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Portrait of a Noob eReader

Note: This is the first of 8! reflections by the reviewers here at Dear Author regarding their use of the Sony PRS 505. You can touch and feel one yourself at places like Borders, Target, and select Best Buy, Frys, and Books a Million. In the UK, Waterstone sells them. I have to tell you that you cannot really understand the eink technology until you see it in person. I highly recommend checking one out if your local retail shop has one.

Dear Sony,

redreaderfrontf1I’m an e-Reader noob. Oh, I read tons of ebooks, I just use my laptop and whatever program is called for. The thing is, I also read lots and lots of physical manga and books. I always carry a couple with me. The last time I took a vacation I had one bag of clothes and two of books. So I was pretty excited to get something compact and light that could hold all of that for me. I like a lot about the Sony e-Reader. There are some things that could stand to be improved. Overall though, I think I’m going to be very happy with it. I know my husband looks forward to “me” not carrying loads of books everywhere.

The e-Reader physically is a very pretty thing. Mine is red. I really had no preference in color, though I tend not to be adventurous with electronics and go for sober shades. Surprisingly I found the red to be not only pleasing to the eye, but it seemed to bring out the dark of the text and lines on the reading screen, enhancing the contrast.

The cover is nice and sturdy too, though I think I’ll add a pocket or two to hold SD cards. I just want to put all my books on those and keep it all in one place. I’ve realized I’d rather have several smaller cards than one big one that takes a while to index and page through. Most people probably only a need for one card if any though, and it will be in the reader itself. I’ve just collected a lot of ebooks and manga over the years and want them at my fingertips.

After opening the package, everything charged up easily from my laptop and all the programs installed easily. Even my Dad could have done that part, and that’s saying something. It took me a second to figure out the on switch, a slide that snaps back, until I found the instructions. Which brings me to one thing that annoyed me. I don’t want installation instructions that fold open like a road map. Book readers like BOOKS. I felt like I was trying to find my way to Vegas at 3:00 am after missing that left at Albuquerque. Once I found my location the step I was after, the route process was clear. But of course, I ended up refolding the map instructions incorrectly. Book, OK?

So then I got the instruction e-manual installed on my laptop and pulled it up and read through it. Yes, I actually did. I’m not only anal, I’m a girl (men wouldn’t have even made the roadmap comparison, as they know not of which I speak). It seemed very simple: Open the software, add my ebooks to the program’s library, drag and drop them to my reader. And it was simple. It worked. Two minutes later I was reading Lynne Connolly on my e-Reader. WHOOHOO!

I upped the font to medium. There are three font sizes, S, M, L. I found M to be just right. I didn’t realize there was no light on the 505 though. I’m glad this was adjusted for the new model. But I bought a full spectrum book light from Mighty Bright and will be happy with that. That will help with the contrast as well, as it’s less than what I’m used to and unfortunately not adjustable. Under a light however, I was able to read quite easily in the dark. And of course in the bright sun reading was a breeze. I love the fact that there’s no glare, and that the page looks like paper.

Then I got adventurous. I went to the Sony ebook store in my browser and tried to buy something. Oops. You can’t do that. That’s kind of annoying. Why do I have to be on an approved system with Sony software installed to buy and download something? That’s rather limiting. If I’m on vacation and want a book, I can’t just plug in at an internet café. I’m screwed without that software. Bad move.

But this time I was on my laptop with software installed, so I opened it back up and entered the store from there. Since I’d already tried an ebook, I decided to download one of your manga from TokyoPop to see how that looked. It was very easy to navigate around the site and narrow the list down to choices that might interest me. I found one I wanted and clicked ‘buy’ and after I registered, it downloaded itself to my library. Then drag and drop and open. Very simple. The quality was a little less than what I’d see on my computer, but all in all, quite readable. I buzzed though the volume in no time. The experience was so like reading a book that I kept reaching up to turn the page.

There were two issues with the manga though. The first was that I got to the end of vol 1 and your store does not carry subsequent volumes. !!!! So I had to go buy them in hardcopy. I don’t mind having hardcopies, but that rather defeats the purpose of having the e-Reader to save having to store paper manga series.

The second issue is that I could not zoom on certain files. I have no idea why, but homemade manga volumes I made zoomed perfectly well (thank you, Calibre!), yet the manga I purchased from your store did not. Granted, zooming on the homemade volumes only gets you a bigger and fairly grainy picture, but for those little asides that appear in manga so much, it would be helpful. Click the picture below left to get a view of how a page of one of my own scans appears on the Sony Reader.

manga_scan_sampleBut those are minor complaints, really. The fact that I can load up dozens of manga scans that look great, instead of carting all those volumes around makes me want to find all of you and give you smooches. Or at least send you a pizza, which would be more hygienic.

I should point out to the readers that there are a very limited number of commercial e-manga out there. To create your own, you either have to scan what you have or find someone who has already done so. As far as I’m concerned, owning a home-scanned version of manga I’ve already purchased is perfectly reasonable. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Now let me tell you how I’ve used it, after putting my books and a lot of manga on SD cards.

A few mornings ago I felt terribly sick, and I was looking for a comfort read to make me feel better. I have manga and books lying all around, but to be honest it’s all unorganized. It takes me a while to find anything, if I find it. But I grabbed my e-Reader, and had so many favorites right there at my fingertips, no searching. I picked one out, no fuss, and lost myself in it.

I get into a lot of discussions about the manga I’m reading online. That generally means I have about 10-20 volumes lying on the bed and desk at any given time. Not now. If I’m talking about it, it’s on my e-Reader. The bed is all mine!

I usually have to wait and wait in the car while my husband talks and talks at the hobby shop he goes to (No gurls allowed!), so I carry a few books. Not this week. Just one handy e-Reader with all kinds of choices. When he came out, I told him to go back in. The look on his face was priceless. Heh.

So, no more lugging books around, and the choices are myriad. Sometimes getting the books to that point takes a little work. But with a conversion program like Calibre that’s been made pretty simple, just highlight the book and click convert. And yes, there are improvements that could be made, but they’re minor as far as I’m concerned (and the newer model’s light takes care of the biggest one.). I am quite happy with the versatility and quality of experience this reader has to offer.


reads any genre as long as the books aren't depressing. Her preferred reads these days are in manga format and come from all manga genres, but she especially likes romance, doubly so when there are beautiful men involved. With each other. Her favorites among currently-running English-translated manga series include NANA, Ze, Ouran High School Host Club, Junjou Romantica, Blood Alone, Vampire Knight, Skip Beat, Silver Diamond and anything by the holy triumvirate of BL: Ayano Yamane, Kazuma Kodaka and Youka Nitta, including any scribbles they might do on the backs of napkins.


  1. Keishon
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 12:18:25

    Ok, I have tons of Manga on my laptop with NO clue how to get them on my reader. Look for a email. And yes, I agree. Buying manga from the Sony store is a waste of time because there are no subsequent copies to purchase. You’re stuck out, left in the cold, no other choice but to find it at a book store. Boo.

  2. (Jān)
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 12:42:05

    It’s pretty simple Keishon, at least for the way my stuff is set up. I keep my manga in volume sized file folders and they’re named uniformly so they are already sorted properly. So I zip up a volume folder with the image files at the root level (I don’t know if that’s necessary, that’s just how I do it).

    1. Install calibre. (You may or may not need Python installed. Try it without it.)

    2. Then, rename the zip to a .cbz extension (if you use rar, rename it to .cbr).

    3. Add the .cbz/.cbr file to your books in calibre.

    4. Under the Convert dropdown, you may want to adjust Defaults for Comics. I chose to Keep the aspect ratio (you’ll want this), wide, and landscape (this keeps two page spreads as two page, so you may not want it). Most choices depend on how your scans look. If something comes out crappy you can try to sharpen or despeckle etc.

    5. Highlight it and click convert.

    6. Send the resulting LRF file to your reader.

    The LRFs for volumes have been 10-20 MB for zip files that are 60-80 Mb in size so it’s a great space saver. I wish I could show you how great those scans look on my eReader, but I have no camera, sorry. :( They’re extremely crisp and clear though, as good as they look on my laptop.

  3. Throwmearope
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 12:54:32

    My Sony E-reader was a total cinch to set up. I handed it to my 22 year-old son, Geek-guy extraordinaire, and it was set up in couple of minutes.

  4. (Jān)
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 13:04:19

    LOL Throwmearope. Computers should all come with 22 year old geeks as standard accessories. ;P

    Seriously though, once I figured out how to turn it on, there wasn’t anything to set up. It comes with it all ready to go. I only had to install the ebook software on my computer and I was ready to start adding books. It couldn’t get much easier. (I just wish I hadn’t had to read that stupid map to find that out.)

  5. AnneD
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 13:15:35

    hrrmmmm… SD card slots/holders.

    I wonder….

  6. Estara
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 13:34:15

    OOOkay, the added manga ability (especially if you recommend the quality and compare it to grayscale on a pc – I expect coloured pages simply grayscale?) makes buying an ereader ever more tempting.

    Does anyone have information whether Europeans can pay with European credit cards at those ebook stores, though? I want to read in English :P, not in German.

    P.S. And while I’m at it: more manga reviews, please!! You vanished from the face of the DA with those. In case of rl taking over, please disregard the P.S. ^-^

  7. (Jān)
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 13:45:25

    Yes, the color converts to grayscale, and those pages don’t look all that wonderful, but then that’s not surprising. But the manga I’ve been reading looks really good. I’ll try to get my husband to take a picture of my reader with a manga page on it. Much does depend on the quality of the original scan of course. :)

    RL was causing issues the second half of last year. I do have a couple of manga reviews I’m working on now. :)

  8. Angela James
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 14:51:11

    hrrmmmm… SD card slots/holders.

    I wonder….

    Yes, you could do it :P

  9. (Jān)
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 14:55:02

    I added a photo of the Sony Reader with a manga page on it if anyone wants to see it.

    You can actually see the dialogue in the lower right, though in this photo it’s a little blurred because of my lack of skills with the dh’s camera.

  10. Angela James
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 15:02:02

    Oh, that looks cool.

  11. Miki
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 15:37:45

    The leather covers come with 2 pockets – one for an SD card or Memory Stick and one with a clear vinyl cover for a business card. It – of course – could also be used to hold SD cards!

  12. Karen Scott
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 16:37:10

    I don't want installation instructions that fold open like a road map.

    Word. I really hate that.

  13. Jessica G.
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 16:41:33

    FYI the manga section is pretty new. Give it some time to grow.

    Uh oh, I see Anne D’s got some ideas :) I forgot to go check your new designs *off to etsy*

  14. (Jān)
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 17:09:34

    Jessica, I hope they do grow. I just am wondering about the direction of growth. They’re only offering OEL manga, (original English language) from TokyoPop, and some are series that they have stopped. I’m wondering if they haven’t negotiated for electronic rights for Japanese manga, and thus can’t sell them in ebook form (similar to the difficulties with international rights some ebook distributors were experiencing).

    Also, I see a need for them to rethink the way they’re putting manga together. They should be able to produce a volume that consumes 40% of the space the one I bought did, be clearer and cleaner, and allow zooming.

    I’d like to be able to buy from them, but I hope they address these issues.

    Miki, thanks for the tip on the leather covers! Although if Anne develops one, I think I might get a cloth one. ^__^

  15. Jessica G.
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 17:23:46

    Jan- I have a feeling Manga is best viewed on the 700 (which has better zoom capabilities). I can see why it is tough, since it’s basically one big image.

  16. AnneD
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 17:29:15

    Angela, Jess & Jan: I’ll work in requests/ideas when I can (zips won’t be happening, but the sd card holders for sure, and a pocket for a light is a maybe).

  17. kirsten saell
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 23:13:25

    Why do I have to be on an approved system with Sony software installed to buy and download something? That's rather limiting. If I'm on vacation and want a book, I can't just plug in at an internet café.

    You can if you buy it from Samhain.

    Just sayin’.

  18. Catherine
    Jan 19, 2009 @ 14:13:41

    What a great review! I don’t have a Sony – I read on a Nokia N800 – but you captured what really got me hooked on ereading – lots of choice at your fingertips, the ability to find things fast and change the font as needed (take that presbyopia).

    You also nailed what’s wrong – there you were ready to buy, wanting to buy – it should be easier to buy! Especially collections or series.

  19. Jill A
    Jan 19, 2009 @ 15:30:31

    Does the Sony let you buy non-English books? I wonder if they might have more mangaon their Japanese site…If I could get a reasonable selection of manga in Japanese on an e-bookreader, I would be in heaven – I could store away my several bookcases of manga and free up some space in my condo!

  20. place card holders wedding
    Apr 30, 2010 @ 14:42:34

    well, it sounds cool!

  21. LL
    Apr 30, 2010 @ 17:29:31

    I investigated the Sony ereaders before I bought my Nook and did like the ebook filing system better, but they didn’t have the wireless or 3G access so it got taken off my maybe list. They were comfy to hold and easy to read.

    My Nook isn’t perfect. It cost 50.00 more than your Sony Pocket which at 200.00 is a little high for what your getting (no wireless, and smaller memory). The Nook is priced at 250.00, which is also a tad high for what I got even with their new software update. It holds a lot more books, but lacks decent file management.

    I hope you enjoy your new toy. I haven’t quite found the perfect ereader yet, but I’m convinced it’s out there. It’s in my head at least.

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