I’m not buying an e-reader, after all.

Okay, I’ve changed my mind. I’m not going to go and buy an ebook reader. Not for some time. It just doesn’t suit my reading habits.

I came to this realization yesterday when I had a good fiddle with a Sony Pocket E-Reader in a local Myer store. This is the 5″ e-ink reader that is nowhere near as popular as their 6″ reader. As it happened, it had a pretty decent sample book on it, Pride and Prejudice, which is a lot more readable than (say) the reader’s instruction manual, or something from Ancient Greece. More, I’m familiar with it.

The Sony reader’s have one big thing going for them over other readers: that clever touch interface. Flipping the page and navigating menus are both intuitive. Unfortunately, it’s not fast. Faster than the older Kindles, I grant you, but not on par with an LCD based reader (of which there are quite a few). And I’m not convinced the e-ink refresh has all that much to do with it. I flip pages much faster than that on a real book.

One alternative is an iPad or one of those new Android tablets. Both have two major disadvantages: they start at twice the price of the Sony reader, and I really don’t need Yet Another Portable Computer, though I’m sure I’d find other things to waste time on it with. Plus the iPad comes with buying into the Apple Ecosystem, which I have a philisophical problem with*. True, the Android devices have a similar problem, but it’s considerably lessened. Basically, these are way too powerful and much too expensive just for reading ebooks. When I accepted this, I also had to accept that the reason I was interested in an ebook reader in the first place was because it was new technology.

But the other reason I’m not going to buy an ebook reader is because I’m just not buying ebooks. Buying ebooks from authors in the traditional publishing system is generally more expensive than buying paperbacks, as I discovered recently. And it’s more annoying because the publishers haven’t been watching the music industry and are putting DRM on the files. This is annoying because the DRM clients do not have Linux versions**. Yes, there are lots of new authors who are self-publishing ebooks without DRM, which I will investigate once I find some copious free time. Which may be a while.

Meanwhile, I must have easily a thousand real books in my bookshelves. I had cause to estimate this because I moved some of those said shelves so decided to sort them. And quite a few of which are still on the floor, still unsorted. What was obvious to me is most of them I haven’t read in years and could easily re-read. And I’m still buying new ones.

Ebooks are an exciting new technology. The market is maturing rapidly, to be sure, and e-ink readers are doing a lot to help.

However, I’ve had to face up to the fact that the shift from a physical object to an electronic object is actually an astonishingly big step for me. I’ve bought software over the ‘net for years and still do. But I’ve very rarely bought music like that. The reasons are complex. I’ve never gotten used to using my computer to play music, for a start. Dislike of iTunes is another. Ebooks seem to be in the same category. Admittedly, I have at least acknowledged the attraction of a single purpose device for that.

So, for now, the few ebooks I buy will be read on a PC. And I’ll continue to buy real books.

* Curiously, I loved the first tablet device that Apple had success with into the mass market: the Newton MessagePad. And then Steve Jobs came back. :-/

** Yes, WINE is a solution. But it’s not a good solution. Besides, the support forums are filled with people having authorization issues. This suggests the DRM is getting in the way more than it should be. And that’s a Fail.

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