1. Jessica

    While I understand that Apple represents a proportionately small percentage of the PC market, I have the sense (totally anecdotal) that a number of Romance readers online use Macs, and I frankly wonder whether the percentage of Mac users in this community isn't significantly higher than in the population at large.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “this population”, but if you mean “the online romance community”, rather than just “romance readers”, I share that sense. There’s a lot of contention over characterizing Mac users, but one constant claim I have seen over the years is that they prefer mobility in their technology (more Mac users have laptops, for example), making the ereader a good fit.

  2. Heather Loy

    As a Mac user, I too hated having to move to a PC to use the Sony Reader. I greatly appreciated the post awhile back about Calibre – not just as a way to transfer ebooks to my Sony, but to organize those ebooks. Before Calibre, I had to sinc my cellphone with the Mac, saving ebook files to the storage card, and then using the storage card in my Reader. Or, borrow a relative’s PC. I also dislike the cover for the reader – it’s too awkward and uncomfortable to hold while reading. I take it off the reader and only use it when I’m transporting the reader (ie: in my purse or suitcase). I’m just afraid that the flimsy plastic prongs that hold it in will break one of these days. My biggest complaint, however, is that you cannot use the Sony eBook Store to download ebooks onto your Mac – that you have to download the software onto your PC instead of using an online store like all the other useful ebook sites. I would purchase more directly from Sony if they’d fix this “little” problem.

    Having said all that, you’d think I didn’t like my Reader, but that’s not true. I love it – e-ink, portability, storage capacity, etc. I loved packing for my vacation the first time I got the reader – instead of loading down a suitcase with books, I simply had to pack the small Reader. I’ve got more ebooks on the reader than I’ve got on my bookshelf right now! LOVE IT.

  3. Dana

    Thank you so much for this post. I also have a Mac laptop as my primary computer and I’ve been stuck with using the iPod Touch as my portable ereader, and while the iPod Touch has some nice features, I would prefer a dedicated ereader. This post helped answer a lot of my questions.

    Just how much of a hassle is it to convert files?

    And I am still struggling with this, not only in learning how to optimize my understanding of Calibre to work with the Sony, but also in strategizing a way to get Windows on my computer so I can authenticate my reader at the Sony site, use the Sony store, and set up Adobe Digital Editions on my reader so that I can access the books I read on my Mac in that format.

    This is probably a stupid question, but can you still read pdf files without Adobe Digital Editions on the reader?

  4. Janet

    Jessica: yes, by “this community,” I mean “Romance readers online.” I have no idea whether my perception is a reflection of the fact that I take more notice when someone says they use a Mac, or whether there is a higher proportion of Mac users in the online Romance community than in the population at large. And I wonder, too, how that proportionality translates into other online genre communities. In any case, I think all of these companies who produce ereading devices that are hostile to the Mac are missing a potentially profitable boat.

    Heather: I didn’t even know you could take the cover off! Or rather I didn’t think to investigate it very far because I don’t want my pretty red reader to get all bunged up by being out without its cover on (because I would not be diligent about putting it back on after use, lol).

    And I know exactly what you mean about seeming to be negative about the reader. I have my complaints about the Mac issues, but still, I am really enthralled with some of the more substantial strengths of the Sony and find myself using it as my preferred reader more and more. If only so many of my books weren’t in eReader format!

  5. TerryS

    Yesterday I heard that Apple is working on a dedicated ebook reader that is expected to blow the competition out of the water. That’s all, no further details at all. Does anyone know any more about it?

  6. Janet

    Dana: Yes, you can read plain old pdf files on the Sony. Hopefully Jane will see this thread and comment further on the conversion issues, but I don’t find it difficult to convert files with Calilbre. You just import them into your Calibre library, highlight the file you want to convert (non-DRM’d, of course), and click on the “convert file” icon. I keep my default target program as epub per Jane’s suggestion.

    It’s also easy to send files to the Sony from Calibre. Just plug in the reader to the computer and open Calibre, and then Calibre will recognize the reader and allow you to send files to it by highlighting a file and then clicking on the “send to device” icon.

    You can dowload Calibre for Mac here, although you have to be running at least OSX Tiger. One thing that happens a lot is that there are updates that are announced, because the software is still in development. So I find myself downloading a new version pretty frequently (as far as I can tell, the download proceeds like you’re installing a new program, so I always toss the old application file and alias icon in the trash after I download the new one and create a new alias icon for the navigation bar). But seriously, I hope the guy who invented Calibre makes an absolute mint on it, because OMG does he deserve it, IMO!

  7. Janet

    TerryS: That rumor has been circulating for quite a while now, and while I hope it’s true, I also think that Apple is pretty selective about how many new devices it has circulating in the market at one time. Perhaps now that Steve Jobs is no longer actively running the company, things will change a bit in terms of how much new development occurs, but I’m not holding my breath for the Apple ereader . . . yet, lol.

  8. Dana

    Thanks for the answer Janet! I didn’t realize that Calibre made it that easy. I’m so tempted to get one now. Hmmm, maybe an early birthday present for myself.

    And the link didn’t work, but I think you meant this website:

    Thanks again.

  9. Janet

    Sorry about the link, Dana; I think I fixed it now. And you can certainly use Calibre even if you don’t have a dedicated ereading device other than your computer, as it’s a kick ass organization tool, as well.

  10. SonomaLass

    DRM and being a Mac user are the two biggest things that have kept me from fully taking an e-book plunge. I did look at the Sony reader, but the sales “help” at the store where I asked about it were totally baffled by my questions about its Mac compatibility.

    Like most Mac users, I am used to being frustrated over marginalization (although I don’t mind being neglected by the hackers!). My limited experience suggests that it isn’t really that difficult to make software that works with both OSes, and Apple certainly managed with the iPod to make a device that both Mac and Windows users find easy and friendly. So I’m with you, Janet — I don’t get why someone hasn’t picked up on this market.

    I wish that Apple would do for e-readers what they did for MP3 players. Maybe someone other than Jobs making the decisions will help with that — someone who doesn’t believe that “the fact is that people don't read anymore.”

    Thanks SO much for this post, Janet! I feel less marginalized just by having your perspective. And if I ever have enough ebooks on my laptop that I need to bother organizing them, I will check out Calibre for sure.

  11. Sunita


    So I find myself downloading a new version pretty frequently (as far as I can tell, the download proceeds like you're installing a new program, so I always toss the old application file and alias icon in the trash after I download the new one and create a new alias icon for the navigation bar). But seriously, I hope the guy who invented Calibre makes an absolute mint on it, because OMG does he deserve it, IMO!

    I too find myself updating Calibre a couple of times a week. You can look at the changelog (it’s linked in update info screen) so that you can see if what’s new is something you want or need. When I download the new version, I just drag that version to my applications folder, and it automatically (after asking me to confirm) replaces the old version. And the shortcut I keep in the dock goes to the new version. So it’s really easy.

    The issue I find really frustrating about Sony and its non-Mac capability is that while you can run Windows through Parallels, and it seems relatively reliable, you have to buy TWO programs (Parallels and Windows) in order to access the bookstore. It’s fine if you have to have Windows access for something else, as I did, but otherwise you’re buying two expensive software programs just to access a website that’s trying to sell you something. It’s ridiculous.

    I do buy books from the Sony store, but otherwise I do all my file management through Calibre.

  12. Janet

    SonomaLass: For me, the eink technology makes it — mostly — all worth it.

    Sunita: Hmm, I haven’t had the same experience of having the program update rather than reinstall, and I wonder if it’s a system preference set on my machine. I’m running an older iBook G4 with 10.4.11, and maybe I should try it on my desktop, which is a newer G5 (but still running Tiger and not Leopard).

    As for the Windows/Parallels issue, that is partially solved with the new laptops with the Intel chip, on which you can run Windows via Bootcamp. That, I think, is going to be my eventual solution to the problem. But ITA that it’s still ridiculous to require two separate operating systems to run an ereader, lol. And seriously, I wish someone would explain to me why Macs are so systematically marginalized this way.

  13. Brenna

    I’m with you on your frustrations of being a Mac user and the compatibility issues. I had to buy an ASUS eeePc just to get my firmware upgraded. But that’s one of the only two things that I ever used my PC (Windows is so clunky to use and has no appeal for me at all), the other of which is to have my reader initialized for the Adobe Digital Edition, which you get to do only once. After that, by using Calibre for unsecured formats and ADE for secured formats, I’m pretty much satisfied. I do wish, however, that Apple could come out with an ereader and help change the course of ereading.

    Re the cover, while they do feel clunky and superfluous most of the time, I am very thankful that my reader has it. I dropped my reader two months ago at a sidewalk and the covers saved it from damage. The fact that these covers were designed with magnets (great thinking from Sony) helped keep the covers closed all throughout it’s untimely descent to the sidewalk, thus protecting the screen. Only the clasp was realigned a bit but it still holds my reader in place up to now without sliding out.

  14. Jayne

    I also dislike the cover for the reader – it's too awkward and uncomfortable to hold while reading. I take it off the reader and only use it when I'm transporting the reader (ie: in my purse or suitcase). I'm just afraid that the flimsy plastic prongs that hold it in will break one of these days.

    I haven’t tried taking the cover off just because it was such a pain to do with the older PRS 500. But after someone posted to my review of the Sony that if you bang it up too badly, it turns into a brick, I’m sure not gonna take it off at all. I just fold it back behind the reader while I’m reading and it does fine.

  15. Tae

    OMG I love Calibre. I’ve been cataloging my books on it recently.
    I inherited my husband’s powerbook. It’s about 4 years old, but my IBM laptop had gotten so slow, it was absolutely ridiculous and I gave it up. He has a new Macbook and also runs parallels which can switch over to a Windows operating system. He usually prefers to run linux on his computers. The parallels program was about $75, but it allows me to use the Sony bookstore if I want, and if I want to load my library ebook in pdf format, I need to have a Windows computer – I can also do that from his computer. My computer is too old to run parallels on, but I plan on getting a new computer when I get back to America this summer (Korean won compared to USD makes the Macs about $700 more to buy in Korea) so that I don’t have to keep using the hubby’s computer.

    Calibre has saved my Sony as well. It’s also wonderful as a cataloging system because it lets you write comments, your own tags and I love how I can mark that a book is in a series – which also then bundles them up into categories on the machine itself. I never remember the order of a series, so I love that my reader will list them in order if I choose to look for books only in series.

  16. SonomaLass

    maybe I should try it on my desktop, which is a newer G5 (but still running Tiger and not Leopard

    Janet, I upgraded to Leopard and had to go back down — hated how slow it ran on my G4 Powerbook. I’m resigned to staying with Tiger for now, since I’m not interested in the newer Intel-processor Macs (I need to use too many older applications that require the Classic environment).

    I’ve been told by people in the industry that Mac has “too small a market share” to be worth designing for, but I don’t buy that. As Steve Jobs once said, “Apple’s market share is bigger than BMW’s or Mercedes’s or Porsche’s in the automotive market. What’s wrong with being BMW or Mercedes?”

  17. Janet

    Brenna: I hope the PTB at Sony and other manufacturers of ereaders see comments like yours so they can appreciate the dedication and flexibility of this ereading market, especially among those who have to take extra steps to be able to use the devices smoothly. It seems so rarely that there is an audience ready to spend some serious money on a device that fits our technological needs easily, but here we are!

    Jayne: I fold my cover back, too, and I’ve gotten used to it, but I still wish it were more functional if it’s going to be there at all, and certainly more attractive, lol. I know I can get another cover, either upgrading the Sony one to a different Sony cover, or purchasing from someone like Anne Douglas, who makes covers, but I’m not yet ready to add yet more bulk to my reader by adding another cover.

    Tae: One thing you might also want to check out is the number of refurbished machines Apple sells through their own store, which include the standard Apple warranty but are often significantly more loaded than the so-called new ones, for a substantially reduced price. While not cheap, by any means, you can get a really good deal for an upgraded machine by seeking out the refurbs.

    SonomaLass: My laptop is realllllllly degenerating, being four years old going on five, having a fan that sounds like a car motor, stalling constantly when the CPU has too much activity, and having some keyboard problems to boot. So I really need another machine, which will be an Intel/Leopard MacBook, simply because that’s what’s out there right now, and I need the speed!

    Great quote from Steve Jobs, btw.

  18. BlueRose

    First, as others have mentioned, it's inconvenient to charge the device with the USB cord and not be able to use it at the same time. And I don't understand enough about the technology to know why this has to be. Yes I could buy the wall adapter, but I haven't yet been willing to spend the money.

    This is because of the limited amount of power a USB port can handle – you need x amount of power to turn the unit on and use it (if its low and it needs juice) and you need y amt of power to charge the battery and x + y probably adds up to more power than you can pull through a USB port, which is why the separate wall adaptor is necessary.

    The other benefit of the wall adaptor is it will probably charge faster, and you dont need to leave your PC on while its charging.

  19. Janet

    Thanks for the explanation, BlueRose! I guess my follow-up complaint would be that for about $300 bucks Sony could include a wall adapter, lol.

  20. SonomaLass

    @Janet: My laptop’s logic board died in December. I was so distraught at the old applications I would lose if I moved to an Intel processor that instead of buying a new one, I bought a more lightly used G4 laptop and put my hard drive into it. It’s been great so far; the cost was less than having the logic board fixed, and all the other little problems (sticky keys, latch that won’t, etc.) are gone. It’s not as fast as a new one would be, so some web sites load slowly and it occasionally gets hung up if I ask too much of it, but I still have my classic apps. One of the many appeals of Mac computers to me over the years has been the complete backwards compatibility. I’m not ready to give that up yet — when I am, it will still be a Mac. So I appreciate the ongoing info on Macs and e-books/e-readers/e-reading software.

    I also agree that a wall adapter should be standard equipment — another Mac-based bitch, because in general Macs have less USB power than PCs for some reason. I have purchased and had to return several USB devices because my laptop can’t power them — one suggested that I plug it into two USB ports at once to get enough power! If there’s enough power there to charge my iPod, that should be enough for anything else; if it isn’t, then I expect external power to be an option provided for.

  21. BlueRose

    Good point Janet – however with desirable gadgets like this (mp3 players and cellphones are classic examples) they usually don’t make a lot of margin in selling the hardware.

    The margin is made up by gouging customers for either necessary or extremely useful accessories. Digital cameras are another annoying thing that often get supplied with rechargeable batteries but the power unit is an optional accessory.

    Im surprised remote control units come included with things like TV’s – imagine the markup they could have made on those!

    I worked in computer retail for 5 years. You learn all sorts of interesting things :)

  22. Rhyss

    I am having a problem with the Sony cover but only because I really need it and those flimsy plastic hinges keep breaking. Due to arthritis, I can’t really hold a book in my hands for any length of time and the Sony cover allows the book to stand upright by itself which makes it easier for me to read and has been a real pain reliever.

    I can’t understand why Sony has designed such a beautiful machine but uses such a primitive technology for it’s cover and charges you $40 for a new one because there is no way to repair those fragile plastic hinges.

    Does anyone know of an alternative cover that can be used for the ereader that doesn’t cost so much?

  23. AnneD

    Rhyss – over at under the PRS505 categories a little bit down the forum pages, there is a heading for accessories. I think it was there that I saw a really neat cover that would be perfect for you. It closed from the top down (versus from the side) and you could flick the top back and it made itself into a stand, so it could stand independently. It looked like it it might be right up your ally. I’ll go try find the link.

  24. AnneD

    I found the one I was thinking of, but it’s from the UK

  25. XandraG

    You think Mac Users are marginalized, try being a Linux g33k. :P We have to figure out workarounds for *everything.* On the upside, though, Calibre lives in our neighborhood, and we’ve got an amazing community that can figure out just about anything that comes up. And they do it for the luuurrrve, because it’s open-source free as in speech and beer.

    On the downside, Adobe turns its nose up to us–I can’t read adobe DRM’d stuff at all. But it’s all good, because I’ll never buy anything with Adobe DRM anyway.

    I hope people aren’t waiting for Apple to swoop in and save the day with ereaders. They probably could do it, but with the trouble I’ve had with iTunes, and the inability to use my device as I see fit without some gymnastics (that are easy enough, and so common that even the developers are acknowledging it) irks me. And it prevents the price from coming down with Apple’s tendency to stick with proprietary hardware. Of course it’ll work on all apple stuff, but you’ll never be able to find one for cheap. It’s a trade-off, and with the times I hear people wanting cheap ereaders, Apple might not be the right tree to be barking up. (That sentence right there shows I is a riter).

  26. Frannie

    I love my Sony Reader which I’ve only had for a couple of months, and use a PC to get my ebooks, but am about to move to a MacBook. Until I read these posts I wasn’t even aware that this was going to be a problem and now I’m having a little panic attack. Is there a Sony/Mac/Calibre for Dummies site anywhere because I’m really not that technologically savvy and get lost just reading the posts.

  27. liz m

    I miss FireWire.

    This was very useful to me. Thanks for the review from a mac centric point of view. the other thing that baffles me is that we apple users have already shown that if you offer us a product that works, we will pay a premium for it. The ipod, the imac, the iphone, none of these are cheap. So if I was offered an e-reader that worked effortlessly with the mac and was as pretty as that there Sony red – it’s an instant purchase for me.

  28. Sunita

    The forums at Mobileread are terrific for answering problems and suggesting work-arounds when your system isn’t compatible. I’ve seen threads where posters are walked through the processes they need, and the regulars are quite friendly to newbies.

    Every new MacBook has an Intel chip, which means it can run BootCamp or Parallels, two software programs which enable you to run Windows on your Mac. The ways in which the two programs do this are different, I believe. I have Parallels and am very happy with it but both programs are good. It’s really not that difficult, and you can learn as you go. When I first installed Calibre I used very few of its tools, but over the past few weeks I’ve gotten more familiar with how it works and am finding new goodies all the time. The nice thing about Calibre is that you can use it for very simple tasks or for relatively complicated ones.

  29. BlueRose

    @ SonomaLass – getting some extra memory for your laptop should solve some of the speed issue (depending on your net connex that might affect page download speed as well)

  30. Susan Kelley

    I am so lost on some of the explanations given here. I feel so ignorant. I think many more people would own Mac if the price was comparable to PC. As soon as I’m finished sending my children to college I will go back to a MAC. I’ve visit this blog a lot to learn about the ereaders and mostly I haven’t invested the money because I can’t decide. Thanks to everyone who shares insights into the pros and cons of all these devices.

  31. Hilcia

    I actually opted for the Kindle. I’m locked into my Mac and now the Kindle. Love my Mac, love the Kindle — did not, not, not want to mess with the whole Sony bit, no matter how cute it looks, I don’t have the time to mess with the whole thing.
    The frustration of not being able to find enough e-books available for my Mac is indescribable, and just won’t buy the DRM-Adobe books… Meh!

    The hope that Apple would come up with an eReader went down the drain with the iPhone… I most certainly don’t want to read my books on a phone… they can certainly do better than that.

  32. Gail Dayton

    Depends on what books you want to read as to how much you need to mess with it. I’m pretty straightforward in what I want so far. I want to read my “standard” books, and I’d pay retail for them at the store anyway… I’m a little annoyed that some books cost MORE than a paperback at the Sony store–and the book is a paperback original! I’ll probably buy paper for those–though I went with the Reader for storage reasons more than anything.

    I’m still not sure how to do the conversion thing through Calibre, and just recently figured out where the Sony store stored my books on the hard drive so I could put them IN Calibre. But I’m reading like Crazy. I haven’t really needed to mess with it much. (Though I really want the newest Liz Carlyle, and there was one other I wanted, which I can’t remember now.)

  33. Sunita

    @Gail Dayton: Calibre’s conversion program is very simple. You probably know that it only works for non-DRM books, and there are file formats it converts more and less well. I have the most trouble with PDFs and txt files, and I find that .lit and .rtf files convert quite well.

    You need to set the conversion format to either ePub or lrf. I prefer ePub and leave that as the default, but lrf is useful because if the ePub version has problems, the lrf will often work. You set that at “choose output”, which is in the upper right quadrant. You can switch the default setting as often as you need to.

    The book file has to be imported into Calibre first, which you do through the “add books” command at the top left (you’ve obviously done this for your Sony books). To begin the conversion process, highlight the book or books you want to convert and then click on the “convert ebooks” icon. You’ll get a popup screen for each book, where you can edit the information, change the font size, etc. If you want to use the default, just press OK and it will work. You can then view the conversion through the “view” command (next to the convert ebook icon) if you want to see what it looks like before you transfer it to the Reader.

    I hope that helps, and apologies if I’m telling you stuff you already know!

  34. Robin/Janet

    SonomaLass: Where did you find a used Mac you could trust?

    BlueRose: Why is the hardware so expensive, do you know?

    Rhyss: If you find one you like, please let us know. I love the one Anne D. posted, but I wish it weren’t from the UK.

    XandraG: you’re right, of course, about Apple’s reliance on proprietary hardware, and maybe PC-based manufacturers don’t mind punishing Mac for that via its users. And I also wish Linux were more mainstreamed, because it’s sooo attractive as an OS, IMO.

    Frannie: I get confused, too, lol, but one of the main reasons I love my Mac is because IMO it’s so much easier to use than a PC. So if you are used to a PC, after a short adjustment to the Mac, you’ll probably be more proficient than a lot of us Mac users!

    liz m: I don’t miss Firewire anymore because I just use a USB data stick, and I can transfer data back and forth between my machines so much more easily than trying to sync everything with that freakin’ Firewire! Amazon and newegg have great deals on 8 gig and higher data sticks. I got a Kensington 8 gig that has a retractable USB connector, making it easily transportable and really safe.

    Sunita: the main difference between Bootcamp and Parallels is that Bootcamp literally boots your computer into Windows, whereas Parallels allows you to run both at the same time. I don’t know which one is superior — if there is one better — but I will probably go the Bootcamp route, because my sense is that it will be more stable.

    Susan Kelley: I’ve had to figure a lot of stuff out by trying because instructions tend to confuse me (like rules, lol). But I’m hoping SonomaLass will have a good suggestion for cheaper used, trustworthy Macs.

    Hilcia: The Amazon ease is attractive with the Kindle, but I already feel too locked into my devices, so I didn’t want to go in that direction with my ereader. But people seem to like the Kindle, that’s for sure.

    Gail Dayton: When I actually am able to use the Sony store, I’ll be anxious to compare prices and ease of download and reading, because so far I’ve not been able to purchase from them (and isn’t that a weird thing to say when I have the device?!).

  35. BlueRose


    Im assuming you mean the ebooks themselves. I think the answer to that is a mix of economy of scale, and desirability.

    Economy of scale, in that being the first to make something in small quanitities means its initially expensive – remember the price of the very first cell phones and ipods and compare to now?

    And desirability – if its a hot item (like an ipod or phone) they know that people will pay a premium for such an item. Look at what Plastic Logic are doing now in building up anticipation for their ereader not due to be available til next year.

    For me to get a Sony ebook here in NZ (and thats assuming I can – havent checked) it would cost me around $600 with the current exchange rate.

  36. ghd

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