Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Sony Reader with Clip On Light This past week, Sony sent an email letting everyone know that its e ink reader is ready to ship. It’s now backordered, but it was ready to ship. E ink devices work kind of like sophisticated magna doodle boards. (In an unrelated riff, I had a MDB on my dorm room door in college. It worked great as a display piece for wandering artists and semi witty individuals but not so great as a message board). Under the screen there are spheres with negatively charged black plastic on one side and positively charged white plastic on the other. The power (voltage) applied determines which color appears face up giving a pixel a white or black appearance.

The e ink technology cannot work with a backlight. It actually works to reflect light like ordinary paper. The benefits to this type of technology are as follows:

  • No backlight removes the eyestrain caused by backlit technologies.
  • Long battery life. The image can remain static without a constant supply of power extending the device’s battery charge for a long time. Sony claims 7500 page turns on a single charge.

Last week the poll was about backlights and 42 of the 62 voters wanted a backlight. The readers at MobileRead thought our insistence on a backlight was a little misplaced. The need for a backlight or some integrated light source comes from the fact that we often read in lowlight situations. During movies with our kids, in the car (while someone else is driving of course), in bed with our SOs who frequently complain about the light (hence the huge aftermarket business of booklights).

As I posted over at MobileRead, romance readers aren’t technophiles but we are avid readers. When moving to a $350.00 ebook reader, the manufacturer has to better the reading experience. It cannot be an even trade. The backlight/integrated light source is something that is important to readers. It is not enough to say that the resolution is as good as paper. So what? I’ll buy paper then and use my booklight or lamp. Because at least with a paperback I can sell it, trade it, or turn it into a pinata without worry of violating a copyright law. It’s the AVID reader who Sony needs to convince to buy the E Reader, not the technophile.

The negatives of a Sony Reader are as follows:

  • No integrated light source
  • Expensive
  • Not compatible with current ebook formats
  • No internet access
  • Limited content

My advice? If you currently have an ebook reading device, I would wait. There are more and more news reports of other e ink devices. Sony may be one of the first, but it might not be the best. There are rumors of an Apple device. Engadget unearthed FCC filings of an ugly Amazon branded e ink reader, Kindle. (This looks like it was made in someone’s garage). Sony’s device–with its limited content abilities (inability to read htmls and resize PDFs) and its lack of integrated light source–makes it a device with limited appeal.

If you don’t have an ebook reader already and you want to get one now, Sony has the best display for the money. There is a device called the Iliad but it is $820.00. (For that price you could buy a Sony Reader and hire someone from Amazon’s garage to create an eink booklight.) You’ll just need to be prepared to find a good light source; convert all your books to rtf (rich text format); and either continue to buy unsecured html files, mslit files that you convert to html then to rtf, or the Sony BBeB format and hope that Sony never goes out of the ebook business.

I tested out a couple of RTF converters in case I do come in possession of a Sony Reader. In testing out the following, I used Jorrie Spencer’s Haven and Shana Abe’s Dream Thief (which I converted to html first).

  • (Free) and ($24) – These are the same company but different versions. The Spencer book converted well, but not perfect. The Abe had errors regardless of the software used rendering the book unreadable, imo. You can see the results here.
  • This program did converted both perfectly but a) there was no automatic saving of the file you converted and b) it costs $399!!!!).
  • ($24) – I don’t know how well this one works because the free trial (which I downloaded last night) said my license had expired.
  • $39.95 with $9.99 annual maintenance fee. I couldn’t download a trial so I don’t know how well that works.
  • MS Word? It made the nicest conversion of Jorrie Spencer’s Haven but I couldn’t even get the Abe book to open. Of course, using MS Word to convert each book is really time consuming.

There is no real winning program for conversion to RTF. Remember, Sony’s conversion software, unlike Ebookwise Librarian, does NOT convert htmls. Also unlike the Ebookwise Librarian which can take an “opf” file and recreate a book in seconds, the HTML to RTF conversion is laborious. The Abe had 20+ individual html files to convert.

While I love the idea of a bigger and better screen for an ereader, Sony’s crippling DRM and inability to read htmls natively will prevent me from hopping on this train right now. I can easily attach a clipon booklight but it doesn’t seem like it would be easy to convert my existing ebook library of several hundred books to something Sony could read.

Drop a comment and I’ll enter you in a contest to win a new copy of Stephanie Meyer’s New Moon.

next week: conversion solutions for the Ebookwise and how to clean up those pesky htmls.

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. Alan Morgan
    Oct 01, 2006 @ 05:01:46

    I thought the Sony Reader supported PDFs as well? If so, there may also be some tools out there for conversion from HTML to PDF. And I know some ebook vendors offer PDF downloads (just look around on FictionWise).

  2. Rae
    Oct 01, 2006 @ 06:42:41

    [quote comment="4264"]I thought the Sony Reader supported PDFs as well? If so, there may also be some tools out there for conversion from HTML to PDF. And I know some ebook vendors offer PDF downloads (just look around on FictionWise).[/quote]

    Yes, the Sony Reader does support Adobe’s PDF and from what has been shown at Mobilread and other sites, the PRS does a decent job, though technical documents might be a tough read for us presbyopics.

    Jane, I have am an avid reader of romances, that’s how I found your site. Most of my reads are in PDF format which is available from most e-publishers. I have an Iliad and I’m waiting for my Reader this month. My main reason for getting the Sony is size — it needs to fit in my regular purse/handbag. The Iliad is a little big (great for tech reading) and the software is even less ready-for-primetime than Sony’s. I don’t regret buying the iLiad though, as the reading experience of e-ink is superior to other portable devices I’ve tried (REB-1150, various Palm/Treo, HP PocketPC).

  3. Jane
    Oct 01, 2006 @ 08:59:57

    Rae – I’ll definitely be interested in your thoughts. I admit that the better screen technology is exciting but I am just at a loss as to how I would be able to utilize my existing ebook collection with the new reader.

    Morgan – the Reader does view PDF’s natively but if there is not “reflow” of the text, my understanding is that the PDF is unreadable. The only resizing of the PDF on the Sony Reader exists when turn the document from Portrait to Landscape which allows a 2x resizing.

  4. Nicole
    Oct 01, 2006 @ 09:32:34

    As I’ve said before, I love the idea of the e-ink stuff, but pretty much from the first I’ve not planned to buy any of the first generation gadgets that use it. Just beccause I want the bugs worked out before I buy.

    Perhaps we need to ask Lightwedge to make a wedge that would fit these ereaders. No turning pages, so that peeve would not be an issue. Of course, it would be nice if Sony would just stick in a few LED lights that would work similarly. See, I do get eyestrain occasionally from the backlight and could do without the headache that incurs.

    Hmm…I’m married to an engineer, will have to ask him how hard it would be to make something like that. *thinks*

    Not to mention I already have a lot of toys to buy in the coming months. New FF game for the PS2, gotta buy the Wii in Nov. Then Zelda in Dec. and then the PS3 sometime in the first half of next year.

  5. Keishon
    Oct 01, 2006 @ 09:58:11

    I can wait especially after learning that Sony Reader doesn’t read html files. First generation technology isn’t always the best and it’s worth waiting for something better to come along. I was clueless about the e-ink technology so thanks for explaining that part. I’m content with what I got, honestly. The only way I would convert would be for better screen resolution and screen size. Otherwise, I’m happy and not looking to upgrade anytime soon. However, I’ll keep a look-out for what you think is pretty good buy since you know what most of us want in ebook readers.

  6. Rae
    Oct 01, 2006 @ 11:36:59

    Jane – I’ll gladly let you know my thoughts as things progress. I may even add to the cacophony of blogs out there. As an early-adopter, I can honestly say good things do come to those who wait, but being impatient can be wicked fun, too.

  7. Dena
    Oct 01, 2006 @ 12:31:49

    I wish these devices were more affordable. Like all newer technology the price goes down after a bit,so I’ll wait a little longer.Hopefully they will also become easier to use for those,like me that aren’t very techo smart,lol.

  8. Robin
    Oct 01, 2006 @ 12:47:50

    I JUST got a Treo 650 and a 1gb memory card (only $13.50 from a tech seller on Amazon!), so I’m going to use that for a while. As a dedicated Mac user, I hope by the time I’m ready to upgrade, Apple will have released a device, too. While I would love the look of a “real page” on my reader, the Sony device seems expensive and limited to me. My Treo — a phone, ebook reader, MP3 player, plam organizer, etc. — was only $200! And it has a backlight.

  9. Jane
    Oct 01, 2006 @ 13:40:14

    I am surprised at how many people at Mobile Read were so resistant to integrated lights. They keep saying how it is a big drain on the battery and so forth but I am happy to recharge my IPAQ every day, like my cell phone.

    Nicole – a Lightwedge type of thing would be great. I thought it might be neat to have lights at the top and the bottom and then the whole page would be evenly illuminated. Let us know what engineer DH says.

    Keishon – I know you have a VGA device like I do and I don’t get any eyestrain from reading on it. I do think a slightly bigger screen would be marvelous.

    Rae – yes, do join the blogging ranks or I would be happy to post your review here at DA.

    Dena – They are expensive. I think if the Sony Reader was around $200.00 i would have pre ordered it.

    Robin – don’t forget to download and install Gowerpoint’s ubok light for Palm devices. Then you can read html files without conversion!! Yeah.

  10. Robin
    Oct 01, 2006 @ 14:29:23

    Robin – don't forget to download and install Gowerpoint's ubok light for Palm devices. Then you can read html files without conversion!! Yeah.

    Thanks, Jane. I’m still just trying to figure out how to use this thing on the most basic levels, as it’s my first integrated handheld device. But I will definitely install this app.

  11. Nicole
    Oct 01, 2006 @ 20:34:23

    Well, asked him, and apparently the acrylic they use is something special to diffuse the light, so no go. Darn it. :-)

  12. Miki S
    Oct 01, 2006 @ 22:02:29

    Robin – don't forget to download and install Gowerpoint's ubook light for Palm devices. Then you can read html files without conversion!! Yeah.

    Even better, you don’t have to unzip it from it’s ZIP file (well, I know that’s true on the PocketPC version). So you don’t have to use up valuable PDA space to keep a few (dozen) books on hand.

    There is no real winning program for conversion to RTF. Remember, Sony's conversion software, unlike Ebookwise Librarian, does NOT convert htmls.

    Maybe I’m missing something, but when I want to take an HTML file and make RTF (so I can convert it with my free ETI eBook Publisher software), I just select the text in the HTML file, copy, then paste it into Word. Save it as RTF.

    Unless you’re picky about formatting, it’s quick. Me – I have to insert page breaks at every chapter, reformat the text, delete paragraph indents, yadda yadda yadda. So it usually takes me an hour or two to convert a book. But it’s mostly my own fault for being anal retentive!

    To demonstrate, I once saw a sweatshirt that said “Does anal retentive have a hyphen?” I’ve mentioned it to friends and they all laugh. I didn’t get the joke. When I read it, I just thought, “Well, yes, but only if it modifies a noun.”

  13. Jane
    Oct 01, 2006 @ 22:05:07

    I don’t think the ubook “zip” thing works for the Palm OS.

    As for changing htmls to rtfs, yes you can do it that way, but Shana Abe’s book had 22 files to convert from html to rtf in order for that one to be readable on the Sony Reader. That’s way too much effort for me.

  14. Jan
    Oct 02, 2006 @ 08:47:27

    I think the Sony device looks interesting, but IMO it is too expensive for what it can do. I had a Toshiba pda about 5 years ago which I loved, but no longer use because it has a short in the recharging cord. I can’t justify spending another $300+ to read ebooks.

    These days I use ubook software on my laptop when I read ebooks (which isn’t too often anymore). I like to read at night and I always carry a book with me, but now it is a pocket book. Until it becomes less expensive to buy a multifunction device and less of a hassle with all the different ebook formats and copyright issues with giving away or selling the used ebooks I will probably stick with regular books.

  15. marlene
    Oct 19, 2006 @ 15:23:29

    I don’t normally post online but I thought I would this time. I have been reading my ebooks with the Ebookwise 1150 Ereader for a year now. It’s about the size of a paperback book. Even though the text resolution is not the best, I’ve found it extremly easy to read for long periods of time without any eye strain (eventhough it doesn’t employ anything fancy like E ink technology). The backlight is great. I wouldn’t buy an ereader without one. There are many times that I read in low light conditions such as airplanes, in bed, camping trips, ….. Depending on how you set your brightness and contrast settings on the 1150, its battery can last up to 20 hours. For me personally, I get around 16 hours/charge. There’s also a great dictionary look up feature. The best part about it (at least for me) is that it is affordable. It’s around $125 compared to most other ereaders that I’ve seen that cost about the price of a intro level laptop (sometimes more!).

    Between the eBookwise Publisher and the Ebookwise Librarian I can pretty much convert any book I want into the Ebookwise ereader format (.IMP). I will say that it took a little bit of learning on my part to be able to use these two programs properly. But now I that I’ve gone through the learning curve, I can pick out a book, download it to my computer, and copy it to my ereader in just a few minutes very easily.

    So, if you’re looking for an affordable, easy to read ereader, check out the Ebookwise Ereader. Hope this helps.

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