Tuesday, January 5, 2010

E-Reader Blues

So one of the best and most highly-anticipated gifts I received this Christmas was a Sony Touch e-reader. It was a semi-surprise; I didn't know for sure that my husband would get it for me, but we had been out together several times to look at them at the local SonyStyle store and I thought, you know, maybe. Let's just say I was very excited to open that little box on Christmas morning and get started with my new toy. (I know, I know- like I don't have enough books to read.)

I hooked it up to my Macintosh iBook laptop and got started- installed the software and even transferred a few free ebook files I had lying around- even a business document or two. Great. I try out the reader itself- it's easy to use, intuitive, fine to look at and comfortable to read. Oh, and it plays music if I want. And I can put a few photos on it, too. Great. So far, loving it.

My husband, being the considerate soul that he is, gave me a $25 gift certificate to the Sony store to get started. I registered and downloaded my first book- William Boyd's Any Human Heart, a book I'd heard about on the Books on the Nightstand podcast a few weeks ago.

And it was here that my troubles began.

All of a sudden, the Sony Library software would not recognize the reader. I tried switching USB ports; I tried waiting; I made sure the device wasn't locked; I made sure the device was actually on when I tried to hook it up; I searched for support information from Sony, tried everything it suggested and came up with nothing. I went onto my favorite search engine and tried several different searches on my problem. I learned that the problem is commonplace in Macs and that despite it being commonplace there is no solution. Even the solution someone said on several chat rooms was a solution, wasn't a solution. I went online to Sony's live chat and asked a person for help; the support person gave me a link to the support page I'd looked at before but I was unable to click on it or even copy and paste it due to something about the nature of the chat interface. When I asked her to email me the link, she emailled the entire transcript and then logged off before I could tell her that I'd done everything listed and nothing worked.

Then I did what anybody in my position- frustrated at 11 p.m. with a piece of electronics that now looked to be a very expensive coaster- would do- I complained on Twitter. Almost right away someone who told me he "works with Sony products" chimed in and offered to help. I was farmed off to another random Twitter person who said he worked with Sony products. This person didn't solve my problem either but asked me a question that helped me figure something out- did my computer mount the device on my desktop?

I had never even looked at my desktop but it turned out the answer was yes. Knowing this, I was able to figure out a work-around whereby I could bypass the Library software entirely when transferring free ebooks. My work-around doesn't work when transferring books bought from the Sony store though- it seems there's no avoiding the Library software for that. So, tired and frustrated and feeling like there was nothing else for me to do, I gave up, went to the ebookstore and deauthorized my computer, then reinstalled the Library software on my husband's PC, downloaded my book again and succeeded in transferring it to my reader, where I could finally read it. And now I'm enjoying my ereader just fine, thank you very much.

What did I learn? That Sony shouldn't say that its software works on Macs if it doesn't, or if just works sometimes and they won't help you if it fails. That if we weren't a two-platform house I would have returned my Reader by now. That when someone tells you that ebooks allow for instant gratification for your bookish impulses, that's only true if you're lucky and often that claim is nothing short of a canard. Have you ever gone through all that to read an old fashioned paper book? I didn't think so.