576 of 587 people found the following review helpful
I bought the Sony Reader earlier this week. If you're reading this review, you may overlook it, looking for reviews published after the advent of Amazon's Kindle. The Kindle's been out for a couple of weeks and I bought the Sony deliberately instead of the Kindle (never mind the fact that Amazon's sold out of Kindle). So here's my review, my reflections and thoughts. I'm going to go kind of far afield, but I think you'll get more out of my review that way.
I'm a lifetime reader. I'm the guy that's always got two or three paperbacks in my briefcase/backpack/suitcase. Part of it is the feeling that I may not like the one I'm reading and I might want to switch. Another part is that I'm perfectly comfortable reading a couple of books at the same time. I don't get confused and have a hard time understanding why people do.
I've been looking for years for a better way to do this. I tried reading Ebooks on my Treo cell phone and in fact, read a couple that way. Joe R. Lansdale, I'm looking at you...Hap and Collins have had a home on my Treo for a while now. The only problem is you can't fit enough on your screen. One book is a couple of thousand page-downs on the Treo and, well, that's a lot of work. The font isn't too big and if you jack up the size (which you can do), well, multiple your couple of thousand page-down by a factor of two or three.
Its a wierd synchronicity that I started looking at readers independenly of Amazon's producing the Kindle. It may be the media seeping into subconscious, but I swear I looked at a couple different ones before I even knew the Kindle was out. Finding the Kindle, I saw the advantages. The Wireless functionality makes the bookstore more or less obsolete and gets rid of my IPOD's reliance on the desktop computer. The Wikipedia functions, the lookup anything dictionary all sounded like a lot of fun. The Kindle was expensive, but let's face it, when you read as many books as I do, the cost savings in ebooks vs paper books (particularly those big heavy hardbacks) will make up the difference in short order.
So, I learned all I could about Kindle vs. Irex Iliad (which is better than all of them and around $700) vs Sony Reader vs some older devices like the IBookman. The Sony Reader won and here's some of my reasoning:
* I don't care that much about the wireless capability. Once installed, downloading a book to the Sony Reader takes a negligible amount of time. I think I downloaded a dozen books in about 2 minutes. The reliance on the PC that makes my experiences with the IPOD so special? So far, its been pretty easy. I kind of like using the computer this way.
* My second reason is that I was able to go to a Sony Style store and actually pick up a Sony Reader. I was able to play with it, see how it feels in the hand. Without its cover case, its pretty light. In fact, it feels a little fragile. With the cover case, it feels like a book, even if the weight differential makes holding it a bit of a challenge at first. I couldn't do this with a Kindle and as much as I like ordering stuff online, I wasn't going to pay $400 until either I handled one or met someone who had.
* The Sony bookstore seemed to be cheaper than Amazon's and Sony was offering a deal. Buy a Reader by the end of January and you get 100 free ebooks from Sony's classic library. Wow! Free books!
* I got a Best Buy gift card for the holidays and another one for Amazon. And while you might be buying Best Buy when you buy through Amazon, you can't use Amazon to buy Best Buy. So, I wound up buying the Reader at Best Buy and the SD card through Amazon.
1). The software that comes with the Reader isn't ideal. The conventions used throughout Windows, Itunes, etc. are there for a reason and most of them aren't duplicated in the Reader software. In fact, the software is almost too easy. Download a book, upload it to the Reader. There's very little help in organizing, finding info about the book, etc. Sorting isn't that easy. Synching is done by selecting the book(s) on the screen and manually dropping them on the Reader icon. Doesn't sound bad, but when you get a couple dozen books in the library, figuring out which ones have been synched and which ones haven't may be a challenge. What's more, the descriptions of the books is lacking. You can't tell which books are in a series, which is first, if anyone actually liked them and I found places where descriptions literally ran into each other. This needs to be improved. Seriously. Oh! One thing...VERY IMPORTANT. The software will only run on Windows XP and Vista. If you have Windows 2000 or earlier, you're out of luck. This is important.
2). The buttons on the Reader were stiff. They seem to have loosened up. One problem I've noticed is a tendency to hit the side buttons accidently. You can go to a specific page in a book (something I can imagine using too often) by clicking the numbered buttons on the side. But once you do, you have to go back into history to find your place. Note...this happens whenever I close the cover. There should be a function to 'lock' the buttons after a couple of minutes of inactivity. You can turn the unit off, if you think of it.
3). The screen is sharp. Just as advertised, when you start reading, you quickly forget you're on a device. It is very much like reading a real book but without having to balance it, turn pages and deal with the bend into the binding. The Reader's reignited my love for the written word. It really is an upgrade in the craft of reading and writing.
4). The selection of books in the Sony store is a little thin. Its certainly thinner than those available for the Kindle on Amazon. Both Amazon and Sony use proprietary formats so you can't just go from one to the other for the Reader (don't know if Sony stuff will work on Kindle). The offer from Sony Classics is certainly real, but its not always apparent which books are free and which aren't. I downloaded 4 books from Dickens and discovered one of them cost me $3. Having said that, I also discovered that there are MILLIONS of classic books for free online in Sony's format. The 100 book offer is there for you if you buy on time but there are a lot of items that I will never read and in which I have no interest. How likely are mnost people to want Abraham Lincoln's State of the Union? But its good to know its out there. If you need links to these sites, email me.
5). There is a definite cool factor to the item. One of the best features is one that NO one seems to be talking about. I know my inlaws will love it for this one feature alone. You can blow up your text! No more too-fine print...you can pick one of three sizes of fonts. Note my earlier observation that the bigger the font, the more page turns. The 'annoying page flash' between page turns become unnoticeable very quickly. Read for a couple of hours and then read this review. You'll have noticed the first dozen page flashes and not a one after that.
6). Its really easy to buy, download and add books to your Reader. REALLY easy. Its maybe too easy. I don't think I'm missing the wireless capability of the Kindle at all. In fact, I have too much on my Reader already, something like 40-50 books between ones I bought and ones I downloaded either for free from the Sony Classics offer or from websites. They all work, they all look great and most of them have some artwork (one I got off the website was for The Little Prince with original artwork in it...which is good, the artwork is critical to the story) in it. Its in black and white but generally good. Oh, and it really holds a charge. Once I charged it up, I've been using it for 5 days and haven't lost one bar from the battery thermometer.
Fun and easy to use
Its lightweight and you can hold a lot of books in the interior
The e-ink technology is remarkable. Its a lot like reading a real book
Fonts can be enlarged. This is important for older adopters but I find myself enlarging fonts as I stand reading during my commute.
The functionality of importing Word documents is excellent, particularly since almost anything online can be copied and pasted into Word. But the title of the documents isn't able to be changed and links to other places within the document don't work right
There's a large selection of books out there but not as large as you might want and sometimes the list doesn't always make sense. For example, I was looking for Stephen Baxter Exultant series and they had 2 of the 4 books available.
There's very little in the way of textbooks, professional or academic. I'd really like to see much more of this. Saving kids from having to carry textbooks is just the start. I'd love to see all kinds of manuals, website downloads, etc in the future.
As noted in many other reviews, the ability to read PDFs is a good thing, but you can't read the actual contents because you can't zoom on them. So, it can be a useful for storage but not so much for reading.
You can have hundreds of books on the Reader. But you can only read one at any given moment. This hasn't changed...
Executive summary: Very cool device, like it alot. It doesn't do a lot more than advertised but what it does, it does well. I'm happy with my purchase and expect to use it often.
287 of 301 people found the following review helpful
on October 11, 2007
The PRS-505 is Sony's second version of its portable book reader. This unit supports written documents in Sony's proprietary eBook format as well as PDF, RTF and text formats.
The display on this unit is improved from the 1st generation, and the text is highly readable. The display could appear a bit brighter, but does not strain the eyes as the first generation did. Because of the display technology, the brighter the light in which the page is viewed, the more readable it is.
There are a great many public domain titles available around the Internet for free. And Sony's CONNECT software enables users to brows the Sony bookstore and purchase titles.
For a limited time, purchasers of this unit receive credit to download 100 books free from the "Classics" collection at Sony's CONNECT store.
This unit also supports playing MP3 and AAC audio files, a feature that I haven't as yet tried.
When connected to a computer, the memory of this units shows up as a USB Flash Drive, and unencrypted book and audio files can be "dragged" to the memory for viewing and listening without having to use Sony's software.
Sony's software requires MS Windows, thus Macintosh and Linux users are out of luck; Macintosh users with Intel processor machines that can run windows via Boot Camp or virtualization (Parallels or VMware) can run Sony's software successfully through those mechanisms; this is the method that I am using on my Macintosh.
All in all, if you are looking for a way to carry a bunch of reading material as well as personal documents, this product offers a way to do so conveniently and provides the possibility of traveling without a cumbersome laptop computer.
153 of 160 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2007
I've read e-books for years on my PDA's from Palm to Pocket PC. I recently bought this reader from Sony, and I really like it. It has a much bigger screen than the Pocket PC phone I've been using most recently (XV6700), or any PDA I've used for that matter.
-Supports RTF, TXT and PDF formats without any conversion. The included software makes it easy to add books to either the main memory or one of the memory cards-simply drag and drop.
-Nice, clear text, readable under the brightest of lights. It's easy on the eyes, and after reading for hours on it, my eyes are not strained.
-Supports mp3 playback while you're reading. Not a feature I use, but it may be nice for some.
-It's light enough that my hands don't get tired holding it for extended periods.
-Supports additional books on Memory Stick Pro Duo and Secure Digital. It's the first Sony product I've ever had that supported anything other than Memory Stick.
-Ability to store multiple bookmarks to keep your place if you're like me and read many books at the same time.
-Reads PDF files. None of my PDA readers could do that, I had to use Acrobat on the reader, which I didn't like.
-Good battery life. My PDA's got 3 hours or so if I was lucky. Not sure how many hours I'll get off of a charge, but it seems like it'll be a lot.
-No HTML support. Seems like it would've been easy to add this. There are free converters to convert HTML to RTF/TXT format.
-Refresh rate is a bit sluggish. On my PDA's it would turn the page instantly, this one has a small delay to draw the page, but it doesn't bother me. If you think it might, you might want to try a demo unit at a retail store first. Still, it draws the page in a second or less.
-No backlight. Probably not included due to battery life, but you can't read it in bed at night with the lights off. I bought a 15 dollar LED clip on light and use that, and it works great with it. This way I can read at night w/o bothering my spouse.
-Price. This isn't cheap. It was worth it to me since I read virtually all my books as e-books, and I was sick of the small screens on my PDA. So I guess the value depends on how much you'll use it.
387 of 420 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2007
I've decided on a rating of 3 stars. If the E-reader is to be used for reading electronic books, I'd give it 5 stars. All the raves others give it are well-deserved.
I had a different purpose in mind. I was intrigued by E-reader's claimed ability to handle PDF files. I have a collection of nearly 1,000 PDF song lyric sheets. My hope was to put them on the E-reader and forgo the thick binders I transport. I searched all over the web trying to get the specifics about PDFs on the E-reader, but the comments were so vague that I decided the only way to find out how good it was was to get one. I untimately ended up returning the unit and would award it NO stars as a device for quick document retrieval.
There are two issues. One didn't matter to me. The other made the unit effectively useless.
Searching the web for information will yield comments that PDFs are designed for letter sized paper, while the reader has its own dimensions. Such comments are often accompanied by instructions for reformatting documents or by an ad for software to do it for you. What this means in reality is that an entire letter size page is displayed on the reader. There is no scrolling. Rather, the print is VERY SMALL to allow it to fit on the 6 inch screen. This was not a problem for me, since my lyric sheets are in 18 point type.
The deal breaker for me was the slowness with which the unit operated! Opening a 100 page document would cause the unit to appear to freeze. There was no indication that the unit was doing anything. A minute or more later, the document would open. In cases like this, it is human nature to push other buttons to elicit a response from the unit--some indication that the unit is working. These button pushes are buffered and execute once the document is open, performing the who-cared-at-the-time actions requested and then have to be undone.
It is easy to think that one should simply wait, but waiting that long is difficult since there is no indication that the unit is doing anything and if it's not doing anything, once still has a long wait ahead. Also, even if there were an activity indicator, the time to open such documents is too long if one expects to be moving between documents as much as reading them.
To add insult to injury, it takes almost as long to close a document as to open it.
While large type PDF documents can be read on the E-reader, it is ineffective as a document retrieval system.
57 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2007
I've been looking for this thing for years - Sony caught up! In the past several years, I've been using PDAs to read ebooks. I've literally worn three of them out.
The Sony Reader, unlike the PDAs, is designed for reading books. I have the brown cover on mine, and it's like holding a book. I've turned it face-down to mark my page, forgetting it's not a paper book!
Some of the things I like:
*Easy on the eye - has been designed to mimic a real page of print. It's not like reading stuff on a little TV screen any more!
*Lots of books available for download - Sony Connect has tons of books. They are PDF format. You also can read text (.txt) files on it. If you have non-locked ebooks, it is easy to convert html and lit files to txt files and then load them onto your book.
*With txt files, you have a choice of small, medium, and large type.
*It is not backlit, so it has a very long "up" time before it has to be recharged.
*At 2 in the morning, if I run out of books, I can buy one, download it, and be reading in five minutes.
*Ebooks cut down on all those paper books taking up space - especially in small apartments!
*It's just right - like a book - to hold and read (PDAs were awkward), yet it is lightweight. It's also quite slender. When shut, it looks like a small leather notebook.
*For the next few months, Sony Connect offers 100 free downloads of classic books. You have to download your 100 books by the cut-off time (February 2008).
Caveats - the pages turn kind of slowly (but you get used to timing the way you hit the turn button, and it is not a big deal); those of you who want to read in bed in the dark so as not to bother a partner - it is not backlit.
At $300, it may seem pricy, but when I think of the three awkward, non really for reading books PDAs I wore out, it seems a lot cheaper.
I see two major issues in the negative reviews - two issues that I can help you solve with this update.
Issue one: The Sony Library function that interfaces with your Reader gets fussy if you unplug your hardware without the "safely disconnect hardware" ok (look in your tray for the MS Safely Remove Hardware function). This causes a USB issue with your on-computer Library that you interface your Reader with.
Issue two: PDF files (particularly your non-secure PDF books) do not have large enough font sizes to read.
SOLUTION: libprs500, a totally freeware program - totally free, no strings. It works on all systems, it is easy to use, and it provides reformatting features right in the program! Oh - and it does work for 505s.
I've been using libprs500 for over a month, and it has none of the USB issues, it does not crash or hang up, it does not tell you "do not disconnect." AND - it has an edit function that lets you reformat your book - you can ENLARGE the PDF PRINT SIZE. YAY!
I suspect many people think their reader is broken due to the USB issue you may face if you disconnect your Reader without using your "Safely Remove Hardware" program. If you are having this type of issue, or if your Library won't connect with your Reader, try this little program - once you have your Reader connected and working properly, you can use your libprs500 for storing, uploading books to your Reader, and formatting and just use your Library to buy and download books from Connect.
The software mentioned above has been renamed Calibre. Just search for Calibre and "Kovidgoyal" (the designer) and you will find it. It works like a charm - wanted to be sure you all could locate it, since the name changed.
51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on May 30, 2008
I just recently purchased a Sony PRS-505, as a hardware platform it works well the resolution is great now I can read out in the sun and generaly it is just a very nice device, however the software is just plain bad, initialy upon getting this device I tried to use the software package that came with it, again it was the Rocket EBook all over again, everything about the software is about selling books, not supporting the user!
However there is a software package out there that provides very good support and actually produces good readable ebooks, maintains your ebook library and is 5 times faster at accessing the book than Sony's junk. As well it works like a USB interface should, no reason to lock up the device when it is the software that should close access to the system.
The software to use is [...] a system put together called 'Calibre' It is free-open source (they ask for a donation) and it is everything that the Sony software should be, it is like most open source not well documented but easy and intuitive to use, it can automatically download book information from Amazon and Cover Images from another free access site. (Easy setups)
This software saved my 300 dollar investment and allows me the free use of my new toy with all of the content that I have (2000+ .lit books) etc, etc. and is capable of translating most ebook formats to the Sony unencrypted .lrf - BeBook format.
Now all they have to do is find a way of generating readable and viewable .lrf's from Adobe PDF's for the device and I will finally believe that the world of ebooks has come true.
56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2007
I had been thinking about buying this for quite some time. I wanted to read more but reading in bed for me with a big book is a pain. Traveling with just one book is a pain so I don't, bummed when I show up at my destination (or the airport) with nothing good to read. I was also hoping that I could turn some of my instrument flying charts into PDFs and display on the reader, reducing cockpit clutter.
Amazon has a full description of the unit but in general you can think of it as an iPod for books. It allows you to go to the Sony equivalent of iTunes, purchase and download books. It's light, extremely thin, and totally lives up to the marketing when it comes to viewability. The breakthrough for this product and others like it is the display technology. I call it etch-e-sketch technology because once it creates the image on the screen, it stays there, no power required. Because of this the unit only uses power to wake up and turn the page (unless you are listening to music), battery life is very long. If the battery goes dead while you are looking at a page, it just stays on the screen (you think it's frozen). The marketing says it will stay charged for 7,000 page turns. I'm not getting anywhere near that but it does hold a charge for a week and charges by plugging into my laptop.
This is the second rev of the hardware so they are using a newer version of the screen which has faster refresh time and ergonomics have been improved (can easily turn pages with either hand holding the unit). They also let you slew to any page and provide a way to for you to drill down on end-notes and create bookmarks on your books. They have increased the size of the internal memory to hold over 100 books (not tested by me yet) and ability to take not only the Sony memory stick but also SD memory cards. It will play music from any memory store and will read PDFs, text and a DRM format by Sony.
Pros / Cons
On the plus side:
* It makes it super easy to take a bunch of books on vacation (stores over 100 and expandable with Flash [two kinds])
* Super thin and light. Makes it easy to read anywhere.
* Instantly download books that you want. Hear about a new book that I want to read, no more driving down to the bookstore (when I can get some time) only to find out that they don't have it.
* Price of e-books is competitive.
* Take other kinds of documents, text word, PDF. Big PDFs take too much processing power to change pages. I thought I could take my approach charts in the plane this way but it's not going to work out. I have not tested taking other documents.
* Page turns much faster than version 1 of the hardware
* UI for drilling down on footnotes or end notes cool. Very quick to browse back and forth.
* Has ability to "bookmark" pages but the name of the bookmark is set automatically (bummer)
* Can enlarge the page/text (small, medium, large).
super clear display in any light. Totally lives up to ALL marketing in this regard.
* NYT top 20 books are almost always available up in eBook format.
* Can read books on a number of devices (multiple computer that I have and the reader also). I am not sure what the limit it or if it is tied to my user account or what. (more research needed)
* Allows you to rotate to landscape but haven't needed that yet.
Comes with a cover. No longer have to peel off a bunch of cash to buy it then purchase a cover.
* Too expensive for what you get. I expect the price to drop.
* Harder to quickly scan books like you can with a book. New version does allow you to jump to a page but you have to know what you want to jump to. You can also use the table of contents.
* DRM. One can hope this changes. Can read books though on a number of devices (multiple computer that I have and the unit). I am not sure what the limit it or if it is tied to my user account?
* How do you loan books to others like physical book if it has DRM on it.
* Lock in like iTunes but I am hoping this will change.
* Not every book in electronic distribution. This is controlled by the publisher author agreements. Most NYT top 20 almost always show up.
* I'm not getting the battery life I expected. I need to investigate but it is lasting over a week (not playing music)
monochrome but will display your photos and images from books.
* Bookmarks don't allow you to change the name of them, it uses text from the bookmarked page
* When taking large PDF files (like approach charts for flying) it's too slow to be usable.
* No back light but I don't mind sacrificing for battery life, size and weight (I use a simple book light for total darkness).
I think I like it. It solved all the things that I was purchasing it for except for in-flight charts which are just too big. I'm reading a lot more and really like the instant gratification of being able to just click, download and read within one minute. I am bummed about not being able to share books that I read but we will see where this goes. I'll update this review as I get more flying time on it.
70 of 75 people found the following review helpful
I own this device. Love it. The screen is perfect. It's easy to read on. It holds a ton of books and the biggest features is Sony Connects availability of titles. I always find what I am looking for. [...] I would recommend this device over the $100 more expensive Kindle unless your desire is to read the newspaper on your device. I don't read the newspaper so I don't want that one feature. I can easily buy and download books onto my Sony and the prices of the books are very reasonable. I love the product. I am a hardcore reader and that is what this device is made for. Someone who wants to save the wear and tear of reading on a device on their eyes. E-ink is worth the price.
6 inch screen
4 level grayscale
6 inch screen
8 level grayscale
Hmmm.....if what you are paying for is the e-ink technology then Sony has Kindle beat with a savings of $100.
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2007
I have to say, I love this product, but people need to realize that it is what it is...a device for reading books. No, it is not perfect, and yes, it can be a tad slow at times. The reason for the slowness, is that the battery shuts off between pages, giving you the long battery life, so it takes a couple seconds to turn the battery on and turn the page. Think of it like when you have to lick your fingertip to turn a page. People have also complained about no backlighting, but if they had read about the product...done a little homework...before buying it, they would know it is a good thing there is no backlight. First, backlights cause eye strain, just like staring at a computer screen all day...and second, backlighting makes it impossible to read the screen in strong light, or with some types of polarized sunglasses on. The e-ink is a revolution to these type of electronic devices, making them function like a paper book page.
As far as the downsides, yep, this device struggles with PDF's, but in reality, the primary job of this reader was to function as an electronic library. If you are going to be dealing with 1,000's of PDF documents or 100+ page PDF documents like some of the reviewers...save up and get a small laptop. This product functions extremely well doing what it is designed to do...provide books in an electronic format. I love the fact that I don't have to continually enlarge my library, especially with the small paperbacks that only seem to get read once or twice, then take up shelf space. I also like that I am cutting down on paper use and disposal space.
The only downside so far is the Sony proprietary issue. Much like iTunes, they really do favor their own format for e-books, and that can be annoying when you want a book, it is available in an e-format, but cannot just be downloaded to the reader. There are softwares and techniques that others more qualified than me have covered, so I will not rehash them here...just know that some books may take a little more work than just downloading them. Also, it would be nice if they had a WiFi connection ability...so that books could be directly downloaded...it would be very handy on the road...so, hopefully the next generation will.
Overall, I would recommend it to anyone that loves to read and would like the ability to carry a large number of books with them all the time...and be a tad more environmentally friendly to boot.
Update* 01/27/08* - While I still stand by my review and my four-star rating, I do have to mention a couple annoying issues. First, why the heck didn't they include at least one A/C plug? I hate leaving stuff plugged in my computer all the time and if it sits unplugged for more than a week or so, it has to be recharged. I did find that a Sony PSP travel charger works with it and they are relatively cheap. I bought three of them, one for work, one that I keep in my electronic travel kit, and one at home next to the cell charger. So, not a huge deal, but get the PSP chargers, they are cheaper. The second issue has been mentioned by others, but it takes a while to get used to the Sony site. I really wish they would do a redesign....
Update #2 August 19, 2008 - I still take this device everywhere with me and stand by the 4 star rating. That said, I would highly recommend spending the extra money on the Kindle. I am still very frustrated with the lack of a quality website by Sony in addition to having less material available. I would love to be able to get newspapers, magazines, and books delivered while I am on the bus or at the airport. There have been a couple times that I have ended a book mid-transit and would have killed to be able to download the next in the series without having to wait until after work to get home and search for it on my computer. If I could redo it, I would look past the Kindle's odd surface appearance and go with the convenience of being able to download files on the fly. I hope that Sony realizes their mistake and corrects it in the next version. If you don't mind having to search a website for books to download then have to attach them, I would save the money and go with the e-reader. If, however, you read the large number of books each year that I do, you may want to review the Kindle. I am afraid though, how much money I could accidentally spend if any book were only a button-click away.
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2007
This second generation device is twice as fast as its PRS-500 predecessor and it has eight black and white shades instead of the previous 4. Also, this version is recognized under linux so you no longer have to remove the memory card and plug it into your computer to copy files to the reader. All you do is plug in the USB port and linux recognizes the internal memory and the additional SD card you might have on your machine. Fast, brighter than before - very clear text too.
Note: I use rtf and pdf files. If you use rtf, select all text and save as 16 font. For those who wish it read html, suggest you cut and past html text into your favorite word processor and format as just discussed. This process gives you a nice large font and is very easy on the eyes (three size settings are small, medium, and large). Using open office writer you can save your text to a pdf file and read it that way if you prefer pdf format (the rtf documents are faster). Great product. Desired improvement would be a version in a 8 and a half by 11 inch screen.