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

REVIEW: Review of the Sony Reader

Let me state my opinion right up front so you don’t have to slog through the pictures or the features if you aren’t interested. This device is for readers who are technologically savvy and want the best screen available for reading. For the others, I would suggest getting Ebookwise or a PDA for now. There will be other e ink devices in the future, maybe even from Sony, that will be a better buy than the Sony Reader.

Click on the “more” for the review.

    1. Size and Form Factor

This is the absolute best thing about the Sony Reader, even more so than the screen. It’s the perfect size, shape and form. It’s a beautiful looking device. One of the things that I dislike about the Ebookwise is the hump on the left side. My neighbor who has the Ebookwise thought that the size and look of the Sony Reader was more compelling than the screen.

    1. Screen
      1. OutdoorsThe brighter or lighter your ambient surroundings, the better the display. The page is not a true white, but rather a very light gray. The more light you get and the better the contrast between the background and the text of the book.

        Outside, the device is simply remarkable. You would not believe it was an electronic device. But let’s be honest, how many of us spend a great deal of time reading outdoors?

      2. Night time reading The less ambient light, such as at night, the harder it is to read. Because there is no built in light, the Reader requires either a lamp or a booklight. I have yet to find a booklight that works. The booklight’s bulbs make a pinpoint reflection that is irritating to the eye. You have to hold the Reader “just so” to avoid that pinpoint reflection. It’s not easy doing that for 300 pages. A regular book doesn’t have this problem because the page absorbs the light instead of reflecting it.If you leave your lamp on to the irritation of your spouse or SO, you must lay toward the light. My 60 watt lamp did not sufficiently light up the page if I was laying on my side away from the lamp or if I was laying on my back. I have not read the Sony Reader at night this entire week for more than 10 minutes.
    2. Controls

The controls are not very intuitive and have a bit of a learning curve. There are two page buttons that allow you to move backward and forward while reading a book. There is a size button that toggles between S, M, and L font sizes.

There is also a joystick that you can use to maneuver between links and the Sony’s Table of Contents. It does not, however, allow you to move forward or backward in the book which I think it should. I am right handed and tend to hold a book with my left hand and turn with my right. I felt the Sony Reader should have had a button or control on the right side which allowed you to turn the page. Alas, the only page controls are on the left.

By holding down the page forward or backward buttons, you can go forward or backward 10 pages. Sony also has 10 buttons on the bottom of the screen which you can use to navigate the Table of Contents or to advance 10% of the book. There is also a small “mark” button that allows you to insert a bookmark.

    1. Battery life

I have not had to charge the Sony Reader this entire week. Of course, I have yet to read more than one book on the device but I have had it on to play with it, load books, look at Manga for Ned, etc. I would say the battery life is pretty impressive. For comparison, I have to charge my IPAQ at least once a day.

    1. Formats

Sony Reader does NOT read htmls. At all. You must first convert the htmls into RTFs or PDFs in order for the books to be readable. No conversion software that I have downloaded makes for a decent readable book for the Sony Reader. The best way I have found to convert htmls is to open the book in a browser program like Internet Explorer, Select All the text, and then paste into MS Word and then Save. In order for the title and author to appear, you then have to change the document properties. This is why I said in the prefatory paragraph that you need to be somewhat tech savvy to be able to use the Sony Reader.

Additionally, none of the PDF files that I have downloaded from Ellora’s Cave or Samhain were readable. Even at the largest font, the text was too tiny to read. Other than copying and pasting the text from an html into Word and saving as an RTF, I am not sure how you would read the books offered by online, epublishers. To me this makes little sense.

I don’t know why Sony wouldn’t go to Ellora’s Cave or Samhain or Loose ID or whomever and say “hey, we’ve got this e reading device. What do you guys think.” But what do I know.

    1. Storage

It comes with 64 MB of built in memory. Each Sony Connect book runs just under 1 MB so you can probably fit about 70 books on the device itself. The Reader accepts Sony branded memory sticks and SD cards. The challenge with the SD card is that Sony does not allow a file, subfile, subfile structure. Thus, if you have 1000 ebooks on your device, it will display all 1000 consecutively rather than by author or genre as you may have them organized on your SD Card.

    1. Content

The only easy way to get books onto the Sony Reader is to purchase books from the Sony connect store. This is a separate piece of software that comes on a CD with your Sony Reader box. I heard that a download link existed but could not find it. Sony makes buying books a little easier by giving away $50 worth of books to any person who registers and authenticates a Reader before the end of the year.

You can also view pictures (in 4 color grayscale) and listen to mp3s.

Of course, this would be great if Sony actually had content that you wanted to read. There are so few romance books in its store that I haven’t been able to spend my $50.00! Romance New releases included 2004 title Dirty Little Lies by Connie Lane and 2004 Kiss of Fate by Mary Jo Puntey.

In the New Added section of the Contemporary Romance I found Nicholas Sparks, Janet Dailey, Eileen Godge and Lisa Kleypas. Suzanne Brockmann’s Gone Too Far was listed in the Recent Releases but not Into the Storm. Morrigan’s Cross was available but not Dance of the Gods. Erin McCarthy’s cute book, “You Don’t Know Jack” was no where to be found.

I am guessing that Sony has no idea what is a romance, what is a contemporary romance and when the individual book was published.

Plus, the store is slow. It takes several seconds for a search to be performed and then for the results to be displayed. The prices are high but acceptable. I already pay that for books at Powells.com and Fictionwise.com. Of course the books that I buy are MS Lit books which can be read on a variety of devices and are not dependent upon the Sony Reader’s success.

What do I mean by that? I mean, that if Sony Reader goes the way of the mini disc, people may be very sorry that they spent $$ on books they may never be able to read again.

    1. CONCLUSION

This is a step in the right direction. The display is beautiful under the right lighting conditions but it is too expensive for a device that only does one thing – allow you to read books. If Sony lowered its price to around $200 and had a better way of handling htmls/pdfs, I think I could recommend it without hestitation.

At $350.00, with its faulty software, difficult controls, lack of an integrated light source, inability to read epublished books and other html books, it’s a buy only for those who are really are curious about it and who are willing to fiddle, fiddle, fiddle to get content on the reader.

Oh, and you have to be prepared to handle the constant mocking from your DH who calls it the $350 paperweight.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She 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

9 Comments

  1. Rae
    Oct 15, 2006 @ 05:53:16

    Jane,
    All in all, you’ve done an excellent review of the Sony Reader. Thank you. I have to agree with you after fiddling with mine for a little over a week. What follows are my own opinions: I too was very disappointed with the eConnect store and software. I did not find the titles all that inspiring and the prices (now lower in some instances) were still a little expensive for e-books. I ran into the same issue with the lack of subfolders. What a mess! The joystick was painful to use against the pad of my finger after a while and I avoid it as much as possible. The lack of backlight is not an issue for me (no current SO and I don’t mind using clip-on reading lights). But I guess the main annoyance has been the difficulty of converting my old rather large collection of e-books for use on the Reader. I will not rant here about the evils of the tower of e-Babel, proprietary formats, and dread DRM. Suffice it to say, I will not be using my own money on any titles from Sony soon. Why buy books that can be read on only one device when I have a tablet, Iliad, and Palm? None of my PDFs was readable, even my well-formatted AQP books. I have cropped and enlarged them without satisfactory results. Besides, who’s got time for all that reformatting? Ack! The only book I managed to make workable was a RTF of a New Concepts Publishing book (ironic, seeing all the furor about them lately), because the Reader will read RTFs natively. The things I have loved about the Reader: It fits in my purse (for discreet reading), the standard cover is a sleek microfiber banded by leather and magnetized, the Size button is innovative. In short, the Sony Reader is not yet full-featured enough or easy to use to cause most readers to even consider abandoning the paperback. It needs a pen for input, dictionary, search, calendar, address book, BUT most importantly better conversion software so a gal can read what she wants to on it.

    ReplyReply

  2. Jayne
    Oct 15, 2006 @ 06:00:36

    Other than copying and pasting the text from an html into Word and saving as an RTF, I am not sure how you would read the books offered by online, epublishers. To me this makes little sense.

    At $350.00, with its faulty software, difficult controls, lack of an integrated light source, inability to read epublished books and other html books, it's a buy only for those who are really are curious about it and who are willing to fiddle, fiddle, fiddle to get content on the reader.

    Well, shit. What d**n use is it then? I already have to (usually) go through at least one conversion for any ebooks that I buy and this makes it sound as if I’d need to do 2 more. If I only had 20 books to worry about, that’d be one thing but with the number I have….no way.

    And it doesn’t sound like Sony has enough titles of it’s own format to interest me, romancewise. And that’s what percent of the total book market now?

    Jane, how is their ebook title list as far as general fiction and non-fiction?
    And does anyone know if they plan to offer more and by when?

    ReplyReply

  3. Tilly Greene
    Oct 15, 2006 @ 06:42:13

    I was really inerested in this, the problems are a big drawback…but when you said you have to suffer through your DH calling it a $350 paperweight, I knew that would be my cutie and am back to thinking about it.

    Thank you for the review, I just wish they’d get it right!

    ReplyReply

  4. Angiew
    Oct 15, 2006 @ 09:10:56

    Truthfully, other than the display, I don’t think this device sounds to have anything on the Ebookwise (which I am admittadly a rabid fan of, lol). Unlike you, I love the hump on the side. It makes holding the Ebookwise in one hand, whether in bed, on the couch or elsewhere, very comfortable. I don’t get the hand cramps I got with my IPAQ from having to fold my hand in half.

    I’ve been using my Ebookwise every day this week. I’ve read numerous submissions on it and read several books. I’d say I’ve used it at least 2 hours a night for at least 5 nights. I have not had it plugged in to recharge since before I left for the NJRW conference last Thursday. So it’s been about 10 days and I still have over 2 hours of battery time left (according to the meter) but in reality it seems to stretch longer than the promised 10 hours even.

    Oh, and did I mention I’ve been using it in bed, without any lights on every night. My husband loves it ;)

    Not to mention the wealth of ebooks available in the variety of formats I can use on the Ebookwise. Oh, and the highly competitive price, lolol.

    ReplyReply

  5. May
    Oct 15, 2006 @ 09:23:56

    Speaking as somebody who had one of those MiniDisc players, I’m really really glad I didn’t buy one.

    ReplyReply

  6. Nicole
    Oct 15, 2006 @ 09:34:00

    Hey, thanks for trying this out for all of us. It does let me know that I was right to wait for the next gen thing. I’m thrilled with the Sony Reader just because it means e-ink is out there, but since Sony is all about proprietary stuff, I’m not really into anything like this from them since I know it won’t handle multiple formats well. Which is a shame.

    Maybe Apple needs to build one. They did great on the iPod. Andif you don’t like iTunes, well, you can still use mp3s with ease.

    ReplyReply

  7. Kim
    Oct 15, 2006 @ 10:48:44

    Thanks for the review. I think I would pass on this based on everything you said. I have a ton of ebooks that I wouldn’t be able to read on it and I’d miss having the light since I read often in the car at night.

    ReplyReply

  8. jmc
    Nov 03, 2006 @ 12:16:54

    I just read a comment posted over at AAR that Borders was carrying the Sony eReader in a bricks and mortar store, which I find interesting for a variety of reasons. My first thought — wow, does Borders have a relationship with Sony, to select that particular e-reader as an item to stock? Second — whoa, a bricks and mortar bookstore encouraging ebooks? Seems not really congruent to the goals of the bricks and mortar store. Yes, reading more books is good, but those ebooks sales aren’t going to generate revenue for the b/m store. Yes, Borders online has a relationship with Amazon, but readers can’t buy ebooks in a b/m. Hmmm. Maybe I’m thinking about this too hard.

    ReplyReply

  9. John
    Feb 08, 2009 @ 03:27:33

    As stated, there is software to install on your computer to get a book from Sony’s store onto the reader. There is no Mac version of this software, do not buy this if you have a Mac. Glaring omission in a review dear.

    Oh, that’s interesting. I see below “Subscribe without commenting”. does that possibly mean by submitting this comment I will have “subscribed” without knowing it? Better not or I’ll leaving another comment you will not like.

    ReplyReply

Leave a Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

%d bloggers like this: