Apple have already shipped over 75 million book readers. They are called iPhones. And the iPod Touch buyers swell that number by a large factor. Why do I say this? Because I now believe that the iPhone platform offers a very respectable e-reader experience. The iPhone is certainly more convenient than the crop of Kindles and Sony Readers, but it is also more practical and is a free option. All those millions can be reading books today without having to shell out another few hundred pounds.
I have been reading eBooks for nearly two years and have gone through two Sony Readers and over 70 downloaded ebooks. I love the ebook experience and will not go back to reading paper books unless there is something I particularly want that is not yet available in e-format. But I have become disenchanted with the latest Sony Touch Edition because the e-ink screen is hard on the eyes and needs lots of ambient light. In my opinion, the contrast of the touch screen is far worse than that of the earlier non-touch readers (including the current Pocket Edition). In many situations it is difficult to read the screen.
Recently, though, I downloaded the Amazon Kindle application for my iPhone and have been buying books from Amazon. At the moment I am in the middle of two books, one on the Sony Reader, one on the iPhone. I have to say that returning to the Sony is now a chore and an unpleasant experience.
I am totally amazed to find that I now much prefer reading my books on the iPhone. The contrast is exceptional, of course, and the backlighting means that I can read in any light conditions. Because of this, I can read a smaller font (and therefore see more on a page) than I can with the e-ink screen. I have absolutely no trouble reading and the speed of operation, as you would expect, is much faster than with e-ink readers. The poor refresh rate of e-ink screens is not acceptable after a session with the iPhone.
I love the Kindle iPhone application, although I do not own a Kindle reader. Downloading via wifi is quick and extremely easy. In AppStore fashion, you do not have to keep giving your credit card details; you simply select and download. The whole experience is so much better than the cumbersome download and installation process on the Sony. I now look forward to using the Kindle app on the iPad. Then, with the much larger screen, the experience will blow away the Sony and its ilk for good. I'm sorry to say this, because at first I was a big fan of the Sony.
Above all, though, the sheer convenience of reading books on the iPhone makes up for any reservations on screen size. You don't have to carry around another device; the phone is always in your pocket and ready for use. The Amazon syncing system, where your current page is remembered on all your devices, will come into its own when I can read my books both on my iPhone and on my iPad.
I have no doubt that the books from Apple's iBookstore will sync in the same way and will be as easy to buy as applications on the iPhone. Syncing across devices is now my number one priority and, unfortunately, the Sony will have to go. In fact, it is on its way out. I still have six unread books and as soon as I have finished them the Sony will go on the shelf. At some stage, I hope, I can transfer my purchases to a suitable iPad/iPhone application and then sell off my two Sony readers. RIP, e-ink.