back to article Sony e-book reader to debut in UK tomorrow

Sony's PRS-505 Reader goes on sale in the UK tomorrow and will "revolutionise reading", the company ebulliently claimed today. "What the Walkman did for music on the move, the Reader is about to do for books," the firm's spokesfolks enthused. Maybe. Sony reckons the 260g gadget based on E Ink screen technology will prove a hit …

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Review

And when will we see a review?

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Want One, but how to justify?

I picked up the third book in the Dexter series for £2.99 the other day new and will be lending it to a friend after I've finished.

Until I can do the above with an ebook legally I can't justify one of these no matter how clever it is.

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"Revolutionise"?

Will it revolutionise reading more than the kindle did? Or is it just another late-to-market product trying to generate hype?

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But will it read PDFs?

Unless it will do PDFs, it's another turkey a la Kindle. My money's on it being a DRM-infected piece of crippleware.

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Cheap

Not a bad debut price considering how much Borders wanted for the iLiad (£399) when it came out. I'll definitely get one. Reading e-books on my PDAs has been a good experience, and this with a bigger and more 'paper' like screen will hopefully not disappoint.

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Boffin

OOOOh ripoff UK strikes again

Currently on sale on Amazon.com for $279, current exchange that's about 150 GBsquidlings.

Efros

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Frequent Flyer's companion

I bought an PRS-505 on a trip stateside last year, and I've got to say, *if* you (a) read a lot and (b) travel a lot, it's a major boon. (Note that it's going to be rather less useful if the sort of stuff you read requires you to make notes in the margins; this is a basic e-reader, really aimed at the casual consumer of popular literature.)

Last month I ended up on a journey from hell (I arrived at my destination 36 hours late, via three cancelled intermediate flights and a brisk jog around Dallas-Fort Worth); the Reader kept me entertained, and after ploughing through three novels it was still showing three bars out of four on the battery indicator.

Sony's software support for non-Microsoft folks is, as usual, dire, but Mac and Linux users may want to investigate Calibre (http://calibre.kovidgoyal.net/), the open source Reader management application.

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Can Do

Yes it can do PDFs and its not 'late to market' its 'late to this market' been out in the US for longer than the kindle. They previous version has been out for well over a year.

I bought one from the US and its one of my fav gadgets.

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Coat

Or for a considerably lower price...

...you could buy a PDA. Somewhat smaller screen and more power consumption but infinitely more functionality as well as the ability to read ebooks in many more formats and possibly Wi-fi to give you access to 1000s of public domain books at Project Gutenberg or any number of ebook shops.

Mines the one with an ebook reader that fits in the pocket.

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pca
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It's actually pretty nice

I bought my father one for his birthday last year in the US. The thing feels very solid, and the screen quality is simply fantastic. Easily the best I've ever seen on an electronic device. The screen really does look very similar to paper, and is extremely easy on the eyes. No backlight, but none of my books have one either :)

It reads PDFs and text files as well as it's own proprietary format, for which DRM is an option. The sony software on the PC end is horrible, though, and not all that reliable as far as I could see. There are other ways of accessing it, and at the simple end you can just copy files onto an SD card and stick it in the machine.

I have no idea why Sony didn't implement the thing as a mass storage class device, which would have made getting content onto it much easier. Can't fault the hardware or build quality though. The battery life isn't as good as they say it is (it never is) but it's still excellent, only requiring a charge every other week.

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Too much

If they want the ebook market to explode they've got to get the price down to the £100 mark, and be able to read all major formats, pdf, doc, lit etc.

Then I'll buy one.

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@But will it read PDFs?

Yes. Along with txt and rtf. I've preordered one.

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It will read PDFs apprently.

And word, rtf & txt files.

Also can play mp3 & AAC, so music while you read.

Still waiting to see a review on how well it does these things though.

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Can use several file types according to sony website

Word, RTF, TXT and PDF all work apparently as well as the ability to use MP3 and ACC

Top right icon around image

http://www.sony.co.uk/hub/reader-ebook/block/2

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Unhappy

2gb SD?

Is this one of those stupid devices that only support SD up to 2gb? I have a few 4gb SD cards and have discovered many silly hubs and mp3 players that don't support bigger cards but thought this was just because they were so old.

There is no excuse - unless they are trying to drive people to their own memory format?

Oh - and it depends what formats of ebooks it supports.... (hopefully including text and html as well).

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How much??!!!

For a glorified Palm Pilot? If it was half the price and can read PDF and JPGs ( thinking of comic books ), then great, but I have a feeling that it will be in the bargain bin this time next year!

Someone made a comment that if you loaded it with books, went on holiday and it went wrong you could find yourself stuck for something to read to 2 whole weeks! Sheer murder.

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It does read PDF

It's always been able to read PDF (I have a PRS-500, the previous model), but the most recent firmware upgrade improved that to reflow PDFs for better reading on smaller screens, and with the ePub support, I gather it supports DRM PDFs too, but they didn't upgrade the 500 so I have no idea myself :)

There's an open source program called calibre which is excellent at converting various format to compatible books, e.g. LIT, HTML, Mobipocket, text, RTF (it doesn't strip drm, you'd have to do that yourself)

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@Mike

"Unless it will do PDFs, it's another turkey a la Kindle. My money's on it being a DRM-infected piece of crippleware"

Why don't you read the specs instead of spouting rubbish? There's no DRM requirement and yes it does PDFs as well as Word documents.

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Only for XP & Vista users

Sony's FAQ state explicitly that it only supports XP & Vista, so tough luck for users of Mac-OS, Linux, Windows 2000, 98 and the rest of us refuseniks.

On the other hand, the FAQ says it supports PDF, TXT and assorted M$ formats. Much as I detest Sony's DRM-everything policy for recorded media, they seem to have got this bit right. Being able to handle HTML would have been nice, but that may be added later .. or hidden in the Flush bits of their web pages.

For the record, only one of my home machines has XP: the rest have 2000, NT4, 95R2, assorted versions of Linux and even 3.11 on MS-DOS 5 & 6.22. (My main PC runs 2000 and my one XP box is on the fritz at the moment)

As for the office .. we have several dinosaurs limping along with NT4 and quite a few 2000 boxes, but mainly XP Pro.

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"revolutionise reading"

Here we go again...

I prefer books because they smell a bit like mouldy cheese and have a glorious heft to them.

I'd only consider an e-book if they could somehow incorporate that heft with a mouldy cheese odour.

I also like books because I lose crumbs and bits of chocolate in the pages and can come back to the same book years later and enjoy a snack. Bet you can't do that with an e-book.

You also can't fold the pages excessively and irritate people.

If you had a bible, you couldn't rip out pages to make a big **Bob Marley** and thus earn your place in the fiery pits of hell. They never thought of that one, eh!

Also, there's no way you could go on a good ol' righteous book burning spree with e-book's.

Propping open a door with an e-book would be expensive, as would propping up the legs of your bed to keep the bogeyman at bay.

You also couldn't rip them in two like the old strongmen of yore, ripping through the yellow pages like it were butter - pah!

And archaeologists 2000 years from now wouldn't find musty bits of yellowed paper, they'd find plastic e-books in mint condition, with no bloomin' batteries or chargers, innit!

"revolutionise reading" - bollocks!

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@Mike

Yes, it will read PDFs.

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RE: Only for XP & Vista users

"Sony's FAQ state explicitly that it only supports XP & Vista, so tough luck for users of Mac-OS, Linux, Windows 2000, 98 and the rest of us refuseniks."

Not exactly. Sony's software works only on Vista and XP

The eBook itself shows up a mass-storage device. Even in Win2K and i know because i'm working Win2K

More precisely, it shows up as 3 mass storage devices, (yes thats right, 3 more drive letters) - one for the internal ~300mb memory, one for the SD card and one for the MemoryStick

Also, there's opensource software out there thats as good as sony's and WILL work on Win2K

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@Anonymous Joh

"Yes. Along with txt and rtf. I've preordered one."

No John, you've ordered one.

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@It's actually pretty nice

The 505 I thought did appear as two mass storage devices (one for internal memory, one for the card)?

@ Only for XP & Vista users

You also missed that it doesn't support 64 bit versions of Windows (well, the usb driver at least I believe), on the other hand, calibre runs on Linux, Mac and Windows to let you handle the books in an open source way ;)

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Anonymous Coward

@Roddy Mackenzie

I can't answer for the release version but the pre-release ones mount just fine as a mass storage device.

I believe that you might be able to load the device from a copy of Adobe Digital Editions as well (not been able to make it work myself).

The big difference between one bought last year and a new one would be that it reads epub files (http://www.idpf.org/). These can be DRMed or not. Most of the ones you'll be able to buy are DRMed. Waterstones will be selling them amongst others.

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Paris Hilton

And

And it comes with the usual unwanted SONY Rootkit as well too but since the advent of the EEEpc with text to language capabilities it has come as the old song goes " You're just a little bit too late as the format is now obsolete and the world has passed it by week as a week is a long time in the age of micro mobile computing and the OLPC"

Choices Sony or other , oh well oops SONY lost yet again , no biggie and everyone else's gain .

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Light and portable

for the sticky fingered as well no dobut.

No one has ever tried to half inch one of my Pratchett paperbacks..........

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Anonymous Coward

@Roddy Mackenzie again

Having just borrowed a retail one from a colleague, yes they do mount as a USB mass storage device. The Sony management software is PC only and is not the most wonderful but it does work...

If you can navigate a directory tree you can install media yourself.

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Stop

An Alternative to the Sony

I got the CyBook Bookeen instead. Less DRMish stuff going on there. Also uses E-Ink. Less fidgety buttons too. Highly recommend it!

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Unhappy

Book price

Is everyone assuming that we'll just torrent the cracked versions for free?

Am I the only one here concerned about paying paperback price for non-transferrable ebooks?

£200 I can live with - with the amount of books I read, it's a relatively small amount (my usual purchase at Amazon is over £100).

But £5-10 for each book makes it useless for me when I can't swap/share/lend the books with friends.

Call me when the price per book is £2 each.

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@2gb SD?

"I have a few 4gb SD cards"

Standard SD or SDHC? I've seen claims that the Sony will support 4GB standard SD, but they're hard to find now.

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Happy

Got one. Like it.

I got a dark blue one on eBay about 8 months ago. Works great, battery lasts a long time, works when sitting in strong sunlight. Since I've had it I haven't bought a novel in dead-tree format since. I even save work reports as PDF so I can review on the commute home (just need to set the page size appropriately before saving).

The only down side has been when flying the cabin staff insist you turn it off during take-off and landing while allowing others to continue to read paper based books.

Battery life seems to depend on page turns. So its good for linear or semi-linear reads (like novels and articles), not so good for non-linear reads (like dictionaries or other lookup types).

But overall, I like it.

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Anonymous Coward

So that's yet another battery charger to take on holiday

One for the mobile phone, one for the digital camera, one for the mp3 player and now one for the eBook.

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Can we have...

...an SCC(TM) with an E-Ink display please?

Bring back the shell! Long live Lynx! Viva ncurses!

Obviously the default scrolling behaviour will have to change from the old teletype-linefeed style to a more conservation block-scroll (eg shift by five lines when you reach the bottom of the window

Let's shift the paradigm and get some good on-the-road performance.

Heck, we could even have an LCD overlay for additional quick-refresh display options.

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Jobs Halo

Buttons

I count 23 buttons. Why? It makes it look horrible, like a 1980's star-trek style calculator. At a quick guess, I would say it needs three - left, right and menu/select. Or even better, build three touch sensitive panels into the front.

I'll wait until Apple brings one out... like the iSheep I am.

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already got one

I got one from the states last year. For people asking why not use a pda instead, well you need to see one in the flesh and you will know the answer. The eink screen is much better on the eye to read and the batteries last for a couple of weeks of use so you won't even need to pack your charger unless its a long holiday.

It comes in a leather cover so it feels like a real book and the bookmark system works pretty well. The biggest advantage over a real book is that you don't have to shift position when reading on side or the other. :)

There are tons of (legitimately) free ebooks out there and yes it does do pdfs although plain text and converted html works better.

There is a great opensource program called Calibre which will sync with the reader and convert/sync books for you. It will also download RSS feeds so you can have an updated news digest on there each time you sync.

The downsides are that the memory stick is really an afterthought. It does not index your books amazingly well and uses more battery. Really the way to use it is to keep the library on your pc and load it with 10 or 20 titles that you are currently reading or use regularly for reference. The software makes it easy to swap them around. Also some pdfs will be too small to read on it and need to be converted first.

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you need number buttons to dial a page to jump to ...

d-oh!

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@ So that's yet another battery charger to take on holiday

"One for the mobile phone, one for the digital camera, one for the mp3 player and now one for the eBook."

It charges from a USB socket, as does my phone and MP3 player. No not an extra charger for me.

A mains charger is an optional £20 accessory.

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The non-Windows user experience, in detail

There's a lot of FUD floating around on this discussion. I own a PRS-505 and I don't do Windows; here's my experience.

The reason for the buttons is that the PRS-505 uses an e-ink display. It's really slow -- the latency is around half a second -- so rather than a pointer-based interface it expects you to use an old-fashioned numbered-menu system to navigate between features. All the e-ink machines are like this, the Kindle included; it's the price you pay for a device with the contrast ratio of newsprint that'll run for a week between charges.

I find the PRS-505 usable, despite that. It charges over USB, and exports its internal memory (and the SD or MS cards, if either are installed) as USB mass storage devices.

Stick an RTF, ASCII, PDF, or LRF file in the right directory and the PRS-505 will display it. (LRF is Sony's proprietary-ish file format. If you're a non-Microsoftie the reason for converting RTF files to LRF is that the PRS-505 can pick up metainformation tags like author name and title from the LRF, thus making it easier to find if you've got a lot of files on your machine.)

The PRS-505 will *not* read Microsoft Word files as-is (but you can convert them to RTF using OpenOffice or, on the Mac, textutil).

The PRS-505 will display PDFs. Since the July firmware update it's supposed to support PDF reflow as well, reflowing text to fit the screen better. (I haven't tested this.)

The PRS-505 supports the newish ePub ebook format, which includes DRM support (it's not mandatory) and is promoted by Adobe. To that extent, they seem to be stepping away from their previous committment to LRF, and before that, to BBeB (which nobody else used).

If you're a Mac or Linux user, the Calibre tools (calibre.kovidgoyal.net) will let you convert a variety of ebook file formats into LRF and sync them with the PRS-505. It includes HTML conversion and web spidering, so that you can grab various magazine/news websites and stick them on your reader. The only features of the PRS-505 it *doesn't* support are DRM and access to the Sony ebook store. There's loads of content on Project Gutenberg, and a lot of free books on the internet that you can download legally; more info at www.mobileread.com.

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Dead Vulture

Remember palm pilots?

Grayscale display

long battery life

no internet connectivity

Looks like an oversized Palm Pilot to me.

New sub-notebooks are much more capable.

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W
Coat

"I count 23 buttons. Why?"

Because it's Sony. And Sony says more buttons = better.

And what about "PRS-505": snappy name, eh? iSuppose iT's iNfinitely better than the iNterminable iName curse though.

How about Bookman? Or Pageman? Or Inkman?

Guess the Apple version will be called the iInk.

Or how about a Sony/Apple collaboration: the iInkman?

Or they could both get together with Nintendo and release the WiiInk.

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Not a palm pilot

The PRS-505 isn't a PDA.

The display is amazingly better than anything that Palm ever sold, back in the grey-scale days. It just doesn't bear comparison on any basis (resolution: 800x600 rather than 160x160, contrast ratio: astronomical).

Nor does it chew through AAA cells when you're using the backlight (what backlight? The Sony device doesn't need one, unless you still read under the covers in bed), or lose its memory if you fumble the battery swap.

I travel with a sub-notebook too, but oddly, it takes me more than 3-6 hours to read a couple of books. If you want to use a sub-notebook instead, you'd need a hand-cart loaded with spare batteries (or a portable generator and a gallon of petrol) to match the PRS-505s life.

It's quite simply a niche gadget. It does one thing only, and does it pretty well. Where it tries to do more than one thing, it's pants -- my advice is to delete the MP3 music samples it comes with, lest you accidentally nudge the volume switch and it tries to play something (which will run the battery down in well under 24 hours). But if all you want to do is read, I reckon a single charge should see you all the way through "Cryptonomicon".

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Black Helicopters

@James Pickett (Jp)

I think i'm right in saying that 'technically' and 'legally' you can't lend a book to someone else... i know it sounds mad, but it's still copyrighted material, and I think I'm right in saying that you can not lend or resell (although.. that would kill off 2nd hand book shops altogether!!) any book which is copyrighted.

Would need to check when I get home, but I'm sure I'm right in the above. If true, it wouldn't be a 'true' drawback of the ebook. Would be really surprised tho if someone doesn't strip out the protection so that you could 'lend' it to a friend....

Black Helicopter: because I might be right!

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@"I count 23 buttons. Why?"

"Or they could both get together with Nintendo and release the WiiInk."

How About iWii :)

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Re: Can we have...

"...an SCC(TM) with an E-Ink display please?"

That was my first thought too, but the Sony only manages 170 pixels per inch on a 6 inch display. (8-bit greyscale) That's no better than an SCC, at much the same price. I'd certainly tolerate a greyscale display if the same amount of cash bought you twice the screen size and resolution, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

The reason is presumably down to the economies of scale, since presumably a colour display of similar resolution has 3x as many elements. It *could* be done, couldn't it?

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Just what you need for the Summer Holidays!

"Sony reckons the 260g gadget based on E Ink screen technology will prove a hit with travellers keen to avoid lugging stacks of paperbacks with them when they head off on holiday."

So they launch it in September, just after most people get back from their holidays!

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I'm getting one

I read a lot of e-books on a laptop at the moment, used to use an Ipaq, The Sony reader seems ideal.

I get most of my books from http://www.webscription.net (some are even free) and they now support the Sony format.

Battery life, small size and being able to use in sunlight are the main plus points.

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@ Elrond Hubbard

Is your sub notebook capable of allowing you to read a whole (proper) book before it needs you to seek a charger?

Does the cheapo LCD in your PDA or notebook allow you to read comfortably on the beach?

If you haven't tried a dedicated ebook reader, then don't spout nonsense over here.

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Saw one on display at local Sony Centre today.

It seemed like a very nice piece of kit. The display is *very* readable, and that doesn't change at extreme angles. It's very paper like. The page itself is cream with a pinkish tinge, with deep charcoal grey text. As you'd expect, absolutely no flicker.

The device also looked very good too. Very nicely put together, nice silver finish, nice leathery cover, solid. Way better than a Kindle in that respect. It also takes SD cards, not just MemoryStink.

About the only fly in the ointment I could see was the way the screen refreshes; changing the page seemed to take a while, I didn't time it felt somewhere in the half a second to a second range. It flicks dark during refresh too, which is a bit disconcerting.

The other major drawback is the price; 199GBP inc. They said it launches tomorrow (Thurs), but I could pre-order today. Model I think was labelled PRS-505

Personally I think if it were £100 they'd be onto a winner. At 200 it's a little too expensive IMO.

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Anonymous Coward

You buy it

... I'll steal it from you

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