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back to article Sony Reader PRS-350 Pocket Edition

You may recall that I wasn't very impressed with Samsung's E60 e-book reader. Sony's new Reader Pocket Edition is a very different page out of the book. Sony Reader Pocket Edition Sony's Reader Pocket Edition PRS-350: the acme of e-book readers? Where the E60 is thick, the Reader is thin - and weighs a mere 155g. The E60 is …

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Calibre?

I've not yet used the sony supplied software with my PRS-350. The open source calibre program (http://calibre-ebook.com/) had no difficulty putting drm-free pdf files on the unit, so whilst you may not be able to simply drag and drop pdf files there is a way to manage it without the obnoxious sony/adobe software.

It's also been on offer at £130 from Waterstones since it was released, only £21 more expensive than the cheapest kindle. I think that's well worth it for the better build quality and touch screen.

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Megaphone

Calibre rules!

With calibre it is trivial to batch convert pdfs into whatever format you want; so you can ignore adobe totally.

Also; "You can copy over pictures too, but what's the point on a 160-greyscale screen?"

Manga.

Manga is usually grey scale and usually in a small format, and as such is perfect on these devices.

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very noticeable lag that reminded me of passive matrix LCDs of old

Not just the lag. The whole appearance of these e-ink screens reminds me of them (and the reasons we got rid of them!). Which makes me wonder what the point of e-ink is, even the low-power advantage isn't as great when compared to a passive mono lcd and as a brightly backlit colour one.

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Could be a bit out on the figures...

but eInk displays take between 50 and 100 times less power than passive monochrome LCD, depending on the refresh rate. Most of the time whilst reading they take no power at all, unlike LCD which draw all the time.

That a lot of extra battery life, as shown by the two week figure quoted, vs 1day for a iPad?

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Could be a bit out on the figures...

The iPad will last longer than a day if all you do is read on it. For an LCD-based device it has some truly impressive power management.

But, yes, an E Ink screen will run for longer.

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the main advantage of eInk

Is that reflective screens are a heck of a lot nicer to read on than transmissive ones.

It's one of those things (like HDTV) than screenshots simply can't make clear - you have to see it in the flesh. Next time you're in Waterstones/Borders/whatever, see if you can have a look at am eInk reader in action and you'll see how different reflective screens are to look at.

I can't read for hundreds of pages straight on an LCD, no matter how high-res it might be. My (mere!) third-gen eInk screen, I can read for days on, not to mention in full sunlight.

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Boffin

eInk advantages

The main, over-riding advantage of eInk is that it is completely passive, like paper. This means that you can read it in pretty much any lighting conditions from twilight to direct bright sunlight.

It also means lower levels of eye-strain for long periods of reading. However, modern LCD/OLED screens are much better than old LCD screens in this regard, so that's not so important.

GJC

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e-ink

Just try and read your lcd screen in bright sunlight, then compare it with an e-ink screen in the same conditions - the e-ink wins hand down, as well as having a very low power draw (only draws power when changing the screen).

Also, backlit lcd screens are hard on the eyes if you are reading them for a long time, not so e-ink.

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I've looked at one

It looked exactly like the old (*non* backlit) mono lcd screens I've seen. The sort that reviewers used to critisise for being readable only in bright light. I'm not (as some of the people replying seem to think) comparing with a modern backlit lcd.

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WTF?

So...

"But... it's still £51 more expensive than the new Kindle, which comes with Wi-Fi, and pricier too than the Kindle with 3G. Lack of connectivity doesn't bother me, but the thought I can get an e-book reader with a comparable-quality screen and twice as much storage for a lot less money does."

And yet it still receives an 80% rating, versus the cheaper and better specced Kindle, which only received an 85% rating. Are you being paid by Sony..?? Don't get me wrong, I'm a Sony whore, have been for years, but the Kindle offers much more, and it only awarded an extra 5%...

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: So...

Kindle offers only two things more: Wi-Fi and a lower price. Wi-Fi is a 'nice to have' rather than a 'must have'. The keyboard even less so.

By contrast, the Sony is smaller/more portable, has a touchscreen, and can present ePubs without the need for third-party conversion software.

Price is the big issue here, and that puts the balance in favour of the Kindle, but only just.

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Touchscreen

The Kindle does not have a touch screen. The touchscreen GUI is really rather good. I guess you are paying for this and the sleeker design if you choose the Sony.

Also remember that the Kindle does not support ePub (and Calibre cannot convert DRM'd ePubs). So you are tied to Amazon and cannot borrow ePub books from UK libraries.

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Pint

Screen

Kindle has a 6 inch screen. Sony has a 5 inch screen. Did you all genuinely miss that?

Wifi / 3g is not a "nice to have", it's an absolute dealbreaker. I want to subscribe to a newspaper and get it delivered every day, whatever country i'm in, without connecting my ereader to the usb port of a laptop. The kindle can do that. The sony can't. A touch screen is a "nice to have", or even a "largely pointless"

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Screen

An extra inch in the diagonal - fnar, fnar (before someone else mentions it) - makes no real odds.

Fair point about newspaper subs, but are there any? I get the Times on my iPad, but I'm not of any e-book reader specific ones, whether for Kindle or the Sony.

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At present ...

The reviews on the Kindle papers are poor and only partly due to price, which is not helped by the fact that on the 3G model you can browse the same papers online for free and get more information/. Having said that you do get a 14 day free trial, and over time they may improve both in quality and price.

Magazines there are more of. I'm only subscribed to Asimov (monthly) but it is nice that I don't have to think about downloading it, the new issue just appears - more an ease of use thing though.

For me, one thing the kindle does well and touch screens do not it change of pages. I just don't like the extra action to swipe, but then for me the Kindle's side buttons are in the perfect place for my hands, so I just need to move my thumb to go to the next page.

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Pint

Newspaper subs

To be honest there's not loads of UK ones, unless you want the telegraph or the FT (no thanks to either). But there's over 100 international newspapers, including biggies like the NY Times. Mostly US based ones, as you'd expect;

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Newspapers-Kindle/b/ref=sa_menu_knews2?ie=UTF8&node=341691031

Then there's also magazine subs, inclduing some tech ones;

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Magazines-Journals-Kindle/b/ref=sa_menu_kmag2?ie=UTF8&node=341690031

You can also subscribe to blogs and rss feeds on the kindle. And download sample chapters from any of the 500,000+ books in the kindle store for free, kind of a "try before you buy" thing, as if you were flicking through a book in a shop. None of which is possible on the sony (without a laptop)

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Charging for blogs

Shame Amazon has the audacity to charge for them when they are completely free online. Way to cripple a very cool feature.

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FAIL

I see nothing here......

... to deter me from buying the Kindle for my Wife as a Christmas present. Much nicer spec at a lower price. That is all.

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Yes, I'd get a Kindle for the Wife....

....so that I could keep my Sony for myself, which you can have when you pry it from my cold, dead hands [Omnes: "You terms are acceptable"]

Actually, you can have my Sony 505 shortly, 'cos I think the 350 might be a worthy enough upgrade to make it worth spending the money.

GJC

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Pint

Oh, and can I just be the first to say....

....a Kindle for the Wife? Sounds like a fair swap.

GJC

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so...

...get a Kindle then?

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Quick follow up questions

How does the 'bonding' process to allow you to read plain PDF work ?

Does it *require* software on the PC, or can I just plug it in and use it as a USB mass-storage drive to drag and drop to ?

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Quick follow up questions

You can use it as a mass-storage device - I copied all my sample ePubs and PDFs that way.

But the PDFs won't open on the device - even the DRM-less ones - unless you register with Adobe and copy the files across using Sony's software.

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+1 internets for saying so in public

This so enrages me, I refuse to do it, and all gadgets that work this way will be marked down for it.

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Go

sounds like..

a tip of the hat to Steve Gibson and his "its my computer" rant of the late 90's

btw he's right!

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Sony vs Kindle

Sure, this is more expensive than the cheap Kindle but it's got a touchscreen. On pure tech terms, the user needs to choose which is most useful to them - touch or wireless. (Plus, this device is smaller than the Kindle because it doesn't have that stupid keyboard. How often do you really need to use a keyboard when reading?)

For me, though, it's the EPUB support that's the killer. If you buy the Kindle, you're locked into Amazon's closed ebook world. If you buy Sony (or BeBook or most others), you're in the wider world of standard formats and a proper market. Adept DRM is rubbish, but it's unfortunately the reality at present for many commercial ebooks, and dissing the Sony because of it's rather unfair when you conside that the Kindle is locked down even harder.

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Unlock the Kindle with Calibre

It's absolutely untrue to say you're locked into Amazon's closed ebook world with the Kindle. It's very easy to convert ePub or any other format into mobi format. What's more with the connectivity on the Kindle you can just get Calibre to email it over without need for any wired sync.

In fact, the killer feature of the Kindle is its connectivity. The fact that I can wake up and know that the FT has been delivered to my Kindle overnight (again using the wonderful Calibre) makes considering a non-wireless eReader absolutely laughable.

Couple this with the Kindle being significantly cheaper and with a bigger screen and you start to wonder why anyone would buy the Sony. And yes, I normally am an absolute Sony fanboi, but this time they really aren't the best.

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Keyboard for reading? No. For purchasing? Hell yes.

True, I don't need the keyboard for reading but I do need it when I'm browsing the Kindle store from my Kindle and choosing what book I want to purchase next.

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Anonymous Coward

Amazon and Sony have a different focus

Amazon's primary goal is to make it as easy as possible to buy books, Sony makes it as easy as possible to read books.

I was all set to buy the new kindle and then the new Sonys came along. I bought the 350 because I wanted something small and light and it has better format support. Having a touch screen means they were able to do away with the mostly useless keyboard. The Kindle is bigger because it takes up space with a keyboard which will primarily be used when buying books. How much time do you actually spend buying books every month? For those 15 minutes or so each month I'll just use my laptop to find the books I want.

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But it's not!

"It's absolutely untrue to say you're locked into Amazon's closed ebook world with the Kindle. It's very easy to convert ePub or any other format into mobi format"

You cannot convert DRM'd ePub files with Calibre! So you are tied in to Amazon. How many times does this have to be said!

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Anonymous Coward

DRM ePub ties you to Amazon?

"You cannot convert DRM'd ePub files with Calibre! So you are tied in to Amazon. How many times does this have to be said!"

It sounds to me like you're tied in to your DRM'd ePub vendor rather than Amazon ;-)

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Rotation, Dictionaries and Roald Amundsen

Thinking on how I read "proper" books in bed, the lack of auto-rotation sounds like a bonus to me.

The addition of tranlsation dictionaries suddenly makes this whole e-reader idea a lot more interesting.

Finally no "Roald Amundsen is a wanker"? I feel let down.

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Speed?

Is it as glacially slow to open files or turn pages as the PRS-600?

(I have a PRS-500, a PRS-600 and now I'm using a Kindle. )

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Much quicker

Don't worry. The 350 and 650 are much faster than their predecessors.

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Non DRM PDF's

Perhaps the 650 is different, but one of the first things I did was drop a PDF of the London Tube map on mine and it worked fine.

Your pictures of the screen don't do it justice by the way El Reg. The 650 is the first reader I've owned where the screen is finally better than a printed book IMHO.

Finally, the lack of wifi. I guess it's a choice Sony have made to maximise battery life with a decent form factor and weight. I sync mine once a day and have never thought I'm missing out on wireless connectivity. Sony's are primarily book reading devices, and they perform this task very well.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Non DRM PDF's

I've seen both the 350 and the 650, but there's no way I'd say either device's screen was as good as a printed book.

One day, maybe, but not now.

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PRS 950

In the US they have the 6" PRS 950 which comes with a WiFi link to the Sony eBook store. It's a really nice piece of kit, but useless over here as it only goes to the US store (which needs a US credit card billing address). Sadly as long as Sony have their link to the Waterstone's store I don't think we'll see the 950.

The PRS 650 big brother to the 350 is a fine reader. In black it makes the screen look even more contrasty.

But yes, unless Sony can make their readers immediately more compelling to newcomers, Amazon will end up owning the market. Call me radical, but it'd help if Sony tried advertising the bloody things. I've lost count how many people have come over and said 'what's that?' and then 'I didn't know these things existed' followed by 'where can I get one?' when I've been out and about with my Reader.

BTW. Thanks for the reminder, I have to charge mine before my day trip to the security checks at Heathrow.

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Really?

"I've seen both the 350 and the 650, but there's no way I'd say either device's screen was as good as a printed book."

Are we talking paperbacks or nice high quality hardbacks here? I'd honestly say that my 650 is easier to read in low light than a book. In fact, I tried the paperback edition of a book next to the 650 version the other night in bed and was pleasantly surprised how much better the electronic version was.

You can also zoom the font of course and you don't have the bother of trying to hold a book open to read both sides whilst lying down.

One other cool thing for the brave is to flash the device with Boroda's custom firmware that allows you to change the fonts. I now run with Liberations Sans and books are a joy to read.

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Home Brew Efforts

"There's no memory card slot on the PRS-350, but with 2GB of on board storage, you may not need one "

With my PRS-505, I can load up home made pdfs via the SD memory card slot (I use free PrimoPDF, there are many others). These can of course include maps (ripped from Google Maps) and whatever text you fancy that you can type or copy and paste. Hence, if you do want lots of documents like this, an external memory card is a good facility. Why would you want to do that? - If you're going on holiday in the wilds of Wherever, you can load up with maps, guides, lists of places to visit, etc and have them all on one lightweight, low power consumption reading device.

As Jules 1 indicated in the first comment, it looks like home brew efforts get the best out of these devices. I've never used the provided Sony software; it's a pain. Calibre is great.

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Tried Sony, Never again

I've had a Sony reader in the past. The truth is I soon got tired of the touch screen and I found the basic page turning controls small and fiddly. Touch screen is great on a phone where portability and size are important, but there is plenty of space on a e-reader without having to resort to putting your greasy mits over a screen or "shudder" use a stylus. In the end I found the Sony experience poor and was not to unhappy when it failed in the warranty period and I could get my money back.

I have finally ordered a kindle. While I understand people concerns about tying it to amazon, I do tend to get most of reading literature from there anyway. But the most important factor was the 3g access. The fact it provides contract free 3G access for a small outlay seems a bargain. Especialy since it is still less than the cost of the Sony Reader

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Expensive device for expensive ebooks

I see that Sony's new batch of Readers still can't display ePubs with justified text. Poor.

It's not just the extra £51 for the device that you have to think about, but the extra cost of the ebooks themselves relative to the Kindle store. Most places that sell ePub/Adept books price them higher than paperbacks.

I've taken to buying eBooks from the Kindle store, cracking the DRM and converting them into BBeB format, the old, proprietary, deprecated Sony format that my PRS-300 can display with justified text. It's far from ideal but it's a hell of a lot cheaper, and the end result is superior.

I wouldn't be surprised if I've dumped the Sony and bought one of those new Kindles by the end of the year.

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Go

Calibre and Sony e-readers = WIN.

I recently purchased a refurbished PRS-600 from one of the deal-a-day sites in the US, and one of the pieces of advice is the one I'm passing on here:

Ditch the sony software, it's not all that great. Calibre is a MUCH better option and supports pretty much all the sony readers from the get go.

As far as the touch screen is concerned- I've found that I don't actually use it all that much. I prefer to use the page turn buttons, which are located right under my fingers regardless of what orientation I'm holding it in.

As far as speed: mine is not all that fast, but I suspect it's partly because my books are loaded via one of the memory cards instead of the internal memory.

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Unhappy

What no SD?

No buy, and I'm really sorry because this one looked okay.

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Then consider the 650

It has the bigger 6" screen plus SD and MemoryStick slots. That's if 2GB of internal memory is not enough for an eBook reader...

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Anonymous Coward

DRM

There's a lot of criticism of the Kindle based on the books from the Amazon Kindle store are DRM'd.

Does that mean the the books on the Sony Book store aren't?

Or is that books from other sources that contain DRM can be viewed on the Sony but not on the Kindle? If so, how does that work?

I know that Calibre cant convert DRM'd ebooks... and the Kindle doesn't display epubs.

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ePub is widely supported

The ePub format is a standard. So if your reader supports it, you can buy or borrow DRM'd eBooks from anywhere that sells/lends them in your country.

The crazy thing with Amazon is that the publishers supply the books in ePub and then Amazon has to convert them to Kindle!

One other thing, ePub is a much more modern and versatile format. It handles graphics and tables better. Compare a Kindle book with illustrations and tables with the ePub version to see the difference.

However, I guess this is more a battle of the DRM's than the actual underlying format. It's a pity the actual book format couldn't be DRM agnostic. We might get somewhere towards a single standard then.

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Anonymous Coward

Thanks Neill

But i have a follow on question. Does that mean that an Apple iBookstore (or whatever its called) ePub book is readable on the Sony and vice versa?

It's rather sad... I've been waiting for years for these things to come down to a reasonable price and have a reasonable number of books I want to read at an appropriate priced and now I'm being put off by all this DRM stuff.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Thanks Neill

Nope. I tried it, and iTunes-sourced DRM'd ePubs will not open on the Sony.

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Well, Apple plays by their own rules.

I guess Apple has extended the DRM so books only open on an Apple device. Only one thing worse than lock in and that's double lock in.

Jobs is quite happy for iPad users to leverage Amazon though. Two faced or what.

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