and most books make the first chapter available for free,
The web browser is a great bonus, I would not use this device as my primary method of accessing the internet but as a contract free method of accessing my emails or checking the BBC site it is fantastic.
Wherever they can – I have bought some older books from the 60’s – the books arrive without DRM – hurrah.
Both device say they can read PDFs – they both can but that's not the whole story. They can both read PDF file but to my – admittedly poor – eyesight the pages display in very small text and if any attempt to zoom is done then the flow is poor or there is a need to scroll left and right. In truth the Sonly handled PDFs better then the Kindle. Howeve3r a better solution was to use Calibre to convert the PDF to MOBI or ePub, though I do have to say that the Amazon server side conversion, by email did work very well, this option is free over WiFi but costs over 3G.
Well from my position last year its a complete surprise for me to say that the Kindle is in my opinion the better device. Like I said at the beginning I think paper books will be replaced by electronic ones and I think the Kindle will probably go a long way to starting that trend, its a well put together device. Its very slick, the screen is fast and very readable and the web browsing a welcome extra. The device would be made better with a lanyard attachment point.
The Sony is smaller and that could be important, but in general its slower less readable screen let it down.
I really wish I was on commission from Amazon – but alas I am not.