Outside of a dog
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Houston, TX
Device: iPod Touch, Kindle 3, Sony PRS-T2
My letter to Consumer Reports
Some of you may be subscribers to the US magazine "Consumer Reports," which claims to be an unbiased consumer resource. Unfortunately, they have failed in living up to their own standards this month. I obviously can't duplicate their article due to copyright (and it hasn't been posted to their web site), but I think you'll get the gist from the following letter to the Editors that I have just submitted:
Dear Consumers Union
As an 18+ year subscriber, I normally (and expectedly), see your magazine as a resource for honest and objective information on products; information that I can use to help me make educated decisions on the things I might buy. However, your article ("E-readers: Kindle beats Sony," July, page 39) comparing the Amazon Kindle 2 to the Sony PRS-700 Reader is so extremely misleading to your subscribers that I wonder if there is some other agenda going on within your organization. It utilizes half-truths and outright deceptions, and additionally ignores basic facts in coming to the conclusion that the Kindle is a superior device. I would like to see you justify these conclusions in a future issue, or publish a much more careful re-examination that takes into account all of the actual facts. A short summary of the problems I found in your article follows (in the same order as your article headers).
Convenience: Saying that the Sony is "not Mac compatible" is a half-truth at best. While it is true that *Sony's ebook store software* is only available for Windows, the hardware itself is platform-agnostic. When you plug the Reader into any computer, the storage will mount just like any other external Flash-memory based drive (and the Kindle as well). From there, the user can add ebooks from dozens of commercial stores (http://wiki.mobileread.com/wiki/E-book_stores) and free resources (http://wiki.mobileread.com/wiki/Free_eBooks), using the standard "drag and drop" paradigm for file transfers that we are all familiar with. In addition, there is an excellent open-source software package offering a wonderful interface to the Sony reader. It's called "Calibre," (http://calibre.kovidgoyal.net/) and is available for Windows, Mac and Linux.
Navigation: Your article gives a "slight advantage" to the Sony for its touchscreen, while disregarding the fact that the very same touchscreen permits the use of an in-screen keyboard, making the bulky hardware keyboard of the Kindle completely unnecessary. I'd call that more than a "slight" advantage.
Portability: The size comparison was the most shockingly disingenuous, if not outright dishonest, advantage assigned to the Kindle 2. Your summary misleads the reader into thinking that the Kindle is smaller overall, touting the fact that it is "thinner" than the Sony. It is in fact TWO ONE-HUNDREDTHS of an inch thinner than the Sony, while simultaneously being 1.2 inches taller and 0.3 inches wider than the Sony PRS-700. Shame on you.
Availability of titles: Your article only takes into account the "first-party"ebook store titles. Overall ebook format support is an area that your article completely ignored. The Sony has excellent native support for PDF, while Amazon's on-line PDF-to-Kindle conversion utility is still "experimental," (http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/custom...deId=200140600), somewhat buggy, and requires the use of the computer that your reviewer was so happy to discard. Native PDF support will only be included in the new Kindle DX.
In addition, the Sony device offers support for epub, the de facto ebook standard, in both unencrypted and encrypted version. This means that you can use a Sony Reader to "check out" library books from the many public libraries that offer this convenience (http://wiki.mobileread.com/wiki/EBook_Lending_Libraries ) (http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/Dige...oads-52277.asp). Kindle offers no option for lending library support.
As a consumer, I have additional concerns. In recent months, Amazon.com has taken a disturbingly anti-competitive stance on content use and restrictions within the ebook industry. It has invoked the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in issuing takedown notices to web sites that have published information on how Kindle customers may load ebooks that they have LEGALLY and LEGITIMATELY purchased from other ebook stores onto their Kindles. See one example at http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=41929 . The main effect of this move is to force Kindle owners to use *only* the Amazon Kindle store for their DRM-protected ebook purchases, in what appears to be an attempt to develop an ebook monopoly. In the meantime, Sony has been perfectly willing to permit their customers to load compatible content from any ebook store (see the list above) onto their devices.
Versatility: Another aspect that your article fails to mention is that the text-to-speech, or "read to me" feature of the Kindle is neither universal nor lifetime. This feature is not available on all titles; it is enabled tor disabled at the discretion of the publisher. In addition, as has already happened, it can be disabled by Amazon AFTER purchase through the wireless network capabilities of the Kindle. Your mention of the web browser within the Kindle also fails to mention that Amazon has reserved the right to restrict access to the web and/or start charging for content at their own discretion. The blog, newspaper and wireless feeds of the Kindle are also available on the Sony, through the use of the Calibre software package I mentioned above. Both devices play digital music files, but the Sony is compatible with AAC audio, the format used by Apple's iTunes store, the #1 supplier of legal digital downloads, while the Kindle is not.
Bottom line: You waited until here to mention that the Sony has a built-in light? Why not under "screen," where it would have shown the clear advantage?
To be perfectly honest, the Kindle 2 does offer one advantage that your article does not mention: Amazon's 30-day return policy on electronics, as long as the hardware is kept "in new condition with original packaging and accessories". If, at any time during the first month, a Kindle buyer is unsatisfied with the user experience, it can be returned for a full refund. It would be nice if Sony offered the same perk.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am willing to tell you that I am a Mac user and a very satisfied owner of a Sony PRS-505. The addition of PDF and epub support turned my Reader from a great leisure device into something that is also useful at work for providing quick and easily-understood access to the multitude of technical documents that I use on a daily basis. I educated myself on the capabilities, advantages and disadvantages of all of the devices out there (including the Bookeen Cybook, which you don't even mention) through the mobileread.com web site, and made my purchase decision based on the information I gleaned from that site. I am not employed by a company with ANY connection to the ebook industry. So while Sony is not blameless in this area of digital restrictions issues (the CD/PC rootkit fiasco), so far they seem to be acting in the best interests of the consumer in the ebook market. I purchased my Reader from Borders, and I buy most of my content from Fictionwise.com, now a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble, and I appreciate and celebrate this freedom of consumer choice.
The tech blogger on your web site, Paul Reynolds, is obviously very enthusiastic about the Kindle 2, to the point of ignoring every other electronic reader on the market. I sincerely hope that your magazine's editorial staff did not permit his enthusiasm to cloud their objectivity for this report. In light of all of the information I have provided, I strongly believe that it would be in the best interests of CU and its subscribers to research and publish an update/correction/retraction to the July article.
Thank you for your time.
P.S. You should also be a little more careful with the use of your stock photo library. Your short discussion of Regular and Premium gasolines ("Ask our experts," page 5) is accompanied by an image of a DIESEL fuel nozzle.