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back to article Sony to bring E Ink eBook reader to UK in September

OK, call us Luddites, but we'd rather settle down with a old fashioned paperback than one of these electronic readers. But Sony believes enough UK punters want one when it brings it to the UK in September. The gadget in question is the PRS-505 Reader, the UK incarnation of the second-gen E Ink screen-equipped unit that's been on …

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Anonymous Coward

Beat all the other ebook readers

on Gadgetshow last week. The only unknowns were what the RRP was, and if you were tied into Sony's ebook store.

Even with those unknowns, it got a 4/5 and was by far the most readable and stylish of the 3 or 4 ebook readers they tested out.

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Coat

Pointless Gadget . . . but

I'm a gadget freak who always has a book on the go, so I'm torn!

I'd love to have one for the tech, but I'd never give up the pleasure of reading a 'proper' book!

Also, my first mp3 player was 40GB and had hundreds of albums on it, but all I ever use is my 1GB Shuffle with only my current fav songs on, so I definitely don't need a reader that can hold hundreds of books!

I really need to grow out of buying every gadget going!

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Maybe

You don't get flat batteries on books, but when your camping (using a bike) as I do, 260 books takes up quite a lot of space.

And when the few books you can carry get wet, as they will, you are lugging several kilos of squidgy woodpulp which disintegrate as you turn the pages.

Now, I'm not saying that this is better than paper, cos it isn't. What I am saying is that it really could be a useful device, in the right circumstances.

If I didn't have to buy all the books I have already bought as e-books...

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Beg to differ

I bought the previous edition (PRS-500) via eBay some months ago, and I dearly love the gadget.

Dead tree editions are much nicer to read, but anyone who does any travelling at all knows the pain and suffering of hailing about enough dead trees to last a couple of days. My 64Mb PRS-500 can store nearly 100 books without an add-on card.

In addition, most avid readers have sizeable chunks of their homes allotted to books, which is nice in some cases, but a big pain in others.

Electronic books solve both of these problems. I'm well chuffed that Sony is bringing this to Europe, but how much do we care to bet that it'll cost substantially more than in the US?

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You wouldn't have guessed this is a tech site...

Dissing an ebook? This is the very pinnacle of IT achievement! Once we get rid of all that pesky paper, all our other problems will just fade away :)

No ???? in Sony's game plan:

1) Launch product in the US

2) Jack up the UK prices

3) Profit!

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@Anonymous Coward

It was $350 IIRC in the US.

You're not tied to the eBook store - it'll do flat text and RTF (if you have word installed) and PDF (as an image) using Sony's (crap) software.

There's a free third party app that does lots more conversions (calibre) and combined with teh Sony software, I manage pretty well. Lots of my content comes from project Gutenberg, but there are other ebook shops out there that'll do you books without DRM.

One major issue is that Sony fails to mention on their web site is that they don't support 64-bit OSes, so my home machine (x64 Vista) can't be used with the reader. Happily, I have a work PC, but I'd be very pissed if this wasn't the case.

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Right...

I'd maybe consider this if: it was retailing for about £20.00; the ebooks cost £0.50; it would withstand a tumble from a shelf; it could act as a coaster when my real coasters aren't handy; it didn't brick when I need to wipe peanut butter from the screen/buttons/both; it never needs a fresh set of batteries or charging and if it will last a couple of hundred years without becoming obsolete.

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I'd like a couple

They'd make great talking points in training meetings. The handouts for the training would be stored on the machine. Once training is over all the participants have a copy of the pdf emailed to them.

Yeah, I can see a use for it. As a replacement for a real book... nope sorry, but as a corporate gimmick that I can use to show folk how much I care for mother nature by not wasting as many trees at presentations, it could have some legs.

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Jobs Halo

Why so many controls on the front?

Why do these things waste so much of the front with clunky edging and large controls?

The single most important thing on a reader is the screen, that should be front and center, and occupy as much of the front as possible.

I think these have a looong way to go before they become mass market, and by then 99% of the population will have forgotten how to read anything that's not txt spk.

Angel Steve because the ebook market could really do with a bit of Apple to make then not suck so much as book replacements.

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Solving holiday dilemma?

Much as I love the feel/smell/convencience of the real thing this could help with the biggest decision I have to make every time I go on holiday - which books will I feel like reading, and how many should I take? Too many just adds to the weight to be lugged about, not enough risks the agony of being without a decent read.

My own solution is to have a few books on my PDA, and a some on my phone as well. (Mobipocket on Blackberry Pearl has been a regular boredom preventer when I suddenly find I've got an unexpected wait for my wife to emerge from a shop - steadily working throguh the Complete Sherlock Holmes via that route.)

So this might be suited to the avid reader who takes a long holiday, wants to keep the weight down, and doesn't have any other gadgets they can already use....

Bit of a niche market really!

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Stephen

I have the earlier version (PRS500), and can highly recommend it. The reflective screen, size, and weight really do make this feel like reading a book. As someone with 5,000+ books and a family that won't let me put up any more bookshelves, this is a godsend.

You're not tied to the Sony store - there's limited support for PDFs, and you can convert any text format into the internal format; lots of goodies available from Baen and Fictionwise, for example.

My one criticism is the screen resolution, which could do with being a bit higher.

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great gadget

With power consumption that low (i.e. about 0 when you're not turning a page/listening to music), anyone else think it's one of the few gadgets where solar power could make a sensible impact?

Also, as the screen's great to read in sunlight it'd be fantastic for use on holiday.

Can't see my local library (or, for that matter, my bookshelves) becoming obselete any time soon though. You really can't beat the tactile feel of the paper, the smell of them- especially old books- and the feeling of progression you get as you see the sides get progressively thicker and thinner.

And can any of these books be flicked through (as you would with a reference book) or should they be renamed eNovel readers?

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Happy

Sounds perfect for taking on holiday

I disagree with your last comment.

I am a book lover, and I know how heavy and space consuming books can be. I think this device sounds perfect for taking on holiday, especially with the hand luggage weight restrictions on budget airlines

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Jobs Halo

iPhones are better

You can easily stick an eBook reader on your iPhone and it's a great eBook reader. Even my old Orange SPV will run Microsoft Reader and I can get lots of books for that, even DRM if I have to (and the DRM on .lit is crackable).

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Jobs Halo

Let's see what Apple does...

There would be no better application of their multi-touch technology than a lightweight slightly larger than iPhone form factor device featuring a full color next generation non-volatile ultra thin eInk multi-touch screen with full integration with iTunes. (iBooks?) This is the next logical step for Apple and books are the easiest to distribute, after all video and music is bandwidth and storage intensive, yet a book occupies little space. And of course, Apple have some proven DRM technology.

HOT: Several years ago, there were some rumors in a well known site or newspaper (I forget which) that Apple were secretly buying up the rights to books world-wide. So, this may not just be conjecture...

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Unhappy

They're going for around £200 online

And on that note, all I can say is "Foxtrot Oscar, sir".

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@Paul

Gotta agree with you. That thing is wasting a crapload of space on controls. They should design an interface such that the whole front space is screen (maybe using a touchscreen).

Regardless, anyway, the reason I won't buy one is that I can't handle it as roughly as I handle books. I don't want yet another thing that breaks. I want something I can let fall from a meter, sit on and splash with water. Having to be careful outweighs the benefit of saving space.

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Anonymous Coward

Too late

I could have done with this when I was away travelling for a year as my choices got pretty desperate in places like Bolivia, and it would have saved a ton of weight; but it will always be one of those devices that gets dragged out for holidays only; day-to-day it would impossible to justify a £200 reader over a £5 paperback.

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M
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Nail on the head

The people that have commented on the price have hit the nail on the head. No one will buy this at the £200 mark. Not when to buy an commercial ebook, like an mp3, cost pretty much the same as the physical version. If it were cheap enough then I would get this without question for travelling as it looks great and has good functionality etc. At the moment this isn't even a consideration.

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Max
Go

Ability to take notes

What this really needs to be is the EeePC version of a tablet PC. Take it into meetings and take notes on it. Take it on the plane and read a book and listen to some music at the same time. Keep it by your bed and write notes on it if you have some genius idea at night. Don't need video. Don't need colour. Does need to access documents/spreadsheets/presentations from a network or memory stick.

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I like the idea

I have a load of books floating around the flat but I do like the idea of one of these. I like the idea of having a bunch of books all stored within the size of one novel. If I took public transport more (and thus had a lot of reading time avail) then I would look very seriously at such a thing. as it is, I might look anyway, though I also own a mac, don't know what the compatibility issues might be like...

dave

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The real problem is ripping

My work has me move every year or so, often across the EU. I have a couple of walls of books (actually, a lot of boxes of books). Moving them is a bloody nuisance, but I want the books' content to hand.

The same was true of my records and CDs. Now I have an iPod, and no hassle moving with my music collection.

I'd love to be able to keep my books electronically and read them with an ebook. But it won't work. Why? Well, forget the lazy journalist scared-of-change rote of isn't paper wonderful, the real problem is there's no easy way of digitising a dead-tree collection.

So what will happen? Well, I, for one, would be willing to go to ebook, so long as I could repurchase my favourite books in (non-DRM) electronic form. Some publishers, like TOR and O'Reilly, are moving there. Once a few more have joined in, I'll switch.

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Been using Sony eReader for the last 4 month

This is a great little eReader, beats all other offering on the market by a mile. I got it from US for $300, has 2 memory slots for SD and MemoryStick, plays MP3, does not destroy your eyesight cause no backlight. Plenty off eBooks and audio books available for free on the web and torrent networks.

This is a very nice shareware to use with Sony eReader:

https://calibre.kovidgoyal.net/

And plenty of ebooks available for free on websites like this one:

www.free-ebooks.net

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Anonymous Coward

Great piece of kit

I bought one of these as apresent last christmas and it's a great piece of kit.

Stick a memory card in it and you can drop a few mp3s on it. Player software is a bit shit but it works.

It's a very solid and impressive unit with the leather cover. It's very comfortable to use for long periods of time. The E-ink display is very comfortable much much better than a backlit Iphone screen. The one thing you need to get used to is that it takes ~1 to 2 seconds to change the screen. It means that you push the next page button halfway through the last line. (Although saying that Symbian based devices can take forever to change a screen aswell.)

This is not a replacement for real books. It is great for traveling and long plane journeys. If you read alot there are probably alot of books you wouldn't pay €10 for but you would spend €3 downloading so it's good for that too.

One bad thing about it is that if you leave a memory card plugged in then it leaks power slowly so that if you leave it down for a couple of weeks the battery will be dead when you pick it up which can be annoying.

This is not a mass market toy, it's not even a techie toy. This belongs to a unique market of techie person who reads alot. It you don't read more than 50 or 100 books in year then this is not for you.

This sony would make an excellent form factor for a PDA if the screen was colour and the refresh rate was >5 frames a second and it had a proper operating system and a touch screen.......

The colour E-ink display with a decent refresh rate is along way off (5 years) unfortunately.

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Jobs Horns

usability

Looking at a couple of the comments above:

No way does any phone come anywhere near this device. I used to read on my Nokia communicators (quite big screens as phones go) but you cannot bear the real estate and - more importantly - the contrast of eInk - especially if you want to read for more than an hour or so without getting sore neck muscles.

This is one type of gadget where hardware is infinitely more important than UI (sorry Steve)

On the screen size front - I understand the screen actually makes up a substantial part of the price on these things since it's not LCD but electronic ink. Bigger screens therefore = higher price, and they're quite expensive already.

And yes, they make great novel readers but lousy reference books - you can browse in 10% increments using the number keys, or you could have a hyperlinked index or TOC, but that's about it.

It perfect for holidays, longish commutes and business travel

(and unless the 505 has a substantially more efficient music player, it won't replace your MP3 player: the battery life gets a bit short when used as such)

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Price of eBooks

My Dad was interested in one of these kind of devices but he looked around and the eBooks were just far too expensive. Tesco sell paperbacks for £3.84 brand new and he couldn't match that price anywhere for a paper-free copy.

I have to admit things might have changed since then though.

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Battery Life, Price, Size, Screen

I picked up a PRS-500 in the US 18 months ago and it's had a lot of use since then. Anything you can convert to .txt, .rtf or a Word doc (i.e. anything not DRMed) can be read on it, as well as protected content from Sony's own store.

Battery life is pathetic compared to what Sony state - if I can get through a whole novel on one charge then I'm doing well. Which is a shame because being able to carry 10 or 12 new books on holiday without needing an extra suitcase is a great strength of the Sony Reader. Unfortunately I have to take reader and charger, though happily the charger from my PSP will also charge the Reader.

The size is ideal - about as big as a large paperback, but thinner, and in use it doesn't feel cluttered with controls on the front. It also comes with a book-type cover for protection which allows you to hold it like you're reading a book.

The big thing people miss about this until they've used one however is the screen. It is NOT the same as reading on a PDA, iPhone or laptop because the e-Ink screen isn't refreshed in the same way, nor is it backlit. This means that although the contrast is lower, it's more akin to reading printed word on paper than on a computer screen, and doesn't cause eyestrain in the same way.

I read another review where the reviewer complained that because there's no backlight you can't read it in the dark. Duh - how often do you read a paperback in the dark?

Finally, price. Yep - I paid $350 for it. That's a hell of a lot of paperbacks. You'd have to sell protected content really cheap if you wanted to shift a lot of these, methinks.

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Amen to that

...the spine-bending comment that is. And corner-turners, they can feck off too.

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Go

Perfect for researchers

There is one market where this would be incredibly useful, and that's for an academic. We have hundreds of articles and books -- all electronic -- and need to consult them regularly. This thing would do the job of my laptop at the moment (which currently stores all these things), without causing eye strain.

£200 though? No thanks.

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Paris Hilton

I've played with one of these

Its very nice but its PDF compatability sucks. Price is also a major stumbling block, add a few dollars and you can get an eee.

Paris cos she knows all about ebooks especially those by Anais Nin.

Efros

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Tim
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E-paper?

Isn't e-paper supposed to be bendy? Like paper?

I've seen flexible displays getting bandied about and now I'm being let down!

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Top Gadget!

I've had one of these for 8 months. And it is ideal for those who travel. At home I probably read for, on average, an hour a day and it will need charging probably once every two weeks.

The screen is awesome, the sony ebook store isn't. But you can buy books from elsewhere and convert them (see 'Calibre' comments above). If you are interested, head over to www.mobileread.com as this is a must bookmark for all ereaders.

Unfortunately certain authors (yes you Ms. Rowling) believe ebooks are the spawn of the devil and will not release their books on it for fear of piracy. But even a quick glance at the dark net will show you that they are on there as soon as they were released.

With new firmware coming out adding the new Adobe ePub format in the offing more books will be available for more ebookstores as well.

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Happy

I'm still waiting for the paperless office

... and my jet pack, and my flying car, and robot butler ....

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Coat

All the E Ink readers are too large.

I have Mobipocket in my PDA. Which is fine apart from the poor battery life, and readability out of doors. For some reason, nobody makes an E Ink one that I'd call portable.

Mine's the one with the extra large pocket.

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Paris Hilton

ah come on...

Failing to see the incredible advantages of E-Ink readers is pitiful for a techsite. A mere reader is a little below what is actually practical, and the ones equipped with a touchscreen allowing for decent notes and annotations (read the iRex) are still a little on the expensive side. Nevertheless, having a whole library with you—displayed in paper quality instead of the eye-watering experience of prolonged reading from TFT—is priceless. This is especially true for students. No more lugging tons of books back and forth, no more misplaced books, no more unavailable books, no more outdated books, no more books marred by the abuse of others, no more hunting for "that arcticle", no more missing pages... these factors cannot be dismissed. Of course a bound copy will provide a more pleasing aesthetically experience—that is not the point though.

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Grrr....

>though we'll admit that the Sony product does look safe to lend to those w**kers who can't read a paperback without breaking its spine.

...and to those who use paper clips as bookmarks but not to those who drop books in water. After the latter a real book is still readable and even if not it wouldn't be too expensive to replace.

Gadget freaks will find any excuse to buy this, give me a real book any day.

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Epaper

Im dying to get one of these, but the price! yikes! £50 and id have one in the post, £150 and id probably wait till next week before i caved, but £200 i just cant justify it :(

and for all those that advocate ebook readers for other devices, have they ever used epaper? I have a Moto F3 and on the beach, midday sun the phone rings, there is no squinting or shielding the display to read it, the display is somethign to behold! easier on the eyes than real paper!

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My favorite device

I've had one for a couple of months, and my reading has gone far up as a result. I find it much more comfortable to use than a paper book; easier to hold and just as easy to read. It keeps my place in any number of books without me worrying about it. It boots up faster than I can open a book. I find I read faster and more comfortably on this than on paper, and I can get more curled up with it because I don't need to move much to change pages, and I don't have to fumble to turn only one page as I do with some books. I bicycle to work and this is easier to pack than a hardcover and fatter softcovers, plus I have several hundred books on hand if I tire of what I'm reading.

Since buying this, I have only read things that are published in OPEN digital formats, or pirated copies of books that I own a legal paper copy of. I finally got around to reading HP book 7 on this while camping; the actual paper book was too big to bring with, and also whenever I bring a paper book camping, it's ruined by the time I get home due to the humidity curling the covers. No problem with that here.

I'm really hoping the publishing industry gets a clue soon; there are a lot of books available for the Kindle, for instance, that aren't available for any other reader. Personally I really want non-DRM content; it'd have to be quite a book to buy a DRMd version (I can't think of a book I want that bad offhand).

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Some comments on comments

PDF sucks because PDF is a page layout format, and does not reflow with different sized devices. It's not a suitable format for any device which can't display in the format the page was intended for. There are solutions; you can run the PDF through software to make the PDF "flowable" or you can convert the book to another format - there are very user-friendly, free programs to do this.

My battery life has been very good with this. I typically only charge it every couple of novels, and I've never had the battery get below about 1/3 charge or so, so I assume I could get 3 novels read, at least. A faster reader than me should be able to get more than that.

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Pricing

For all those saying that it will never sell at £200.00, when books only cost £5.00 - Do you own an iPod or even a CD player?

I remember the late night "discussions" that CD's would never outsell Vinyl and that the prices were outrageous.

As for the iPod - How much??? £300.00 for a player and 8.99 an album that doesnt really exist - it will never work! People will never pay again for albums they already own - hmmmmmmmm.

This is the same story - excuse the pun!

Of course they will sell - they already do. I am a massive book collector and this will be the perfect way to downsize my collection, in fact I'm selling most of my lesser enjoyed titles to build the cash pot to buy one as soon as they come out. As much as I adore the feel and smell of a new book, once I have read it, it sits gathering dust on one of my many bookshelves, maybe to be read once or twice again if it's lucky. A reader like this with no store tie-in would be ideal for me - Oh the space I will create in my house - the missus will be pleased! Now - where's the best deal on memory stick pro?

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Stop

Design flaw...

I have handled one at Boarders, and while the screens really are a wonder to behold, a quick glance at the box reveals a critical (to me at least) design flaw for a device of this nature: rechargeable batteries.

What is the point of having a display which doesn't require constant power, coupled with flash memory, when the batteries powering it all /self discharge anyway/? A slim bulge / ergonomic grip on the "spine" of this thing would have easily permitted the use a set of 1.5v AAA size lithium or alkaline primaries, which hold a charge for years instead of days or weeks. Does the display have some massive current draw for each page turn that requires a Li-Ion rechargeable?

Sony hit the nail on the head with their MD players, 50+ hours of playback @ 292 Kbps ATRAC on a single AA, which will last years so I can leave the thing in my bag without a second thought. This thing, not so much.

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J
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Hm...

Cool, but wake me up when this thing is 100-120 dollars maximum.

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Not usable

Owned it shortly.

Not usable for reading. just for reference.

Page is too small (pdf characters are too small and I have a good sight)

Also despite linux based fw: veeeery slow

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Silver badge

I want a Hanlin V3 or V9t

How can you have something against an eBook reader? My book collection is taking up space that could be populated with games! To convert all that text down to a single reader and a few SD cards would save me so much space it's frankly ridiculous. I can't *wait* to ditch all those paperbacks. It's impossible to keep them all in perfect nick anyway.

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Paris Hilton

Why?

I read a lot of books, and I find that the prices from the Ebook shops is comparable if not more expensive than the local shops selling paperbacks, but I do not use a book reader but my Ipod, which fits in my pocket, can access the internet on the street, connects to my pc, do my emails, can be used late at night to read without the light on, and costs less than most of these so called specialist items.

But it would also be nice to have Hilton at night as well.

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Alert

@Those who moan about cost - Big Picture!

I dont see the problem with this device costing £200.

How much will you spend at Ikea to shelve 500 books?

Fact is you are allergic to spending money upfront! and only resort to a bookcase at home when you realise that books are friggin everywhere...

The problem with this device like everything these days is Longevity, Sony will want to sell you another one next year, so this one is poor, And that is the reason I will not buy one.

I buy to last. Disposable tech is wrong! (for the planet and your wallet)

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Tim

Lpoks great to me

If they can price it in the £120 region then I'll get one. Will save me taking 6 or 7 books on my hols and be useful at other times.

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I'd like one

I have a number of downloaded ebooks, only some of which I bought. Publishers (including respected ones) occasionally give them away as promotional material. I'm also an unpublished writer, and I have friends who write, and we exchange chunks of our novels by email. It would be much easier to read their stuff and my own stuff at length on one of these than on a laptop screen or a big sheaf of printouts.

£200 though? Maybe I'll wait a while.

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Mod it and encase it in a cut-away of a real book 8-)

Best of both worlds then ... a hardback eBook reader!

Actually, I would prefer an A5 colour tablet with touch gestures (ala iphone) and it would double as a wifi/bluetooth tethered web browser ... hmm, Mac'e'Book ... plus you can edit and scribble on the ebooks to make notes .. link to other passages etc. All very doable and does not have to be too expensive either.

Common Apple bring out the newton killer .. you've got enough case to experiment.

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Stop

Greedy media owners

The trouble is, as usual, the greedy media owners are taking the mick. The eBooks for this cost nearly as much as the paper version. So, lets get this right. They have cut out all printing, distribution and retail supply costs, but still want the same money for the product. Erm, right.

Don't give me the "well, you're getting the same content" argument either. The author's cut is lost in the noise with the traditional retail supply chain.

The ridiculous cost of the files is the main reason eBook readers have not taken off. Okay, there is free content, but people want to read the best seller list and other copyrighted material.

I think this is all a great idea. However, if they want to make eBooks a compelling and desirable product then they have to make the media much cheaper.

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