In the Future, Tense

April 21, 2009

Adventures with the Sony eReader

Filed under: technology — carolynanderson09 @ 6:21 pm
Tags: , ,

Well, I tried.

Two weeks ago I went out and bought myself a Sony

I’ve been eyeing them in the Borders for awhile.  Covetously.  I have to tell you the idea of being able to carry a hundred books in my purse is a most seductive idea.  Especially as a lot of the reading I do is for research, so I need a lot of books for a single project, and after the project is completed, I don’t need them any more.

I won’t say turning to the ebook side of the force is easy.  As a member of the Traditional Literary SF community, I am from Book People.  Having too many books is a matter of pride.  People sit in the bar and talk about running out of room in their homes to hold the books, and exchange book storage strategies.  Among some of my people, the idea that you might want to reduce the number of physical books you have to buy borders on blasphemy.

And Sony’s eReader is a nifty piece of hardware.  I’ve been around long enough to have seen multiple attempts at electronic book readers, and every one has been slow, clunky, limited and isolated.  For all that time, while people said that e-books would never take off, I said e-books will never take off until the hardware gets better.

Oh, boy, did the hardware get better.  I love the electronic ink that is at the heart of the eReader.  But then, I admit I’m a geek.  But in terms of usability, it’s great.  There’s no glare.  I read it in full, bright daylight.  I read it in flourscent overhead light.  With the easy-on-the-eyes backlight, I read it in a dim resteraunt, and I could tell it would be terrific for reading in bed.

On top of that, I find it sleeker looking and easier to hold and carry than the Kindle.
And as if that weren’t enough, Google has opened up its library to the eReader.  When I heard that, I practically dropped my jaw.  I know as an author I’m supposed to be cursing Google’s name, but I can’t quite do it.  Personally, I think it’s marvellous that Google’s scanning the books that crumbling away in the University of Michigan library (seriously.  U of M has so many books it is the average fate of a book in that library system to rot away unread), never mind the Bodlian.  I’m over the moon about the idea of carrying around that temporary reserach library in my purse.

So, what happened?

Sony has made a really bad decision.

You see, I’m a Mac user, and the eReader software does not work on Macs, and as far as I have bee able to discover, there are no plans to make a Mac version.  And I knew this going in.

At this point, the astute reader will ask what on earth made her lay out $350 for something she knew wouldn’t work.

Optomism.  I had Googled and asked around, and I was told there was this terrific piece of software called Calibre that would make the eReader work just fine for a Mac reader.  So, I went to the Calibre site, and I poked around a little, and it did indeed look good.  It talked about converting the assorted formats, organizing the library and so on.

So, I bought the eReader, and I downloaded Calibre, and…

And I went to the Google library, and I downloaded some PDF scans of magnificent old books.  Yippee!  I am happy.  Then, I tried to go to the Sony library so I could buy a book (specifically Sly Mongoose by Tobias Buckell, who is a great author, and just became the father of twins, so the guy needs all the sales he can get right now) and…

I couldn’t get in.  Without the specific eReader software, which I couldn’t load because I own a Mac, I could not get into Sony’s library to buy books.

Ooooookay… Oh, well.  There are lots of other ebook sources out there.

So, I went to  I found Sly Mongoose.  I checked out the formats and there was one called “secure Mobipocket.”  Well, I thinks, that’s good.  Calibre converts Mobipocket.  So, I bought it.  And I tried to download it to my computer.

And I got a message that I couldn’t do that without a specific, proprietary Mobipockets reader.

So, there I was, the proud owner of a book I couldn’t read.

Now, I will confess to being a first order geek, and I’m not exactly a technophobe, I was a technical writer for quite a few years.  But I will confess, when it comes to computers in my personal life, I’m very much in the “appliance” school.  I want to turn it on and I want it to work.  That’s why I own a Mac.  There’s a world less fussing I have to do with a Mac than I did when I worked on a PC.

So, here I was, fussing, to get my books.  I couldn’t get hold of them where I was supposed to be able to, or how I was supposed to be able to, and on top of that, I couldn’t use the nifty side features on the eReader, like music.  There was no way, even with Calibre to download songs, or pictures.  So it was not only cumbersome for me to use, even if I had gotten it working optimally, I still would have only had partial functionality.

At that point $350 started to seem not really worth it.

So, I took it back.

I am really sorry.  It is a nifty piece of hardware, but I really think Sony’s making a mistake, first of all by cutting out Mac users.  I know we’re a small slice of the market, but we tend to be creative and early-techno adapting sorts.  But the other thing is making the library inaccessible without the proprietary software.

And this is really why Kindle is going to eat Sony’s lunch.  Amazon is making it ridiculously easy to buy not only the reader, but the books to go with it.  Sony is making it difficult.  I clearly don’t have a handle on the complexity of file formats and I don’t want to have to have one.  I want to find a book, and buy the book and have the book.

From the bookstore, I went to the a/p/p/l/i/a/n/c/e Apple store, and bought an iPhone.

Now, this looks nifty.



  1. If you pop me an email ( I’ll send you an unlocked ecopy of Sly Mongoose so that you don’t feel like you got cheated out of a sale!

    Comment by tobias s buckell — April 21, 2009 @ 6:36 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks you. If I can’t figure out a way into the one I bought in the next few days, I will do that. I really am looking forward to reading it. Browsed the beginning at the bookstore, and it looks like just my cuppa.

    Comment by carolynanderson09 — April 21, 2009 @ 6:50 pm | Reply

  3. If it’s any help, the iphone can be used to read ebooks fairly easily. And to do a whole bunch of other stuff as well.

    Comment by Michelle Sagara — April 21, 2009 @ 7:14 pm | Reply

  4. You could always set up Parallels or any equivalent on the mac to run windows within the Mac OS… techy, and not elegant as a solution, but it should work!

    Comment by Mike — April 21, 2009 @ 9:03 pm | Reply

    • You’re right, that could be done. However, it comes down to the following question:

      How much work do I want to have to go through to crack open a book? Especially a book I’ve already paid $350 for?

      Comment by carolynanderson09 — April 21, 2009 @ 11:53 pm | Reply

  5. I’ve really wanted to get an eReader but I love my print books too much. I have a feeling I will break down eventually and get one…just maybe not yet.

    I also kind of want an iPhone, but not really. Too many gadgets on the thing I wouldn’t know what to do with it. Give me my simple Rumor by Sprint phone with text, a printed book, and some starbucks and I’m a happy gal.

    I might cave and buy both sometime in the future though *sigh*

    Comment by Mishel — April 23, 2009 @ 3:17 pm | Reply

  6. Oh, I am a massive fan of the print book. I love them. I love the way they feel and smell (oh, the joy of walking into an old fashioned bookstore or library and inhaling that dusty-inky-papery smell) and look. I love being in a room full of them

    Unfortunately, I’m hitting several realities:

    1) I don’t re-read as much as I used to, so I when I do buy a book it becomes a lovely shelf ornament and I’m running out of room.

    2) The books I need for research, I need for only a short time (which makes having access to a first-rate university library a blessing) or may only be available in one distant location.

    3) Sad as it is to say, the production of paper is utterly lousy for the environment and book publishing, with its ingrained system of pulping or burning returns is really quite wasteful where it’s not downright polluting.

    I don’t believe book production is going away, and I don’t believe I’ll stop reading physical books, but the ebook makes a v. nice enhancement to book acquistion.

    P.S. I like your happy list and am in agreement. Except now I have the light saber app and I’m not sure I can back away from that.

    Comment by carolynanderson09 — April 23, 2009 @ 6:40 pm | Reply

  7. You know the paper guzzling of printing books didn’t even occur to me. That alone would probably prompt me into buying an eReader. I just don’t ever think I’ll let go of my print books. I love covers too much, like WAY too much.

    I also block out the part that I am running out of room for my books as well. As much as I would like to re-read I just have too many books on my TBR list (and that sucker grows every day). The reasons for the eReader keep piling up.

    And I heard about the iPhone apps. I’d probably find a few I couldn’t walk away from either, but I think I could live without it. I do like looking at them though!

    Comment by Mishel — April 25, 2009 @ 1:41 pm | Reply

  8. I love print too, and believe me, I understand the difficulties of letting up, never mind letting go.

    I am not suggesting anyone stop buying print books, because I’m sure as heck not going to, but there are reasons to slow down now that there’s a viable e-book library available out there and good hardware to help access it.

    Comment by carolynanderson09 — April 25, 2009 @ 8:45 pm | Reply

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