Since words written on paper have kept civilised humans amused and off the streets for the best part of five-and-a-half thousand years, anything that hopes to replace it had better be good. With this is mind, and in an effort to make the printing press obsolete, Sony has released the PRS-505 Reader - a book, Jim, but not as we …
I've got one - have had it for 2-3 months now... Bought it just before it was announced that it would be for sale in the UK...
Love it - ppl complaining about the lack of backlight miss the point - it's a book, with the same limits that paper books have... Yes, you can get a cheap laptop for the same price and read books on that - AND use it for whatever... The point is, that you don't have a LCD screen tormenting your eyes, and the long periods between recharging the battery...
Biggest problem is the supplied software - useless, i never got mine to work... Calibré (mentioned elsewhere in the comments) works very well in that regard (not pictures and audio)...
The achilles heel is content... I'm not from an englishspeaking country, and finding content in my own language is impossible.. And this would explain why the reader (so far) only has been available in US + canada - it looks like Sony wants to establish the iTunes for books, thus only sell the devices where they can supply the content...
I recommend it - for reading books found/bought online its excellent!!!
Just what I'd been waiting for...
I read a lot of ebooks of an evening, with non-drm content from 'a number of sources', and as my Nokia 770 is great for it's intended purpose but far from ideal for ebooks my wife bought me the Sony reader for my birthday.
The controls are intuitive and fall easily to hand.
The lack of a backlight is a positive advantage as it improves long-term comfort no end - that, coupled with the non-shiny screen makes for a very comfortable reading experience for hours at a stretch.
The graphics are perfectly adequate, and PDF layouts including graphics degrade gracefully if they won't fit the width of the screen.
I'm very impressed - it's not often you come across a product that's so near to perfect for it's intended purpose.
Paris - because you can read her like a book.
Lovely, but flawed
I saw one of these in Waterstones and was instantly charmed. What I don't think really comes over in the reviews above is just how thin it is. It's tiny! Much less thick than a normal book (but about the same screen size). The display was very crisp and clear and I found the controls intuitive and easy to use. The aluminium finish was reassuringly solid.
However, a bit more research showed it wasn't what I wanted. I wasn't keen on paying for any ebooks - I'd prefer to use it for work to prevent carting around masses of various papers. Could I view them as pdfs on an eBook viewer, I wondered... However, I've recently been told that under the Data Protection Act, I'll need to password protect them. And in answer to Paul's question a couple of days ago, NO, you can't view password-protected pdfs on this reader. See another review at: http://www.forwhatitworths.com/posts/2007/11/the-sony-prs505-love-at-first-sight/
How about the competition? This is what an evening's surfing revealed:
(Incidentally, when comparing weights, an average paperback is said to weigh about 320g)
The iLiad Reader is the fullest-spec'd with a tablet built in, handwriting software, WiFi etc. However, it's also the heaviest (389g - but still not at all bad) and the most expensive (£429). At that price you could buy a decent laptop instead. But if any eBook reader could open password-protected pdfs it would probably be this one - not that I've tried. Maybe someone could ask them.
The BeBook is actually lighter than the Sony (220g, vs 250g) and only a tiny bit more expensive (£229), although I'm a bit suspicious since this is apparently a dutch website. If anybody has got hold of one, please let me know.
I particularly admired the chutzpah of BeBook for mounting 20,000 free book pdfs directly on their website! - Although they say they will also have a wider choice in a DRM'd format called Mobipocket soon. They also promise offers similar to the iLiad including WiFi, stylus, etc at some point in the future. Until then, presumably you can't open password-protected PDFs... again, maybe somebody could ask them.
Bear in mind though that all these eBook readers are more expensive than the tiniest 7" laptops like the Asus EEE, which costs only £149 at PC World! This gives you a WiFi and a full software suite including email, web, OpenOffice and a PDF reader - so you could just as well read eBook PDFs on that. However, even the tiniest Asus is much heavier than any of the eBook readers at about 920g - so almost three iLiads or four Sonys or BeBooks! Suddenly my bag wouldn't be so light any more after all. And battery life is a relatively puny 3 hours.
So where to go next?? It seems clear that if you need to annotate and enter data in, on cost grounds you can barely justify the iLiad - an Asus or similar sub-notebook might be better. I wish the iLiad was much cheaper; then it would be a non-brainer.
All of the eBook readers seem to have that magic quality of lightness though which makes even the Asus look distinctly weighty.
I can't really stomach spending over £400 on an eBook reader so that leaves the Sony and the BeBook. The BeBook really charmed me with its website aggressively pushing so many free books at me! They'll even give you a free unit if you get ten friends to buy one themselves. But why buy one now when in their own blurb they say there is an enhanced version coming out imminently?
The Sony is the only eBook reader that you could walk in off the high street and buy in the U.K with a proper warranty, I would wager. But it will tie you up in DRM knots if you let it, it seems. I guess Sony/Waterstones wants to make their money on the ebooks you buy whereas the other two are trying to earn a crust on actual device sales.
Sheesh.... I just don't know. I really want to open password-protected PDFs, like Paul. And I want a light, light bag. I wish somebody would just give me an iLiad, or maybe if they cost only £200... and so the angst continues....!
And just to add to the mix... you do know you can buy pdf books on iTunes for the iPhone? ;)
So when i fall asleep in bed reading
will it fall to the floor and smash - or worse, wake me up?
Still too expensive for a single purpose device, although it's true that it's not so bad when you compare with what would cost to buy all those classics freely available out there (and I'm more of a classic-reading type myself).
So I'm very tempted... But no search? No, thanks. I'll wait for that. Thanks to the reader who mentioned you CAN jump to any page by using the number keys on the side -- c'mon Reg, WTF? Since it's something so obvious and I saw all the number keys on the pics, I was going to ask about that, but the guy up there answered first.
It would be nice to see how PDFs display in this thing, specially the figures (I know it will be grey, but how well would it look?). I have well north of 500 scientific articles in that format, and it would be nice to have them all in this -- again, provided there is search...
Sony OS support
I was naive enough to believe that when the specification said that the software supported Windows Vista that this meant 32 and 64 bit. WRONG! 64 bit OS's are not supported and the eBooks software doesn't install. I found this out the hard way. I had an argument with a Sony customer service "issue escalation" manager last Friday believing that their description was misleading. He insisted that not mentioning support for 64 bit did not imply it was there! I am amazed that a manufacturer such as Sony can launch a product in such a misleading manner and can't even be bothered to develop their software fully. Surely I am not the only person who runs Vista 64 bit and is likely to buy a Reader?
An existing Sony Reader owners comments...
Firstly, let me say that I can't see ebook devices ever taking the place of traditional books - I love my own little personal library of books, neatly arranged and with gorgeous cover artwork. However, ebook readers are fantastic in the same way that mp3 players are; massive mobile collections that are incredibly convenient.. especially when you don't have enough physical space to store everything (my shelves are all full!)
I've owned my Reader for a good few months now - imported from the US earlier in the year.
It's a revelation compared to any existing display technology; when I took it out of the box and bubble wrap it was already on (must have caught the power switch fumbling with the packaging) and the screen was on - I thought it was one of those transparent plastic covers they put on display equipment in stores. There is a slight pause when 'turning' the pages (better on the newer models), but it's very slight it's just one of those you get used to when reading a different medium, like reading a really thick paperback with your non-dominant hand for example, or a large sheet newspaper - the experience is *different*, but not annoying as such.
You can tilt the device to any viewing angle you like - even almost totally side on and the display is perfect. Once the screen has been set it does not need refreshing, means no eye strain and extremely low power - I get at least 2-3 weeks use out of the Sony, with reading a few hours every other night.
To those wanting a back light - it's not possible with e-ink as the screens are opaque.. but just as a normal book you can buy a clip on light if you want. Other than the obvious places (the bath!) you can read content on the Reader anywhere you can read a paperback; from dim rooms to bright sunshine outside etc...
The comparison with the Kindle is obvious and yep, it doesn't have a keypad or wireless, but I prefer to think of it this way - would you want wireless and a keypad on your ipod? Most people are quite satisfied to download stuff on their computers and then sync to the device.
However, it may not be the device for everyone. If you're interested in one of these or others, then the best thing to do is get over to www.mobileread.com
BTW, The device works fine on Vista 64 - it's just the installer doesn't run to completion: check here for how to fix it; http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=26849
Finally, you don't have to buy books from Waterstones; most other ebook formats can be converted via the excellent Calibre application and there are thousands upon thousands of books and novels in the public domain. I haven't bought *any* ebooks yet and I've got hundreds to read through!
It's an ebook
Classic - I knew it. People asking an ebook to do more than read. Who cares if it plays music, who cares if it's got wifi - it's for reading books. It's a bit like buying a mobile 'phone' that has to have every feature. Why not add a camera? Maybe a phone service, voice over IP? Geez - it's an ebook reader.
Another thing: reading a paper book is slow - turning a page and re-focusing on the opposite page etc takes time. So what's 1 or 2 seconds for a page turn?
That really looks nice - now I want one :(
Unfortunately, they're far too pricey (and not actually available down here at the Southern tip of Africa, so I'd have to have one imported, adding to the cost). But the long battery life and clear screen is exactly what I'd love. I currently read eBooks on my HTC TyTN II when travelling, and while it's a lot better than it ever was on my old Palm Treo, it's nothing compared to this. I don't need to annotate, just read, so I don't mind the lack of a keyboard.
The fact that it comes a book shaped folder is the clincher. Most devices are just too small to hold like a book, but are too awkward to hold in just one hand. This one looks like you can hold it in two hands like a book, and use your right hand to turn pages.
Oh, and in reply to some of the comments above asking who carries a ton of books around with them: I do :) Especially when travelling - I'll read one or two on the plane, each way, at least. And probably one at each airport... and I'll want to carry another two or three so I have something to read at the hotel... and the weight of all of those books start to add up!
Nothing to compare it with??
How about the iLiad??
And btw, I tried this Sony reader out. The transition is absolutely horrible. Who on earth thought flickering the screen to mimic turning pages would be a good idea??
Definitely not worth my £200, even if I spend more than £400 per year on books.
Sony taking the *&$% again
£200, no backlight and you don't even get a power adaptor... I'll stick to a PDA and Mobireader thanks!
Nearly there, I think,
I am very interested to see where Sony goes from here. I may get the next-gen version, or the one after that, if they can bring the price down some more (200 quid will just about buy a house here in NZ), and if they can give it a decent search function,
Bought the missus one, and she's over the moon with it. It's a usable way of reading the entire contents of the Gutenberg Project without fucking your eyes up; what more could you want?
why do sony / waterstones see fit to sell the drm encumbered ebooks at significantly higher prices than the paper versions in their own stores? - havent they earnes from the drm music sites yet?
Non english language support?
Does it support books in other languages ? like in Russian ?
I've had one since April
I've read dozens of books on it, taken it on several trips. My only complaint about the device is they make you turn it off during takeoff and landing!
I think the screen is easily as readable as your average paperback book, if not more so. The screen transitions were a bit odd to begin with, but I got used to them very quickly.
I discovered when you buy a book (at least some of them) from Baen books, through webscriptions, you have the option to get a CD ISO. On this ISO is a LOT more books. I bought the latest David Weber and got an ISO with just about everything he's ever written. Cost: $4.
The sony software wouldn't run on my XP-64, so I put it in a virtual machine. Not the first time I've had to do that! The cost of the ebooks was stupid. You can buy hardbacks cheaper - let alone what you can get at places like "half-price books" Sony software deleted. I did a quick web search and found some conversion software called LIBPRS500 which has been renamed to Calibre since I got my first copy (from http://calibre.kovidgoyal.net/) With this neat piece of software, you can convert from just about any format into just about any other format. I've never needed the sony software.
Bottom line: With a little help from Kovid Goyal, this thing has been the best purchase I've made in a LONG time.
A non-Sony Sony product
I received mine last week and I have used it a least 3hrs a day.
I haven't even bothered to install the Sony software, so I've probably missed the worst part. If it is as bad as Sonic Stage then I can understand the dislike.
What has changed at Sony? You can copy a text file to the device through Windows explorer and it just works. I have played around with RTF, changed the font & size. Arial 14pt works well. I hope Sony does not decide to lock it down like the Kindle...only works with Amazon, or so I hear.
So what if a new model is released in the US next month, it will probably take a year for it to be released in the UK.
The black flash of the transition from one page to the next is to clear the page and prevent ghosting. I don't notice it anymore. This is a limitation of the technology, later versions will improve. Does anyone remember the first monochrome LCDs? Slow refresh, ghosting? I think these are at the same stage.
I used to use my HTC touch Dual for everything, Jack of all trade, master of none. I now have an iPod, a Tom Tom and now a Sony PRS-505.
The lanscape option is usefull if you load graphic novels (AKA Comics)
But if the display is so good...
why do all these readers seem to display black-on-grey, like the cheaper 'pulp' style paperbacks you get the bargain bin at Booksale, rather than crisp white, like a quality hardback?
feed me books
Thanks for mentioning feedbooks. I hadn't heard of them before.
I just wish I had something nicer to read my downloaded book on than my big clunky thinkpad.
what abt this?
Got my mum one of these, she doesn't see the point of technology normally, but she absolutely loves her Sony E-book reader! She can also zoom in and out so she can read this without glasses. Only thing is there's no backlight to speak of, but the battery life makes up for it.
If you think the e-books are a rip off, this thing can understand PDF, RTF, Word documents and .lit files so just get your e-book from one of the free sites like Project Guttenberg and you're away, or are the classics and Steven King not your thing?
By my maths, I will have "broken even" in a few months!