I resisted digital books as long as I could. I grumbled when people on the subway in Boston had them, and laughed at people in airports frantically trying to charge their “book” before boarding their flights. As much as I love computers, I could not understand why anyone would want to read off a screen. Bad experiences in the past (100 page PDF documents that I had to read for class in a night, despite the fact that reading off a computer for long periods of times gives me horrible headaches) made me extremely nervous to actually use one.  But I could not in good faith continue to avoid digital books without actually trying one, so I finally gave in and borrowed a Sony Reader Digital Book.

Pros of the Digital Book:

  • The digital book is surprisingly light weight and comfortable to read with and is especially convenient for reading with a blanket because there are no pages to turn, just a button, meaning my hands never had to leave the comfort of their warm cave within my blanket.
  • The reader has three different font sizes (Large, Medium, and Small), so the text can be adjusted to fit any eyesight. I could read most books fine on Medium, while my dad loved being able to change the font to Large.
  • You can bookmark multiple pages in a book to easily keep track of stuff you wanted to go back and look at again later, or easily keep your place in several books at once. The menu to navigate all the bookmarks is easy to access.

Cons of the Digital Book:

  • The screen reflected the light from my lap at night, making it awkward to read when sitting directly under or next to the light, so I mostly used it during the day with natural light.
  • You can only turn one page at a time, or enter in a page number to jump to a specific page, so skimming through a book to find a specific sentence or example when you don’t know what page it was on takes a long time.
  • The digital book did not always work well for oddly formatted pages; for example, the book I read, Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel, had very long paragraphs, and the digital book would not split long paragraphs into two pages. The only way I could read the second half of some paragraphs was to change the font size to small, which was incredibly small and awkward to read and took a long time to load.

Final Impressions of the Digital Book

I love playing with new technology, so I am glad I finally had a chance to use a digital book. The model that I used, a Sony PRS-505 Reader Digital Book (linked above, but no longer available from Sony because of newer models that have been released more recently) was incredibly lightweight and portable. I can see why people love digital books for travel, but I felt silly sitting at home reading on it. Because I did not buy it, but borrowed it instead, there was no cost; because of the steep price of digital readers, however, it would take a long time after buying the thing to balance out the cost of cheap eBooks against their paper companions or the ease of lending free books from a library. Digital readers can hold many more books than a suitcase or backpack, so I can appreciate what many digital reader owner’s see as their largest advantage. Despite all of these great things, however, I do not think I would ever buy one because the convenience does not outweigh how much I love the smell and feel of a paper book. I would not turn down the chance to borrow this Sony Reader again for travel, but I would not advocate that people throw out all their books and do all their reading online.

The opinions expressed in this post are my own, and were not solicited by Sony or any other company.