By Michael Evans
REGULAR READERS will know that I am a dyed-in-the-wool eBook fanboy. My original Sony PRS-505 has done sterling service and has kept me happy with no fewer than 48 books purchased from Waterstone's web site. There really is nothing wrong with the original, but the reader has become such an integral part of my life that I was encouraged to upgrade to the new PRS-600 Touch when I saw a discount available at W.H.Smiths' local store (£219 instead of £249).
My new beauty is in black rather than the more common silver and is a big improvement on the original. The user interface is much more friendly, the buttons are more logical, and the reading experience is better (in particular the swipe action to change pages). My experience is that the page-turn is considerably faster than on the old reader. The device includes an excellent dictionary and offers the ability to write notes, comments and, even, draw pictures.
One of the best features (which, incidentally, is now common to the original readers) is the new-to-Mac eBook software. Previously the application was Windows only and I had to run it on Parallels desktop. The new software makes buying and downloading a seamless experience. It has a limited amount of categorisation into "collections" or "groups" in Apple-speak. One use for this is to populate a "to read" collection with books awaiting attention. That way you don't have to plough through all your library when selecting the next book to read. As you finish reading, you simply delete the book from the collection without losing it from the library.
I would like to see a more Apple-like interface in the eBook reader software for Mac. This would include addition of custom fields or columns to allow personal categorisation of individual books and permit smart groups. Currently the groups or collections are not smart and books must be moved around manually.
The new, smaller Pocket Edition reader has a 5in screen as opposed to a 6in and is definitely more pocketable. I considered both, but eventually went for the Touch Edition because of the touch screen and user-interface, plus the inclusion of SD an SD card slot (which is missing on the Pocket version).
Altogether, though, the Touch Edition is a vast improvement on the original and credit is due to Sony. I still have no intention of buying an old-fashioned book and I am waging a war against those ostrich-like publishers who refuse to issue electronic versions of their inventory.
This morning, incidentally, I was able to buy and download Hilary Mantel's Man Booker prizewinning novel, Wolf Hall. I like a good historical novel and it's encouraging that the publisher, Fourth Estate Harper Collins, are quick off the mark with an electronic version. I hope the download figures are good enough to encourage more publishers to join the future.