Sony Reader PRS-700: Part Three

Picking up from Part Two.

The Sony Reader’s original incarnation was in Japan, as the Librie.

Sony Librie EBR 1000

Now you know where Amazon got some of its abominable Kindle ideas from.

Remember, though, that Japan’s books are basically printed backwards from ours, so the cover flap hangs onto the right side of the Librie, not the left:

sony librie ebook reader

Contrast with the Sony Reader we have known here in the U.S., in terms of affixing the cover:

PRS-700 Finger Gesture F lg

But that’s not the only difference.

The Librie used only Memory Stick for storage. And the eBooks and eMags people could buy — at very, very low prices — were basically rentals. They expired — disappeared — after only sixty days. Sony basically modeled the entire reading infrastructure like a video-rental scheme.

Can you say FAIL? That’s what it did in Japan.

Unlike Japan, America already had a vibrant eBook marketplace, thanks to pioneers such as Fictionwise and Peanut Press (now eReader, and owned by Fictionwise), which saw PDAs (principally the PalmPilot) as a conduit for eBook sales.

There had been prior attempts to launch dedicated eBook readers in America, but they too failed.

What made Sony’s entry into the marketplace remarkable was the paper-like eInk display, which only drew power during page turns, offered a higher-contrast reading experience, and a larger screen.

Sony America basically said to Japan, “Let us try that here. But we want to do it our way.”

The result was the original Sony Reader PRS-500, which I wrote about in four parts.

What people seem to still miss about it:

– it allowed the use of Secure Digital cards. This was an amazing concession from Sony, which stubbornly clung to Memory Stick for its PalmOS line of CLIE PDAs.

– it could read text, RTF, and PDF files from the start. So it was already “open.”

– it was designed to be book-like. This initially confused people who were used to PDAs and prior eBook devices.

Unfortunately, Sony’s abrupt exit from the CLIE line of PDAs left a sour taste in the mouths of millions. It only compounded Sony’s prior defeat in the VCR wars, where it was trounced by the superior marketing of VHS. This shadow fell over the introduction of the Sony Reader and many people wouldn’t touch it because of a perception that Sony would eventually abandon it.

Many people were surprised when Sony released its second-generation Sony Reader, the PRS-505. I was also surprised.

In the year(!) since, I even went so far as to declare all eInk eBook reading devices dead.

So why have I continued to keep up with the Sony Reader? And why my renewed interest lately?

Call me mad, but there’s something about it that’s gotten under my skin and can’t be removed.

Maybe it’s because it focuses on books. Just like those silly people who insist eBooks can “never” take the place of the “smell and feel” of a printed book, there’s something in me that just as idiotically feels that, for example, an iPhone or even an iPod Touchbook can’t take the place of the Sony Reader. The entire concept of not using electricity while reading a page and not being distracted by the Internet appeals to me. Plus, with its leather-like cover and perfect device size, it just screams, “Book! Book! Book!”

And Sony has shown a seriousness about supporting it — even before the PRS-700 announcement — by giving it the ability to do ePub files (which, aside from supporting an eBook file standard the dying dinosaurs of print have rallied around, also meant being able to borrow eBooks for free from public libraries). Sony also offered early buyers of the 500 a $100 trade-in discount towards the 505 and its ePub capability. Plus there was the recent introductions of the 505 into England and France and pre-announcements of it coming next year to both Germany and the Netherlands.

Then came the PRS-700: touchscreen, sidelighting, stylus, a huge leap in software, etc.

The Sony Reader is here to stay and doesn’t intend to go away in face of the abominable Kindle.

This brings us to today and my conclusions about what what I saw and heard on October 2nd.

I can’t overemphasize the new software the PRS-700 will have. It uses eInk in revolutionary ways. But it’s not just that. That alone would be breathtaking. What the software points towards is a future when eBook readers will have full-color screens.

This past weekend, I was in J&R. I made it a point to go see that OLED TV Sony’s Howard Stringer has bragged and bragged about.

It’s no brag!

You have to see it for yourself. Color, contrast, brightness, and viewing angle just shame every other television on sale.

SONXEL1 altSIDE

That’s a side view. The screen really is shockingly-thin. (Of course, that’s a bit of a gimmick, isn’t it? If you add the electronics that are separated into the base to make it wall-hanging, there goes the thinness, right?) Now, what happens when Sony finally nails the production run of OLED screens? Would a six-inch one finds its way into a future model of Sony Reader? It’d probably be expensive as all hell, but that’d be only for the first model (targeted to businesses and publishing professionals). Prices would eventually drop.

Let me say one more thing about that Sony OLED TV that pertains expressly to eBooks: it would make eBooks on par with high-quality full-color printing that’s now available. In fact, it’d be higher quality than what we see in weeklies such as Time and Newsweek. We’re talking high-quality full-color Japanese magazine printing (which, if you haven’t seen that, you should!).

With the new software the PRS-700 has, it’s been made future-ready.

Just imagine full-color eComics. Imagine electronic editions of current magazines downloaded to a color Sony Reader. It’s poised for that day.

This amount of foresight is another indication of Sony’s seriousness towards eBooks and shouldn’t be cavalierly dismissed.

I would have liked to have been there in the planning sessions for the PRS-700. How was the touchscreen idea introduced? Was it always planned or was it a reaction to the iPhone and a move by Sony to pre-empt an iPod Touchbook? There must have been some mild gnashing of teeth when Plastic Logic was the first to show an eInk touchscreen! (Unlike the Plastic Logic device, the new Sony Reader has a Zoom In feature.) The Sony Reader can be considered a mass-market version of Plastic Logic. (Or, the Plastic Logic can be considered a half-baked Sony Reader for a very small, and very niche, market. Good luck proofing that slideshow in bed, Mr. Suit! No sidelight for you!)

Some random notes:

Steve Haber in a little-known but official Sony podcast stated that “hundreds of thousands” of the Sony Reader have been sold and that the eBook Store has done “millions of downloads.” In person, I tried to nail him down to a number, citing that “hundreds” of thousands has as its minimum the plural two hundred thousand. But Haber is a tough customer. He wouldn’t give me a number. But that’s how Sony sometimes operates. I want Sony to issue a number to deflate the nonsensical numbers thrown about for the abominable Kindle. I want to see Sony tell Amazon, “This is what we’ve sold. Now put up or shut up!”

Another thing Haber mentioned in the podcast is that eventually all download services level-out to the same offerings. How iTunes first had one million songs, then another service did, then iTunes went to five million, and now most services all have the same download inventory. I argued that Sony shouldn’t think like that. Sony must go after exclusives, just as Amazon has for the Kindle. Haber said his statement was marketese. The only concession I could get out of him was “Sony is talking to publishers.” And then came the PRS-700 and five dying dinosaur print publishers were there in the room too, to show support.

That’s a critical thing, I think, those publishers being there. Amazon has already acted against its best interests with print publishers. The Sony Reader gives them the ability to fight back against an Amazon monopoly (more about this shortly). And since the dying dinosaurs of print have finally seemed to standardize on one file format — ePub — for sales to the general public, Amazon will feel pressure to drop its current file format lock-in or remain its own island (like, say, Alcatraz).

In the introduction presentation, Haber specifically mentioned the PRS-700’s lack of wireless. Eerily echoing a statement once made by Palm Computing — “Color is very important to Palm — color done right.” — Haber stated that wireless was important for the Sony Reader but it won’t be added, paraphrased, “until we can do it right.” It will be “an open platform” (that one is a direct quote).

I’m not going to address the kind of software that would be necessary to accommodate wireless. The abominable Kindle uses a conventional web browser (termed experimental by Amazon). That might or might not be the way the Sony Reader develops. But the essential thing to consider is this: Upcoming wireless for the Sony Reader will not lock you into one store for eBook purchasing.

This is already the case with the unwireless Sony Reader. It can do ePub. ePub can be bought from any online store. ePub can be had from public libraries. Previously, DRMed eBooks for the Sony Reader were restricted to purchases from Sony’s eBook Store. The adoption of ePub has liberated the Sony Reader from Sony’s eBook Store. It’s already the most open eBook reader out there. Adding wireless to it will essentially make it the first universal eBook reading device.

That kills the possibility of an Amazon monopoly of eBooks.

(I must go off on a side note here to address those who will protest that the Sony Reader can’t do eReader or MobiPocket file formats. This is true. But consider that major publishers have embraced ePub. eReader and MobiPocket are formats that will die. Not even the abominable Kindle does Amazon’s own MobiPocket format for DRMed ebooks! [For those who didn’t know, Amazon owns MobiPocket. And changed that file format for the K, abandoning millions of users.] How long do you think major publishers will support file formats that will increasingly be seen as niche? Small print publishers who never before entered eBooks won’t even bother with any format other than ePub. eReader and MobiPocket are dying, Jim. All of you will pay the price for early adoption, though much later than most early adopters. eReader, owned by Fictionwise, might allow format swapping down the road [when that’s possible], but Amazon? Good luck!)

What Sony has done is make the Sony Reader truly the iPod of eBooks. Just as the iPod from its introduction could use DRM-free MP3 as well as Apple’s DRMed AAC files, the Sony Reader can now use universal ePub (MP3) or Sony’s DRMed BBeB (BroadBand eBook, the file format used at the Sony eBook Store).

One concession I was able to extract from Haber is absolutely great news for writers. Sony’s eBook Store will eventually be opened for writers who want to do direct publishing. Also coming are the tools to create such eBooks. I listed five things (plus one from a reader) that I believed the Sony Reader must have and Sony must do. Go check that list. Items three and five are being done now. Most of the rest are on their way. This is great progress.

Of course, I’ll stop here to harp once again on the need for Macintosh compatibility for Sony’s eLibrary software. Print designers love their Macs. So do writers. So do eBook readers. I hope CES in January will bring at least a sneak preview of something to give OS X users hope! (Sony, I know it’s tempting to forgo OS X compatibility when wireless is added to the Sony Reader, but don’t ask Mac owners to give up the ability to read their eBooks on their machines! This backup feature is crucial in case a Sony Reader is dropped and its screen is broken!)

When it came to Jim Malcolm, Sony’s Director of Corporate Marketing for Mobile Lifestyle Products, I brought up the hardware pricing issue.

He saw this poll result:

ZDEBRPoll

I’ve wailed for lower prices. As recently as this week, so has Dear Author.

This is basically what Malcolm told me. The poll results are from those who are tech-savvy early adopters. They already know the price of things and so, of course, would love eBook reading devices to even be as low as five for $20.00. Malcolm claims that Sony’s own research shows that hardware price is actually not a factor. Can I argue with their expertise and proprietary, professional research?

Yes. I know. I’m stubborn. Or I’m just an absolute eejit when it comes to real-world marketing, but I can’t but help to point once again to the example of Henry Ford and the Model T. Plus, there are the more recent examples of the Commodore-64 and the Asus EeePC.

I pressed the issue, asking what would Sony do if Amazon decided to do the razor-and-blade approach, reversing their current strategy. That is, increase the price of eBooks yet cut the hell out of the price of the abominable Kindle hardware. I think at this point Steve Haber fortuitously showed up, to save Malcolm from an answer. Not only should you never play poker with Haber, you should watch out for him knowing his cue!

The final thing I learned that night was entirely by accident. Yet it was telling. I rode the elevator down with one of the representatives of Penguin Books. I think her name was Molly (being one of my mortal enemies — a dying dinosaur of print — I did not ask for a card). It was a real mutual beat-down that lasted a quick two minutes. My snap questions versus her snap answers.

Me: Oh, you work for Penguin. Penguin just gave away some free samples. [Yes, I speak with embedded URLs!]

Molly: Yes.

Me: Does Penguin believe in DRM?

Molly: We’re on the fence about that.

Me: What about eBook pricing?

Molly: We believe that eBooks should have the same prices as print.

Me: No no no! People see you’re not paying for paper, ink, distribution, or returns. They have to cost less!

Molly: We believe that eBooks should have the same prices as print. Our highest costs are creative.

Me: No they’re not! I’ve seen charts. It’s mostly physical costs!

Molly: Our eBooks will contain additional material that’s not in the print editions. They’ll be enhanced eBooks.

OK, she got me, dammit. She played the eBook As DVD Card.

And what she says is most likely true too. I can’t find the link now, and I didn’t post about it at the time, but I did come across a description for an eBook from Penguin that listed material exclusive to the eBook version.

That’s an interesting sales strategy. I hope it translates into fatter royalty checks for their writers!

Some final notes. With its classy textured black cover, the PRS-700 felt like a church hymnal in my hands. I think with its new features and sleek design, Sony has a real opportunity to sell a ton of them to businesses. And that will greatly expand the eBook market. Because you just know that when the missus sees Mr. Suit using it, she’ll become curious and then want one too!

Will I buy one? I want a Sony Reader. But my head is all bollixed now. I love the red 505. But if I were to buy it and strangely discover that I want to read in the dark or in lighting too dim to bring out the eInk contrast, I’d have to spring some $60.00 or so more for the light wedge cover. That puts the total price within exhaling distance of the 700! And the 700 offers not just the built-in sidelighting but the giant leap in software too! So maybe the best thing for me to do is just wait to have the red 505 and 700 together for a fondle face-off in a store. (Yet even now, the more I think about it, I just know the 700 will win. Alas, red!)

For anyone else out there who’s been thinking of buying the abominable Kindle: Don’t! Don’t do that to yourself. Yes, the wireless aspect has an appeal to it, but you’re locked into one store, one eBook format, and shut out of public libraries and shut out of the ePub future. Plus, if it breaks, you can’t read your eBooks on your desktop in the meantime.

For all of you Macintosh owners: Hold on. I know your aesthetic revulsion to the abominable Kindle. I share it too. I will keep hammering on Sony for your sake! They’ve already shown their seriousness. I trust it will expand to include OS X too.

The last word goes to Paul Biba of Teleread, who summed it all up in one sentence: “This is the first Reader to have The Sony Touch.”

Previously here:

Sony Reader PRS-700: Part One
Sony Reader PRS-700: Part Two

Explore posts in the same categories: Books - Other, eBooks, Tech - Other, Tech - Palm, Tech - Sony, Writers - Living, Writing

25 Comments on “Sony Reader PRS-700: Part Three”

  1. HM Says:

    Mike,

    What about dictionary lookup function on the PRS700?
    Is there a third party solution if that is not a standard
    feature on Sony e-book?

    R

  2. Yael Says:

    Great review, but then you know it :-P

    No only one Q:
    Why o why the 3 gen of Sony still can’t read russian (Cyrillic)?

  3. Felix Torres Says:

    Nice overview of the new Reader.
    Since you have actually handled one of the things, would you mind a couple of questions?
    Assuming not:
    1- Is the Battery sealed like the previous models or is it user accessible?
    2- How is the weight distribution? Since the page turn buttons location makes it clear you are expected to hold the Reader low from the bottom, is it bottom heavy to facilitate keeping it straight?
    3- How does is handle large amounts of books? I saw the bit about the alphabetic tabs in the navigation system but it makes it sound like a basic flatfile database, some of which tend to slow down dramatically when confronted with large amounts of records. In other words, if I stick in an 8GB SD card with 12,000 Gutenberg texts in LRF or rtf, will it take 3 months to bea ready for use?
    I have a couple friends waiting to see what this is like before choosing a replacement for their old Rocket readers between the Sony, the “abominable Kindle” and the obscure BeBook, which I have and generally like.
    Any “life with Sony” info you might have would be greatly appreciated.

  4. mikecane Says:

    @HM: There is no dictionary function built-in, alas.

    @Yael: Can’t answer that question, sorry.

    @Felix:

    1) Yes, battery is sealed. I suspect it is more powerful. Will see if Sony will answer my Q about that.

    2) Balance is fine. Even distribution. It will not tend to droop. I did the thumb hold. Went fine.

    3) I think 12K files would choke even my 1.8GHz XP desktop. It isn’t doing well when I open my Pictures folder these days! Someone noted in a Comment here that using an SD draws additional power. Don’t know if the 700 does otherwise. Will ask Sony. Here’s that Comment:
    https://mikecane2008.wordpress.com/2008/10/04/sony-reader-prs-700-part-two/#comment-8394

    One thing I’ve considered for myself. I wouldn’t pile on *every* eBook I have onto a Reader. I’d have a subset of my total collection, with the full collection staying on my desktop.

    Some of your question can probably be answered right away in the forums at http://www.mobileread.com

  5. Felix Torres Says:

    Thanks for the info.
    I’ll pass on the bit about the SD card impact on power.
    The big book collection thing? That’s a minus–not a deal killer but a minus nonetheless; one of the virtues of ebooks is that they are massless so if the reader supports SD cards and SDHC cards it should be able to gracefully absorb everything those cards can handle. Also, if you can’t load up everything once and walk away then it really becomes more of a PC accessory rather than a standalone device. In that respect the “abomination” gets it right.
    I’m sorta scouting the terrain for five friends and relatives and it sounds like two of them need to go elsewhere. The others may do fine with the Sony.
    And it is pretty. ;-)

    Thanks!

  6. mikecane Says:

    I don’t pay attention to the abominable Kindle at all. Its CPU and file system can’t be much different than what Sony is doing, so I really doubt it’d take 12K of files easily, either. Remember that the CPU being used by all of these devices is basically an ARM or something similar. You’re used to everything being like a laptop or desktop, probably.

    I’m not even sure how an *iPhone* or iPod Touch would deal with 12K of files. And that has a speedier processor and all sorts of computer-like tricks going on inside of it.

    Well, do you really want it to be a standalone device? That’s what the K is. Break it and you’re screwed. No reading your K-file eBooks on your PC! You can with the Sony.

    Sony told me that more power will be drawn when the SD card is read from, which means every time you access the list of eBooks from an SD, power will be drawn. More power than just reading from internal memory, which simply makes sense.

  7. Miki Says:

    ePub has promise, but – right now – it’s still just another DRM format. Since I don’t like Adobe’s DRM scheme (having to ping Adobe servers – and read over Adobe’s “privacy” and “term of service” statements, they’re a bit scary), having DRM’d ePub is not a selling point for me. Non-DRM would be fine by me, though.

    Until publishers use a DRM-wrapper more like eReader (not specific to my hardware, doesn’t “phone home” and notify some third-party what I’m reading), ePub will remain “just another proprietary format” in my eyes.

  8. mikecane Says:

    Pan Macmillan has released several ePub eBooks WITHOUT DRM. Your argument is with the publishers, the agents, and the writers themselves. The file format currently has NO standard for DRM other than what Adobe itself has attached to it.

  9. Felix Torres Says:

    MikeCane, what I’m coming from is a mix of devices; Dell 51v PDA, HP TC1100 Tablet PC and a BeBook dedicated reader. Two of the three are ARM-based and the Tablet is based on a Crusoe Processor that really isn’t much faster. :-)
    Now, me, I’m happy with what I have; I was only inquiring for a few friends and relatives who are readers and interested in a dedicated ebook reader. At least a couple (my mother among them) would prefer to use a standalone device that is not dependent on a PC, except for initial setup, if that much. A couple others, like me, see the added value of sticking the entire Gutenberg collection on an SD card, along with other more contemporary fiction, and always having something at hand, regardless of location. And then there is one who flat said he doesn’t keep books after reading them so DRM side-effects are irrelevant to him. He’s probably read as many books as I have, over the years, but his bookcase holds maybe a couple dozen while mine take up a whole room and closet–serves me right for being a packrat, I guess.
    Different design parameters for different readers.
    Now, how I cope with 12K collections is easy.
    Probably the same way anybody else whose been reading ebooks since last century; using the device file system as a bookshelf.
    Until now, my ebook format of choice has been DRM-free Lit files; readers available for my Tablet, PDA, and even cellphone. (And that’s how I ended up with a BeBook.) Nice clean reading interface with a decent set of features and good page-rendering.
    And, like most readers using a flatfile-database as a bookshelf, a pain to use with more than a few hundred files. (Hence my question about the Sony Reader.)
    However, on most my devices, MS Reader doesn’t search for all available books; only those available in the designated library folder. So, I simply keep my ebooks catalogued by author, series, and title in nexted folders. And then I use the file explorer on either the PDA or the Tablet to run the file in MS Reader that then adds it to the “previously opened” database. Every year or so, I clear out the Library folder to keep performance snappy.
    Now, aside from supporting Lit files decently enough, the BeBook has what for *me* is the virtue of using the file system as a bookshelf. So opening up the Gutenberg folder is fast (only 26 folders in it) and it takes about a minute or so to open a letter folder with a lot of author folders. (It is an ARM cpu, after all) You get to sort contents by date or file-name (title) within each author folder so I can generally locate any book I’m looking for in a minute or so. It only keeps track of the last eight opened books but it works fine for me.
    Its not a gadget I would recommend to somebody looking for a mainstream reader, though; (made in China, marketed by a dutch company, relying on Open Source software to support a dozen-plus document formats?) Not a mainstream product right now.
    Sony and the other guys *are* mainstream.
    Safe buys.
    As long as the buyer knows what they’re getting and what they’re not getting.
    Which in the case of the Sony is essentially a PC peripheral, much like a non-wifi iPod.
    Nothing wrong with that; its just a matter of the product fitting the customer.
    The sony doesn’t fit me but some of my friends will probably love it once it hits the local Target or Borders.
    Peace.

  10. mikecane Says:

    I’ve issued a challenge to Sony, in case you missed it:
    https://mikecane2008.wordpress.com/2008/10/13/sony-reader-uk-ad-blitz/

  11. Jenny Says:

    Thanks for the detailed info on the 700 version.

    Do you know if the 700 will have the ability to mark a book as having already been read (or finished)? I read a LOT of books on my PRS-500 eReader and unless I remove a book entirely from the reader I can’t always remember if I’ve read it before or not.

  12. mikecane Says:

    That I don’t know. I can ask, however (prompt reply not expected, however). Up front, I can tell you it’s not a feature I recall hearing about.

  13. AT Says:

    As an OS X user, I have to say the PRS-505 actually works amazingly well for something that is 100% unsupported. Granted, you don’t get the ‘it just works’ experience of Digital Editions supporting it for DRM’ed content… but it does work.

    Tools do exist for the adventurous to convert formats like Microsoft Reader and Mobipocket into ePub or BeBB (if you like pain, or have a PRS-500), and from there you can just copy the files onto the device over USB.

    I’ve enjoyed my PRS-505, even without the support. But I am a tech geek, so I make it work. ;)

  14. mikecane Says:

    Yeah, but the DRMed content is the gold: like recent eBooks from public libraries.

    Sony has to make a Mac OS X version of eLibrary.

  15. mikecane Says:

    @Jenny: No, that feature isn’t in it, but Sony thinks it’s a great idea.

    For those wondering about the 700 screen versus the 505:
    https://mikecane2008.wordpress.com/2008/11/10/sony-reader-505-versus-700-screen/

  16. AT Says:

    Mike,

    I have been using /purchased/ content no problem from the Mac once the 505 is attached to your DE account. You just have to copy the item manually from the Finder on OS X. You are absolutely right about loaned/borrowed content though… it doesn’t work without running Windows in VMWare or the like (unless I am missing something about how they are copied by ADE on Windows).

    I don’t think Sony needs to port all of eBook Library over. Because of the age of the market, I’d say they could probably get away with just porting the driver that lets ADE do its thing. From my little experience with eBook Library on Windows, I’d rather use ADE anyways.

  17. mikecane Says:

    Are you telling me you are able to purchase and read DRMed ePub eBooks using a Mac running OS X and a Sony Reader 505? Sorry to be dense, but I want to get that absolutely clear. No one else has ever claimed this is possible. And if you can do purchased DRMed ePub, there shouldn’t be any problems with library loans.

  18. AT Says:

    Please see the discussion thread here: http://www.adobeforums.com/webx?14@@.59b5f2cb/3

    It works for purchased content, but not borrowed content. I posted there what I think is going on, is that purchases are tied to your account key so you can just copy them onto the Reader and it will work (once the reader is attached to your DE account via Windows), but borrowed content is tied to your account differently. It seems ADE is copying the key for each borrowed item to the Reader via the driver. Either way, it isn’t a drag-and-drop scenario for loaners, but content you buy outright can be copied over no problem.

    I actually hammered the heck out of my 505 and ADE on OS X & XP last night trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. :)

  19. Harley Says:

    PRS700 finally available in Canada for pre-order. Sony may have left release date too late for Christmas rush. Sonystyle.com indicates touchscreen model is currently sold out, as of Nov 15, 2008. I hope my pre-order delivery date doesn’t get pushed back again, it has already moved from Nov 15 to Nov 24, 2008. Nice review, I’ll keep checking back for new comments.

  20. mikecane Says:

    It’s NOT a review! I don’t do reviews. It’s a write-up of the press event and what I saw.


  21. I use the XO (One Laptop per Child) as an electronic book. They are available under the G1G1 (Give One Get One) program via Amazon.com.

  22. Margaret Says:

    I got a PRS-700 for Christmas gift while in US visiting. I live in the UK and want to load the ebook reader software. Unfortunately, it wants me to live in the US or Canada. Can I still load the CD-ROM and use the reader and websites to buy books anyway? The only available readers here at the moment are the 505.

  23. Jim H Says:

    I just bought a 700 for my wife who
    (1) *HATES* gagets.
    (2) *LOVES* to read downloaded Russian books in FB2 format.

    Point 1: There are converters available on the Web that convert FB2 to just about anything – and there is a very specific FB2-LBF converter out there that does a phenominal job – including embedded artwork, etc.

    Point 2: Sony is missing-the-boat here by not making the 700 more easily extensible. The big example is this above: You can “convert” the 700 to handle Cyrillic (or other non-latin) fonts, but you have to “re-flash” the firmware to do it. And it’s a process. And it’s a risk. (Can you say “Brick your e-book”? Ahhh! I knew you could!) Sony is not the dullest tool in the shed here – they should already know how important it is to provide proper localization, or the ability to work cross-localizations (in English *and* Russian, for example).

    Point 3: Including other formats like PDF, RTF, etc is phenominal! There are a lot of specialized books out there that I would LOVE to see on the 700. I could pack an entire LIBRARY of O’Reilly programming / system administration books on a 700, and have everyting I need in that one little slip-case, probably without having to add additional memory either!

    Point 4: Unfortunately, the e-book file handling is less than steller:
    (a) You can organize books into whatever folders and sub-folders you want, but they are displayed as a flat file. This makes finding a book almost impossible.
    (b) At least for the LBF format, the reader has to skim the book, extract the meta-data, and build a seperate index file for it whenver a book is loaded and opened for the first time. (I don’t know if that’s true for other formats) Depending on the size of the book, it can take motal minutes for the first-opening of a book. Subsequent accesses are almost instant. What I end up doing is when I load books for my wife, I “pre-open” them to generate the metadata, and then give them to her.

    All in all – except the fact that it’s only available from Sony Style around here (in MA), and costs $400 – I’d go get one for myself to put technical books on!

    Jim

  24. Ken Clements Says:

    I need to know if the ebook will work on the AC adapter with a battery that no longer takes a charge. I have had to send my satnav back to the supplier for a new battery twice. IE does it only work with a charged battery?

  25. Vadim Alatortsev Says:

    I have to tell you guys, that I’ve been reading all those reviews about Kindle and SONY for a while and still could not make my mind. Luckily, we have a Sony Style store in Annapolis, MD, which is 40 minutes drive from Baltimore. I am so-o-o-o glad that together with my wife we’ve decided to take a drive to Annapolis. We came prepared with memory stick cards, containing the files of papers and documents, which we wanted to test simultaneously on both PRS-505 and PRS-700 readers. Well, I can tell one thing for sure: If you have a chance to test it in Sony Style store near you, then you better do it, because NO review is going to help you until you PUT your own hands and FOCUS you own eyes on this ‘NEW’ and ‘IMPROVED’ SONY device. To tell you the truth, this is another example of wasting a good idea and ruining a perfectly good product.

    Yes, PRS-700 has a screen glare in direct light, and it is no so pleasant to read because of ‘foggy’ touch screen. I agree that a touch screen is a great idea, but not at the price of quality in respect to its primary function – reading books! If you are a student, who has lots of papers and need to take notes, ect., then obviously PRS-700 is a good choice, considering that this single benefit will outweigh its lack in text quality. As for reading image PDF files, i.e. those when text is ‘scanned’ and is ‘as image’ in the PDF file, then this new PRS-700 device is as useless as its PRS-505 predecessor. I haven’t had a chance to test image PDF files on Kindle, but my guess is that it would be the same as on SONY Reader. All I know is that my old Toshiba laptop with only 256MB memory module reads the same files much faster than the ‘NEW’ PRS-700. Yes, I admit that at least in PRS-700 you could zoom into such PDF page, but it would work only for a file with a couple of pages in it, not with a couple of hundred pages, because PRS-700 just ‘hangs’ forever with all its so-called ‘increased’ and ‘improved’ memory, etc. As I’ve told you already above, my old Toshiba handles those image based PDF ten times better and faster.

    There is also a good idea about built-in lights on left and right side in PRS-700, but I wonder why on Earth SONY didn’t put those lights all around the screen, i.e. including top and bottom, because it definitely would make it much better compared to the way it is done in PRS-700 now.

    You’ve probably guessed by now what my wife and I decided to purchase for reading books… Yes, we’ve bought PRS-505 (and we LOVE it), a much better choice for book lovers, because it really gives an impression of reading a REAL book, when compared to how text looks and feels on PRS-700. Forget e-ink technology on PRS-700, because there is nothing left of it, and you just get this feel which you have on all those PDA’s and cell phones.

    To read PRS-505 at night we’ve purchased a $69.99 leather book cover with the light, but even this one SONY couldn’t do right! I always wonder if all those SONY engineers, who design these things, actually try to use the products they design, or it is the case like everywhere and with everything, i.e. all those designers don’t really care how it is going to work? Instead of making (in the book cover with light) the plastic screen cover with equal thickness all throughout it, they’ve managed to make it thicker at the base, i.e. where it is attached to the center of the cover, and it becomes thinner and arrow-like the further you go from the center. Since the source of the light is in the base (i.e. closer to the center of the book cover) of the plastic plate, it gives a foggy ‘wave’ effect when the light is turned on and text looks uneven like if you are reading through a prism. If it wouldn’t be for this angled piece of plastic, the light would be spreading evenly throughout the plate, and it would be a pleasure to read at night, but… It is just another example of a perfectly good idea and its bad implementation. Jeez, I wonder how all these companies, including SONY, are actually staying in business, if they don’t even bother to test their products before offering them to consumers? What a waste of money….

    Yeah, there is one more thing! Neither PRS-700BC, nor PRS-505 have multi-language support. You would think that SONY should have thought about it, right? Nope, they didn’t. SONY probably thinks that EVERYBODY in the USA reads in English only, while everywhere you’d turn, you’d hear a foreign language. My point is, that in the USA and pretty much everywhere in the World we live now in a multicultural society, and it would be nice to give people a choice to read in language they’d prefer, say, for example, in German, Italian, Spanish, French, Chinese, etc.

    Actually, the multi-language support problem in SONY Reader was already solved for SONY by some programmer in Russia, who wrote a BIOS flashing program for SONY Readers. For those of you who don’t know, SONY uses free Linux platform as operating system for their Readers. I’ve downloaded this BIOS flashing program and already flashed my PRS-505, and now a can select and read in any language I would prefer, in addition to English, of course. In addition, there are much better sets icons and other cool additions, with which you could ‘flash’ your SONY reader.

    I think that what SONY should do, is to THANK and PAY that Russian guy for the program he wrote, and start distribution of his multi-language support program on SONY website, instead of making customers like me wonder the Internet in search of multi-language support.

    I hope that some of you have found my comments useful and got out the main idea:

    If you’ve got a chance, try it before you buy it, regardless of whether you consider buying either Kindle, SONY Reader, Irex Iliad, etc. It is especially important, if you would take into consideration the fact that SONY Style stores take a 15% re-stocking fee, if you decide to return or even to exchange your reader within 14-days from the day of your purchase.

    I cannot tell you what to do and what to buy. Obviously, it all will depend on what you really need. Actually, if I would need something like PRS-700 for school and reading all those papers and taking notes, I probably would end up buying a Tablet PC or a small laptop, but definitely not PRS-700, especially not for $400!


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