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back to article Sony Reader PRS-600 Touch Edition

When we reviewed Sony's original PRS-505 Reader a little over 12 months ago, our only real criticism was that the plethora of buttons and switches that festooned the device would be better replaced by a touchscreen. Sony PRS-600 Reader Touch Edition Revised edition: Sony's PRS-600 Reader Touch Now Sony has released its next- …

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The old one is better

The 505 is better from a reading point of view, exactly because it *has* so many buttons.

I've used the 600- the sluggish screen response combined with the slightly more complex interface make jumping to specific pages or even bookmarking just a tad more irritatingly complex.

For daily usage, I really don't see any advantage at all in the 600. Besides the marketing wow of being able to say "Touchscreen!"

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Side by side comparison

If you didn't do a side by side comparison, you could've gone to youtube. They've had the side by side up for months now. The 600's screen is a bit more reflective and the 505's fonts are crisper. After watching the comparisons, I decided to go for a 505. When I'm reading a book, I don't really care for music. Touchscreen, well, meh - it's a nice to have and has a wow factor, but do you really want a smudge on your page? The point of the reader is to read books, not find a replacement for one of your other gadgets. You're not exactly going to be carrying this around in your pockets, it'll usually be in your bag and you'll get it out in the train or airplane/airport for when you're bored.

Then again, I could be wrong here - any other ereaders here who do use the music feature or always carry it around outside the bag?

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600 or 300 ?

"we wonder if the £180 5in, Reader Pocket Edition won't be the better buy"

It's not the touchscreen that's the only differentiator here. The 300 doesn't have Search, SD/MS card slots or annotation. So if you're a student wanting to make notes 600 is the one.

Personally the touchscreen isn't the feature that makes it. The search and being able to use my old MS cards I bought for my P900 (handy way to keep all those white paper & documentation PDFs in one place) are much more important.

Anyone want to hazard a guess when Sony are going to drop MS completely seeing as how their Magic Gate (TM) DRM stuff isn't used and micro SD is more & more common?

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Unhappy

Could of been so much better....

I have a 600 (well had. It just died on me after 4 weeks of use-not good). My feeling is that Sony have missed a big trick here. The touchscreen sounds like a great idea, until you realise that e-paper is never going to give you a iphone type user experience. Also for a device that emphasises screen clarity, I am not sure placing your greasy fingers on the screen is a good idea. The truth was that I tended to use the front buttons to change pages far more often than finger swiping. And here's a problem, the buttons are too hard and small. It makes changing pages(the most common action) quite tiring.

The other problem is that Sony don't seemed to of learned from Apple and made good usability the most important thing. Little things such as being unable to save the last page opened on multiple books, no way to save the default font size(it always initially starts as small-too small) make it slightly irritating to use. Other things they left out is the automatic orientation detection meaning to move from portrait to landscape requires digging down into the menu system. As the review said, while you can group books into categories, music cannot even be grouped even into albums. Also I found the windows client program quite annoying due to use due to lack feedback about what it is doing. Basically it feels that Sony spent all their money on developing the touch screen and 5 minutes designing how it would be used.

On the plus side, however PDF support is very good and while it worked it was far easier than carrying around the tree based version of the media.

Two final issues, one small and one more important. First why do Sony still go to the expense of providing a memory stick slot? 99% of people will use the SD slot. Apart from Sony's monopoly of the format it makes no sense now that they have bowed to the inevitable and provided a SD slot as well. The second thing is price. Comparing the price of a e-reader with a 8GB iPod touch, the reader seems awfully expensive for something which is basically a one trick pony. For e-readers to truly take off, forget wireless,colour etc, the price needs to be brought down to nearer the £100 mark and book sellers need to start selling e-books at a justifiable price(At present they are virtually the same price as their dead-tree equivalent)

Its a pity really because with a bit more thought this could of been a really good device, but Sony just do not seem to be able to get their act together. Instead of leading the market, they are floundering trying to provide a killer feature. Well Sony, the killer feature is a reasonable priced device for reading books with a good UI.

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Touchscreen

This isn't the first touchscreen reader from Sony despite what your review implies. The PRS-700, a comteporary of the 505, was also touchscreen with the addition of a built in front-light and a super-shiny eye-melting screen.

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500!

I think all Sony readers from the 505 onwards have Vizplex - only the Librie and the 500 didn't. That would explain why you didn't see a difference.

I agree with Jeff 3, and will take it a step further: I prefer my 500 over the 505 because of the side-mounted page turning button (like the Cybook Opus).

Don't want a touchscreen, but do want to keep the screen size, so not sure what I'd buy now.

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Pint

Yes, the old one *is* better

In fact, I'd been holding off on buying to see whether the new models were more desirable but decided to get a 505 while they were still about.

So far it's a very handy device, the slow response being balanced by the ability to carry a few thousand books, documents and files about in a neat format.

For once, I also quite like the fact that it doesn't have any wireless connectivity, as I'm not too tempted to faff about with RSS and news feeds on it. I wanted a book reader, so that's what it does.

I even take it down the pub with me, so it's more interesting than many of my fellow villagers!

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FAIL

Bloody pricey

I don't get these book readers - they look ugly as hell; they've only got a crappy black and white screen; and they only have enough grunt to, well, display a static B&W page.

Yet this one costs £250..??? Are people honestly insane?

Complete and utter rip-off for what they are (you can get a lot more tech for your money pretty much anywhere else you chose to spend it) - especially as you then buy a book to put on it! Makes zero sense to me.

Last 2 books I read on holiday cost £1 each on sale. I'll no doubt read them again in the future, and enjoy turning the pages as I do.

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I bought the 505 in preference to the 600

Compared to the touchscreen of my Google phone (which also has FB reader on it) the 600 was annoying. The 505 felt better in the hand too.

Not being able to make notes is maybe a downside, but for technical things I prefer paper when available, so far anyway

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@ Gerard Krupa

Fair point, but as the PRS-700 has never been officially available in the UK and our sole experience of it was a quick fiddle at the CES back in January in less than perfect circumstances to judge screen quality etc we didn't want to muddy the waters.

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Happy

Well, I really like mine

Am about to go on a 6 week trip with 20kg baggage limits and a whole bunch of equipment to carry - this will be so much better than hauling around enough reading material to keep me going around the world.

The weight is perfect and the build quality is great. The touchscreen does not seem to smear up, and the page turn mechanism is very intuitive. It's a good thing that it needs a firm swipe in my view - saves losing your place when standing on a crowded double-decker.

I am not sure it's going to reach 7500 page turns though - mine ran low on batteries after the first 3 days and I was only half way through A Tale of Two Cities. Although I had been reading the Portlet 2.0 spec as well, which is enough to make any hardware weep.

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Well Tony...

For starters how many £1 books can you carry at the same time?

How much space would they take up compared with the electronic versions, which could also be stored on other devices.

How many trees must die for you Tony?*

I have, probably, a couple of thousand books at home, on all sorts of subjects, reference to fiction. I'm guessing that around a third of those would translate into good ebooks - the reference works wouldn't certainly.

It would be nice to have those on a single device, so that I could find the book I wanted easily, or even search the whole lot to find the book that I remember a little bit about - something that would be tedious in paper world.

There are a lot of reasons why a good ebook reader is a serious investment, especially when you consider how many books you can carry around at the same time - if 512Mb translates to 350 books, then a 16Gb SD card (under £20 at Amazon) would equate to over 11,000 books.

Have I convinced you of why people might be interested?

ttfn

*not a serious question really, but I suppose there is a point there as well.

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No, still an expensive piece of crap

I can carry as many books as I want to read at any one time, thank you very much. That number is typically no more than 1.Besides Paul, you missed my point - it's £250.

That is a frigging rip off for what it can do. You can probably buy a more functional toaster for half that.

Technology should be priced around it's abilities. I can only assume the tiny global sales volume for this sort of device ramps the unit cost.

Regarding wanting to have all your books in 1 place - everyone who I know who enjoys reading enjoys having the book. If you were to want 11000 books, then I would suggest you were probably a librarian anyway, and would have no need.

For dirgegirl on her 6 week trip, this could be a weight saver I guess. Still, I took my 2 books in my short pockets, along with a boat load of other stuff, to avoid being weighed come cabin time.

You can get a fancy MP3 player and the audio book and have it read to you for a fraction of the price.

Anyways, not going to sit here ranting much longer, so I will summarise again - they are overpriced. This cannot be debated. A similar amount of cash will buy a fully functioning laptop for gods sake.

My lack of understanding of the merit of the device is a complete aside, and obviously can be debated, which I can't particularly be arsed doing (well, any more that is)

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Anonymous Coward

Tony

Tony, can you read 7000+ pages with your netbook? Can you read it under the sun? Can you read it comfortably for hours?

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Anonymous Coward

Choice

Dear Tony, if £250 is too much then go get the old 505, which can be had for about £150 right now. It is a choice. If people want to pay £250 for it then that is fine.

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I've got one!

I purchased one to demonstrate at the BETT show in January on the EduGeek stand. What I see the best use of these kind of devices is for holding referance manuals on. How many times hove you puchased a device or piece of kit and the only thing you get in the box is the quick start guide? The main 500+ page manual is on a PDF on a CD in the box, and isn't much use when you need to go offsite to look at or configure kit. The ability to fit the manuals for 100+ applications and pieces of hardware is great.

However, it isn't cheap, and is lsuggish. A firmware fix may adress this in the future, but I have to admit to being very impressed so far. It does what I intended it to, and very well indeed.

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Electronic Sketchbook

I have a 600 and Sony are missing a trick with its marketing. I use it as an electronic sketchbook / labbook. It is great to take to conference to write notes and draw diagrams (which I can then save with the PDFs of the slides). It is excellent as a means of quickly sketching out software design ideas etc. Before I used to use scraps of paper (back of an envelope!) whereas now, as I always carry it around with me, I can quickly sketch out what I need and then save it with my project. This means that my sketches are now part of the electronic history shared with everyone on the project and not lost within my paper notebook (admittedly I could just scan/photo the pages of my notebook, but that's a pain!). It is excellent as a tool for reading PDF scientific papers. It is great as a tool for proofing manuscripts (I can read a manuscript on the bus and use the stylus to annotate and correct the text). The biggest problem with it is that all the software assumes that you want to use it an an e-book, which to be honest I don't - what's wrong with a paperback? If the 600 was combined with an endnote like reference manager, and a proper UI for saving and organising handwritten notes, then I can see e-sketchbook devices like this really taking off. (and before someone responds, an iPhone is too small for this use, and a tablet's battery life is too short, and weight too high).

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Tony's Got a Point . . .

. . . about the price of the unit.

E-ink seem to have a bit of a monopoly on the screen tech at the moment and the market isn't that big (although I'd suggest it's starting to pick up). I'd suggest that maybe as soon as this time next year, a decent ebook reader will cost no more than £100 and the smaller ones will be £50 the year after that.

As much as I fancy one, I can wait :-)

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Pint

Screens

At work I was able to put my PRS-600 alongside my colleague's PRS-505 and the difference in readability between the two was startling - the contrast on the 505 is far superior. So people should be aware of this tradeoff when choosing between them.

The other thing which never seems to get a mention is the screw-up with DRM - you can only use one type of DRM on the device at once, and if another book you need uses a different DRM then you have to delete all the Adobe DRM ones before you can read the other one. This is a monumentally shit "feature" which desperately needs to be fixed.

Otherwise the thing is reasonably useful, though I find myself with an aversion to spending real money on content for it, because the result is so ephemeral. I guess I must be a Freetard at heart.

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Screen Refresh

Screen refresh speed is a function of the mechanics of E-Ink, you're moving little balls of ink through a viscous medium and that takes time to do accurately enough that ghosting of previous images is minimised.

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Grenade

@Tony Barnes

"This cannot be debated"

Wow! That's some ego you've got yourself there! It's the 'forum' that decides whether to engage in debate not a single individual.

I have a 505 and no, it is not overpriced. I have always read a lot and have found I read more now I have one. It's more convenient that any paper back, allows me to subscribe to interzone and other 'fiction' magazines at a fraction of the cover price and have them delivered electronically. I also have a wealth of public domain ebooks to call upon. I've bought a fair few gadgets in my time and have to admit I have wondered whether most of them are worth it. Not so the 505, my only regret is that I didn't buy one sooner! I know a few people who own the one and without exception you would have to prise them from their cold, dead, hands!

The new release ebooks are a bit costly, in the UK the RRP for a new hardback is often the same or slightly less(!!!) than the ebook version. Hopefully in time UK publishers will stop being greedy and follow the Kindle sales model where ebooks are competetively priced compared to paper ones, even on release day!

I've used PDAs and computer screens to try and read ebooks in the past and none of them come close to the clarity of Eink.

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Jim Ollerhead

I bought the 505 and it does exactly what it says on the tin and I am happy for it to do so. I have accumulated some 40Gb of e-books mostly in pdf format that I otherwise am unlikely to read in a lifetime of sitting on front of a screen but now can read on the train into work - result!

As far as touch screen is concerned I want to look at a pristine e-ink screen when reading , not one with the thumb-prints from my last slice of buttery toast all over it.

And Wi-fi ? Don't need it, don't want it...all you Kindlers are welcome to it especially after the recent furore over the unauthorised deletion of paid-for material. And aesthetically, a colleague has just bought a Kindle (in the UK) and has already admitted "it doesn't look and feel as good as yours" having tried my 505 before his Kindle arrived. OK no margin note facility, but I haven't made margin notes in a book since I was a student 35 years ago so I ain't gonna start now.

And best of all, my Sony 505 was £150 from play.com which is about the price of 4 technical 2" thick books and I have several hundred stored electronically that I can carry around without needing a suitcase to hold them in.

Want an e-book reader?, get the 505 -- you know it makes sense!

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Seems to be a trend..

..but after waiting for the launch of the 300 and 600 I also went for the 505. The new devices have a lower contrast ratio making the text more grey than black, and the touchscreen also suffers from more glare. For those who really want wi-fi (and a 7-inch screen) there is a 900 model that's coming in a couple of months (December in the USA).

Also, after trying the Sony software for about 2 minutes I installed Calibre. Far better e-library tool.

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(bangs head against wall)

@ AC#1 - I never said you could read 7000 pages on a netbook. I said that compared to a laptop, £250 was a huge amount of money to pay for something that ONLY displays a static page. With regards to reading in the sun - erm, yes, never had issue with that. With regards to reading for a long time - lets see, I have a PC and a Mac at work, between which I spend at least 8hrs a day comfortably reading off a screen, so fail to see your point there too I'm afraid.

@AC#2 - ok, so debate the price then. Explain how a card reader with a black and white display is worth £250. Also explain how you're bothered about the price of the ebooks themselves when your happy to spank 1/4 grand on the reader...

As per Duncan, if the price drops to the £50-100 mark you're approaching sanity.

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@Tony Barnes

"they are overpriced. This cannot be debated"

I've owned a 505 for almost a year now and consider it to be one of the best purchases I've ever made. If I lost it, I'd spend twice as much on another one if I had to. (Although, luckily, I wouldn't have to.) I don't consider it to be overpriced at all for what it does.

If you don't think it's worth the money, then don't buy it.

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good for some

I'm an academic, and read a lot of journals in my work. Since these days journals sit on the web, I download them as .pdfs. There are a few hundred that I was able to move to the e-reader and can now peruse in comfort away from the computer. I can also scribble notes on them.

And as it can also handle rtf, I can load student essays on to it and read them more conveniently. I'm reviewing a pre-publication book for a colleague, and again its a lot better than doing this on-comp.

I've yet to try reading an actual book, but I think for that, I actually prefer the old printed paper version.

And as an aside, can we leave off the old 'saving the trees' crap? Most of our paper comes from managed European forests, and European forests have grown over the past decades - because we use paper. Stop using paper, and that land will be put to other uses.

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Anonymous Coward

PRS505 v 600

Having both, or rather having HAD both:

JUst being able to pick what you want to read based on environment/mood....

The client software supplied falls over regularly when importing epub books, at around 1500 or so. Lose it and use calibre, you can then more easily categorise documents (books), convert if necessary, and Calibre works with Windows 7 - Sony say their client s/w not supported with Windows 7!!!!.

The contrast of the 505 is far superior to the 600.

The 600 is much more reflective.

The ability to annote documents with the 600 is invaluable. Syncing annotations back is not so much fun.

However, I used both, for a time, on holiday on the beach in Jamaica, and found both eminently useable.

Both take a very long time to scan for books on memory cards. If you plan to keep your entire collection in one place, mm, not on these devices.

Overall... can't live without, and anxiously waiting to get my 600 replaced.

Book publishers - stop being to fekin greedy.

Sell ebooks at £2 each and sell millions...

Sell at £20 each and sell hundreds.

If an omnibus version of say - Harry Potter <spit> - sold for £5, how many copies would be sold compared to the £56 for all that dead wood.

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Anonymous Coward

@Tony Barnes

Please do bang your head against the wall some more, it may knock some humility into you!

It amazes me that there are a queue of poeple saying 'Tony, I bought one and I assure you they are worth it' and you stand there with you hands on your virtual hips saying 'I don't own one but I can tell you now that you are wrong, they aren't worth it'.

1) What you are choosing to avoid, again, when you mention that is is 'just' a card reader with a black and white screen is that it isn't an ordinary screen. The eInk screen doesn't induce eye strain like trying to read an ebook on a laptop/ pda/ pc screen etc, is viewable in all light conditions including direct sunlight, etc. As I mentioned before, and you ignored, I've tried all these other ways of reading an ebook and they are all rubbish, unlike my 505.

2) How about simple maths. By buying my mag subscriptions electronically, reading public domain ebooks, and buying books from US sellers where possible, I am just about at the break even point after 10 months. ie I've saved the initial purchase price of the reader in reduced book spending, anything from here on in is profit! Still not worth it? Sure I'm frustrated by the publishers greed but it's taught me to be patient and wait for the ebook to come down to a reasonable price.

3) How about the enviromental aspect? Books = paper (and all the bleaching involved), printing, distribution, etc, etc. Ebooks = Device manufacture granted, but after that books are distributed in a very environmentally friendly way.

You strike me as the type of person who doesn't listen to reason, so I really don't know why I'm bothering typing this so I'll stop there.

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A request for the reviewers

Can you start telling us stuff about the batteries and lifetime on these device please such as the likely useful battery lifetime, how easy (and expensive) replacing the batteries is etc.

At the moment I'm not willing to fork out £200 quid of my hard earned cash on yet another device that becomes worse than use than useless after 2-3 years because the battery is dead and is not user-replaceable. In the meantime long live paper !

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They'll take off when

1. The price drops to £50.

2. You can use them as a PDA or electronic drawing pad.

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I do listen...

...I also do see other technologies out there that represent far better value for money. That is ALL I am getting at.

There is an HD player review on here at the minute - £60 for something that will shunt out 1080p video. £60 - less than 1/4 of the RRP of this black and white page turner.

I fully agree that the quality is going to be excellent. I also don't doubt that some people will find having thousands of books in their pocket handy. I do however doubt the price is reasonable.

The only thing I can compare it to off hand is that Sony 11 inch OLED screen that's £1300. Yes it' beautiful. Yes it does a great job. But it's a complete fucking rip off for what it has actually achieved.

Regarding paper - c'mon, book publishers source pretty responsibly nowadays, I wouldn't be surprised if most of them are required to plant more than they use. The other aspects - well they give people jobs, and I'm not a hippy, but that's another story, perhaps you could get a copy and stick it on your over-priced ebook reader ;)

As above £50 is closer to sanity for what these thing can actually do. Giles has a very good point about building some other functionality into them.

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FAIL

@Tony

"£250 for an ebook reader? That's so overpriced!

Do you know how many bananas you could buy for £250? Loads!!

I will grant you it's cheaper than an Audi TT though, you could only get about two tyres for the same money! "

etc

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Tony (no relation) vs e-book reader buffs

I think we all know Tony's not unreasonable views on the matter, and the equally reasonable comments from the pro lobby. No more tit-for-tat comments going over the same ground, please.

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@Tony the listener (apparently!) ... again

Didn't mention trees, are you sure you are listening? I said bleaching.

Want an idea of how harmful paper making is to the environment?

Look here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paper_pollution

"Pulp and paper is the third largest industrial polluter to air, water, and land in both Canada and the United States"

Deftly avoided the point about 505 having actually saved me money too !!!

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Don't see the point

I have an HTC Magic, I have installed an e-book reader, my phone costs about the same, is also able to do tons of other things besides being an e-book reader, sorry, but 250 quid for that is a bit steep in my books...

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Re. Leon Prinsloo

"I have an HTC Magic, I have installed an e-book reader, my phone costs about the same, is also able to do tons of other things besides being an e-book reader,"

I was the same, but then borrowed a Sony 505. Bought one a week later. You can't read a book comfortably on a little phone sized screen in daylight. If your phone rings you have to fumble around to answer the call and then get back to the book. If you are low on charge on the train on the way home then bang goes your reading.

My Sony runs for **weeks**. That's with around 2.5 hours reading a day on the train. Even when it warns you the battery is low, you still get another hour's reading. The screen is as near to reading a paper book as you can get. The device is light enough to carry easily. If my phone rings I just put down the Sony and pick it up again after the call.

Screen size is always going to prevent true convergence on smartphone/ipod type devices. Do your eyes a favour, have a phone for calls, PIM and games and one of these for reading books.

The publishers do need to get a grip though. The single biggest barrier to general acceptance is not the price of the devices, it is the price of the media. Paying hardback prices for an eBook is just greedy and insane. Haven't they learnt anything from the music industry?

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Grenade

Disappointed by the screen quality

The touch-screen layer of the 600 model seems to make the screen both more dim, and more reflective. The combination of the two makes it awkward to read, for me at least. I have to angle it to try to find a dark patch so I can "see through" it to the screen.

If e-ink displays are supposed to be easy on the eye and more like the experience of reading a printed page, then for me this model's screen is sub-standard.

In short: find somewhere you can give the 600 a good test read in representative lighting conditions before committing to it. Check that it works for you.

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I don't get eBooks, either

I was a long time Palm user and read many books on it. I loved the way the text would scroll and I could read without having to do page turns. Now I have an iPhone and last night I was reading Edith Wharton as I came home on the London Underground. The book was free and the gadget I carry around anyway.

I never had any problem reading books on the Palm or on the iPhone. I don't understand why one would want to spend so much money and carry an extra gadget just to read books, unless one needs to take notes, which is not my case. My Palm had good dictionaries and so does my iPhone, and if I did occasionally need to take notes I might be able to do that anyway using a notes app. The smallness of the Palm|iPhone makes it ideal to get out in a crowded train. When I stay with my daughter I sleep in a bed without a bedside light. That is no problem with the Palm|iPhone, either, as the screen is backlit. I don't know whether readers like the Sony can be used in the dark.

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Go

Disappointed... exchanged it

I took my recently-purchased 600 back to Waterstones. I was slightly nervous about this, since waterstones.com has a "We do not offer refunds or exchanges for ereader devices" disclaimer, but I thought I had a reasonable case of "Not fit for purpose." What use is a ereader if reading off it is uncomfortable?

Anyway, the manager of the store was polite and would have given me a refund, but instead I asked for an exchange, and took away for the smaller "Pocket" edition. This doesn't have the touch screen, and the screen quality is day to the 600's night. Brighter "white" level, and only point sources generate disruptive reflections in the pocket's screen, instead of any illuminated object.

Much happier now.

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I've found a much better alternative

Its an open-source repository of every book published. Its works on simple magstripe technology. It goes several hundred years between charge-ups and best of all is absolutely free.

According to the graphic on the front its made by Spelthorne Borough Council and is badged up as a "Library Card".

Am I the only one who suspects these things are only used by the same people who sit and write their novels on Macs in Starbucks ? To quote Family Guy, "Writing isn't writing unless somone is watching you doing it"

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Coffee/keyboard

@ Paul 37

+1 COTW

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