Like a book
It's all about defining what you want. I wanted something that enables me to read books, that reads like a book, doesn't strain my eyes (like a book), and that fits the paperback sized space in my bag(1). Sure, the iPad is new and shiny and does lots of clever things and connects to the net and all that stuff, but it doesn't have an e-ink screen and it's too big for my bag. So the fact that it does all kinds of extra fun stuff is a bit pointless if it doesn't fulfil the primary criteria I was looking for(2).
I had been waiting for the Kindle to show up in the UK. But it's been a year since the Kindle 2 was released, and Amazon UK are still suggesting I import it myself, so I don't think they are really trying. Plus I'd need to get the Kindle DX to get the right wireless connection and that one is again too big for my bag.
So that was how I ended up looking at the Sony PRS-600. I did my research and read user reviews, and it seems to be the best e-reader currently available. The older 505 is a little cheaper, and it's generally considered to have a slightly clearer screen, but the 600 has twice as much memory and useful extras like the built in dictionary. It's also touch screen based, instead of all the buttons on the 505; not sure what difference that makes.
Having decided on my choice of reader, it then seemed a good idea to see if I could actually find the books I wanted to read in a suitable format. It turns out that yes, I could. I found all sorts of obscure science fiction novels that I own or once owned and would love to read again. I found books I wanted to read that I've been unable to find in dead tree format because they've been out of print for twenty years. And I found five of the seven books currently on my Waiting to be Read shelf.
Okay, I confess some of these were not strictly legally authorised editions. But when it comes to books that I already own in another format, or a book that I've been hunting for ages and would happily pay money for if only someone would make it possible for me to buy it, I don't feel like I've cheated anyone.
What really surprised me was the manga. It hadn't occurred to me that I could read manga on it. I mean manga collections are the right size(3), but I guess it hadn't realised it could do pictures too. In fact there seems to be a whole niche fan base for ebook manga. It's a shame the official publishers haven't noticed or they might be able to open up a whole new market.
So having found my e-reader and ascertained that there is plenty of material available for me to read that interests me, I have now ordered a Sony Reader PRS-600. I'll let you know how it works out when it arrives.
1) Truth to tell, the last two actual books I've read don't fit that last criteria, as one was an oversize paperback and the other was a hardback.
2) Sure, I could get a bigger bag, but I like the one I've got. Had I found something that was perfect in every other way, I might have considered this, but I didn't.
3) Manga, specifically, rather than comics generally because the standard collected format for manga is the right size, so it's intended to be read that way. Western comics are intended to be seen larger and so are much harder to read at this size. They are also usually in full colour.