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2008 Holiday EBook Reading Buying Guide, Part I

Edited to Add: Below I recommend buying the Sony PRS700 with the built in light. According to the guys at Gizmodo and Sunita below, this light actually degrades the quality of the screen. You may, instead, want to go the PRS505 route from Wal-mart who is selling them (including the red one) for $269.99. I highly recommend getting a light and the Sony light is a really elegant addition.

Last year, I posted a buying guide for those who are looking for ebook readers and I thought it would be kind of fun to do that again, given that technology keeps changing.   I’ll give a list of pros and cons for each kind of device and my opinion as to why to buy a certain one.    I hope those who own these devices will jump in and give their own opinions as well.   Today’s article addresses dedicated ebook readers and next week’s article will address the multi-function devices.

Black Friday Tip:   

While ebook readers aren’t part of the Black Friday sales, often times memory cards are.   If you are out and about you might check to see what SD cards are going for. I’ve seen ads in Wal-mart and other stores that are selling 4 GB SD cards for $9-$15.   You could fit a lifetime of books (10,000) on a 4 GB SD card.   Most of the newer ebook e-ink devices (Cybook, Sony Reader, Kindle) will accommodate a SD card.   

Dedicated Reading Devices

All of the dedicated readers on the market, other than the eBookwise, are eink devices.   This section of the buying guide will first address eink devices and then the eBookwise because the pros and cons are different for both.   

Eink Reading Device Pros:

Eink readers  boast a screen that can’t be found on any other ebook reading device.   E Ink technology is like a sophisticated etch a sketch.   Negatively charged black and positively charged white pigmented microscopic capsules are encased in a clear fluid.   Negative and positive electric charges tell the machine which particles should be visible to the user.   Because the devices use power only when the page is changed, i.e., when the electric charge changes the image, eink devices have extremely long battery life.   I was able to read on my Sony PRS 500 for an entire week on vacation without a charge.  

While lcd screens constantly refresh, an eink device has a flat display.   The lack of refresh combined with the black/white pigmented capsules gives the eink device a near paper like look.   In bright sunlight, it’s hard to believe that you aren’t looking at a notepad instead of an electronic device.   

Individually, each eink device has its own pros.   An ebook reading matrix can be found here.   The Kindle is connected to the internet all the time via a cellular connection (Sprint).   This is free for now.   You can do limited browsing and sending of emails.   More importantly, however, you can buy a book with one click of the Kindle button anywhere you have that cellular connection.   You can also email files to yourself and Kindle’s back end software program magically converts those into readable files. The Kindle is the only device with an integrated physical keyboard.   

The Sony Readers are able to read more than one secure file. The Sony Readers accept Sony BBeB files but also Adobe Digital Editions.   The Sony PRS700 has an integrated front light and a touchscreen that allows you to take notes with its on screen keyboard.

Generally, though, the pros for the eink reading device:   Paperlike display in well lit areas and long battery life.

Eink Reading Device Cons:

Most e-ink devices have only one secure format it can view.  

  • Kindle = AZW or TPZ (both a form of Mobipocket)
  • Sony = Sony BBeB or Adobe DRM
  • Cybook = Mobipocket
  • Iliad = Mobipocket
  • BeBook = Mobipocket

Most eink readers will view a variety of non DRM’ed formats.   You can see the format matrix for eink readers here.   This can be circumvented by using DRM breaking software.   There is a DRM crack/hack for every format out there including the Kindle (except for one format of the Kindle called tpz and I don’t think a reader knows whether the format is a tpz until it is purchased).   You need to have some technological know how to get a book from a secure format to an unsecure one that can be used on more than one device (and this isn’t the post that will explain how to do it).   Because most readers are limited to only one proprietary format, it is harder to take advantage of sales and promotions at competing etailers.   An owner of the Sony Reader can’t take advantage of the ebook prices at the Kindle store and vice versa.

Another drawback for most eink devices is the lack of an integrated lighting source.   Because of the eink technology, a backlight is not possible which means that you will need to have a booklight available for use with your eink reader at all times, unless you purchase the Sony PRS700.   The Sony PRS700 comes with an integrated front light that runs off the battery power of the reader itself.   It’s a very elegant solution but one that draws down the battery faster.  

Cons: higher cost per function, Limited format options (unless you are willing and able to break the DRM), no backlight, harder to read in low lit areas.


The eBookwise (currently selling for $119.95 with free shipping) is grayscale LCD touchscreen device with backlight.   It reads only IMP formats, although eBookwise offers a free online conversion program  (for RTF, MS Word, Plain Text, Rocket eBook, or HTML files).   The PROS include the price – it is the lowest dedicated eReading device on the market; the touchscreen, and the ability to highlight and take notes.    The CONS is the grayscale LCD touchscreen.   I found, when I used the device, that in brightly lit areas, it was hard to read.   It has a bulky design and will accept only one format like the eink devices unless you know how to circumvent the DRM.    However, for the price, it is the best eBook reader on the market today.


What device you should buy depends on what is most important to you. If price is the most important feature to you, get the eBookwise.   It does the same thing as all of the other devices in this post, just a little less stylishly and with a little less clarity in the screen.   If having an integrated light with your eink device is important, you need to get the Sony PRS700 which runs $399.   While the Sony PRS505 is $100 less, the stylish booklight that serves the same function as the integrated front light on the PRS700 costs $69.99 so for a $30 price difference, you might as well get the one with the light built in.   If ease of use is the most important, then you want to get the Kindle at $349.00.   The ability to email yourself content is one of the favorite features of SB Sarah and the one touch buy can’t be beat by any device (even the multi function devices) on the market.   I don’t recommend the Iliad because the price, $699.00,   doesn’t make sense as a dedicated ebook reader.  

I don’t recommend buying the Sony PRS505, BeBook, Cybook at $299.99 subject to my note to MAC users.   I think that one is better off upgrading to the Kindle for $50.00 for the cellular connectivity which is currently free or all the way up to the PRS700 with its integrated frontlight, touchscreen, and notetaking abilities.   

Ending Note for Mac users:

One reader emailed me and requested some input for MAC users.   There is no dedicated desktop reading software that works with the MAC that also matches a format viewed by a dedicated ereading device.   There are a couple ways to get around this.


The easiest way to avoid the desktop software problem is eliminate it altogether.   The Kindle books can only be read on a Kindle device and no other device (not even a computer).   Therefore, you can buy Kindle books via Safari (the web browswer) or you can buy via the Kindle.   You can send a number of different file formats to your Kindle via email.   The Kindle is not platform dependent.

Mobipocket + SD Card

The second easiest way to avoid the desktop software program is to buy Mobipocket files.   You can then put your Mobipocket files on an SD Card and pop the card into the ebook reading device.   To that end, MAC users may want to consider purchasing a BeBook, Cybook, or Iliad.   

Sony + Parallels

If you want to get the Sony PRS700, you must also purchase Parallels.   Parallels is a program that allows you to run Windows software on your Macintosh.   You must first install Adobe Digital Editions using Parallels and then Authorize it with your Adobe ID.   Attach you Sony Reading device to the computer and it should ask if you want to Authorize your Sony Reading device.    You then switch over to your regular MAC Operating System and install and authorize Adobe Digital Editions.   Any secure Adobe files you have purchased and downloaded should be viewable on your Sony Reader.   You can simply drag those eBook files to your Sony Reader which appears as a mass storage device (like a USB drive).

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Jules Jones
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 05:48:49

    One note: your buying guide and recommendations are only appropriate to the US and Canada, because the Kindle-Aid has severely restricted availability and functions everywhere else. But this is a very useful round-up of what’s out there, and thanks.

    My thoughts on the Cybook after owning one for a month, along with comments from a couple of other owners. Conclusion — it has some annoying flaws, but I like it a lot.

  2. Midknyt
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 08:03:34

    I still love my Sony 505. One thing to note that people have been saying about the 700 – because of the touchscreen they put it, it isn’t as clear to read as the 505.

    You can find the 505 for $200 if you look – that’s what I got mine for. Try to find the best price.

    I think it’s also important to note that because it is the only one that reads the adobe DRM, it can read all those lovely ebooks your library has for you to check out for free. They do also come in Mobi, but I’ve found it is always offerred in adobe and only sometimes in Mobi. Then you get a book free for 21 days, something that I think is very important, especially if you are starting off and don’t have a ton of money to buy ebooks.

    As for conversion on the Sony for you to get deals elsewhere (I like Books on Board), download ConvertLIT GUI and Calibre. Buy your books in Microsoft Reader format (.lit), which is a really common format to find books in. Open it in ConvertLIT GUI and hit downconvert. Then open the new downconverted in Calibre and hit convert, then put the new book on your reader. Viola, books that you can read with about 15 seconds of effort.

    Kindle may give you that instant buying power, but it is the hardest to convert things to buy elsewhere, so you’re stuck buying everything at Amazon.

  3. Danielle
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 08:05:40

    I have the iTouch and love it. Will you be doing a seperate blog about the iTouch?

  4. Kimber An
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 08:36:38

    Ho-dang, I just thought of an awesome marketing idea for ePublishers! Sorry, I’m only going to tell my ePubbed friends.

  5. Jessica
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 08:55:54

    Thank you, Jane!

    This is clear, concise and offers all the information one may need to make this choice. I especially appreciate the note to Mac users.

    Again this year, it looks like no one reader will meet all my needs. The Kindle feature everyone loves — wireless connectivity — is a no go in the remote part of the United States where I live. The Adobe and integrated light on the Sony is very appealing, but not the need for a Parallels purchase and Mac workaround.

    Perhaps I am unsatisfied because the price for these one function devices is so high. Here’s hoping Amazon or Sony bends to the will of the bad economy and lowers prices.

  6. J L Wilson
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 09:10:51

    Are you sure the wireless connectivity won’t work? I ask because I have a friend in a ‘remote’ area and I took my Kindle there and used it fine — and based on that she bought one and is merrily downloading now.

    I live in an urban area but I can’t get a good connection at my home (which I don’t understand: I have satellite TV and get excellent reception, but I can’t get a good connection on a Kindle. Go figure).

    I can get a good connection at my office, however. I often purchase Kindle books online then take my Kindle to work, fire it up and download the books then.

  7. MoJo
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 09:23:01

    Sony also reads formats with the .LRF extension.

    although eBookwise offers a free online conversion program

    You can also get their eBookWise Librarian (for $15? $25?) which will let you do it yourself, too.

    If you want to read in brightly lit areas, you have to crank up the bright and contrast like crazy, but then it’s fine.

  8. Anne Douglas
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 10:19:36

    Jane, is there any particular reason you have ignored everything bar the proprietary DRM formats? This creates a very biased review of the devices IMO.

    It also makes it look like there are no options for mac users when there are, for both reading DRM, and library cataloguing.

    I’m a mac user not using parallels and using a Sony Reader quite happily for both DRM and non DRM books.

  9. Keishon
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 10:29:28

    I own one of the devices you mentioned, the Sony Reader PRS 505. I love reading on the thing and yes, one has to circumvent DRM to put what they _pay_ for on the device and the software is out there for that. Otherwise, buying a dedicated device after you’ve accumulated a library of ebooks makes no sense at all when most of them do not read the format of books you already own. DRM sucketh.

    I also read on my iPhone using the ereader because I love the note feature on it (as I’m sure you’ll discuss next week). I still hate the tapping to turn pages but it’s better than the swipe. What is so hard about putting arrow keys at the bottom of the page?

    Cons for the Sony reader that you already mentioned about not being able to read the thing in the low lit areas, I solved that by buying the Mighty Bright book light that snaps into place and works like a charm and price wise it is relatively cheap compared to the integrated light by Sony. No glare. I just clip it to the side of the device and I’m good. It has two different light settings as well.

    Wireless connectivity is nice but to sound like a broken record, I will _never_ buy a Kindle and never would I recommend it. I think Sony is the better choice out of the bunch if you ask me but nobody did.

  10. Jane
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 10:37:40

    @Anne Douglas: I don’t know that I ignored non DRM books, but because the eink devices all read non DRM’ed books (I gave the link for the format matrix). Therefore, it doesn’t really make sense to me to make a decision based on the non DRM books.

    @Danielle: I’ll talk about the iPhone/iTouch next week. This article was just for dedicated ereading devices.

  11. Jessica
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 10:43:42

    JL — I just double checked Kindle wireless coverage.

    In case anyone is interested, here’s the Kindle coverage map:

    I live in one of the blank spots. It’s no big deal to plug the Kindle in to my Macbook, but it means I’d be missing out on one of the perks of a Kindle.

  12. cecilia
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 10:45:15

    @Jules Jones: Actually, you can’t buy a Kindle in Canada, either.

  13. Angela James
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 10:46:56

    Eink Reading Device Cons:

    Most e-ink devices have only one secure format it can view.

    * Kindle = AZW or TPZ (both a form of Mobipocket)
    * Sony = Sony BBeB or Adobe DRM
    * Cybook = Mobipocket
    * Iliad = Mobipocket
    * BeBook = Mobipocket

    I agree with Anne that this might be somewhat misleading because all of the devices can recognize other formats, you’re not tied into buying just a secure format to read on the particular device.

    You touch on it for the Ebookwise:

    It reads only IMP formats, although eBookwise offers a free online conversion program (for RTF, MS Word, Plain Text, Rocket eBook, or HTML files).

    But in reality, you can say the same for all of the devices, that you can use RTF, Word, HTML. In addition, the Kindle will convert most non-secure PDFs when you send them wirelessly to your Kindle.

    I’d really love to get my hands on a new Sony Reader for comparison to the old, so I can give more knowledgeable recommendations when I’m showing people the different devices now. So far, between the 505, the Kindle and the Ebookwise, I recommend the Sony to people looking for the eink device and ease of use/format, the Ebookwise for people wanting an entry level reader for a low price, and the Kindle for those who have a need of the time saving of mailing themselves multiple books (agents and editors).

    I have seen the Cybook but have little actual experience with it, though I do know people who have it and love it, like Lori from ARe, but I can’t comment on it personally since I haven’t used one much. And I have no experience with the Iliad. I’ve never even seen one, have you?

    The Astak EZ reader is supposed to release in “late November” (aren’t we there now?) and I’ll be curious to see one of those at some point, as well. I think they’ll have to do some aggressive marketing and get them in front of people to compete with Sony/Kindle, especially since they’re not that much more inexpensive at $300.

  14. J L Wilson
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 11:22:23

    Hmm. Interesting. My friend lives in one of the “non-coverage” area and she gets a great signal. I live in a ‘covered’ area and I don’t. That’s why my friend wanted to ‘test drive’ it first (which I was happy to do).

    I suppose it depends if the moon, stars, and weather all align!

  15. Keishon
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 11:24:01

    I agree with Anne that this might be somewhat misleading because all of the devices can recognize other formats

    I do not speak for Jane but the failure to mention the other formats was to say that non-DRM formats can be read on all the devices and was taken as a given or known fact. At least that was how _I_ interpeted the article when I read it. The formats mentioned in the article meant that they were the DRM formats for those devices. Just my two or three cents this morning. I’m sure she can add a sentence in there to say that non-DRM formats can be read on all those devices if she felt the need to clarify the point that for some people might be misleading.

    I stand corrected if anything I said was wrong or inaccurate and will beat a hasty retreat out of here.

  16. Jane
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 11:28:48

    @Keishon: No Keishon, that’s exactly what I meant. I did add a sentence like you suggested. I feel like Non DRM’ed books can be easily read on all devices which is why they don’t make much of an impact when determining what to buy.

    I wouldn’t make a gift purchase of an ebook reader for anyone based on the availability of non DRM because I feel like most people can get a non drm’ed book onto a device. It’s the DRM issue that can be really challenging to new ebook readers.

  17. Terry Odell
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 11:31:38

    I still love my eBookwise. The others are too pricey. And although the content one can get from their website isn’t as varied as the others, it’s still more books than I think I can finish in a lifetime.

    I had a stupid accident with my reader, and the customer service I got from the eBook Technologies folks was fantastic!

    I added the librarian program ($15 at the time) and the expanded memory was included with the purchase, so it was a real bargain when I bought it a year ago.

    I especially love it for travel–the backlight is fantastic on airplanes and strange hotel rooms with lousy lighting. I’m definitely a ‘read in bed’ person, and hubby appreciates that I don’t need the overhead light on.

  18. Sunita
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 11:40:17

    I finally broke down and bought a dedicated ebook reader after years of reading on various Palm products. I love the (DRM) multi-format and multi-use aspects of a PDA/smartphone, but the screen *is* small. I waited for the PRS-700 to be released and went and looked at one in the Sony store, but I wound up buying the 505 for a number of reasons. First, and most importantly, the screen contrast is much better on the 505. I guess it’s because of the note-taking abilities etc. of the 700, but it’s much blurrier to my eyes. Second, while the backlight is a nice feature, it makes the reader heavier and thicker, and the Sony approach to backlighting (I bought the $70 backlight) makes me think that a clipon light might actually work better. Third, I really wanted the notetaking and annotation features, but you can’t write on the screen the way you can on the iLiad, so for academic annotation, you’d just be paging back and forth between the virtual keyboard and the book. I’d love to have the iLiad, but I agree that it’s way too expensive for what it does. I’m just carrying a small notebook along with the reader (and I usually have a notepad with me anyway, so it’s not a big deal). I’ve read some pdf articles on the 505 and it’s not perfect, but it’s good enough.

    I wouldn’t have purchased either Sony had they not changed the software to read DRM’d Adobe, but the Mills & Boon ebook store (which only sells Adobe format) finally pushed me over the edge, along with the ability to read pdf articles.

    Great review, Jane, I just wanted to bring up a couple of points that struck me about the 505/700 comparison. I really expected to buy the 700 and was surprised that I preferred the 505 in a heads-up comparison.

  19. Tamar
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 11:47:50

    Jane, just a tiny correction: Intel-based Macs (ie: all current models) come with Boot Camp pre-installed. It’s a bit more of a pain to use than Parallels, because you can’t switch back and forth between Mac and Windows without rebooting the computer. But it’s there and it’s free… (Of course, you do have to buy Windows XP.)

    Good rundown of dedicated readers. I look forward to your comments on the iPhone/Touch market. I’ve grown quite fond of eReader on my iPhone. Stanza drives me batty (it’s slow and introduces wacked formatting on Word docs), but I use it when I have to.

  20. Ciar Cullen
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 11:53:56

    Thanks, very timely, as Santa husband is asking for recommendations, ie, I know what I’m getting for Christmas.

  21. trish
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 13:55:42

    @Jules Jones: I have been very happy with my CyBook as well. Living in Canada, I also had to seek alternatives to the Kindle.

    Even though the CyBook can only read Mobipocket format books, there is an enormous selection of titles available from various sources. That, for me, is the single most important factor.

  22. Rita Oberlies
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 14:28:54

    My husband surprised me with a Kindle about two weeks ago and I am absolutely loving it! For the first time in my adult life I’ve gone several weeks without stepping into a book store.

    Although I find the on/off button on the Kindle in a less than desirable location, everything else has lived up to my expectations. Since I am a little bit of a technophobe, the ease and speed of downloading with the Kindle is a perfect match for me.

  23. jenre
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 15:42:01

    I’ve had my Cybook for nearly a year now and I really like it. Living in the UK does severely limit the devices you can buy, but the size and weight of the Cybook, coupled with the vast number of books available made it a good buy for me. Then again I only wanted an ebook reader, not a device than could connect the internet, send emails or other fancy stuff – I just wouldn’t use that – so it seemed a waste of money buying a device that did anything other than allow me to read ebooks.

  24. Robin
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 15:50:10

    Until I break down and get an iPhone, I am going the route of using my Treo 650, which will read eReader books (that I can also read on my Mac laptop) as well as Mobipocket (that I download to my Mac and transfer to my Treo via an SD card installed in my phone and synced to my Mac whenever I want to update or transfer data). It works pretty well, although not ideally. Oh, and for some books, especially eHarlequins, I am using the incredibly cumbersome Adobe Digital, which allows me to read the books on my Mac but not my Treo. As a Mac user, though, I’m looking forward to an iPhone and don’t really have a strong interest in a dedicated reader because of the Mac compatibility problems (and I have not yet been willing to drink the Kindle-aid).

  25. Joy
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 16:17:07

    Thanks for the update Jane! I’m really thinking of buying a reader this year.

  26. Mic
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 16:54:36

    I personally would make my decision on non-DRM formats. Although it’s possible to convert from one to another, I don’t like having to do so. The format that’s most important to me is html so I’m currently looking at the Cybook and BeBook. Leaning toward BeBook because it can also read compressed RAR format, which means I can just RAR html files and save some space.

  27. DG
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 19:20:03

    I have been a ebook reader for several years and have tried several ereaders. I started with a Palm Lifedrive and was well pleased with how easy it is to download books, I have Adobe, Mobi and Ereader on it.

    Next I tried the Ebookwise and was not so pleased. The books downloaded like a dream if you purchased them from their website but when you tried to buy from other sites even with their conversion software it is difficult to use. But the price and backlite are a plus.

    I recently purchased the Sony PRS 700, this it the first liquid paper reader I have tried. I like the touch screen and the built in light but I have had to get use to the screen flash when I change pages but you are right about the screen being more grayscale than white due to to built in light. All in all it is very easy to download books no matter where you purchase them and after the problems with Ebookwise it was a relief to find it so easy.

    I think the Sony ereader will be my primary ereader but the Lifedrive will have to be my favorite simply because it is so easy to use and is small to hold but has a nice size screen ad is backlit.

    Next I need to try the Kindle but hey it gives me something to look foward to in the future and just to dream the price could go down (fat chance).

  28. Kaetrin
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 20:45:56

    I want to get an eBook reader but in Australia the only choice is the Iliad which is hideously expensive. I want the Sony or the Kindle. Are you listening Sony? Amazon? Pleeeeeeassseee!

    Oh, and I’d also like to know what’s happening with the Astak readers….

  29. BevQB
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 20:51:11

    I’m down to deciding between the Kindle and the Sony 700. Neither are exactly what I want, but they are the closest so far– eInk, instant on, text notes. I’m leaning toward the 700 but want to see it and play with it first.

    Jane, there’s one final piece of info I need to help me decide. It’s info that I think a lot of people could use- How WELL do these devices handle the non-resident or non-supported formats?

    What I mean is, I understand that other formats can be converted and emailed to the Kindle, but what converter programs work best, and once emailed to the Kindle, does it display the ebooks correctly or is the pagination all screwed up?

    Same with the Sony- what do you recommend for conversion? Does the Sony display these other formats correctly? Or does it do better with certain formats over others?

    I guess what I’m getting at is that, while there is SOME versatility offered, will these “foreign” formats be displayed well, or will I have to tolerate glitches? And if I have to tolerate glitches, which eReader has more and which has less tolerable glitches.

  30. BevQB
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 20:55:54


    Oh, and I'd also like to know what's happening with the Astak readers….

    I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for them to come through with anything. I’m very disappointed with them.

    They are no longer showing an upcoming 5″ reader, then they were showing they’d be coming out with a 6″ this month. Now they are showing that the 6″ is actually an existing ereader that they’ve put their name on. They are still showing an end of November release date, but I haven’t seen or heard of any reviews yet, so I wouldn’t count on it.

  31. Midknyt
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 21:02:01


    I convert .lit (Microsoft Reader) files for my Sony – it’s usually one of the major formats books come in and the one that converts over the best for Sony. The only difference I’ve had between it and ones that I have bought from Sony is that in the Twilight books, the parts that look like handwriting in the physical books just come across in different fonts – they don’t actually look like handwriting.

    Other than that they’ve been completely fine. I just got and converted the Narnia series and the pictures are still in it, where they are supposed to be. I can’t tell when I’m reading a converted book over a non-converted book.

    (Details on how to convert are in my earlier comment).

  32. Tae
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 22:12:03

    I just purchased an ebookwise. Had it sent to a friend in Illinois, who forwarded it to me in South Korea. I wanted to start with something cheaper to make sure I’d use it. Oh boy am I ever. I plan on investing in a Sony in a few months after I get through all the books on the ebookwise. Sure converting some of the files are a bitch, but it’s nice to be able to carry 50 books around with me at all times.

  33. Lam
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 22:16:42

    I recently got the Sony PRS-505 and just love it. I was a little worried about the whole DRM issue, but once you figure out how to convert files (which does take a little tinkering, especially with Mobi) it’s a breeze. I am able to buy any book from any online bookstore (ie. Fictionwise, Books-On-Board) without any trouble, and this means that I am not limited to the Sony Connect store for my book purchases. I live in Canada, and there are some books on the Connect store that are US only.

    I had no experience with ebook readers before I got my Sony, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything now. I still love paper books, but I find myself reading more and more books as ebooks.

  34. Anne Douglas
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 22:34:39

    What I mean is, I understand that other formats can be converted and emailed to the Kindle, but what converter programs work best, and once emailed to the Kindle, does it display the ebooks correctly or is the pagination all screwed up?

    Same with the Sony- what do you recommend for conversion? Does the Sony display these other formats correctly? Or does it do better with certain formats over others?

    BevQB: I’ve been fiddling around today with Calibre (the mac (and Win) avail software I mentioned earlier) trying to figure out what is the best file format to use for converting files from those publishers not yet offering straight ePub files. Turns out there are a few different options that work quite well – PDF not nec being one of them.

    Calibre can read the majority of DRM free file formats and convert them to either .lrf and .ePub. .lrf conversions weren’t working so well for me, but once I swapped to ePub that changed rather pleasantly! In Calibre it’s pretty much a one click conversion too (well from a .lit and a .prc at present – I’ve got to experiment more though).

    Personally, I’m hoping more publishers pick up and run with the group pushing for a standardised file type. ePub works natively on a good percentage of the new devices, and giving the industry a certain base standard BEFORE it explodes is essential IMO. Sony, the king of proprietary formats surprised me no end by making .ePub one of the most easily read formats for the PRS series.

    The actual unit itself aside, I have issues with locking myself into a file type that can only be read on one device (in the instance of using the instant browsing function, I realise that any files you send to Amazon for conversion remain on your computer in their original file format).

    I personally would make my decision on non-DRM formats. Although it's possible to convert from one to another, I don't like having to do so.

    My POV as well. Each machine has it’s proprietary DRM which it was built to run rather easily, it’s everything else that I want it to read that worries me.

  35. Jules Jones
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 02:56:24

    Kaetrin, I think that if you buy a Cybook directly from Bookeen’s website, they will ship to Australia. It’s not in their drop-down menu, but they do say on the site that if people drop them an email they’ll ship most places.

  36. MaryK
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 14:35:16

    I’m (still) holding out for the right netbook but am getting really tired of waiting. Every time there’s a post like this, I almost break down and buy an eBookwise. The format issues always put me off though. My limited experiments with format conversion haven’t been very successful. And I can’t figure out what to do with html files – can’t even get them to read like they’re supposed to much less convert.

    Fictionwise says “All your Fictionwise MultiFormat eBooks work on the eBookwise-1150,” but the specifications say you can only upload Rich Text Format (.rtf), Microsoft Word (.doc), Plain Text (.txt), Rocket eBook Editions (.rb), and HTML (.htm or .html). Where does that leave my .lit and .prc files that I bought directly from epubs? I’m also not thrilled about the SmartMedia limitation.

    I’m not usually so technologically incompetent but for some reason ebooks defeat me. Maybe I’m not trying hard enough.

  37. orannia
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 17:31:27

    Thank you so much Jane!

    I want to get an eBook reader but in Australia the only choice is the Iliad which is hideously expensive. I want the Sony or the Kindle. Are you listening Sony? Amazon? Pleeeeeeassseee!

    GULP! I live in NZ, so I’m guessing my choices are just as (if not more so) limited that yours…. SIGH. More investigating is required…

  38. BevQB
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 19:09:32

    Anne and Midknyt, if I’m understanding you correctly, the key to converting files for the Sony is to run more than one conversion program (at least in the case of LIT). ConvertLit Gui (which I HAVE used) strips the DRM off of the LIT file and then Calibre converts that file to ePub, which you’ve found seems to work the best on the Sony. And once on the Sony, there is very little, if any, visible difference between these converted ebooks and the Sony BBeb(?) books. Did I get that right?

    I believe I read somewhere (probably Mike Cane) that ePub is quickly becoming the accepted standard for eReaders (except for Kindle, of course). So it’s good to know that Sony is already set up to read ePub files.

    Now, what about the Kindle people? When you email ebooks in the other formats, do you read them the same way as the Amazon formatted ebooks? Paging is correct? The Kindle keeps track of what page you are on? You can bookmark and add text notes?

    Another question about both the Sony 700 and the Kindle’s text notes: Sunita said (referring to the 700)

    you'd just be paging back and forth between the virtual keyboard and the book


    I guess I was just assuming that the text notes would work the same way they do in Microsoft Reader where they are “tied” to a highlighted passage in the book. But Sunita’s statement made me realize that I really shouldn’t assume that at all. Any comments about text notes?

  39. Sunita
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 20:11:46

    I guess I was just assuming that the text notes would work the same way they do in Microsoft Reader where they are “tied” to a highlighted passage in the book. But Sunita's statement made me realize that I really shouldn't assume that at all. Any comments about text notes?

    BevQB, I think the note function is similar to what you’re used to. If I have understood correctly, you can pull up a “note” page while reading and then type in a note using a virtual keyboard. The note will be tied to the book, although I don’t know if it’s tied to a specific page or paragraph. For me, this was less attractive because (a) I’m not big on virtual keyboards; and (b) I was implicitly comparing it to the iLiad, which lets you *write* in the margins in normal handwriting, so your book/article/paper winds up with marginal notes similar to a dead tree version. Sorry if I misled anyone!

    Mike Cane’s review ( is the one I found that had the most detailed description and photos.

  40. freecia
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 20:44:05

    For the PRS-505 people who have been using Calibre – I believe you can tell your kindle friends to install Stanza. I believe it reads epub and has a convenient “export for Amazon Kindle” option.

    It doesn’t realign the table of contents that well but really, if a friend sends you a book, you should just say “Thanks!”

    –I’m a kindle-aide drinker thinking about being a sony fangirl, too. I’m saving a bunch of bookshelf space by going with ebooks. Funny how people don’t calculate square footage used up by bookcases or stacks of paperbacks when they calculate the cost/savings with ebooks and ebook readers.

  41. EmmyT
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 22:41:29

    Here’s what I don’t get. Why spend 300, 350, 400 dollars on some of these ereaders (eink aside), when you can buy something like the acer aspire one with a 16 GB SSD HD and 1 GB of RAM (instant on) for the same price as a Kindle? Not only that, but if you are willing to wait a little while, I think a couple of the netbook manufacturers will be adding 3G capability along with WiFi and bluetooth.

    I really do wish I could spend some time with one of the ebook readers and one of the netbooks, just to see what would make the ebook reader worth the money when you can get a computer with all the same capabilities and more. All without being limited to one DRM format too.

  42. Lam
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 22:48:46

    Honestly EmmyT, I have a notebook and an e-reader, and for me personally there is no comparison between the two in terms of what I use them for. It’s not just the size (though my laptop is a 15″ which does make portability for e-reading an issue), but it is the whole feeling of the dedicated e-reading device. The e-ink technology is simply amazing. I find that reading on my laptop strains my eyes and just doesn’t feel as if I’m reading a book. While with my Sony it feels just like reading from a printed page and there is no eye strain whatsoever.

    Also, for the person who asked earlier, once the converted book is on your Sony there really is no noticeable difference between it and one you would buy from the Sony Connect store.

    Just my two cents.

  43. Anne Douglas
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 23:38:42

    @ Emmy

    The two screen styles really don’t compare, and most of all the readers are a lot easier to curl up in bed to read :)

    As an author working with a LCD screen all day, its rather pleasant to use the eInk screens – I get just as little/as much a head ache as reading a book. And frankly NOT being able to surf the net (my usual method of procrastination when trying to write) isn’t a bad thing!

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  45. Ann Somerville
    Nov 25, 2008 @ 07:26:11


    Funnily enough, I went looking for an ereader in Brisbane today. The very nice man in Tandy showed me his iPod touch – and had an instant convert. It was the *only* ereader I found in my admittedly brief look around. The lady in Borders was clearly frustrated by not having any to sell but thinks they will definitely be coming.

    At A$329, the iPod touch is significantly cheaper than the Iliad – or any similar device I’ve been able to locate here.

  46. Angela James
    Nov 25, 2008 @ 09:06:15

    I really do wish I could spend some time with one of the ebook readers and one of the netbooks, just to see what would make the ebook reader worth the money when you can get a computer with all the same capabilities and more. All without being limited to one DRM format too.

    I own an Asus 900 (which is a 2lb computer), a Kindle, a Sony 505, an Ebookwise and an iPhone. I’ve read a book on all of them and hands down, the Asus is the last thing I’d choose as my ereader. One, as far as portability, it’s wonderful when used as a computer, but as a reader, not so much because 1) it’s like reading on a computer (since you are) so taking it out in the doctor’s office, bus, train, plane or wherever else you’re sitting is like pulling a computer out, not a book 2) the battery life is not enough that you’d be able to read for longer than 1 1/2 to 2 hours 3) there’s no curling up with it in bed, any more than you can curl up with any other laptop in bed and 4) you’d need to be someone who carries a larger bag/purse to carry it with you, and even at 2lbs it still adds noticeable weight.

    On the other hand, all of the others have battery life that will see you through even an across-the-world-plane ride with the exception of the iPhone (I’ve tested this), you can comfortably put them in most purses/bags without adding a lot of extra weight, because of the different displays, it’s not like reading on the computer, but because of the smaller sizes/shapes, it’s like reading a book so you can read in whatever position you’re most comfortable in.

    I’m not saying you couldn’t use an Asus or any other mini-notebook as an ereader, and I’ve done it in a pinch, but I guess I am saying it wouldn’t be the optimal experience and it’s not comparable to having and using an actual ereader.

  47. kerry
    Nov 25, 2008 @ 09:57:22

    If you are looking for a Kindle for a gift, I noticed on the Amazon page that they are sold out and won’t arrive for another 11-13 weeks, after Christmas.

    I have an ebookwise, a Kindle, and an iPhone. The easiest and nicest device as far as reading goes is the Kindle. There is no eyestrain and it’s the perfect size. It’s easy to use. If I don’t buy books from the Amazon store, I just buy in .mobi format and email them to my kindle email address. Secure .mobi files are a pain in the butt however. It can be done, but it’s a pain.

    The one thing that majorly bugs me about the Kindle is the lack of a way to organize your library. You can’t create shelves or move books or change titles or anything. That is annoying.

    I loved the ebookwise but it is heavier than the Kindle and not easy to read in some lighting situations. Also buying books for that was somewhat annoying because if they weren’t in the native format, they had to be converted. Which is yet another step. And the only way to transfer is via the cord, which I tend to misplace.

    I love my iPhone for reading when I’m out, say in a waiting room or parking lot, but as for sitting on the couch, reading a book, it’s very small and the screen makes my eyes hurt after too long. My favorite reading app on the iPhone is eReader followed by Stanza and then last, Bookshelf (buggy).

    The main thing with all of these devices is what a royal pain it is to move books between them if they are “locked.” I HATE DRM. If I buy a book, I should be able to read it on whatever device I own. Period. I shouldn’t HAVE to install perl scripts and run them and download the files and blah blah blah. It’s incredibly annoying and I hate it, but I put up with it because I love reading electronically.

  48. Angela James
    Nov 25, 2008 @ 10:11:57

    The one thing that majorly bugs me about the Kindle is the lack of a way to organize your library. You can’t create shelves or move books or change titles or anything. That is annoying.

    Ditto over and over again. It’s a huge pain for me to try and keep submissions, manuscripts and pleasure reading seperate. So far, the only thing I’ve come up with is to rename them all before I send them to my Kindle, but that kind of defeats part of the purpose of being able to immediately forward them as they’re received.

  49. Gail Dayton
    Nov 25, 2008 @ 17:01:12

    I just sent the link to the Sony 505 to the spouse. I’ve been tempted before, but not until now have I finally broken down and decided this is what I want to have.

    Of course, my computer is in the shop right now, and I will probably have to replace it, but… That’s business, right? Hmm. I bet I can count the e-reader as business too…

  50. geri
    Nov 25, 2008 @ 18:50:00

    I’m so glad I found you Jane!
    years ago, I bought a used sony clie, downloaded mobipocket, and have been reading electronically ever since.
    my clie has finally gone kaput. (i loved having over 170 books on my memory stick, so no matter what “reading” mood I was in, I’d have the book for it)
    I also liked the clie, because at work (retail sales, no purse to carry around), I can stick it in my pocket, and have it with me wherever I am.

    so I’m wanting to find something that will use the mobipocket extension PLUS fit in my pocket. none of the electronic readers are small enough (maybe the sony 505? but it doesn’t handle prc /mobipocket files) and/or handle prc extension.

    I admit, that I’m extremely interested in the iTouch, but I don’t want to have to convert files (ack!)
    when you do the review on the iTouch, is it possible that you could also do a review on the blackberry? (hehehe, my phone contract is up, and I’m thinking of the new Blackberry Storm)

    also, to consider, with my memory stick, i could have hundreds of books on it, and it was very easy to delete and add books, with the iTouch, there’s no place for an sdcard/memory stick. :( another con.

    I don’t really care about annotations, or copying something, I’m mainly looking for an electronic device that I can read from, carry in my slacks pocket, and that will handle my mobipocket books.

    (and you now have a confirm lurker hanging around here, waiting for your next review) :D

  51. Jane
    Nov 25, 2008 @ 22:44:41

    @geri: I’ll definitely incorporate thoughts on the new Blackberry but they won’t be personal experience but culled from reviews online. I hope you do stick around! If you want something that you can carry in your slacks pocket v. a purse, then maybe the Palm TX would be a decent choice.

    If you don’t mind carrying the device in your purse, I would probably go with the Cybook Bookeen or the BeBook because of the bigger screen and the longer battery life.

    The Blackberry Storm is a good choice for a mobipocket multifunction device because of the large screen and its cell capabilities.

  52. HM Rose
    Nov 26, 2008 @ 12:57:55

    I have to say that I absolutely adore my Sony 505, which I received for a (quite) early Christmas present from my sibling. I never realized how much time I spent reading and/or on my laptop until then, which is to say a LOT. That being said, I find the conversion process (if needed) astoundingly easy with Calibre, which allows you to personalize more than I expected, and the fact that the 505 can and will read .rtf and .txt files still has me over the moon.

    Personally, I enjoy the fact that the 505 doesn’t have touch-screen, as in my past experience it always burns out or messes up quickly and finger slipping accidents happen from time to time. Also, that it has no built in light was another bonus for me because that just adds another level of worry for me – if the built in light fails, will the entire reader fail? Mix in a healthy dose of my kiss-of-death-to-technology run of luck and the fact that I’d stay up reading all night. Well…

    I’ll admit to initially being worried about using a e-reader since there’s just something about having a book in your hands, being able to turn the pages, etc. but I was quickly and pleasantly surprised that many times I’ve gone to physically turn the page only to realize that I need to push a button so none of the ‘real book’ sensation was lost.

    I’d love to get my hands on a Kindle, out of curiosity, but I doubt I could give up my 505 any time in the near future.

  53. CJ
    Nov 28, 2008 @ 02:55:49

    I have to admit, it’s only been a few months since I converted to the Church of E-book. I was resistent for a long time. So for the last three months (and 106 e-books), I’ve been slowly killing my back by sitting at my computer, because for me, a “stopping point” is generally the end of the book. So an e-reader quickly became a necessity.

    I chose the Sony 505, partly because of the lower price, and partly because I couldn’t get a straight answer on whether the Kindle would read pdf (which all of my exsisting books are). And I love it. I’ve found multiple benefits, and only one irritation.


    No more back pain from sitting at my desk too long
    No need for more bookcases (seriously, I could not fit one more in my house)
    It fits into my catchall much better than a hardcover, and I don’t worry about easily damaging it like a paperback
    No more leaving my racy-covered erotica at home for fear of being accosted by the hysterical moms of the world, all of whom seem to inhabit my doctor’s waiting room (seriously, it’s a book cover. and really, your kids are going to learn more about sex from their friends at school than the cover of a book)
    Hey! 150 books in your hand instead of just one


    The refresh rate is fairly slow. I’m trying to train myself to hit the next page button before I actually finish the page I’m reading. I figure I’ll eventually get a system worked out.

    But all in all, I love my 505. You’ll be prying it from my cold, dead, rigor-mortis-settled hands.

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  56. Amy
    Dec 05, 2008 @ 22:03:22

    by Midknyt November 23rd, 2008 at 8:03 am:

    As for conversion on the Sony for you to get deals elsewhere (I like Books on Board), download ConvertLIT GUI and Calibre. Buy your books in Microsoft Reader format (.lit), which is a really common format to find books in. Open it in ConvertLIT GUI and hit downconvert. Then open the new downconverted in Calibre and hit convert, then put the new book on your reader. Viola, books that you can read with about 15 seconds of effort.

    Thank you for the conversion tips! I have been considering an eReader for months, and my desire to get one increases each time Jane blogs about the subject. I went back and forth on Sony and the Kindle, and I finally ordered a Sony 505 (as DH’s Xmas gift to me) last week. I can’t wait to receive it!

    Question about using conversion software such as ConvertLIT and calibre to convert files so the 505 can read them: I just looked at the ConvertLIT home page and it sounds as if the conversion works by stripping the DRM protection from the .lit files. Is that correct? If so, is this legal? (Same question for those who convert file formats for other readers.) [Off topic here: I ask because DH and I have been discussing whether we could/should try some of the software available on the Internet to convert some movies we own on DVD onto a format his iTouch will read. The DVDs in question has the built-in codes that prohibit copying. I read various forums and I’m still confused about the legality of removing the encryption codes — not sure if I’m using the terminology correctly. DH is convinced such conversions are illegal so he refuses to do it.]

  57. Jane
    Dec 05, 2008 @ 22:13:28

    @Amy: According to the DMCA, it appears that stripping the DRM is not legal. Time shifting has been deemed appropriate by the Supreme Court but it has not considered consumer format shifting. So you’ll have to make the decision yourself whether you feel comfortable with stripping DRM.

  58. Amy
    Dec 05, 2008 @ 23:27:41

    Jane, Thanks for the quick reply. I’m a bit illiterate when it comes to tech language. Is it your understanding that stripping DRM is a necessary part of the conversion process from one format to another? In other words, did I interpret what I read on those conversion sites correctly? This is a bit frustrating. I only planned to convert formats of books I actually purchase(d) from a legit source, including ones I already own (for reading on my laptop). Clearly I should have figured all this out before I purchased the ereader!

  59. Jane
    Dec 05, 2008 @ 23:31:00

    @Amy: Yes, stripping the DRM of a secure book (i.e., one bought from NY publisher) is necessary to convert from one format to another.

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  61. TerryS
    Dec 09, 2008 @ 11:29:36

    When I read today that Sony is layiing off workers, it reminded me of yet another reason I personally did not consider a Sony Reader for my ebooks. Unfortunately, Sony has a long history of abandoning products (BetaMax, Clie, etc) and markets. To my way of thinking when they abandon a product they are also abandoning their loyal customers. I have a Clie. I even have a back up Clie for when my Clie finally dies a natural death. But I will never again purchase any Sony product. It is really too bad because their products are excellent and most of the time superior to like products. But I need to look further than the upfront cost of a product. In that respect Sony is not reliable. I am fervently hoping for the sake of all those customers of the Sony Ebook Reader. that Sony continues to support the product well into the future.

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  64. Rob Preece,
    Dec 23, 2008 @ 23:20:30

    Thanks for the helpful run-down on reading devices. I thought I’d mention that I often read my eBookWise in bright sunlight and I’ve never experienced the fade-out you mention. For the money, I think the eBookWise is a great product. I’d love the convenience of wireless downloads, but the eBookWise gets the job done. As I spend a lot of time on the train, a small device is the perfect solution to reading submissions as well as fun reading.

    Rob Preece

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