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Old 12-15-2007, 08:44 AM   #1
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Questions from a friend about my Sony Reader

A friend who is an avid reader emailed me with some questions about my new Sony Reader (PRS-505). She had never heard of eBooks or eReaders and was wondering about the whole concept and my experience in general. I responded and then thought others who are thinking about plunging into the eBook world might find this of interest, too.

Do you like it?
Yes. Very slick. Took me about 2 minutes to feel comfortable with it. Very intuitive. Well designed. Comfortable. Hi-tech. Very Sony-like.

Having said that, it is very definitely early in the technology. I have no doubt that 10 years from now today's readers will seem primitive. Think laptop computers about 1990 -- that's about where we are today with these readers. Even so, it is a great tool and I am thoroughly hooked after the first 10 minutes.
Is it easy to read?
Yes. Type is as crisp as paper. In fact, essentially indistinguishable in detail from paper -- at least as to the normal reading experience. I particularly like that I can adjust (increase) the font size on the fly as my eyes get more tired near the end of the day.

The one caution is that these devices are not backlit. Like a book, the better the light you have for reading, the better the display looks. Even so, the "paper" is not as white as book paper. Instead of a black-type-on-white-paper feeling, it's more of a very-dark-grey-type-on-very-light-grey-paper feeling. I actually like the look. Very easy on my eyes. But, just like with physical books, if the light is dim where I am reading, I do find myself wanting more light and that sometimes translates emotionally into wishing the e-paper were whiter. I simply turn on a light and reading becomes easier. The search for the ideal booklight is yet to begin.

Also, there are two "negatives" that come up a lot in the reviews of these devices: 1.) ghosting, 2.) page turning.

1. Ghosting occasionally occurs with a new page -- that is, you can barely see a ghosted image of the previous page in the background of the text you are reading. I have not found it at all bothersome. Happens about 1 out of 50 page turns and if it is bothersome, I just page forward and page back and the ghosting is gone. Interestingly enough, the physical copy of the Dickens book I am currently reading has paper that "ghosts" on every page because the paper is thin enough that I can see the type from the verso coming through the white areas on the page I am reading -- and there is now way to get it to go away! In this case, the Sony Reader wins!

2. Page turning involves a momentary "blink" to a black screen and then the page comes up. This takes about a second (or less) during which the screen is obviously unreadable. People have complained about this as an interruption of their reading. Funny though, I suspect none of these folks have timed how long it takes to turn a page of a physical book. Again, with the Dickens book I am reading, the Reader turns pages much faster than I do -- although the Dickens book is the "Oxford Paper" edition, printed on a sort of onion-skin page and it particularly hard to turn. Just as reading a physical book, I find myself anticipating the end of the line and pre-pressing the page turn button -- just as I do when I finger the paper page preparing to turn it in a physical book. One thing I have not seen mentioned, however, is that there are twice as many "page turns" in a Reader because there are no facing pages like there are in a physical book. In fact, because of the page size and dimensions of the Reader, books tend to be many more "pages". My Dickens book is 959 pages in paper and 1528 eBook pages. So, 1528 eBook page turns compared to 480 paper page turns. Obviously, the page "blink" process will seem more bothersome because it is simply more frequent, but so far I've found it just drops away in my consciousness as I blink myself.
I love the idea of downloading a book. Would you be able to load a book you've read from your Sony Reader onto my Sony Reader?
Yes and no. Anything that a in the public domain is available for sharing freely. Also, anything that is DRM (digital rights management) free can be shared. There are a number of sites where you can download books for free -- mostly classics in the public domain that were published prior to 1923, some contemporary authors who choose to publish without fees.

Most contemporary books will need to be purchased The contemporary book I just bought from Sony Connect (a NYT best seller title) is "DRM managed" -- which means I can read it on my reader, but not share it with you. Copyright violations, income theft, etc. DRM managed books are encoded to recognize your reader and will only open on the correct device. (I'm fuzzy on the details, but the outcome is certain -- you can't share books you pay for.)

This is obviously a serious disadvantage for people who like to read a book and then pass it to their friends, donate it, or sell it to a used bookseller. On the other hand, if you simply want the content without hassle of sinding/buying the physical object, shipping, storing and managing the physical product, and disposing of the molecules, this is an ideal solution. There are some times when I want the physical book -- to collect it, keep it, handle it, smell it, enjoy it as an object. Far more often, I simply want the informational content, knowledge, or the experience of reading it and the object-ness of it is totally unimportant. How much of a book is the molecules and how much is the mind of the writer?
Can you erase a book once you've finished reading it?
Yes. With the Sony Reader, you plug into your computer via USB and can download, upload, delete, move things, etc. One flaw in the Sony design (IMHO) is that you can't delete a book from the Reader itself. You have to be connected to the computer and manage both the addition and deletion of books through the computer software. I believe other readers have an advantage over the Sony in this regard.
How many books will it hold?
My Sony has about 180 megabytes of memory and it takes about 1.1 mb per book plus or minus. They say 160 books at a time. It does have two memory card expansion slots. I added a 2 gigabyte SD card and an 8 gigabyte Sony Memory Stick Duo Pro card for a total of 10 gigabytes! Why? Audio books. I certainly wouldn't need that much memory for just eBooks (no need to carry aroun 9,256 books with me an any given time), but the Reader is an ideal audio book device -- at least for me it is. I love to read along the text while listening to an accomplished narrator "perform" the book. A wonderful experience. Well, with the extra memory, I can carry along 8-10 full length, unabridged audio books along with the 160 or so eBooks in the internal memory of the device. I know, it's a bit overkill, but the memory cards also work in my digital cameras, so there was a dual reason to buy them!

The audio files, BTW, are standard, unecrypted MP3 files. There is a standard mini headphone jack, so any iPod-type headphones work just fine. There is a volume control on the bottom of the unit. I do wish there was a direct jump from the book to the audio player controls and back to the book, but not in this iteration. You have to navigate back a few steps to the main menu, then down a few steps to the audio player. It is a bit clunky, but I won't at all be surprised to see such simple interface programming improve in the future.
How often do you have to recharge the battery?
Since it is not consuming power to back light a screen, the only serious power drain is in playing audio files or turning the pages. Sony reports 7,500 "page turns" per battery charge. Most folks seem to report about three weeks on a charge if they are somewhat heavy readers, longer if you are a more casual reader. Since I'll be using mine for audio books as well as reading, I assume I'll need to charge it every other week or so, depending on how much listening I do.

There is also a very slight power drain even in "sleep mode." For prolonged times of inactivity, Sony suggests a full power down to preserve the battery.
I want your opinion on this thing. Lord knows with all the reading I do, maybe this is the way to go! By the way, where did you get yours?
I bought mine directly from Sony. Free engraving. They had it in stock. I bought the dark blue one so the device would be dark in contrast to the screen. Glad I did.

Hope this helps!
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Old 12-15-2007, 09:16 AM   #2
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I trust you told him that the Sony wasn't the only choice, and pointed out the pros and cons of the other devices on the market?

Great write up, by the way; the only thing I'd disagree with is the bit about power usage. The power drain when the reader is switched off is more than "very minor". If you read for an hour a day, the power usage during the 23h a day it's switched off will dwarf that of the 1h a day it's being used. Most people, unless they are very heavy users, find that the recharge interval really doesn't depend how much they do or don't read - it's a pretty fixed interval of about 2-3 weeks.
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Old 12-15-2007, 04:09 PM   #3
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What do people normally have engraved on their readers? I plan to get a 505 in the new year and will probably have my name and phone number engraved on the thing so that, if I leave it somewhere, there's a chance I'll get it back.
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Old 12-16-2007, 01:09 AM   #4
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If I go with the Sony, which is likely, I don't plan to do the engraving. I noticed it said no returns on engraved units.
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Old 12-16-2007, 02:50 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by cassidym View Post
What do people normally have engraved on their readers? I plan to get a 505 in the new year and will probably have my name and phone number engraved on the thing so that, if I leave it somewhere, there's a chance I'll get it back.
I wouldn't go with the engraving, personally. eBook readers have a good second-hand value, and an engraved unit can be difficult to re-sell.
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Old 01-16-2008, 08:34 AM   #6
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Questions from a friend about my Sony Reader

As a newbie to this forum, I've been vacillating between a Sony PRS-505 and a Kindle. One of the questions I have is with DRM. If I purchase a 505, and then purchase an ebook from the Sony store, do I have the ability to read the bok on my PC as well as the 505? The other question is regarding the 505 reader software. I downloaded it but find it to be not "user friendly". It doesn't seem intuitive to me. By the way, nice write up.
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Old 01-16-2008, 08:41 AM   #7
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With the eBooks for the 505, you will be able to read them on the computer. The Kindle currently has no way to read on the computer.
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Old 01-16-2008, 09:23 AM   #8
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Are you not also considering the CyBook Gen3? I would suggest that you do so! MobiPocket have a very nice desktop reader.
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Old 01-16-2008, 10:41 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tanzaku View Post
<snip>
Most contemporary books will need to be purchased The contemporary book I just bought from Sony Connect (a NYT best seller title) is "DRM managed" -- which means I can read it on my reader, but not share it with you. Copyright violations, income theft, etc. DRM managed books are encoded to recognize your reader and will only open on the correct device. (I'm fuzzy on the details, but the outcome is certain -- you can't share books you pay for.)

This is obviously a serious disadvantage for people who like to read a book and then pass it to their friends, donate it, or sell it to a used bookseller. ...
Brooks,

Contrary to what you've written, there is a way of sharing Sony-DRM books, on up to 6 devices (Windows PC's and/or Reader devices) simultaneously. There are other threads in this forum discussing it. Sony's scheme still has drawbacks (a device can't be "authorized" to more than one account at a time*, and there is still no mechanism to donate or re-sell), but you CAN share your DRM'ed e-Books.

*This means that I can't switch back-and forth at will between a book that I've bought from the Sony store and one that you've "loaned" me. A reader would have to be "authorized" to the correct account every time I want to switch between reading books purchased under separate accounts.

Last edited by curtw; 01-16-2008 at 10:44 AM. Reason: clarification
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Old 01-18-2008, 08:51 AM   #10
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Are you not also considering the CyBook Gen3? I would suggest that you do so! MobiPocket have a very nice desktop reader.
Thanks for the tip. I just looked at the Cybook website. Looks like a very impressive device. I also downloaded the software, this is what I expected from the Sony E-Reader. I guess after having an IPOD for several years, I'm expecting Itunes-like software for an e-book reader.
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Old 01-18-2008, 08:58 AM   #11
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If you are in the USA, you may be able to get a 505 a lot sooner then a Gen3. The backorders are going to put you well into February (at least). And you might be able to find a 505 at one of the online shops or a Sony Style shop.
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Old 01-18-2008, 10:11 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by JSWolf View Post
If you are in the USA, you may be able to get a 505 a lot sooner then a Gen3. The backorders are going to put you well into February (at least). And you might be able to find a 505 at one of the online shops or a Sony Style shop.
I don't think anyone actually knows how long the order backlog is for the Gen3 (except, presumably, Bookeen themselves). The next batch of machines is due to start shipping next week; how many (if any) will be left over from clearing the backlog remains to be seen. If you order one now, you may get it next week .
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