Monday, 29 March 2010

The Great Sony Reader Battle

For those of you lucky bunnies who might have seen me in Sunday Times Style this weekend (Milly looked stunning. I have hair like a fuzzy felt) I would hate for you to think that was all I had to say on the merits of the Sony Reader. Obviously the lovely Pip who was in charge of the piece didn’t have space to include my ramblings in full but given it was one of the most enjoyable press things I have done I wanted to share it with you in all its glory. Clearly a frustrated journalist. Please see below for the full analysis of the wonderful Sony Reader…. The most ridiculous invention since sugar free chocolate.

Sony Reader Review  - Sunday Times Style
“If someone were to ask me my idea of perfection I would probably be thinking somewhere along the lines of a good book in a hot bath. I am a self confessed book worm and love books and everything to do with them. Not only the stories and wonderful escapism but also the physical heaviness balanced in my fingers, the sweetly damp smell of new pages opening, the idea of a world hidden within the pages for my private delectation. I love book shops and can lose whole hours immersed in those musty shelves. It is unlikely that I will ever escape without a purchase or several and I must guiltily confess to piles upon piles of unread, half-read and about-to-be-read books creating columns of colour all over my house.

So when I was asked to review the new Sony Reader I was curious to see if this experience could be the start of something new for me. Perhaps I could sacrifice those whimsical hours in search of the perfect tome for the efficiency and immediacy of the E Reader? This could be a way to travel lighter, buy quicker and live smoother. It might also be the end of me as I do have a tendency to drop the corners of my book in the bath which could have catastrophic consequences for if not me then most definitely the reader.

The instruction manual (once printed off the website) was actually bigger than the device itself. This was not looking good. My love for reading does not extend to laborious and irritating step by step guides to turning on the machine (power located on top left) which then fail to indicate the bit where your computer will need to download, import, save, move and generally reconfigure itself to support the files necessary for this device to work.

I want to be fair here because I am sure this is a wonderful device and I openly confess to being challenged by any technology beyond Fischer Price but we didn’t get off to the best start…. I don’t really know where the start was. I did manage to plug it in to my computer and install the software. That bit was actually pretty seamless. And then it asked me to choose a store. Excellent –motoring away. Surely any minute now I would find myself in a virtual book store with a choice of thousands of titles to browse? No. I am actually on a Sony site for Sony product. So I go back and then I realize I have clicked out. Bugger. But all is not lost-it would seem that although I had downloaded the program I hadn’t registered the reader. So I register. All good again.

And then somehow (and I really, really have no idea how it happened or how I would ever find it again) I see there is a Reader Library on my screen. It is offering me 100 FREE books! Amazing!  So I click on and find myself back in the land of download, import, save and move. I am beginning to feel like a digital Alice in Wonderland. Whatever I click takes me somewhere other than where I want to go and I am too big, too small or too human to find my way out. And I still can’t find the bit where I browse the books.

So I decide to be direct and search for Ayn Rand and forget about the browsing. Not only is her novel ‘Atlas Shrugged’ the second most read book in the world and therefore a definite for any ‘book shop’ (the Bible takes the number 1 spot if you were wondering) but the enormous physical version has writing so minute that I am sure wading through it is wholly responsible for ruining my 20 20. I reckoned that this would be the perfect book to trial on the Reader as it might actually improve on the experience. So I  type Ayn Rand into the search box but the Computer Monster ‘suggests’ I may mean Arm Band. Good  good.

Ayn Rand and her best-selling book 'Atlas Shrugged'

At this point I realize that I could spend all day being magically and mysteriously transported back and forth through virtual non-bookshops and decide to go back to the file (downloaded, imported, saved and moved) in my PC’s C drive. I locate it, click on it and am told that there was an error in downloading it. Not so seamless then. And no recommendation of what this error might be or how I might try and fix it or even start again. I am now beginning to lose patience. Actually patience wondered off a while ago and now I am properly irritated. The worst of it is that I still haven’t had the chance to even touch the Reader. It is sitting on my desk wired up to my PC waiting for all the lovely words to flow in to it. Sort of like a blood transfusion that isn’t quite working

I feel bad because I am sure that anyone other than me could have made this work. Perhaps I should have tried harder, persevered longer or paid someone who understands ‘these things’ to come and help me out. But frankly I am bored. And I love books for all their bookiness. I love the act of reading, the way the print looks on the page, the art of typography. I love the browsing, the possibility, the selecting and fact of owning a book in its true physical state. This sleek, sharp and supposedly technically brilliant device has wound me up to the point where only and bath and a book will help.  I will be stopping at Daunt for a browse on my way home.”

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