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E-Text Reader Faculty Pilot Study

Printable version (MS Word)

Product: Sony Reader
Reviewer: Dr. Tim Hayes (Sociology and Criminal Justice)

1. How easy is it to use?
The Sony e-reader setup process was a little troublesome. There is no mac software for the unit, so I started the setup process at home on my personal desktop, first by downloading Adobe Digital Editions. But, then I ran into a problem in that my Windows XP installation at home is the 64-bit version. Sony’s software will only install on 32-bit versions of Windows XP. So, I then had to boot my windows bootcamp installation on my mac and start the process over again. This could have all been avoided with a careful read of the directions on my part, but from a student’s view, all the steps involved regarding installing the Adobe and Sony software may require additional support.

I used the reader with a few PDFs and a few books. For books with no diagrams or tables, it is great. Once the initial setup process was done, I was able to load books and PDFs (at home) with little effort. One feature I would like to see is some type of network access built into the device, so you aren’t dependent on a computer (with Adobe Digital Editions, and digital rights to the books you’ve ordered) to get new content. There were a few instances where I travelled during May and where it would have been nice to simply tap on the e-reader to buy a new book, rather than unpack my laptop, find a place to settle with internet access, purchase the book, then load it to the e-reader.

The ability to adjust the size of the text and the illuminated screen are the biggest pros I see. However, the light on the screen tended to make the text a little more blurry, so I found myself bumping the text size higher to compensate. I would not recommend this for PDFs of journal articles or texts with a lot of diagrams, tables, etc., as the screen size is a little small to display those well. Due to this point, I would not recommend it for a textbook replacement, although it still makes a fabulous unit for general reading.

2. Is the functionality versus a textbook worth the cost of the reader, the e-text and the learning curve? Due to my comments above, not for this unit

a. Capable of highlighting? Yes
b. Capable of notes in margins? Yes
c. Links to definitions, graphs, glossary, etc? Depends on the document or text. It seems to me that they have to be built in on that end.
d. Capable of enlarging font for sight-impairment? Yes, this is easy to do, but it does not seem to affect the font size of the UI, so this may not be the best device for someone with sight impairment.
e. Audio for low or no vision users? Yes, but presumably only with an audio book. It does not have a text reader feature. I could not see a blind person using this device, as there are no audio prompts for any of the menus or functions that I found.

3. Is the technology of quality material and components?

a. Withstand wear and tear? I could see the built-in cover breaking off easily if handled roughly, but the rest of the unit seems solid.
b. Long battery life? Once the screen is illuminated, battery life drops off dramatically. With the screen lit, I had to recharge after about 2 hours of use. Without the screen lit, I was able to use it for about 5 hours or so.

4. Would you use this technology instead of textbooks if e-books are available for download? Or, would you prefer a laptop with the same or more functionality, in addition to the computer functionality a laptop affords?

I would not use the Sony device as a textbook replacement, mainly because of the screen size. It’s not quite large enough to display tables and diagrams correctly all in one screen and the zoom function does not work well with the tables I was viewing. If the choice were between this and a netbook as a textbook replacement, I would go with the netbook.

A netbook would likely be better than this device for our sight impaired students because of the ability to add text reader software and other customizations, in addition to the added functionality of having internet and email access. Also, netbooks don’t cost much more than this unit. Some even cost less.


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Updated: Tuesday, August 18, 2009


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