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Old 09-27-2006, 03:53 PM   #1
doctorow
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Sadly, Sony's missed the mark

Not my words, honest. But David Ewalt from the Forbes blog thinks so:

Quote:
So I don't think the Reader will be a big success: most likely, it'll sell to gadget fetishists and some adventurous book nerds. But I do think it's an encouraging step towards the success of electronic books. Sony's really just one or two tweaks away from a device that could revolutionize the publishing industry, and change the way we read, and that's pretty cool.
http://blogs.forbes.com/digitaldownl...n_you_rea.html

and related: http://www.forbes.com/digitalenterta...0927ebook.html
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Old 09-27-2006, 04:21 PM   #2
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I think there are definitely reasons why it will be limited in it's sales... it's a bit pricey, DRM e-books from the store, plus all the other nit-picky stuff we may complain about.

But success is relative. If you mean it won't be in every household like an iPod is now, then I would agree. It will take the one or two tweaks that the writer suggests. If you mean that nobody will want it but gaget freaks and book nerds, I think we may find it to be an astounding success because it might just make it into many more hands than that. I hope so, anyway.

That comment, btw, is pretty spectacular confidence in e-books... "Sony's really just one or two tweaks away from a device that could revolutionize the publishing industry, and change the way we read, and that's pretty cool." He might actually be one of the most positive writers with respect to the device when you look at it that way!
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Old 09-27-2006, 04:58 PM   #3
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Why Sony will struggle with the Reader: iWoz.

I nearly fell asleep last night paging through their book store, nothing exciting enough to order. Yawn...

To get the book I really want to read I had to hit up Amazon and use Prime to get the hard back shipped to arrive tomorrow morning. Then I'll have to run it to Kinko's to get it de-spined and then process it over lunch.

I'll be reading it on the bus home using my iLiad and probably finish it this weekend (assuming my wife lets me) on the Reader (as a re-flowed BBeB no less.)

People may complain about "Where's the back light" but all I have to say to them is "Dude, when you read a book, does it have a back light? Did books fail because they didn't have back lights???"

When I wanted iWoz, I knew where to get it, and it was there. And that wasn't at the Sony Connect Store.

Now I think back to the days of my Rio. Nothing exciting at the first "online MP3 stores". You'd flip through page after page of unfamiliar never heard of them not going to spend my money on them titles. Then you'd go to Tower Records and get the hot new Madonna CD, bring it home and carefully navigate your way through your kit of tools to rip the CD into MP3's to feed your Rio.

The Deja Vu is nearly giving me whip lash.
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Old 09-27-2006, 05:42 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scotty1024
Why Sony will struggle with the Reader: iWoz.

I nearly fell asleep last night paging through their book store, nothing exciting enough to order. Yawn...

To get the book I really want to read I had to hit up Amazon and use Prime to get the hard back shipped to arrive tomorrow morning. Then I'll have to run it to Kinko's to get it de-spined and then process it over lunch.

I'll be reading it on the bus home using my iLiad and probably finish it this weekend (assuming my wife lets me) on the Reader (as a re-flowed BBeB no less.)

People may complain about "Where's the back light" but all I have to say to them is "Dude, when you read a book, does it have a back light? Did books fail because they didn't have back lights???"

When I wanted iWoz, I knew where to get it, and it was there. And that wasn't at the Sony Connect Store.

Now I think back to the days of my Rio. Nothing exciting at the first "online MP3 stores". You'd flip through page after page of unfamiliar never heard of them not going to spend my money on them titles. Then you'd go to Tower Records and get the hot new Madonna CD, bring it home and carefully navigate your way through your kit of tools to rip the CD into MP3's to feed your Rio.

The Deja Vu is nearly giving me whip lash.

Kinkos will do that? Tell me more
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Old 09-27-2006, 08:48 PM   #5
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<i>People may complain about "Where's the back light" but all I have to say to them is "Dude, when you read a book, does it have a back light? Did books fail because they didn't have back lights???"</i>

Yes, that's true. With paper books you also can buy used, sell them and trade them without any copyright infringement problems. When you go ebook, you are looking for a different experience and one of them is an integrated backlight. I am on a romance listserv right now that has over 853 readers. The general consensus is that no one will be buying the Sony Reader because of the proprietary content and the lack of backlight. Yes, everyone mentioned the lack of backlight.

I want ebooks to succeed because that means that the books I want to read will more likely be available in ebook format than not. As it is, about 50% of the romance books I want to purchase are in ebook format and 50% are not. I want Sony to be successful. I just don't think it will be.
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Old 09-27-2006, 10:15 PM   #6
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With romance readers in particular, if you take away their ability to resell/loan the books you've pretty much killed your market right there. No need to even discuss the built in light.

For 18 months I used my Librie pretty much daily and took it anywhere I went, including to and from China. I never bought even a single one of those clip on LED lights for it.

With e-ink you do get a superior reading experience. Very few romance novel readers ever get romance novels printed on clay coated paper that has been marked by a good quality press. It has been my experience, with the now older technology LIbrie panel, that e-ink works better in most locations than mass market printed books do. I expect even better form the Reader's newer generation e-ink panel.

In any case, the 500 year old technology has provided for us in the form of clip on LED lights. Those that feel they need one, can buy one. Those that feel they don't need one, don't have to get one.

Deal breaker or just rumbles from folks that have never experienced e-ink?

If I were Borders, I'd put together a romance bundle with a Borders eReader Bookstore Club Member Discount Card and a clip on LED backlight (with one of those super light weight AAA lithium e2 batteries in it) that has "Borders eReader Bookstore Club" printed all over it.
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Old 09-27-2006, 10:28 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frogsmasha
Kinkos will do that? Tell me more
Yes sir! Just walk into any FedEx Kinko's with your book and they will quite happily cut it down to the size you desire. Up here in Seattle they get $1.49 per cut, which I will quite happily remunerate to them tomorrow to cut down iWoz for me.

If they look at you funny, hey, it isn't a copyright violation to cut the spine off a book. Just a perfectly legal money making opportunity for them.

Now, if you then ask them to *scan* the book for you.. Well, have you ever seen an angry wet hen? No? Just ask them to scan the book for you after cutting the spine off and you'll get a close approximation.

After you are done scanning you can return to the store and they will happily rebind the book for you. Although they've never offered me any option resembling the original binding.

My current scheme is to bind up the deck of pages in Glad Press-n-Seal wrap and then stack the blocks inside those large plastic storage bins (the type with the flip open tops) in a Public Storage unit.
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Old 09-27-2006, 10:35 PM   #8
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>Now, if you then ask them to *scan* the book for you..

Have not tried that, but they bound for me printed eBook. Granted, I emailed author and asked his permission to do so
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Old 09-27-2006, 10:40 PM   #9
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I think the key to broad success will be the content on the connect web site. If they don't have all the best sellers as they are released at reasonable prices and a sizable (10k is not enough) collection of older books then they will eliminate the general public from wanting one of these things. The general public could care less about a back light because they are not reading on their PDAs right now they are reading paper. People like me who have been reading via PDA for years and who can make/find content on their own will be the only people who want the reader (and yes the backlight thing is a bummer but I've arleady got a clip on light on order).
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Old 09-28-2006, 12:06 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by da_jane
The general consensus is that no one will be buying the Sony Reader because of the proprietary content and the lack of backlight. Yes, everyone mentioned the lack of backlight.
I can definitely understand the proprietary content argument. When you talk about a backlight, though, is that just "an attached light" or is it an actual, light-emitted-through-the-screen backlight?

I'm personally very glad to get rid of the second kind of light; I can feel my eyes hurting after a while of reading books on LCD and similar screens (for some reason, coding, web browsing, and gaming don't do that to me, just reading...).

If it's just an attached light, well, I guess I can see the attraction of having one. Would a well-designed, non-clunky separate attached light do as well, or does it have to be built in to the reader device?

Just curious about the 'perfect device' ;-)
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Old 09-28-2006, 11:05 AM   #11
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The problem is that things like the eBookWise are known quantities, and e-ink just isn't, yet. We don't really think about the negatives for the e-readers we have, because we've learned to compensate for them, maybe a comparison might put it into a clearer context:

How long does a PDA or LCD Reader allow you to read for before it dies?

The Sony Reader gave us ~5 hours of hard usage withouth the battery meter so much as budging off of maximum. (One thing I really don't like about reading on my Pilot is when I have to stop reading so the rascal can re-charge. Messing with the power cord if I try to read while it's doing that is another thing I really don't like about it.)

Can you take a week-long trip and read a lot on the PDA/LCD reader without charging it?

You should be able to with the Sony Reader. You can probably get away with not even packing the charger.

How about just a 6 hour plane flight? No sweat for a Sony Reader.

Can you read for hours at a time without eyestrain (from that beloved back-light, as it happens)?

You can with the Sony Reader.

Can you lie on a beach or at the pool on a bright day and read your books?

You can with the Sony Reader, just like you can with a pbook.


What we're really talking about here is trade-offs, life's full of them. We've gotten comfortable with the trade-offs we've made, and in some cases convinced ourselves that what we gain is more important than what we lost. Now, I'm not saying that that isn't true, I'm just suggesting that maybe we should take a fresh look at what these devices do for us, without regard to what trade-offs we've accepted in the past, and decide if the trade-offs for a Sony Reader are ones we're willing to live with -- maybe even ones we like better.

For me, I've long enjoyed the flexibility of electronic reading, but longed for the viewing to be more paper-like. Naturally, that pre-disposed me to like e-ink. But I think that looking at the whole package the extras I don't get from a Sony Reader over a paper book, are less important to me than the extras I do get.

That is something we each have to decide for ourselves.

C'mon, Jane, you know you want one!

You're just already mostly convinced that it won't work for you. I wish I could show you one somehow, so that you could truly understand the magic that is e-ink.

Last edited by NatCh; 09-28-2006 at 11:06 AM. Reason: typo
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Old 09-30-2006, 02:37 AM   #12
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It's interesting that everyone glossed over the heart of the article:
Quote:
The Reader's real problem, though, is its user interface. Perhaps inspired by the iPod, Sony has stuck a couple of round navigation pads on the device. They're awkwardly placed, though, and don’t feel as nice as the iPod's clickwheel. There's also a whole bunch of buttons, which serve as chapter or page markers. Navigating through the Reader's menus requires of multiple clicks in different places --or at least, I think it does. The whole menu system is confusing and non-intuitive, and I couldn't figure it out right away.

And that's a huge drawback. Sony's Reader is supposed to replace a book, one of the simplest tools we use. You should just be able to pick it up and read it. Readers will not tolerate confusing interfaces.
This was exactly my reaction to the descriptions of the interface in the reviews here.

It sounds too complicated.

Hopefully this will be another thing that Sony corrects in The Next Generation.
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Old 09-30-2006, 10:31 AM   #13
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Unfortunately, the desciptions of the interface make it sound a whole lot more complex than it really is. Having seen the actual "round navigation pads" he mentioned, and seeing his descriptions of them, I'm a bit suspiscious that he didn't make even a cursory attempt to understand what they did.

I didn't find them awkwardly placed, but that is an entirely subjective thing, so it's not a big thing that he did find them so, but the way he glosses over and dismisses the controls really makes me wonder how hard a look he took at them ... or maybe how soft a look might be better put.
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Old 09-30-2006, 10:51 AM   #14
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Here's where, when deciding whether to agree with Nathan or Ken, I can honestly say that I agree wholeheartedly with both! Nathan is right on about how word descriptions of the Sony interface is not nearly as complicated as how it sounds in words, and once you get to a book, it's obviously as simple as can be to read it.... push the button to turn the page. I think that's where you spend most of your time also.

But I do also think that the Sony interface has a lot of room for improvement outside of the simple page turning portion. It takes a while to catch on the menus and the joystick control. You can't go directly to a particular page number. And there are various essential features requireing the user to hold a button down for 5 secs (like move to landscape mode).

The book reader interface probably can and will be improved by all the various e-ink reader makers. But I keep coming back to the reading experience for someone who buys a book at the Connect store and then reads it. It will load fast, and it's easy to start reading, and then you just turn pages.

So yes, there is lots of room for improvement, and some things are too complicated. But I think the basic functions to read a purchased book provide a simple and sufficient interface. Like everything else, it will be very interesting to hear more input from users as they get the devices.

But I expect that the complaints will be related to wanting more functionality, or with the additional features. Not just opening a book and reading.

So complaints may come for non-BBeB books that can sometimes take a while to load or to change font/orientation the first time while the page information gets cached for that book. Or for people who are trying to navigate through a book.

But if you just want to read the book from front to back, there's just nothing to it, and for a book that's really where you "live" on the device unless you are a speed reader!
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Old 09-30-2006, 11:15 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Russell
But I do also think that the Sony interface has a lot of room for improvement outside of the simple page turning portion. It takes a while to catch on the menus and the joystick control. You can't go directly to a particular page number. And there are various essential features requireing the user to hold a button down for 5 secs (like move to landscape mode).
Excellent point, Bob, and you're entirely correct. While I do think that the interface sounds more complex than it is, it still clearly has much room for improvement. I should have been clear about that.
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