Goodbye to Gutenberg
So long, and thanks for all the lead type:
The Guttenberg Revolution draws to a close
I'm in love, and I feel like a traitor.
Great-grand-child of a poet and journalist, child of writers, I grew up with fantasies not of fast cars or fire-engines, but of having shelves upon shelves of leather-bound books in a lair all of my own.
I have hitch-hiked with a copy of the small-print version of the Oxford English dictionary in my back-pack and a manual typewriter swinging in its hard case from my hand. I have carted my library from room to room, apartment to apartment and in and out of storage.
All my life, I have loved paper and ink, have taken deep pleasure in the craft of a well-made book and cursed contemptuously at those volumes whose shoddy binding betrayed the words between their covers.
But that marriage is over. If I have not bought my last paper book, I am very close to having done so.
Enter the e-Reader
The fact that I have been, to put it mildly, cash-strapped in recent years has something to do with the steep decline in my paper reading, but far from all of it.
Like so many others, I get my news via a wide variety of internet sources, rather than a single newspaper. And much of my reading now consists of short-form blogs, articles and other electronic communications rather than books and magazines.
My short form reading is more voluminous than it once was, but my long-form reading has taken a major hit, particularly when it comes to fiction.
Truth is, the standard computer monitor just isn't conducive to reading thousands of words at one go. Not only is it too easy to take an email break and then to bounce around from link to link, but eye-strain becomes a real problem if you're trying to concentrate.
And so it was, a few weeks back, when I found myself with a little extra money on hand, that I decided to take the plunge into an e-reader.
It was, quite literally, love at first sight.
I started with a refurbished Kobo and was thrilled. But for the lack of paper, it really was like reading text on a page. The so-called e-ink was as crisp and sharp as type and my eyes were in heaven, and — like paper — you can read in direct sunlight (of course, you can't read in the dark).
The ergonomics of the device were very nice, as well (at least for a right-hander like myself). The big button at the bottom right has a rugged feel and an intuitive functionality, those at the left were also easy to use.
There were drawbacks, though. The first-generation device is slow to load, and slow to "turn" the page. Worse, and a deal-breaker for me, is that you can't take notes, highlight text, or go to a specific page.
After a couple of weeks, I decided to upgrade. I'd intended to go to the next generation Kobo, but that doesn't permit note-taking either and, as a reviewer, I want to be able to jot down a quick note or type up a longer one.
So I ended up with a Sony Reader, the PRS-T1. For nearly $100 more than I'd started off paying, it's WI-FI enabled and can play MP3s, but the killer app for me, was the virtual keyboard for note-taking, the highlighting capability and the ability to go to a particular page.
It also allows you to make hand-written (or rather, finger-written) notes, if that's how you want to play.
The virtual keyboard is slow; you wouldn't want to write an article with it, but it's a damned sight better than having dozens of sticky notes to keep track of. In other words, it does the job I want it to do.
Both devices connected via USB to my Ubuntu Linux system, so they will presumably work with anything out there.
And as I said, reading on these screens is as easy as reading a book. And I don't miss the tactile pleasures of paper a damned bit.
If you intend only to read electronically, I don't see any reason to go with the Sony; it's considerably more expensive than the upgraded Kobo and I doubt it's any faster. On the other hand, if note-taking is a need, you'll soon find yourself wishing the damned thing had a margin to scrawl in, so go with the Sony.