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Technology Review:

E-Readers: Part 2

by Mark Bright, General Manager of Koinonia House


I received my Sony PRS 700 a few days after finishing up Part 1 of this series, which was in last month’s issue. I deter-mined that I would set aside my Kindle for the next two weeks so that I could get intimately familiar with the new Sony touch screen e-reader. I have changed smart phone platforms from a Windows Mobile-based OS to a Blackberry OS to the iPhone OS, thus I know that you have to spend some time with the device before you can make an informed assessment of its value.

I tried, I really tried...but I couldn’t do it. I picked up the new Sony every day, determined to like it. I determined to push through my initial response; like programming a universal remote, I knew it would pay off if I could push through the laborious process of programming 82 buttons, but I couldn’t. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get past the fact that they got the one thing wrong that you cannot get wrong on a reading device...

You cannot read it! The Sony went from having the crispest screen (see last month’s review) to the absolute worst screen. I think it is due to the fact that they had to use a high-gloss surface to conceal the fingerprints you leave on it when you use it. Each time I picked it up, the first thing I would see was the blurry reflection of my face. I don’t care for looking in a mirror every morning, let alone each time I sit down to read! If I had never known that a better e-reader experience existed, I might have ignorantly endured it.

[If you are still interested in the Sony PRS 700 touch screen, you can read the next four paragraphs; if not, you can skip ahead and read about the Kindle, Kindle DX and iPhone Inter-face.]

The Sony PRS 700 has some additional features incorporated into it beyond the touch screen: it now has a search function and the ability to add notes through the touch screen “qwerty” keyboard. You also have LED lights under the surface of the screen that you can turn on for night reading. I used them all the time to try and combat the glare.

Like its predecessor, you can still view books in landscape mode, but they did not add an accelerometer, so you must na-vigate to it through a menu to put it in landscape mode, which is not the most convenient, but it works. Ninety-nine percent of the time you are going to read books in the portrait mode, as that is how most books are formatted.

The new Sony PRS 700, like the PRS 505, is an open format device, which allows you to read PDF docs and other formats in their native state—unlike the Kindle. The Kindle has to convert all other formats into its language before it can be viewed. Also, in another ironic twist, the Sony now uses a standard mini-USB cable instead of their usual custom (i.e., does not work with anything else) cable, and the Amazon Kindle is now the one with the lame cable.

The PRS 700 has a lot more functionality, and I like the idea of the touch screen, but I cannot get past the fundamental design flaw of a high-gloss, unreadable screen. This device feels like it was rushed to market in the hopes of keeping Amazon from solidifying its lead in the e-reader market. Also, I do not like having to use my computer to buy books and then hook up my reader to transfer books onto my device. I think that Amazon really got it right with their free wireless delivery.

The Kindle

The Kindle second generation comes in two sizes: the standard Kindle and the DX. The main difference is that the DX has a 9.7 inch screen vs. the standard screen at 6 inches. The DX was primarily developed for college students as a way to make those insanely high-priced textbooks more reasonable. The DX can also view most PDF docs natively, and the bigger screen allows for charts, maps, diagrams and schematics to be viewed more easily. The DX has an accelerometer in it, so when you turn the device on its side it automatically puts the image in landscape mode and then back to portrait when you bring it to vertical. However, I would not recommend the DX because of portability issues.

Kindle Apps for iPhone & iPod Touch

The iPhone and iPod Touch can be equipped with a Kindle app that allows you to purchase books through Amazon with-out having to buy a Kindle. This will not replace an e-reader, because the refresh rate and eye fatigue is the same as on a computer screen, but it does allow you to get books on your Apple devices.

Also, the Kindle app for the iPhone and iPod Touch syncs with your Kindle. For instance, if I am reading the new book, Real Church: Does It Exist? by Dr. Larry Crabb on my Kindle, and I leave off on page 2 of Chapter 16, I can take out my iPhone at lunch and launch the Kindle app on my phone. It “talks” to my Kindle device and takes me to the page where I left off. This feature will only work if you have the wireless card turned to the “on” position on your Kindle. I was going to try to tell you how to transfer files to your Kindle without incurring the $.15 per MB cost but I have run out of space. You can read up on it on the Amazon Kindle support site.

I am glad to be back to my Kindle. It feels like returning home after a bad vacation. Home isn’t perfect, but it is what it should be and everything is familiar. There will be two or three new e-reader devices released over the next year, and if we see one we think has potential we’ll let you know. Until then, I think that the Kindle second generation six-inch screen is your best bet and a worthy investment if you are an avid reader.

Prophecy 20/20 by Chuck Missler is already available on the Kindle and Learn the Bible in 24 Hours should be up with the month. Both titles are Thomas Nelson releases. We are trying to work with Amazon to get Cosmic Codes and Alien Encounters—as well as all of Nancy’s books—into the Kindle format, so stay tuned.


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