HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

June 4, 2007
From the Editor

John Turner


At Rehoboth Beach, a seaside town in Delaware, there are several discount shopping centers, and at one of them, in the Sony store, I saw for the first time a Sony reader. I've been fascinated by the thought of this device for some time now, and read everything I could about it. I heard it was going to be sold in Borders Bookstores, but no Borders I ever visited actually had one in stock.

An electronic reader is the kind of thing you actually have to hold in your hands before you can know whether it would really be useful. Now, having held one for a quarter-hour or so, I can report that this one would be good for me. In fact, it was better than I expected it to be.

It's about the size of a medium paperback book, but it's not nearly as thick. Its thinness -- about a half-inch -- is, perhaps, it's most winning feature. Because it's very light, the Sony reader would be easy to hold in any position, and also easy to lean against any prop if you wanted to make a note on a portion of the text.

The screen, due to a fairly new technology, is not at all like a computer monitor but, instead, just the same as an ordinary sheet of paper. For this reason it doesn't cause the kind of eyestrain some people experience when they stare at a computer screen for too long. You could read it for hours and notice no discomfort.

The device comes with a memory chip that can hold about eighty ordinary books. But, you could buy extra chips for it and load up a whole library if you wished.

It interacts with a computer so that you can load text onto it. But exactly how easy the process is I can't say because I didn't hook it up to my computer.

The main drawback is price. It costs $350, which seems steep, even though the ability to carry an entire library in your notebook case would have seemed miraculous just a couple decades ago.

When I travel, I like to have more books with me than I can carry. That's the main reason I'll probably break down in the next year or so and shell out money I can ill afford. But I suspect that once I have the reader I'll do more of my reading on it than I originally anticipated. I doubt it will replace completely the paper volumes I've always relied on. But it may induce me to do more reading at odd moments, and if it did that would itself be worth the price.


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