Zoomer Consumer: Reading: The Next Chapter

A printed book never runs low on battery power and is the best bet for bathtub reading. But after testing out three new digital readers, confirmed book lover Athena McKenzie considers the merits of the latest in literary technology.



For commuters who dread running out of reading material, Sony’s family of Reader Digital Books promises that you’ll never have to spy over your seatmate’s shoulder again. The PRS-600 Reader Touch Edition has a six-inch touch screen display and can hold up to 350 eBooks. The EInk technology gives the impression of real paper and is never hard on the eyes, even with sunlight directly on the screen. You can also adjust type size to accommodate aging eyes.

Sony1.jpgA more lightweight, compact design is the PRS-300, which features a five-inch display and navigation buttons. While test driving the Sony, I was reading the highly addictive Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris (the inspiration for HBO’s True Blood), and having each instalment pre-loaded on the reader meant I never had to wait before jumping into the next one. Books can be loaded onto the reader from your computer after you purchase them from the Sony site, though the new Sony readers support Adobe, PDF, Word and other text files.   There are folder covers available for each model, allowing readers to simulate the feel of holding an actual book.


Snowbirds or cross-border shoppers might consider picking up Amazon’s Kindle next time they’re stateside. Though the wireless function doesn’t work in Canada yet (and there is no word from Amazon when it will be available), you can still load digital books from your computer. And you can load a lot. Like the Sony, Kindle boasts a six-inch screen, EInk technology and a book-like cover, but the Kindle’s memory also holds more than 1,500 books. There are multiple page-turning buttons, and the five-way controller allows you to navigate through the screen and highlight words you need to look up in the built-in Oxford dictionary. A very useful tool, especially while I was reading Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the Pulitzer-winning novel whose main character loves his thesaurus.


calibre.jpgFor those who have already invested in an Apple iPhone or iTouch, it’s time to embrace its functionality as a digital book. There are many reading applications — like Classics, Stanza and eReader — you can download to make your multimedia device that much more entertaining and educational. In most apps, you can flip through an eBook simply by sliding your finger along the edge of the screen, giving the feel of turning a page, and the device’s quick response makes up for the smaller screen (only 3.5 inches, compared to the larger — and slower — Sony or Kindle). Another benefit is the lighted screen that allows you to keep on reading when other light sources aren’t available, or your bedmate wants to sleep. I used the Classics application on an iTouch to read Pride and Prejudice. Obviously, it doesn’t have the feel of a book like some of the other readers, but Austen’s prose lost none of its appeal. There is also software such as Libris that allows you to convert almost any cellphone or mobile device into a digital reader.