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E-Reader Indecision And Second Hand Book Woes

February 6, 2010

I have come to the conclusion, finally, that I definitely want an e-reader. I went through a bit of a phase of thinking that it would be a waste of money, and get outdated really fast, but the reality is that I could definitely use one.

I have two bookcases stuffed full of books in my bedroom. I have piles of books around the living room, and a couple on the stairs. There are also several (and I think it’s about six or seven) boxes of books in the loft, which have not been looked at since we moved. There is some organisation in effect here, the books in the bedroom are my favourites, which I will read over and over, and many of which I have owned for a good few years. The books in the living room are mostly those I have bought fairly recently and either I have just finished, or have just been returned by my reading buddy. At some point, the best ones will make it onto the bookcase, and the others will go to another friend to read, or maybe to my parents’ church for one of their sales.

I used to eBay my old books, but it’s hard work keeping up with all the rule changes if you are not a regular seller, and I rarely made any money once the fees and postage had been taken into account. This is why I have the boxes of old books lying around. I don’t really want them anymore, and don’t really have room to store them, but getting rid of them isn’t easy. We don’t have any second hand bookshops around here (and I allegedly live in a city!), but there is a second hand book stall in the indoor market. The problem with that is, that you cannot park near to it. The city centre is pedestrianised, and the indoor market is underneath the shopping centre. This means at a minimum you have to go down 4 levels, but you can’t reach the market directly from the car park, so you have to walk the length of the shopping centre with the books.

Now, because I am impatient, a large number of my books are hardbacks, and these are heavy. There’s just no practical way for me to get any number of books to the market. In the last year or so, I have increasingly donated the books I don’t want to keep to my parents’ church, so they can be resold at one of their sales, or my dad can take them to the second hand book shop near to where they live. He can park outside the door to this place, and the owner will come out and select the books he wants from the boot of my dad’s car. He pays my dad a fair price, and loves to take the hardbacks off his hands. My dad then donates the money back to the church, so everyone is happy.

If I had an e-reader, this issue would pretty much disappear overnight. Most likely, I would retain my ‘keeper shelves’ but anything new I buy would be in electronic format. And because I am weak willed, I will gradually replace my treasured books with the electronic versions, so I can read them whenever I want. I know this already, but most of the time, I am still denying to myself that this will happen. Some of the books on the shelves, I am on the third copy, as the other got worn out or dropped in the bath, and trying to persuade my husband that I won’t end up buying them all again is not really working. That’s the biggest difference for me between making the step to an e-reader and buying my first mp3 player. When I did that I did not have to go and buy all my music again, I just ripped it from the CD, although I had already paid for some albums twice, making the change from tape to CD. I suppose I was lucky there as I was just getting into music for myself when CDs became mainstream, so it was not so much of a shock! Even now, if I want to I can buy a CD and transfer it to my mp3 player. I can’t do that with a book.

So, having decided that I will have one, which one do I buy? I didn’t like the old Sony PRS-505, because the controls were in the wrong place and the page turn was slow. The Sony 6″ Touch edition is a possibility, I like the look of it, it’s not restricted to a proprietary file format, but there have been complaints about the screen being too reflective, and there’s no internet connection on the device.

The Barnes and Noble Nook could easily be a front runner, but they won’t sell it to me because I don’t live in the US. I love the sharing facility, but would prefer if I could buy the books themselves in an unrestricted format, so I could lend them as I do with real books. The Kindle still has many points going for it, but it’s an awful lot of money (I want the DX version) for something which will likely be way out of date by the end of the year. There are also a variety of  less expensive, generic readers, but these are almost all sold exclusively online, and I can’t see one to check that it isn’t a bit flimsy or cheap-looking.

Like many people, I thought that Apple’s latest creation would be something mind-blowing, but as an e-reader, it’s too limited. The backlit screen and lack of e-ink means it won’t be good for extended reading sessions or for reading outdoors, and for me, that’s a deal breaker. My kids can happily spend four or five hours in the park in the summer, and I want to take my books with me! I also have no desire to be restricted to purchasing books from iTunes (or whatever it will be called). Hubby got an iTouch for Christmas, and many people have raved about the Stanza reader app for it, so I decided to give it a go, using some of the ebooks I already own. These were a mixture of pdf, txt and lit formats, so I thought one of them must work, but no. I had to convert each one to another format, then upload it to a website, then download it back to the iTouch via the Stanza app. It took me about 2 hours to figure it all out, but it cemented my belief that I don’t want to do this all the time. Why I couldn’t just drag and drop them onto the iTouch escapes me, but it’s not allowed, so I couldn’t. The official way is just too much faffing around for me.

I think, after all this, that if I can find a cheap used Sony Touch edition, I’ll buy it. I don’t want to pay full price, because I suspect that Amazon will do something to get a colour screen onto the Kindle within the next year or so, at which point I’ll probably give in and buy one whatever it costs.

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