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Old 08-03-2007, 12:01 PM   #1
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Price drop brings out new critics

Sony's price drop and the marketing push is great news in general but it seems to be bringing out more critics than enthusiasts in the blogosphere.

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Some of the criticism is old (lack of a backlight, etc.) but some shows Sony's missed opportunity to upgrade the firmware and enhance their product significantly (improved pdf support).

Sony may be reeling from the write off of millions for slow Playstation 3 sales and from the difficult-to-see-the-silver-lining fiasco of the Connect music store. The company may not be in the mood to invest new resources into improving an already released product like the Reader.

This is a mistake. While the lower price will bring in new users, the greatest loss that Sony faces in this small but emerging market is the squandering of its user support. Even those of us who like the device, can't make recommendations to friends without caveats..."Its cool but its file system is crude..." "You can read other document formats but you have to invest time in reformatting..." "You can see a standard letter size pdf but its pretty painful to read on the device..." Rather than helping Sony expand its market, we become a viral marketing force of Sony's own ambivalence towards the product.

Look at the tremendous energy invested by Sony users in the MobileRead forums and yet Sony does not really engage directly with its Reader early adopter base. Meanwhile, more 21st century style companies such as Google, E-bay, music software companies such as Ableton (Live) and Propellerheads (Reason) hold summits with their hardcore users to focus on product improvement. No corporation is perfect but Sony seems oblivious to the positives that can be derived from being accountable to consumers who, having bought the device, are already predisposed to being supportive and hopeful of success. And its hard to develop loyalty to a wall of silence.

I like my Reader but wish it was easier to be an evangelist for the product. At some point, Sony will have to decide if those of us on this forum were merely silly beta testers or if they are committed to the platform sufficiently to invest in firmware improvements and in engaging with its consumers.
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Old 08-03-2007, 12:09 PM   #2
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The so-called PDF "problems" are down to the restrictions of the PDF format itself, not the Reader. The fact that there is no good way of reading an A4/Letter sized page on a screen 1/6th the area is not Sony's "fault".

You only have two choices - reduce the document size to fit the screen, or have a system of "panning" the screen over the PDF page. Neither is a good solution.
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Old 08-03-2007, 12:16 PM   #3
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I agree with you completely, and it is a shame. I've purchased a lot of Sony products over the years, especially audio components and TVs. For years I've felt their devices were excellent but their customer relations and support is practically non-existent. So, it is no surprise that they treat the Reader enthusiasts the same way.

Those of us who have sent in polite suggestions for improvement to the Reader and especially to the CONNECT site. never even get acknowledgments, let alone see any changes for the better.

I'm sure Harry will be along soon to defend them.
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Old 08-03-2007, 12:30 PM   #4
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They don't need my defence - I'll let the quality of the product speak for itself .

I still think, though, that it's a case of caveat emptor - "let the buyer beware". It's up to the buyer to ensure that the product does what he or she requires before purchasing it, not to moan at Sony when it doesn't do what they expect it will .
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Old 08-03-2007, 12:42 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
The so-called PDF "problems" are down to the restrictions of the PDF format itself, not the Reader. The fact that there is no good way of reading an A4/Letter sized page on a screen 1/6th the area is not Sony's "fault".

You only have two choices - reduce the document size to fit the screen, or have a system of "panning" the screen over the PDF page. Neither is a good solution.
All too true -- which is why PDF is a poor ebook format for most of us. I know some people prefer the hyphenation and justification features, but most of us do not seem to want to reformat every book we own to a custom-sized PDF.

Yet, it was Sony's choice to support the format. What other product vendor has provided PDF support on a small screen (PDA software is the only comparison that comes to mind), and then told their customers to simply re-size every PDF they wish to view? My old Psion Series 7 had a really large screen (7.7") for a PDA, but it would have been useless for viewing PDFs if not for the pan and zoom features in the software. And that was how many years ago?
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Old 08-03-2007, 12:46 PM   #6
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I agree with you. I think personally that providing a "pan" facility would have been a much better choice than the one that Sony made. Whether Sony or Adobe (who wrote the Reader's PDF viewer) are responsible for that, who knows?
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Old 08-03-2007, 01:07 PM   #7
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The file system is not "crude", it is "simple enough for everyone to operate." Most Windows users keep all of their files in "My Documents" so this is just an extension of normal user habits.
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Old 08-03-2007, 01:09 PM   #8
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You and I know that, Wood, but for many, the fact that the Reader doesn't display folders is proof that Sony "don't care about the views of their customers" .
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Old 08-03-2007, 02:26 PM   #9
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I think Sony would be better off not pretending they support PDF files. It just disappoints people.

Assuming Sony stopped saying they support PDFs, as the product gets more and more mainstream and moves from early adopters to the casual user (= my husband), I don't think most users will care that much about converting formats or improving the file structure.

The things I feel I need to explain or be apologetic about are: a) lack of large fonts unless you turn the page on its side and b) contrast. I don't know how objectionable these things would be to the casual user. I am trying to get my husband to read a book on the Reader, but he hasn't bitten yet.

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Old 08-03-2007, 03:10 PM   #10
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how come bitmaps of pdf are more readable then?

Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
The so-called PDF "problems" are down to the restrictions of the PDF format itself, not the Reader. The fact that there is no good way of reading an A4/Letter sized page on a screen 1/6th the area is not Sony's "fault".

You only have two choices - reduce the document size to fit the screen, or have a system of "panning" the screen over the PDF page. Neither is a good solution.

Sorry, I do not agree. There are tools available that make it possible to read pdfs on the reader by rendering the page on the computer, and saving the result as a picture, which can then be viewed on the reader. (PDF RasterFarian). They achieve much better readability than the original pdf file. If the reader did exactly the same rendering by default, pdfs would be much more readable. What is needed, I think is: fonts are too thin. PDF fonts need to drawn bolder. Reader should be able to autocrop edges, or enable the user to zoom in.

Last edited by ghostwheel; 08-03-2007 at 06:25 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 08-03-2007, 03:15 PM   #11
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lack of categories in memory card is a bug

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You and I know that, Wood, but for many, the fact that the Reader doesn't display folders is proof that Sony "don't care about the views of their customers" .
What is the point of the reader supporting a 4GB memory card, if I have to scroll through 200 pages to get to the book I want?

Why are there categories in the reader memory, but not on the card? Are clueless users suddenly transformed to cluefull when the books are in the reader memory? I think it is fairly obvious that this is a sony oversight.
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Old 08-03-2007, 04:04 PM   #12
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I still think, though, that it's a case of caveat emptor
Sorry, I don't agree. Caveat emptor may well apply if you are buying a TV from the back of a truck or a Rolex watch from a street vendor. However, when purchasing a product from a long-established company, one deserves a reasonable expectation that the company might have some interest in their customers, and would be willing to improve areas that require it and correct faults.

There was a time that the motto of a good and succesful business was "The customer is always right." In the case of Sony, it is more "forget the customer," if not downright "customer, don't bother us."

I've been heavily involved with computers for more than 25 years. I've seen some good and some bad software and hardware companies, but can honestly say have never encountered one established company that has such disregard for customers.

I bought the Reader in good faith and I love it, but it has a long list of things that could be improved if Sony wanted to, but obviously they don't care. What's more, I doubt if even you could honestly say that the CONNECT site is not one of the worst in the free world, even though you seem to think that Sony can do no wrong.

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.
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Old 08-03-2007, 04:06 PM   #13
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Sorry, I do not agree. There are tools available that make it possible to read pdfs on the reader by rendering the page on the computer, and saving the result as a picture, which can then be viewed on the reader. (PDF RasterFarian). They achieve much better readability than the original pdf file. In the reader did exactly the same rendering by default, pdfs would be much more readable. What is needed, I think is: fonts are too thin. PDF fonts need to drawn bolder. Reader should be able to autocrop edges, or enable the user to zoom in.
You hit it on the head. It would not have been that hard to modify the PDF display tool to have a 'minimum' line width, if too thin, increase width and hold. Many applications do this when resizing items. This is a very simple fix for developers to make (sure they may take 1-2 weeks tweaking their anti-alias code to make it looks as good as possible) and would be easy to distribute as a minor upgrade that does wonders for PDF readability.
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Old 08-03-2007, 04:59 PM   #14
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The Reader does display PDFs and it displays them very well. What it does not do is display A4/Letter PDFs in easy to read form on a 6" screen. The native structure of a PDF file is designed for printing and is often used by the advertising industry in sending copy to publications for insertion. It does not reflow.

Sony used code written by Adobe for its PDF rendering. They are also one of the launch partners for the new Digital Editions software. This software does promise to be reflowable. It has been speculated that this will be incorporated in a future update to the Sony Reader. However the beta for the Linux version of Digital Editions is not expected from Adobe until this fall.
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Old 08-03-2007, 05:25 PM   #15
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I'm not sure panning would work with the slow refresh rate of the eInk display. Maybe that's what drove design of the current half-page landscape display mode (the Reader only has to make a single refresh to show the remainder of the page).

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