How do you solve a problem like eReader?

I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise to anyone to hear that I’m contemplating the purchase of an eReader – nor, probably, that I am hesitating very much over the decision. I can think of no piece of new technology released over the past several decades that so much comes down to factors of pro and con, rather than it being a matter of how many bells and whistles, and what you can afford. Of course, this situation is largely driven by, on one hand, Amazon’s focus on cornering its own market via proprietary access; and on the other, the various competitors’ attempts to undermine this position. The result is an artificial kind of evolution, with designers reacting and tinkering in response to each other, rather than to the wants of the customer. The outcome is that no-one seems certain before they buy – or is afterwards completely satisfied.

I confess to being particularly bewildered by the recent tendency for eReaders to get ever smaller. The overriding charm of the eReader is, surely, the fact that is a dedicated reading device – so why would you want it so much smaller than the actual book that you would otherwise necessarily carry around? And that’s aside from the practical consideration that the more compulsive a reader you are, the more likely it is that you’ll have problems with your eyesight (she said, feelingly). Still, at least this trend has narrowed my options and (at least theoretically) simplified my choice. Larger screen size, good quality eInk (or equivalent) and a range of font and contrast options are what it comes down to for me.

And yes, with its 10-inch screen, the Kindle DX was my first choice – except that much of what I am buying an eReader for is available through various online academic databases in PDF or ePub format, for which the Kindle is not the best option. So this pushed me towards the Sony Daily Edition: only a 7-inch screen, but much better PDF/ePub support….balanced by the fact that, being a Sony, it is automatically about $100 more expensive than its immediate competitors. The other, larger screen eReader options come with a range of other functions that I really don’t want – or want to pay for. And now I hear that an upgraded Sony, the PRS-950, supposedly with improved PDF support, will be released in November – which does nothing to help with the fact that I want an eReader NOW! NOW! NOW! NOW! NOW!

So what do I do? Wait until November and buy the upgrade? Wait, but then try to pick up the earlier model at what I assume (perhaps incorrectly) will be a reduced price? Buy a Kindle and hope for the best?

How on earth does anyone make this decision?

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