Friday, January 08, 2010

I Join the Electronic Book Revolution--Sort Of

I bought an Astak EZ Reader Pocket Pro a couple of months ago, and I'm really pleased with it, although I haven't yet explored all its features. I had been wishing for an ebook reader for a couple of years, and I opined on them back in May. If only there were a way, I whined, to read electronic copies of Project Gutenberg books comfortably, without a backlit computer screen. Thousands of books that would never get mildewed, or lose their pages, or take up shelf space, in any font size I desire. Because most of the gadget reviewers are young men who don't imagine they'll ever have vision problems, or otherwise get old, cranky or cash-strapped, I'm offering a product review by "A Woman of a Certain Age."

The E-Ink reading experience seems very natural to me, and after the first two or three pages of Wuthering Heights, I had completely forgotten that I wasn't reading a regular book. In fact, if I had been holding my moldy old paperback with the tiny, tiny print, I would have been much more aware of the unfriendly format. My eyeballs are middle-aged, and being able to adjust the font size and contrast is wonderful. I stayed up late to follow Cathy and Heathcliff to the bitter end, without the eye fatigue that comes from reading too long on a computer screen. (I didn't remember how much house-keeping information Emily Bronte included--what they ate, how they cooked it, what it took to keep the kitchen clean....really interesting. Also, everybody seemed to have a simmering case of tuberculosis, with realistic, unromantic symptoms.)

My device came with a 1 GB SD card, loaded with "300 Free eBooks," although I think that was a special, introductory offer. I bought a 4 GB card, and started loading it up with the complete works of every 19th century author I fancy. Dickens, Trollope, Thackeray, George Eliot, the Brontes, Henry James--bookcases full, and there's still loads of room on the SD card.

It also turns out this is a great way to read knitting patterns. I often have to rewrite knitting patterns on 3x5 index cards to keep with my knitting. It's just as easy to type them and copy them over to the E-Ink device, where I can make the font as HUGE as I like, whenever I need it.

The most advertised E-Ink readers (Kindle and Sony, for example) are designed to sell digitally locked up, copyrighted books (DRM books) for what I consider high prices. They even charge the customer money to make Project Gutenberg books available in their proprietary formats.

In September, the Astak EZ Reader Pocket Pro came on the market for $200. (And it was available in RED!) It's a little Linux computer that can display 21 non-DRM'ed file formats. I may never buy DRM'ed ebooks, but if I decide to, the EZReader can display ADE-encrypted PDF and ePub books, and there are lots of books available in those formats. In addition to the company website, there's a careful and detailed look at the Astak Pocket PRO, provided by a company spokesman.

Here are some features that convinced me that I would really like this device, instead of the many others on the market. (Also, it comes in RED.)

  • E-Ink technology, with eight levels of grey scale (better display of pictures or illustrations than earlier devices)
  • Displays these DRM-free formats: PDF, TXT, PDB, DOC, HTML, FB2, LIT, MP3, EPUB, PRC, WOL, CHM, PPT, TIF, PNG, GIF, RAR, ZIP, DJVU, JPG, BMP
  • Adobe Digital Editions firmware update lets you buy copy-protected eBooks in PDF and ePub formats.
  • a user-replaceable rechargeable battery (Sony and Kindle devices are done for when their battery won't charge anymore--have to send them back to the factory for servicing)
  • an SD card that supports up to 16GB
  • three levels of font size and different font choices; also you can read in portrait or landscape mode, which is useful if you go with a very large font
  • mp3 player mode which can be used simultaneously with reading mode
  • Text-To-Speech... meaning it can read to you and automatically advances pages
  • bookmarking capability
  • Accessories in the box include crush-resistant case with magnetic clasp, ear buds, AC charger, USB cable, and wrist leash. (The pricier devices require you to buy these separately.)


Reya Mellicker said...

I'm glad you're enjoying it. For me, it's like trying to read from an etch-a-sketch screen. Hmmm ... maybe I'll get into it. I'm trying.

Are you staying warm? It's FREEZING here. Unbelievable for DC.

Nice bug pics on my friend Ellen's blog today. Made me think of you, of course.


Rebecca Clayton said...

Hmmm. I loved my Etch-A-Sketch. I spent hours filling the screen with writing. I guess I'm a natural for an electronic reader. Really, a nicely bound book with a reasonably sized typeface is better than the gadget, it's hard (and/or expensive) to get a nice copy of many books.

Brrr...This is the first winter we've had so much deep, long-lasting snow since I've lived in West Virginia. I'm starting to feel like I'm back in Iowa.

Thanks for the link to Ellen--I'm enjoying her blog. You've clued me in to so many good blogs--Thanks!

Heather said...

thanks for the info. Hubby is at The Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas and I asked him to check out all the ebook readers. He said it was overwhelming.

Rick Lee said...

I got my Mom a Kindle last year because she has some problems with her retina that had made it almost impossible for her to read a book. Setting the Kindle to large print solved the problem... she loves it. As for myself, I've got the Kindle app on my iPhone as well as the iPhone app "Classics" that comes with 20-some great books. The amount of "book" reading I'm getting done has skyrocketed. I read in bed, I read in line to checkout at Wal-Mart... I read in waiting rooms and while eating lunch. I much prefer this to reading physical books. I didn't think it would be so, but it is.

Anonymous said...

Do you still like the device now that you have used it for a longer period of time? I'm really intrigued. This one sounds way better than Kindle, Nook, etc.