Feb 27 2011
Sony has at long last followed Amazon, B&N, Borders and Kobo and released a reading app for the Android platform. Was it worth the wait?
Upon opening the app you are presented with the >>˜Home’ screen. At the top of the screen you’ll see your most recently opened book. Below that is >>˜Books’ which shows the most recent three books in your Sony library along with a >>˜See All’ button which brings you to a book list. The next item shown is >>˜Favorites’. These are books which you’ve marked as favorites while you were reading them. Below that are options to view >>˜Bookmarks’ and >>˜Highlights’. Lastly at the bottom of the screen is a button which simply says >>˜Store’. Tapping menu while on the home screen gives you options for >>˜Store’ and >>˜Settings’. >>˜Settings’ is where you can Deauthorize your device and also has a link to access your Sony account.
The booklist is pretty basic and can be sorted by author, title or last read. It lists the books in your Sony account showing cover, title and author. It also has a progress indicator for books that have been downloaded to the device. Pressing and holding a book will give you a popup menu allowing access to the books info page, which shows an overview/synopsis purchase date and current reading position, and for books downloaded to the device, an option to add/remove from the favorites list. Books not on your device will have a black bar with a downward pointing arrow tapping the book will download it. One fairly big problem is that once you download a book there is no way to delete it provided in the app. I tried deleting my test books using a file manager, but while this removes them from the device the app still thinks they’re downloaded so they can’t be re-downloaded and tapping one just brings up a black screen. I had to remove the app and re-install in order to set things right again which also requires re-downloading any books you had downloaded, whether they had been deleted or not.
When opening a book you’re automatically taken to the beginning of the book or to the last page read for books you’ve already started. Tapping the center of the page will bring up a progress bar and briefly show you the page you’re on along with the total number of pages. To switch your page view from portrait to landscape simply rotate your device, there is no way provided to lock the screen orientation. Pressing and holding on a page brings up an adjustable circle, dragging the edges of the circle will allow you to highlight a word or passage. One thing I dislike is that each page of the book has a header showing the books title. Some folks might like this, I personally find it a distraction and wish there was a way to turn it off. Other than that the reading experience was pleasant enough and I have no real complaints, but more customization would be welcome.
A page can be bookmarked by pressing your devices menu key and tapping >>˜Add Bookmark’. Other options provided by the in book menu include >>˜Books’ which will return you to your list of books, >>˜Search’ lets you search the text of the book but there is no dictionary or web searching available, >>˜Appearance’ allows you to adjust font size and screen brightness, >>˜Jump To’ brings up the books table of contents and also has options to jump to a specific bookmark or highlight and >>˜More’ has options to display the books info page or to add the book to your favorites on the >>˜Home’ screen. Unfortunately there is no way to adjust the page/text colors and there is no night mode available.
The store uses your devices browser and is about what you’d expect. I found browsing and purchasing to be easy and to work well. The biggest problem is that there is no link to return to the app. Therefore you must either use your devices back button until you’re back to the app or use your devices home button and then re-launch the app.
There is no way to sideload any content to this app which is unfortunate. I tried adding books to the folder where Sony stores them and also tried ADE and Sony’s desktop software with my device connected to a PC to no avail.
Owners of the PRS-950, Daily Edition, will find the ability to sync reading position a nice feature.
All in all this isn’t a bad app, but like I’ve come to expect with software from Sony it’s very basic and doesn’t always work great. It may be a welcome addition to folks with large libraries from the Sony eBook store otherwise I’d skip it and save the over 16MB of space it takes up. Another potential problem this app has, probably bigger than its low number of features, is that it requires Android 2.2 or greater. Unfortunately approximately only half of the Android devices on the market use a version this up to date (Sony’s own Android phones run 2.1). Things I had originally read had indicated that when this app finally launched it would be for Android 1.6 and greater, what changed I don’t know.
If Sony was hoping that the release of this app would bring their store more customers it’s probably too little, too late.