And when will we see a review?
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 …
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.
...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.
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.
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).
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.
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)
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.
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!
"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
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 ;)
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.
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 .
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.
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.
...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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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".
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!
"...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?
"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!
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.
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.
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.
Maybe try buying from the states?
I bought my 505 for ~$230 USD, and use it regularly.
The 505 seems to run longer on a charge, as well as responding to page turns faster than the PRS-500 I initially had, and ended up sending to my mother, who got me addicted to books in the first place.
Admittedly, they could have possibly done with a couple less buttons, but the buttons that are there are usefull, other than the afore mentioned music control buttons.
As was also mentioned, the music function kills battery life, so I just don't load any music. If I want to listen to music, I turn on a radio, or carry an iPod.
I've easily read RTF files regularly, as well as the LRF files, since the publisher that I have purchased from now supplies them as well as the other 5-6 formats that they had. (www.baen.com, and www.baen.com/library/)
All in all, the icon says it for me. If you're an avid reader, and can live without the complete tactile sensation of paper under your fingers, this makes an excellent addition and a way to cary far more books in your pocket than would normally be possible!
the comments about buying a PDA or Palm Pilot for less to do the same thing.
This uses "E ink", it does not need a backlight, has very paper-like contrast with no flicker. It's extremely easy on the eyes (like paper), unlike all regular TFT screens because it needs to backlight it also has massive battery life (no charger to take on holiday, unless you fancy reading 24x7 for 4 weeks).
I would get one of these, but the market is still immature, the Sony vastly better hardware, the Amazon unit having the better book selection.
Until they both allow books from either store, and prices come down, due to lack of book sharing, these won' take off.
Since childhood I have loved books, but they went out the window when I got my Palm.
Now going into my ancient years (37) I am going blind trying to keep up with the flicker and size of a PDA and I for one cannot wait to get hold of this one.
As for the comment about the refresh being 'half a second' and this being some how bad? Exactly how do you turn the pages of a book?
If you want a PDA or Mini Laptop then get one, but if you are a book fiend that is tired of lugging around anologue tomes then this is a nice addition to your library and about time too!
About bloomin' time - I bought an earlier Sony model off eBay last year - great technology and really useful - IF you can get the eBooks - so far onlty available if you have a credit card with a US billing address. That will no change (won't it?)
I am looking forward to being able to finally use mine. It is very easy to read and yes it copes with pdf files.
The media and Sony fan boys would have you believe this is revolutionary and about to replace books. Hardly.
It's nothing new, just it's got Sony's name on it and people go "Oooo!".
Standard limitations with ebook devices...
Small screen makes it difficult for those with poor eye sight. Yes you can increase the text size, but that means lots of scrolling around.
Small screen means it's useless if you want to replace those big reference manuals. I mean, can you imagine a Haynes on a device like this? Would you be happy having your ebook reader sat on top of the car engine whilst you read, and get oil all over it?
No colour - again with the reference manual issue in the case of those that need colour diagrams. The media has been spouting on about how students can replace their text books, but they often have these kinds of books which are not suited to a small screen greyscale ebook reader.
Annotation - yet again reference / text books. Students often like to scribble in the book to make notes. Can you do that with these? Ideally you need a stylus at least.
Cost. Needs to be cheap. Very cheap. £50 or less I'd say, else it's never going to even remotely stand a chance of replacing books.
Cost again ... attracts thieves. Imaging little Jonny walking home from school getting beat up for it. Hardly going to happen with a £5 book.
The media have also been banging on about environmental impact of books but fail to mention how Sony's factories will likely be located in China, use a lot of oil based plastics in construction, pump out a lot of pollution, and then the products will be shipped by air around the world. Compared to books which are often printed within the country of sale and paper sourced locally and these days from sustainable forests, the plantation of which encourages wildlife and often provide green spaces for recreation.
Lock-in. Whilst we can shove on "free" text files and pdfs (the latter I assume has more advanced content stripped out for simple display), Sony likely will be trying to push online stores like iTunes but for books, with DRM and copy controls, and high prices.
The "Airport novel" factor. You go to an airport and pick up a cheap trashy novel you can flick through and stuff in a bag without concern about damage. Are you going to have your fancy ebook reader with you to do the same and just want a book to read? Likely you'll have forgotten it anyway and then how are you going to download a book when you've run out of books to read? It's also another gadget in the travel bag to add to the laptop, PDA, DVD player, mobile, camera. Plus adapters, chargers, etc.
I'm sure it's fine for what it does, but people are making out it's the end of books. Hardly.
Besides. Books smell nice, and look good in book cases too :-)
...It is the media and various journalists encouraging the over reaction that are touting this as a 100% book replacement. Neither Sony or any of the other ebook producers have said "this will replace books". Did anyone see the extremely jaundiced piece on BBC's 'One Show' last night? They picked THE most anti technology, fire and brim stone book lover they could find and pitched the whole thing toward encouraging her automatic knee jerk reactions. It was touted as a "can we convert someone" article when in actual fact it was nothing like that and done in such a way to completely stoke up her reactions. The fact that she said "just to use this I had to plug it all in and had about five cables hanging out of it", was a complete lie, because even if she had it on charge and plugged into a PC she would have had two cables.
Tim your comments show a great deal of ignorance about the devices and how they work, and indeed their future application. Your comments show as well that you also have the same petty nay sayer attitude that this woman did, and that you believe everything you read in the press and hear spouted on the street.
“Yes you can increase the text size, but that means lots of scrolling around”, you ignorant man. The better devices adjust the page widths making them longer. Yes it means you have to scroll down, of course, but if you have ever tried reading a whole novel with a magnifying glass you will know this isn’t even a consideration. My nan had to give up reading books, her first love, because her hands were too weak to hold a book AND a magnifying glass. This has put reading back into her hands after a two year absence and she won’t be parted from her ebook reader (not a Sony one either).
As for DRM, for christs sake, I don’t condone it, but anyone who thinks that a company will NOT do their best to protect the content you buy from them is very naive. Very. Get over it, don’t buy the technology, or wait until the market matures, DRM is broken, or simply becomes a non-issue as the ebook sellers remove restrictions. People screamed the houses down when they discovered their Apple AAC tracks were locked but they either accepted it or found quick and easy ways around it.
This is a relatively new technology, or application of technology, and things have to mature. DVD players for the first two years were £500+ and films £25 (and yes those are hard facts before anyone says), but despite all the VHS nutters saying it would never take off because of costs, it has and is now one of the most ubiquitous items in homes. The ebook market is in its absolute infancy and the prices of devices and books reflect that. No-one is making people buy these right now. No-one is saying “we are going to close your library in two years”, as one idiot said last night in another news article, and no-one is saying you have to buy these devices as people seem to irrationally be thinking. The only people encouraging those views are the media.
If you can't afford to buy better technology to let you converge those various devices in your travel bag into far fewer, sod off and save up rather than slagging a piece of technology without any prior insight. As you and many others are doing.
But hey, it's Sony isn't it and you've proved in the past haven’t you with your mis-informed comments you have tourettes when it comes to them.
is I want to see this in action. It's the same with HD, and with the iPhone/multitouch. A review can't really tell you the whole experience, you need to see and touch it to really understand if it is good for you. Most of us can't conceptualize a digital display that looks exactly like paper - because we've never seen it. We may have an idea what it would be like, but we don't know.
I haven't had any hands on time with any e-ink device, but I did see a sony reader at one point in a store at an airport.. and I honestly thought the device was a mockup until someone turned the page. The display is really good - all that aside I still need some time with it to decide if I want one.
Only works with Windows - bad. But the people at Waterstones should be shot for their DRM policy.
You are allowed to download a title ONCE. After that the DRM kicks in to say the title has already been downloaded and you can't have it again. No matter if the download is corrupt or if your newly DRMed book refuses to open on the Reader. You can't have another copy.
And when you have your book, it's folded into the horrific Adobe Digital Edition plugin for Flash so you can't back it up in the event of a hard disk crash or a move to a new machine.
This is simply not acceptable. I've never used a download service with so many restrictions.
But I have to repeat, the Reader itself is a stunning piece of technology.
Some here might be interested to know that Pan Macmillan are experimenting with selling their ebooks without any DRM whatsoever through their website at www.panmacmillan.com. Even though I'll have to make a disclaimer - I'm one of their authors - I'll have to say I nonetheless think this is a bold and positive move in favour of the consumer. According to someone I spoke to at Pan, 'All the titles currently on the Pan Macmillan site are DRM free'. Straight from the horse's mouth.
What Sony do not tell you until you have bought the new E Book Reader is the limitations on the type of PC you will be able to use it on. It is not supported under Vista 64 bit versions but there is more! I quote from the installation manual The software is not supported if:- Yours is a personanlly built computer, Upgraded manufacturer-installed operating system, multi boot environment or a multi monitor environment. I can perhaps understand the multi boot and monitor but why do Sony discriminate against a home built or manufacturer modified computer?
You do not find out there is a problem until you try to install the Readers operating system software and then after a long wait you get a message saying installation failed - terminated by Sony Calls to the support helpline give no luck it is left to the user to try to plough through the web, manuals etc to try to find the solution. At present I have now installed to a laptop running XP SP 2 but my highly modified desktop running Vista Premium 64 bit is a non runner. Coments Sony??
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