Why do I read my books on an e-reader?

The first book that was widely pressed and distribute was the bible. The leap in technology made it possible to mass-produce the word of god. For centuries this was the only book families could afford. Every day a portion of wisdom was shared with the family. This is why books have something holy.

More and more books became affordable. People started to showcase books on a bookcase in the living room. There are treated with special care: They are kept clean and ordered really thoughtfully. Even the books that were only read once. (Pitty that some editions will never be read). They have earned a special place in the house. The books are displayed for decades without ever be opened again. Waiting for that moment till you move to another residence or worse.

From time to time you help your friends with moving house. Before lunch, you tote everything to the minivan. The second part of the day is the unloading of the minivan. The most massive category is always the boxes with books. They occupied the most space and weight the most. Books that were only read ones and are moved from location to location. In the new house, you need all that space to store the books again. A good friend said that this was the second time in a year that he was moving all his books without even opening them. One day he just got rid of them all…

Most books are snacks. They are your best friends for a period. Till you finish the story. But then is it time for another story. Million times you tell yourself that you will reread your books. But you don’t. The story was important. How the story was brought to you isn’t that important.

I had two bookcases full of books. Some books were even never opened. We all have bought that one particular book that will kickstart our new hobby. For years I had books about how to draw anime or how to cook Italian food. Youtube has proven to be a better teacher. The books left the house unopened to a new owner.

In 2006 the seed was planted in my head to buy an e-reader. In that year I went on two vacations: First a road trip through Europe. The second a sun holiday on a Caribbean island. For the road trip, I had packed six books. But I did so many activities that I managed to read only one. Five books were taking precious space hostage in the small car.

One e-reader versus five books

To the island, I only brought one book. I thought it was just ten days. Enough for one book. What was I mistaken. I finished that book already in the first half of the vacation. I couldn’t find any bookstore on the island. (Google maps en smartphones weren’t a thing in 2006) Therefore I bought imported newspapers to read. Although this wasn’t a substitution for a good book. 

In 2009 I bought my first e-reader. What sparked the decision to buy an e-reader is a memory lost in time. Maybe in 2008 en 2009, I went on a few holidays where space en weight was scarce. This made me more aware of how to pack my luggage. Another reason I think is that before 2009 e-readers were not typical products to buy. The Amazon Kindle was not available in the Netherlands (officially). There were other brands, but they were too expensive. In 2009 the biggest online bookstore in the Netherlands started to sell Sony e-readers. They were offered for a reasonable price. (200 euros) I bought the Sony PRS-300. From that instant, I was hooked. 

What is so special about an e-reader. Just one thing: it’s using an e-ink screen. It’s a technology that uses small balls of floating ink to form pixels. If a pixel needs to be shown. A little ball of ink is pushed by electricity to the surface. Otherwise, the ball will hide. Millions of minuscule ink dots are forming the text on the screen. 

This technology has nothing in common with other screen technology. It doesn’t need the energy to show the image. There is no refresh rate because the screen is frozen. It just looks like paper. A shame that it doesn’t smell like paper. 

The Sony era

The PRS-300 was produced like only Sony can do. Japanese quality built with a materials mix of aluminum and plastic. Some features are really well-thought-out. Some didn’t make any sense. Typical for most Japanese products. The sony was my first step to the world of digital reading.

This device was slow, the screen-to-body ratio was awful. The user input lacked touch technology, and there was a massive design flaw when reading books in the sun. But I loved it.

An unknown book on my Sony PRS-300 (2009)

Because of its size, the Sony became an everyday carry. It joined me on every trip. Short or far. In contrast to conventional books, the e-reader could be stowed in every bag or jacket pocket. You can bring hundreds of books without being worried that it will take more space. If the story isn’t what you expected. You pick the next book. Reading before bedtime showed a better advantage. You can read books in every position.  

You can lay the e-reader like this in a bed. Try that with a normal book
Holding big books like this is something I truly hate.

The PRS-300 had one big design flaw. In full sunlight, the letters became so faint that it was unreadable. A unique selling point of e-readers was always that they work in full sunlight. But Sony said that this wasn’t covered under their warranty. 

The Sony PRS-350 I got as a gift. Immediately the PRS-300 felt like a trial version for me. In everything, the PRS-350 was a giant leap forward. Its screen was better, faster en clearer. The enclosure was smaller. The touchscreen changed the way I read books. With a pen (or my finger) I could select words on the screen. You could translate them to another language or search for that particular word in books. 

In complex books with a lot of characters, the search function is the best comrade ever. How often did I read a thick book and a name pop up that’s part of the story. But you don’t recognize that character anymore. I select the name and let the e-reader search in the previous pages. Oh. It’s the brother’s attorney who was at the pool party. It’s an irrelevant character in the story. But it helps you with understanding the story arc. The touchscreen was using infrared light. This made it possible that you could use your finger or any other object. It was a shame that the included pen was made out of low-quality plastic. 

Well, the Sony e-readers were the best (IMO) there was still something missing. The competition was ahead with implementing a reading light. I was waiting for Sony to release a new e-reader with a built-in light. However, Sony didn’t come with a product announcement. They simply dropped the bombshell to stop entirely with the production of e-readers. People didn’t buy plenty of Sony e-readers. Damn

Photo from 2010 when I had already the plan to write this blogpost. Two e-readers and a first generation Apple iPad. All three devices can be used to read books.

Did I already tell you that sony loves to use aluminum in their e-readers. When it’s cold weather when you’re waiting for the last train home. Holding a metal e-reader is a disadvantage. 

The Kobo era

I started to search for an e-reader with a backlight. The first victim that was scratched off my short-list was the Amazon Kindle. There were too many rumors that Amazon could delete books remotely. Putting books on a Kindle is also a lot of work. You cannot bypass the Amazon servers.  

In a local bookstore, a new brand was showcased. Kobo from Canada. Do you know it is an anagram for book? Their more recent editions had a reading light. I decided to give this brand a chance. Too bad they don’t have physical buttons for turning the pages. 

It was an upgrade: I went to a bigger screen with a higher resolution, WIFI, and sleep case support. (Basically, this means you don’t need to use the power button. A small magnet in the case will function as the on and off switch) furthermore, It was a brand without a lot of bullshit. You could sideload books by connecting the reader to your computer. Or you bought a book online. The purchase was moments later on the e-reader.

Kobo and Pocket’s partnership is another great thing. In a nutshell: If I save a web article on my phone or computer. Then I can read this article in an app on my Kobo. 

In the first month of 2017, I was enormous. I think that I was maybe 110 or even 115 KG. The Kobo was on a bed. In a moment of carefulness, I put my knee on my e-reader. It wasn’t a fair fight. The e-reader was defeated with a cracked screen. RIP

I cracked with my knee the Kobo e-reader’s screen

The same day the Kobo Aura 2 was on discount. The lowest price of all e-ink readers in the whole of the Netherlands. 

The Kobo Aura 2 was a disaster. I have used it for four years with problems: The device regularly stops responding. It just froze. The battery spontaneously drained overnight. I had to reconnect the USB cable a dozen times to my computer before the e-reader showed up. The touchscreen was inaccurate. So inaccurate typing in a word on the onscreen keyboard always failed. Therefore typing in a password took minutes. I think the Aura 2 was broken from the day I bought it. But I just didn’t realize it yet. I accepted the problems because I just want to read. The complications got worst in the last six months. What I discovered was that the device froze when you put pressure on the case. So I think there may be something wrong with the printed-circuit-board. One day it just didn’t start up anymore. RIP

It was not my intention to buy another Kobo. The bitter feeling I had with the Aura 2 was still fresh. I tried my wife’s Kindle. But that one feels too tight with Amazon. The device is even bound to the location you have selected in your amazon account. Also, Amazon supports their devices for only a few years. Ten-year-old Kobo devices still receive regular firmware updates. That’s called dedication. I read about other brands that power their e-readers with Android. But that will take away one important reason why I like e-readers. I just want to focus on books. I don’t need a device that can run a lot of other applications. Just books and articles. That’s enough. I have doubted long between the Kobo Clara HD and the Libre H2O. In the end, I decided to go for the Clara HD because of its smaller size. However, the Libre H20 has physical page-turn buttons. Something I have missed since my Sonys

Now I have the Kobo Clara HD. All the problems I had with the Aura 2 are miles away. The touchscreen is accurate. I can type on the keyboard without making mistakes. When I connect the e-reader to my laptop, it connects right away. I forgot when was the last time I charged the battery. In the first six months that I owned this e-reader, it only froze once. 

Let’s hope this is the last e-reader I have bought. 

I think. If the Sony PRS-350 got a successor with wifi, sleep cover, and a reading light. Then this still would be the e-reader I will use today. Its size was just perfect. Having physical buttons is also better. 

The advantages of an e-reader

  • Small enough for almost every compartment in your jacket or bag. 
  • I can read books in every position on my bed
  • Buying books are cheaper and more convenient. You only need a wifi connection.
  • It easier to buy books oversea
  • You don’t need environmental light. The small light in the e-reader is enough in a dark airplane/train. 
  • Searching and translations with the touchscreen make complex and thick books a breeze to read. 
  • Storing and back-upping digital files are easier. 
  • A magnetic sleep case makes it feel like a paper book. You open the flap and start reading. 
  • With a simple hack, you don’t need a kobo account to use the Kobo e-reader. 

Of course, here are the disadvantages

  • The initial investment is needed to buy the e-reader. (It’s still cheaper than a good laptop or phone)
  • Easy to break. The e-ink screen is very fragile.  
  • Batteries can run out (When your battery meter is at 10 percent, you still have days to find a charger) 
  • Some books aren’t available as a digital version
  • I’m now using the fifth reader.
  • An aluminum e-reader isn’t much fun with cold weather.  

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