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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Compare & Contrast

So I did a little reading on the Sony Reader we got for Eddie.

With the Calibre software that Charles Stross suggested to me way back when, we are as yet experiencing no problems in putting files on to the Sony Reader for Eddie to read.  However, I'm told it prefers to eat RTF, and since most people send Word, Eddie has to convert the .doc to .rtf and then Calibre along to the Sony Reader.

With the touch screen atop of it, I am finding a lot more of a glare problem with the Sony Reader than I do with the Kindle.  Eddie doesn't seem to be bothered by this, but it bothers me a lot.

You run your finger along the touch screen either left to right or right to left to turn the pages back or forward, and then at the bottom there are two small buttons to do the same.  Reading on the Kindle, you have to teach yourself not to press down on the sides because there is too much forward/backward button.  If you don't put your Kindle to sleep while putting the case on or other things like that it will advance 68 pages without you wanting it to.  On the Reader, there maybe isn't enough forward/backward so you have to learn to hold the reader in a way that you can get your finger on to the screen, and then do the screen thing right, more left/right than up/down etc. so that it will be gracious enough to respond to your stroke and turn the page.  What happens when you finger the screen in which direction is a user setting you can change so you can decide if moving left to right with your finger or right to left turns the pages forward or backward, and this is very good for lefty/righty issues.  This ends up being a wash between the two reading devices for me.  I like the touch screen a lot, I like having forward/back buttons someplace other than just small at the bottom a lot.  Each of them requires the human being to adjust to the machine.

The page refreshing on the new Reader is distinctly faster than on the Kindle.  I didn't realize how much of a small wait there was on the Kindle until I'd read on the Reader.  

However, if I want to change the font size on the Kindle it adjusts instantly.  If I want to change on the new Reader you need to wait a while for it to reformat.  If you only read in one font size, advantage Reader, if you read in more than one font size, advantage Kindle.  I do change the font size on the Kindle a lot as I read indoors and outdoors and in different levels of ambient light. 

I hated the font on this new version of the Reader.  It was wispy, and in equivalent light settings I had to put the Reader on a larger font size so I could use it, which meant I had to turn pages more often.

The Kindle abandons the idea of pages in favor of locations.  The location of a particular paragraph is the same no matter how big or small you read it.  But if I relay the notes to an author I have to explain "this has 8400 locations, 4200 is the halfway point, etc."  The Reader does use page numbers, and it takes notes like "page 150 of 663."  What's nice is that I don't need to tell an author that this is just before the quarter mark of the manuscript.  What's not nice is that if I then change the font, the next note might be taken on "page 136 of 500" or on "page 222 of 800."  If you as an author got notes from us, which of these would you prefer?  To have to always remember to divide by 8400 if I gave that as the total # of locations, or to look closely at each note to see what page it is in reference to an ever-changing total?  I'm not sure.  I am sure that if you had a manuscript with notes from multiple readers using different font sizes that your agent could put a note on "page 150 of 300" and your editor a note on "page 200 of 400," and these would both reference the same line and yet have two very completely different page #s.  If we all read it on the Kindle, all the notes would be "location 4200" out of 8400.

I felt as if I would be more accurate in typing my notes with the Reader's touch screen, but only with a lot more effort.  i.e., I could type a note on my Kindle keypad while walking across the 59th St. Bridge (and I've done this) and I could just keep on walking at the pace I was walking and there would be typos but the note would be readable.  I probably wouldn't get more or less accurate short of hunting and pecking.  With the Reader's touchscreen keypad, if I didn't slow down the note would probably be gibberish, but if I did type very carefully I would probably make fewer errors.  It's a little easier on the Kindle to begin typing a note someplace, though I'm not hugely fond of either interface.  The Kindle appears to allow you to access more symbols for use in your notes; somewhat cumbersomely but they're there, while with the Reader you have fewer symbols more easily accessed.  

So make of all of this what you will.   Eddie was clearly much more taken with the Sony Reader than with the Kindle and seems to be enjoying it after a week of use.  I was instinctively drawn to the Kindle moreso than to the Reader.  After a practical examination of a lot of pros and cons as outlined above, I don't think either has a huge advantage and your preference might decide on how you intend to use it.  I will say that I would be very happy with a next generation Kindle.  The glare issue and weaker-looking font on the Reader are distinct minuses for me.


Adele said...

i'm waiting to see how all these readers develop and which turns out to be betamax. In the mean time if Nintendo do something sensible like letting you download books onto a DS cartridge somehow, I might consider that, but no interest in buying their 100 classics or whatever it is.

Maria said...

I don't think getting notes back in either situation is ideal, but at least the kindle is more precise and could be worked out. Believe me, it is very frustrating for an author to get vague comments such as, "I saw a couple of typos...go through the whole manuscript and you'll find them. I didn't make a note and can't even remember what chapter they are in." (Yes, this happens. If you're listening carefully, you'll even hear the primal scream when the email with that suggestion gets read.)

The notes are kinda important stuff too. When page numbers aren't available, I generally prefer a three or four word "quote" because I can search on those exact four words and find the place in the manuscript. Not foolproof either--leave off an "s" or get the words wrong and it can take some detective work. Have the phrase be a common one and we're really toast...


Sounds to me like these machines have come a long way--but the designers need to know how people are using them so that they can put in a few improvements!!!