After extracting the eBook (from RocketXL) out from the embracing clutches of the LA Weekly back pages I managed to resist being distracted by it for all of about an hour. After which I decided it was time for an early lunch and bit of an exploration. I was initially taken by the cover and the sensation that it was akin a small paperback. And small it is, as a few coins collected from around my desk shows here in my attempt to give it a bit of scale. By the way don’t be deceived by my cheap camera here – it is extremely easy to read in bright, direct sunlight. Yet another reason to buy a decent digital camera!
I have to confess to giving up on the instructions very quickly. They are not the best format, unfolding into a single broadsheet that is a slight irritant if your desk is cluttered. Or small. But if you are familiar with operating PDAs or other similar devices the eBook is reasonably intuitive. Very quickly you discover a single menu button cycles you rapidly through the menus. Each menu is very clear though unlike an iPOD or phone or PDA you interact with them via the buttons stacked down the edge of the “book”. You have a couple of options for turning pages which are also very self evident and explanatory.
The unpacking and hooking up was straightforward but a few hiccups would have Grandma calling you for a refund on Boxing Day if you had planted it under her tree on Christmas Day. After charging (took about 40 minutes to get a full head of steam) the screen insisted that you not disconnect the device. After waiting an hour (no, I had moved on from lunch!) and having run through the set up software there was still no suggestion that anything was happening under the hood. So I ignored the instruction and disconnected it. Immediately it sprang into life, indicated it was synchronising with the laptop (even though it was disconnected) and then settled into its menu. A small bug but enough to worry someone not comfortable with disobeying instructions!
Unfortunately the setup software is not as intuitive as we would expect from a company like Sony. We have been spoilt by companies such as Nokia who deliver a very smooth setup process. Nor is their website the most intuitive around and which needs some serious work. We all have our expectations raised and set by Amazon, iTunes, eBay and others, sites which walk us through a registration and payment process in a simple and direct way. Sony eBook is nowhere near that standard. Yet. But then, working with Japanese software companies, even (or especially) the big ones, I know how substandard their application software can be. Hopefully they will find some clever folk in the Valley or similar to sort that out for them. If Grandma had survived the connection glitch it is highly likely she would be deterred by the registration and sales websites which took a few rounds of the ring to sort out.
Still, despite these clutzy bits I remain enamoured. I threw it in the car tonight and took it off to a meeting with a few in our Writers Group. More on what they thought later. But I discovered a major safety feature which I suspect the boys and girls at Sony were not really contemplating when they were getting excited about the screen technology (it is VERY good). Thinking I would have a quick read while I was heading up the Pacific Highway I discovered it does NOT have a backlit screen! It was my first attempt to test the notion of combining reading with travel – I usually have a book (papyrus type) in the car from which I snatch snippets when I am on the brakes. The tedium of a long wait at the lights in the dark will not be alleviated by the eBook! But then Grandma is rarely out after dark in any event.
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