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Old 03-31-2009, 12:03 AM   #1
JetSetter
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E-reader for international travelers

I'm American, but I travel overseas often. I often stay abroad for several weeks or even months. I enjoy reading, and hate having to take books with me or try to find bookstores while I'm in a foreign country.

I have recently become really interested in buying an e-reader. The technology seems good enough to make an e-reader a worthwhile investment. I am leaning towards the Amazon Kindle 2, but would like to check out the competition, so to say, before I make the purchase. Does anyone have experience using Kindle 2 or other e-readers while in foreign countries? Can I download books from the Amazon/Sony/whatever website if I'm, say, in Germany or Japan?

I find the Sony PRS-505 appealing as well, but I don't feel that I have enough information about it really. Amazon seems to have the better selection and prices for ebooks. The Kindle looks great, but I am a little hesitant about buying into a reader that uses a proprietary format.
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Old 03-31-2009, 02:33 AM   #2
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Yes, you can buy books from the Amazon website and upload them to the Kindle via USB, provided that you have a credit card with a US billing address.
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Old 03-31-2009, 05:00 AM   #3
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Thanks. That's my understanding from the Amazon website. Is the same true for Sony's ebook website?
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Old 03-31-2009, 05:02 AM   #4
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Old 03-31-2009, 09:58 AM   #5
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The Kindle looks great, but I am a little hesitant about buying into a reader that uses a proprietary format.
The ebooks in the Sony store use the proprietary LRX format, but the Sony's will read Adobe PDF and ePub ebooks from many sources (Sony does not sell these though).

The Kindle's AZW format is identical to MOBI, and if you buy AZW ebooks and later switch from a Kindle to a non-Amazon device then the mobidedrm script will allow you to strip the AZW DRM and create DRM-free MOBIs for your new device. Note that even for such personal use, stripping DRM is generally thought to be illegal in the US although this has never been tested in court. Also, some Kindle ebooks use the completely proprietry TOPAZ format.
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Old 03-31-2009, 06:57 PM   #6
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Thank you for the run-down of formats. I've never bought e-books before and am now finding it difficult to ascertain what reads what, who uses what, etc. Man, I wish things were standardized. No doubt they will be in a few years.

I have made a bit of a pro-con list for the devices, but still can't decide:

Kindle 2:

Pros
-Appears to have the best display with 16 shades of gray.
-Allows me to download from Amazon store, which has a better selection and pricing than Sony.
-Allows me to write notes and mark text.
-Can view PDFs.
-Has a keyboard, so typing will be easy.

Cons
-I've heard that you can't organize your books.
-The lack of external or rather expandable storage space.


Sony PRS-505:

Pros
-Price...it is a good bit cheaper than the Kindle.
-It does seem to support more formats than Kindle.
-Allows storage of PDF, JPEG, etc without converting the files through third party.
-External memory card slot.

Cons
-Can't zoom in on PDF documents.
-Can't download from Amazon store.
-No keyboard, so I'm not sure if it allows me to add notes.
-Minimal internal memory.

Here are a few more questions I have:

Can you make notes in the text using the Sony PRS-505?

How much of a hassle is converting PDF files to be compatible with Kindle 2? Can this be done through the internet (ie not whispernet?)?

I saw that Kindle 1 had a whispernet off switch. Can Kindle 2's whispernet also be turned off (to save battery if I'm not in the US)?
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Old 03-31-2009, 09:03 PM   #7
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The sony doesn't allow you to make notes or mark/delete stuff you've read.

I own a 505 and have never actually registered with the Sony site because it doesn't seem worth the effort for a non-US buyer. I mostly buy from www.fictionwise.com with a few purchases from a couple of other sites and a lot of free downloads. For travelling that might not work so well, but I use calibre to grab a few newspapers and blogs every morning and dump those onto the device.

For travelling the only hassle I found was getting access to USB power to recharge the thing. Buy one of the power cables for the Sony portable game thing, it's just a Y cable with USB to miniUSB + power so you can use the 505 while it's charging (and it charges noticeably faster). Means you need about 30 minutes a week to charge it.

Aside from that I fill it up with books and magazines before I leave home then just read through them while I'm gone. I carry a USB key with the calibre installer on it in case I find internet access and want to load up news and stuff.
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Old 03-31-2009, 09:14 PM   #8
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Also, the Sony is more compact than the Kindle, which can be an advantage when travelling.
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Old 03-31-2009, 09:23 PM   #9
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Also, the Sony is more compact than the Kindle, which can be an advantage when travelling.
And a little more sturdy.

You can zoom in on PDFs, it just doesn't work as well as an LRF. However, the Sony 700 can read PDFs much more easily AND you can take notes. It usually lists for $399, but lately is closer to $350. It has a touch screen, a built in light, and (coolest ever!) you can look at your books by cover. The trade off is the screen isn't as clear because of the touch screen, but a lot of people get used to it quickly (usually those who haven't had an eink device before, but not always).

And if you have a computer with you (with the software loaded, not public pc) and you have a US based credit card, you can buy books from the Sony store anywhere.

I'm also pretty happy with Sony's selection. Their prices are a little more than Kindle's. Maybe you should take a look on their store (http://ebookstore.sony.com) and search for books you would be interested in buying and compare.

Can you tell I love my Sony?
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Old 03-31-2009, 11:22 PM   #10
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Thanks for the comments. I like the Sony brand, so I'm not really adverse to buying Sony. It just looks like Kindle is the better device right now.

I know that the PRS-700 is the newer model, and the price is comparable to the Kindle 2, but my major problem with the PRS-700 is the touch screen. I don't like the idea of my e-reader having a touch screen. I mean, what if I want to just use my finger to skim a page or show someone a line? I don't want my screen to be covered in finger prints, or be forced to use a stylus to avoid those fingerprints. I could go on, but the point is that while some cons are just minor quibbles for me, the touch screen is a deal-breaker. That's why, if I bought a Sony, I'd probably go for the 505.

I should probably spend some more time on the Sony ebook site and see if that changes things for me.
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Old 04-01-2009, 04:30 AM   #11
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Just a couple of points - as I understood it, the Kindle & the Sony 505 use the same screen, so I'd not actually expect there to be any difference there.

As for PDF's, the Kindle doesn't read PDF directly and you have to convert them to another format, although that can be done by emailing them to your Amazon account. Results are variable & source-dependent.

The Sony will read PDFs directly & let you view them as is, which is normally too small to read in portrait if the pages are designed for A4/Ltr but OK when the device is toggled to Landscape mode, or will reflow the text with a bigger font - works reasonably well for text-based PDFS, but in that mode you get odd formatting (page-breaks) & limited images.
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Old 04-01-2009, 08:55 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JetSetter View Post
Thanks for the comments. I like the Sony brand, so I'm not really adverse to buying Sony. It just looks like Kindle is the better device right now.

I know that the PRS-700 is the newer model, and the price is comparable to the Kindle 2, but my major problem with the PRS-700 is the touch screen. I don't like the idea of my e-reader having a touch screen. I mean, what if I want to just use my finger to skim a page or show someone a line? I don't want my screen to be covered in finger prints, or be forced to use a stylus to avoid those fingerprints. I could go on, but the point is that while some cons are just minor quibbles for me, the touch screen is a deal-breaker. That's why, if I bought a Sony, I'd probably go for the 505.

I should probably spend some more time on the Sony ebook site and see if that changes things for me.
From what I understand, people aren't having trouble with smudge marks. Maybe some 700 owners could chime in on this?
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Old 04-01-2009, 09:00 AM   #13
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Quote:
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From what I understand, people aren't having trouble with smudge marks. Maybe some 700 owners could chime in on this?
no smudgemarks on my screen. it's not a glossy screen like on a telephone (i have a touchscreen on my telephone, which is very glossy, and it does have a problem with smudges), and i think that is why. of course, i also take some normal precautions, for example i wouldn't try to touch the screen while eating greasy pizza with my fingers. i use my fingertip or fingernail (for more precision) for all operations (page turning, highlighting, notes, navigation...) because usually i'm in a comfortable position and don't want to be bothered to take out the stylus, and it's never been a problem.
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Old 04-02-2009, 03:30 AM   #14
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Thanks for the info on the 700. I can't stress how much I dislike the idea of a touchscreen. It's too bad really, because it looks like a great reader.
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