back to article Sony PRS-505 Reader e-book

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 …

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  1. Hywel
    Thumb Up

    Wot? No RSS?

    Geeks love this device (I do), but the literati - Luddites at best - just don't seem to 'get it'. In the same way that vinyl-o-philes didn't 'get' the iPod when it came out. 'Why would you want to carry around all your music with you?'. Just like podcasts, this device, and others like it, will probably become newpapers, RSS readers, student textbooks etc. The University of Philadelphia are already piloting using it instead of textbooks in their English classes.

  2. Lee
    Thumb Up

    Sounds good....

    but does it have a backlight so i can read in bed without the light on??

    If it does i could well be trading my old ipaq in for one of these

  3. John Latham
    Flame

    VFM - WTF?

    Picked an e-book at random from Waterstones web site.

    A Time to Die by Wilbur Smith

    Waterstones e-book

    £5.44.

    Amazon.co.uk paperback

    £5.99 with free delivery.

    So after spunking £200 on the device, it will take me 400 books before I break even. At my current rate of one a month, that's 33 years.

    Can I transfer rights (i.e. sell on or give away) the ebooks after I've bought them? Or am I just renting them until the format becomes unsupported?

    This is the biggest pisstake since Sky offered to charge me for viewing content on my PC that I've already paid for on my STB.

    E-books should be a couple of quid a pop.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Iain

    Waiting

    As with most brand new products I think I will be waiting until the 3rd or 4th versions appear and all the bugs have been ironed out. As a first-of-it's-kind I would be interested to know what the '505' refers to

  6. Karim Bourouba

    Piracy

    Cant help but wonder when the first book pirates will now emerge...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Excellent

    I've got one. Installed a couple of hundreds of copyright free e-books from Project Gutenberg. Buying (or printing) those on paperbacks would have costed me in excess of £199.

    I used to read on my 3.5" PDA, but reading on this is a revelation.Not only is it easier on my eye, I can read outdoors in the park. As I read through 3-5 books a week, I think it has been money well spent.

  8. Bad Beaver

    consumer interface

    No system for annotations — even the bog-ugly kindle has a keyboard — means this thing is useless for anything but mere consumption. Anyone actually working with text has to spring for a system with keyboard/touchscreen. So nice hardware, Sony, too bad it is so limited.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    strange...

    While its a good device, it was released nearly a year ago in the US and Sony are set to announce their next e-book reader next month.

    I wonder why they are choosing to release this old model in the UK so close to the release of a newer model.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Large numbers of titles

    Yes, you can put a lot of books onto one of the cards and load it. The slight problem is that parsing the books for the metadata used in the index pages and cacheing takes a while and does bad things to the batteries.

    I stuck an SD card with around 900 titles on it into a reader. It took slightly over half an hour to finish booting while it cached the metadata and drained 30% of the battery doing so. Only happens when the content of the card is changed but it's worth bearing in mind.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More info?

    It's easy to display a text file on screen. But I'm curious as to how well it works firstly with formatted text like PDFs that are divided into pages, and secondly with works that contain more than just plain text - tables, charts, diagrams, pictures.

    If you're wanting to read textbooks or manuals on this device - which would be useful both for students and for people needing to consult a range of reference material - the question of how it supports formatting is going to be important.

  12. John Ridley
    Thumb Up

    Now if the publishers would just "get it"

    I've owned a 505 for a few months now, and it's probably my favorite device. I've always read more on a portable device since I can have it with me easier than paper books. I've never been a very fast reader, but I'm finding that my reading speed is increasing quite a bit since I started using the Sony. It's more comfortable to curl up with than a paperback since I don't have to hold it open, and I don't have to shift position for left/right side reading.

    So far most publishers either don't do ebooks at all, or they price them the same as hardcovers (seriously, WTF?) - it's common to see $5.99 for softcover, $15 for hardcover, $18 for ebook. I don't even know what they're thinking there.

    Or they have DRM. I've vowed not to buy ANY DRMd ebooks. Depending on your reading preferences, there may be tons of stuff out there that is free or at least doesn't have DRM. Baen Books _really_ gets it - they sell ebooks for a few bucks less than the paperback price, often just $4 or so, and they have a good selection of books from their popular science fiction authors available for free in their free library.

    Baen books is currently the only publisher that's gotten ANY of my money, because they're the only company that is giving me what I want. And because I respect what they're doing, I'm also doing the right thing and keeping my paid-for copies to myself, but I *could* sell them if I wanted to, or I suppose give them away (and delete my copies). Same as with paper.

    Also there's the mobileread.com community - if something is PD (especially if it's available in the Gutenberg library) some kind soul on mobileread has probably already done an excellent job of formatting it for your reader. I just read Orwell's 1984 a few weeks ago, and the Sony LRF copy on mobileread was very nicely done indeed.

  13. Suntan
    Thumb Up

    Pleased with mine

    I'm a self confessed book lover, have my walls lined with the things at home. I bought one of these for my commute and upcoming traveling around the world. I have to say its a fantastic device, Sony have got many things right with the design of this. However, the software is nothing short of shocking! Why o why can't Sony get some decent developers to knock out some decent supporting software?? Same happened with their shit mp3 player software (perhaps still shit i don't know)

    Anyway, not overly concerned as I am using some free program called Calibre, and its very very good. I have even managed to track down .lit versions of pretty much every sci-fi book I already own and not really interested in paying for again :-) yay

  14. Peter Sommer

    Mobireader + PRC out-of-copyright books

    Get yourself a WinXP netbook, download the free Mobireader application, and search EBay for vendors offering out-of-copyright e-books in PRC format on DVD (PRC is an extremely compact format, Mobireader will let you display in any font you have on your computer and in any size).

    Forget about in copyright e-books until book publishers find a more realistic charging system.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Early adopters always get stiffed

    Nice device, but i bet you anything that by this time next year it'll be half the price and include an OLED light panel for night reading.

    Still tempting though, especially after downloading that huge torrent containing almost every sci-fi book ever in txt form. *cough*

  16. Iain Paterson

    No Comparable Product?

    The CyBook Bookeen is entirely comparable and has greater format compatibility.

  17. Tall

    @Lee

    The main point of not having a backlight is so you can save your eyesight for a little longer!!

    You can buy an small clip-on light to attach to this device, check out Amazon and eBay.

  18. Carlo Francolini
    Thumb Down

    Lots to compare this to

    Shoddy research here, el reg. This is turning into the Jesus E-reader ...

    "in the absence of anything to directly compare it with" ... erm, how about the Kindle, the Iliad (http://www.iliadreader.co.uk) or the Cybook (http://www.bookeen.com) ???

    "touch-screen UI would be a more elegant solution, assuming of course it was technically feasible." ... if you'd looked at the Iliad, you'd have seen it already has a stylus-operated touch-screen. It's not very practical, still very expensive, and charitably best described as a "beta" product and I must admit I didn't bother replacing mine when a friend sat on it. I've gone back to using a PDA. I know ... ancient technology, but it has a quick refresh rate, you can read it in dim conditions and you can do an awful lot else with it.

  19. Tall
    Heart

    to the editor of the Register Hardware

    If you guys actually started reading manuals of the devices you test your reviews would be so much more accurate...

    "Did we say reasonable speed? Well, for moving from one page to the next, yes. But for flipping back from say page 235 to page 45 because you forgot what one character said, or to flip back and forth to any maps you have forgotten to bookmark - vital if The Lord of the Rings ever comes out as an eBook - it's really just a little slow and cumbersome."

    Well, those 10 little numbered buttons on the right side of the device are there for a reason - so you can type in any page number and jump right to it without much of a wait! There is also "bookmarks" feature button, can mark pages and revert back to them at a touch of a button (or 2) :P

    All I can say - Read The Freaking Manual ! :))))

    This is a great little device, I have been using it since April 2008 and it's been a joy all the way, especially during long flights!

    Can't wait for the next version due out in October 2008!!!

  20. James Pickett (Jp)

    Wait for Developments

    @Lee - No backlight unfortunately. But it is superb in bright daylight. I believe there is a 'light' accessory which is worth investigating.

    The e-ink technology is great and is bound to fall a lot further in price. At the same time, I'm expecting great things from the flexible e-ink screens still in development.

    Will watch this space with great interest, but £200 is still pushing it for me.

  21. Tall
    Happy

    @Rik Hemsley

    Hey, there are plenty of free books published on the web, I have yet to pay for a book since I got the device for $300 from the US.

    Watch out for the new 3rd version of Sony Reader coming out in October 2008!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Distinctly lacking

    Technology wise - the Reader is very cool. But compared to paper books, very expensive, and who needs to take 200 books with them on holiday? Also the usual ripoff price here compared to the US price.

    Compared to the Kindle, this is a very weak device, which has the killer app of wireless data as well.

  23. demat
    Pirate

    Pricey?

    A quick visit to the "bay" and one can avail oneself of practically the whole english canon...

  24. Paul
    Alert

    Password protected PDF's

    I have several password protected PDF's, does anyone know how this thing will work with these as there is no keyboard?

  25. Ian Ferguson
    Thumb Down

    So ugly

    I don't know why there seems to be so much adoration for its looks. It's hideous. So many buttons of inconsistent shape and size. Such horrible grey tones.

    Why on earth does it need so many buttons? Even if they all have a specific use, they are not sufficiently labelled to make that use clear.

    As for the price; the only reason I can see for getting one is if you plan to only read free books, or pirate books to your heart's content. After all, what you are essentially paying for otherwise is a magic weightless volumeless bag you can stick all your paperbacks in; and considering most people only read one book at a time, even this is of limited use.

    I'll wait until it's built into my phone, I'm sure it won't be long.

  26. Nick Brown
    Thumb Down

    Touchscreen?

    More pseudo-transparent crap betwixt text and eyeball, on a screen without any artificial illumination. Genius.

    (Otherwise nice review, ta much.)

  27. David Dingwall
    Happy

    Got One

    OK, hand up, I have one, bought in the USA in January.

    This is my second Sony Reader, and it's not a Rev 1 product :-)

    No back light, but neither does a deadwood-paper book.

    Kinda confused what all the who-ha is about, ebook readers have been around 10 years (anyone remember Rocket readers?)

    And remember, there's lots of other websites selling books around the £2.00 mark that people were asking about.

  28. Janko Hrasko
    Thumb Down

    rubbish

    1. FAR too expensive

    This kind of device should be £50 at most. You can buy very decent laptop for that money these days.

    2. No backlight (!)

    I regularly read ebooks on my Zaurus SL-C3100. The main reason I love reading my books on it is because it doesn't hurt my eyes because of the backlight. I don't read paper books anymore for only this reason alone.

    3. Too slow

    Don't know what processor is in it, but it takes 1-2 seconds for a page to turn !!! Tried this in Sony shop.

    4. DRM

    Nuff said. Apparently you can't even backup this device - I read it somewhere on the net, so if your reader breaks, say goodbye to your books.

    On the other hand I do understand the need for slow CPU and no backlight, keeps the battery going for very long time (in this case). But, and that is a big mama but(t), why sacrifice this for usability? Surely there must be a middle ground...?

    I think there will be more devices like this to come in the near future. And I can't wait!

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    Re Pricey

    @Pricey: that would be about 20 books then. You get a CD with 100 books included. Granted they are out of copyright... but still.

    Got mine the other day and have loaded onto it all Hugo award winners going back to the 50s (cough!!..torrent).

    Also got 5 gigs worth of e-books I've been wanting to read from the 70s and 80s, most of which are no longer in print.

  30. Les
    Thumb Up

    Nice kit

    When this was first announced, I was interested. My interest waned a bit when I saw the currently excessive prices Waterstone's are asking for DRM eBooks.

    My interest waxed again when I found more sources of reading material at more friendly prices (free is a nicely friendly price).

    Then I played with one in my local Waterstone's. Well, it took me a few seconds to realise I *could* play. At first glance, I though the crisp, clear display was a mock-up. A quick fiddle convinced me that the UI is just about right.

    If you haven't actually seen an eInk display, you need to have a look at one before dismissing it. It's nothing like an LCD...

    So yeah, I bought one.

    And Lee - there's no backlight, but there is an optional light accessory thingy.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TNG

    I'll wait another "3 to 5 years" - the contrast is not good enough on the current generation.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Wot no search?

    By failing to include a search facility, Sony have lost one of the key advantages of having a computerised book. How short-sighted.

  33. Elmer Phud

    Getting there

    They seem to have missed a few tricks that might have been included if they'd thought of operating the thing like a book rather than a small text and music device.

    Something like 'dog-ears' and Post-its would help. Oh, and trying to remember that some people are left-handed. Certainly missed a trick by not having the ability to 'turn' the pages now that the IPhone is getting popular.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    RE: VFM - WTF?

    Agreed Waterstones isn't particularly cheap, however there are many other sites where you can get books for 2 or 3 quid.

    I've also downloaded many free books from various publishers like Baen and Tor (yes i like SciFi/Fantasy) as well as classics from Project Gutenberg etc. which is more than enough to cover the cost of the reader.

    I use the opensource program Calibre to manage and convert the format of my ebooks and it also has RSS synchronization.

    And for those who want a backlight a replacement cover is available which includes alight.

    Since I've had mine (1 week) 5 of my friends/colleagues have purchased one based on trying mine...I should be on commission!

    All in all a definite 9+/10.

  35. shane fitzgerald

    Compare it too...

    You can get mobireader on symbian, windoze mobile, pc etc. Why not compare it to that?...

    I have a couple of books on mine and its fine if im stuck somewhere I can read a good book. Theres no way i'd pay £200 for a dedicated device though. Esp one which can't even search - one of the main benefits of any ebook reader.

  36. Ralph

    Light / Cost of books

    To respons to a couple of comments above - it doesn't have a backlight as eInk displays cannot have such a thing - the whole display is opaque. If the light is good enough to read a normal book, you can read this. What is less commonly noted in reviews is that it works the other way too - in really bright light, an LCD would wash out, but this is perfectly readable, just like a sheet of paper.

    There is a "lighted cover" available for it for about £40. This is a replacement cover for the book and has a lucite square designed to fit perfectly over the screen and illuminate it. I don't have one yet, but apparently it does the job well.

    As for book cost, rule number one is not to buy from Waterstones. Check out Fictionwise.com - they supply a lot of books in LRF (Sony reader) format and they are much cheaper, being of course a supplier to the USA. A bit of net trawling and you'll work out how to convert just about any other book format readily available for sale (apart from Kindle) into LRF.

  37. John
    Stop

    @ John Latham

    "E-books should be a couple of quid a pop."

    Only if you believe that most of the cost of a book is made up of printing and distribution. In reality, a lot of the cost is made up paying the author (!), editing, copyediting, typesetting and marketing it, plus some profit for the publisher.

    Which isn't to say that ebooks are overpriced (they are). But that asking for ebooks of new content for almost no cost misses the point. Ebooks still require the same production values as print, and still have some (albeit much reduced) costs for production and distribution.

  38. Simon Dick

    David Copperfield

    Not sure where you got the 2.9mb for David Copperfield from, I just tried downloading it from manybooks.net and it came to 958K.

    But I've had a prs-500 for over a year and just upgraded to a UK 505 and don't regret it at all

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missing the point

    People comparing this to notebooks and PDAs are missing the point. This thing allows you to read outdoors and have a battery life that allows you to read the whole Harry Potter series without recharging - excellent while flying long distance. Try that with your 2 hour notebook or small screen PDA.

  40. Dan White
    Thumb Up

    @Elmer Phud

    WTF is a "dog-ear"?! Do you mean bookmarks? Because it does those.

    Also it's just fine for left handed people. That's why the page turning buttons are on both sides of the device!

    FWIW I think it's an excellent bit of kit, and two other people who have seen mine have gone on to buy one the next day.

    Agree with the Waterstones prices though, what a piss take! Unless eBooks end up less than half the price of a paper version, they won't be seeing any of my cash.

  41. Mike Richards

    Love it - but...

    I still haven't got it to work with the Waterstones store. Every time I try to put one of their DRMed titles on to the Reader, it crashes and needs a hard reset. Which requires the Reader to be re-activated, and do that too often and - Adobe Digital Editions locks you out. Which means you have to call Adobe to get ADE re-authorised, so far I've been waiting 2 days just to try and find out if my Reader is buggered.

  42. Richard Milner

    PRS-505 is great

    Okay, I've got one so I'm biased because I got it at a super discount price for being a Sony staff member.

    Even, the screen is really readable, the buttons are well placed for turning pages with either thumb, and it's a great travelling library.

    The main drawbacks are the rubbish library software and the slow menu navigation. And the software doesn't work on Vista or Mac OSX.

    The screen could be larger though it might make the whole machine too large.

    There is a version with a keyboard for searching but it's not available in the UK.

    £199 is good value given it comes with 100 classics, and there is a huge amount of stuff available copyright free online.

  43. Richard Kilpatrick

    Revisionism

    Nice editing job on the first line there; we know what was written originally ;)

    The key to selling these products really is to bundle real books with electronic copies. Say, buy a book at Waterstones online, pay a trivial amount over the cost of the paper edition, and get the electronic one as a download too.

    That will get the bookish types feeling that they still have their 'library' and will wean them off paper slowly. I'd have one right now if I could buy titles that way.

    As it is, the official route to new books costs almost as much for the paper-free edition and therefore, is offputting to me.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Correction: "53 More Things To Do In Zero Gravity"

    ... and more controversial than Oolon Coluphid's trilogy of philosophical blockbusters "Where God Went Wrong", "Some More of God's Greatest Mistakes" and "Who Is This God Person Anyway?"

    Mine's the one with "Don't Panic" written on the back in large friendly letters.

  45. Matthew Coulson

    Sony Clie PEG-TH55

    Another Sony product. Shove PalmFiction on it, change the font to something you like, and it's perfect. Transflective backlit screen - so good in sunlight as well as the dark, and incredible battery life.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I hate to say it...

    but it looks like the market is getting to the stage where Apple will be interested; I would expect them to make a good stab at filling in the gaps in functionality that the Sony has.

    That said, the more e-readers out there the more material that will be made available; I used my PDA as a reader for the first time this year, enabling me to take the complete set of Sherlock Holmes books courtesy of Project Gutenburg (http://www.gutenberg.org).

    Anyway, thumbs up to Sony for moving the market on.

  47. Disconnect
    Stop

    Better reader - Cybook

    Bookeen's cybook has faster page turns (and you can turn off "optimal" mode to get it still faster, at the slight risk of ghosting) and can play basically any ebook/document format out there. (It does still have some issues with very large pdf files though.) Hundreds of thousands of current in-copyright books are available in Mobipocket format (with and without drm) including most/all of the Baen library. (Plus, Mobi allows for time-limited access.. which means there are actual free ebook lending libraries out there. Bizarre, huh?)

    Although it gets rid of the 8 million controls on the Sony reader, it is not without flaws - its more fragile (plastic case vs aluminum). And there is an ongoing question about GPL compliance since the backend runs Linux. (Booreader is purely commercial though, so with nothing much to gain nobody is really pursuing it.)

    Oh, and it only shows up as mass storage - if you really want to use the mobipocket manager app you can, but its not required for any of the features to work (including drm).

    Price is about the same as the Sony, and books tend to be 50-75% the cost of the equivalent paperback.

  48. A
    Go

    It's a lovely gadget

    To the one complaining about the greyness; it's aluminium not plastic, and it feels really nicely put together too. Go and find one, I think you'll like it!

    The display is the best part though. I played with one in my local Sony Centre the day before release, and I must say I was very very impressed. I too thought it was a sticker on a non-working model, until the salesman turned the page...

    That flash between page turns needs to go though. Does anyone know whether you can overdrive an eInk display to change it faster? I think I'd accept a 50% cut in run time for half the page blank time.

    It takes SD cards; and can read standard non-DRM book formats and MP3. I think Sony may finally be listening! Great product!

  49. Anonymous John

    October 2008

    All we know is that Sony are making an announcement on 2nd October. Introducing a new machine a month after rolling out the 505 in the UK etc, is going to upset a lot of recent purchasers.

  50. Bad Beaver
    Go

    paper + data bundle concept

    I second the notion that the printed product should come with a digital copy included. Remember all the DualDisc Audio DVD whatnot etc. BS that would include compressed & DRMd digital files of the DRMd to hell content that you could put on your portable player for your "convenience"? With books, that concept actually makes sense, as you cannot create your own digital rip according to your own preferences as easily as with say CDDA or DVD.

    It is also dead-easy to pull off:

    Laser-print a random key into the inside of every cover next to a web address where you get your free digital copy, chosen from a variety of formats. You can add further complications such as "book registration" so that further identical copies (or—heaven forbid—free updates on certain types of content) will only be sent to a registered customer email address along with a key to the given file. Or whatnot. Cheap & easy for everyone and also allowing for customers to pass on the paper copy if they wish. I am Bad Beaver and this is my concept, 9/13/08.

  51. Thomas Hildebrandt
    Thumb Up

    Love it!

    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!!!

  52. Richard North
    Paris Hilton

    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.

  53. Oliver de Peyer
    Unhappy

    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.

    http://www.iliadreader.co.uk/

    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.

    http://mybebook.com/index.html

    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? ;)

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So when i fall asleep in bed reading

    will it fall to the floor and smash - or worse, wake me up?

  55. J

    Cool, but...

    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...

  56. Chris Willsher
    Stop

    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?

  57. JohnS

    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!

  58. Eitsop

    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?

  59. CJ
    Heart

    I want...

    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!

  60. Eurydice Sophie Exintaris
    Thumb Down

    Nothing to compare it with??

    How about the iLiad??

    http://www.irextechnologies.com/products/bookedition

    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.

  61. Repo
    Stop

    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!

  62. Stuart

    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,

  63. Mark Rendle
    Thumb Up

    Nice

    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?

  64. hexacet
    Pirate

    ebook ripoff

    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?

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Non english language support?

    Does it support books in other languages ? like in Russian ?

  66. Sam
    Thumb Up

    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.

  67. Colin Gregory
    Thumb Up

    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)

  68. david bates
    Unhappy

    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?

  69. dominic bird
    Unhappy

    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.

  70. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    what abt this?

    http://www.iscriptum.eu/index.php?productID=1/ereader

  71. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Convert

    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!

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