back to article Sony widens its e-bookshelf

Sony has launched two more e-ink-based electronic books. The cheapest sports a 5 inch screen and is priced at $200, while an inch-larger touch screen brings the price up to $300. But neither features wireless - at least not yet. Hitting the $200 mark has obviously been a challenge, and has been achieved by cutting the screen …

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  1. frank ly

    Details

    The 'Sonyinsider' linked article refers to the PRS-300 and PRS-600 models. Is this just a model naming difference for use in different markets? (Why do they do that?!)

    I like the idea of an e-book reader, I really do. In fact I have the free Mobipocket Reader software on my Win 7 RC laptop and my Win XP Pro EEE 901 netbook and I use Gutenberg to get lots of out of copyright books; I've yet to investigate Google's offerings. Using Firefox, I can read lots of free online newspapers and 'magazines', in high resolution colour at home for free (zero additional cost over my existing cable broadband). With my Vodaphone USB broadband dongle, I can do all this in the middle of a field somewhere at a fairly low cost. I can also watch full length films and listen to a large library of audio files on the built in storage.

    Why would I want a tiny, 8-level greyscale display device with a piddling 512MB of internal storage?

  2. Peter Barcroft
    Unhappy

    Oh Wonderful more ebook readers for the US

    Well there's a surprise another set of ebook readers being released in the US.

    As an owner of a sony PRS505 I have wanted the PRS700 (which if I remember came out at the back end of last year) in the UK, or maybe a Kindle or any of the others that are US only.

    Ah well I can hope.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    @frank

    Because of the screen. It's much easier on the eye.

    People fall into two camps, people who've tried an ebook reader and know what all the fuss is about, and those who haven't, and don't. You have to try one really, the irony is that reading about them won't help you appreciate the benefits.

  4. djack

    @frank ly

    Why do you want a small greyscale screen for watching movies etc?- you don't but you do want it - or to be more prcise, you want an e-ink screen - for reading.

    I felt the same way until I saw one at Borders, they really are so much easier on the eye to read from. I could tell this within seconds of looking at it - compare reading from an LCD and reading from a page of a normal book. Imagine the difference in eye strain after an hour of reading both - /that/ is why the 'inferior' e-ink displays are in actuality much superior for the job they are trying to do.

    That and the massive battery life these things have in comparison mean that I'll never go back to my tablet PC for reading books again.

  5. K Cartlidge
    WTF?

    What half million ebooks?

    As this is a UK site, it may be worth mentioning that the half million books are only available to US customers - it says so when you try it from the UK.

    And, yes, I know there's ways around the IP geocoding. The fact still remains that the half million books people go on about are not available to users in this site's home country, so why keep giving them free publicity about it?

  6. Alex Walsh

    @ frank ly

    "Why would I want a tiny, 8-level greyscale display device with a piddling 512MB of internal storage?"

    Because reading from an LCD is completely different to reading from an e ink screen. Simple as that really.

  7. goggyturk
    FAIL

    @ frank - why?

    Why? Because it actually looks like paper and mimics the reading of a book pretty closely. Having seen a few of these things I actually was pleasantly surprised at the quality of display (although they were all bigger than the tiny one mentioned in the article).

    Although it's a clever trick, I still think this will be a sideline. The only time I would ever use such a device would be on holiday, in which case I would probably use something more versatile for the same purpose. In fact, I still take books on holiday, because I never read more than 3-4 while I'm away.

  8. DrXym Silver badge

    Why is $200 a challenge?

    Let's look at the things $200 will buy - MP3 players, iPods, PDAs and even some ultra cheap notebooks. What *exactly* about an E Book reader costs so much? These devices don't need much CPU horsepower, or battery, or memory, or cables & peripherals, or touch screens, or speakers. They're pretty dumb devices powering a passive display. Furthermore, most readers, even the Sony is tied to an online store meaning the device is somewhat of a loss leader.

    At least Sony is to be congratulated for offering far better choice than the Kindle. The devices support more formats and its easy to purchase content from different stores. But I can't help but feel that e-books would be far more popular if they were more affordable. It would also be awesome if an industry consortium of manufacturers, publishers and stores formed around a single format and delivery mechanism to prevent the kind of digital lockin that Amazon are aiming to achieve.

  9. Joe K
    FAIL

    "but neither features wireless..."

    GOOOOOOD!

    I don't want fecking wireless, a 2gb card can hold enough to keep you reading all year!

    Amazon can shove their whispernet idea up their arse.

  10. frank ly

    @various [email protected] ly ....and more

    I admit that I've not yet seen an e-ink display and I'm also sure that when I do, I'll be impressed by the quality of the display _for reading monochrome 'storybook' text_. At the moment, the only reason I can see for one is if I do intend to go away somewhere and want to take lots of recreational reading with me. For me, this will probably not arise though I do realise that for many people it is a favorite pastime and that they will love these devices for that reason.

    I have tried to buy e-books from online stores and been locked out of the US sites; then seen the doubled prices on the UK bookstore sites (gouging b******s). I can't imagine that I'd want to pay for a wireless subscription that offers me 'easier' download from a particular online store and offers subscriptions to 'magazines' when there is a ton of stuff on the internet for free. As goggyturk said, it's clever but it's a sideline device. I'll stick with free reading material and my flexible usage netbook for a long time.

  11. Alvar

    Re: Why is $200 a challenge?

    "Furthermore, most readers, even the Sony is tied to an online store"

    What gives you that impression? I can get .lrf ebooks from just about any online book store for my PRS-505, and if I can't find a book in the format I want it's easy enough to get another format (except maybe .mobi) strip any drm and convert it to .lrf or BBeB to load onto my reader.

  12. Andy Baird

    Good, but but good enough

    I'm not sure why Bill Ray is quoting specs for the old PRS-700 model here. Sony's new Readers are the PRS-300 and PRS-600.

    For Peter Barcroft, who has been wanting a PRS-700--you can stop feeling bad. :-) The PRS-700's screen stinks compared to the PRS-505's. In order to implement their front-lighting scheme, Sony added a thick overlay layer that reduces sharpness and contrast. Reviewers have pretty much unanimously condemned the 700's display. I'm sticking with my 505... though I'll admit to doing more and more reading on my iPod touch.

    For those who asked "Why?"--try "ten times the battery life." That's what I'm seeing in side-by-side comparisons between my Sony PRS-505 and my 2G iPod touch. I recharge the iPod every night; I recharge the Sony Reader about every two weeks.

    It's nice that Sony is bring out slightly less expensive models, although in my opinion $99 is the magic price point to aim for. But no wireless connectivity? Come on! This is 2009, when even shoes have Wi-Fi. ;-) I love my PRS-505 Reader, but as long as Sony continues to play feature catch-up with Amazon and Apple, I think their ebook efforts are doomed in the long run.

    If I were Sony, I'd be looking to license the Kindle format from Amazon. Then I'd build slim, elegant, keyboard-less devices--similar to the ones Sony's pushing now, but Kindle-compatible--filling a niche that Amazon evidently isn't interested in: people who *just want an electronic book,* not a combination ebook reader/video game/MP3 player/calculator/phone/movie viewer/etc. I think there's room for products in that niche, but only if they work with Amazon. Sony's do-it-yourself bookstore can't compete.

    Andy Baird

  13. Mark Aggleton
    Thumb Down

    @Alvar

    And your average customer wants to go through the hassle of stripping DRM and format conversion? I think not.... They wouldn't even know what DRM is.

  14. Josh 14

    @ WIFI lacking...

    I might be in the minority in this, but I personally am thankful that the PRS 505 that I have doesn't have any form of wireless, for a couple of reasons.

    For one, there's no way that sony can pull an Amazon, er, would that be an Orwell? No way for them to yank media out from under my finger tips while I'm reading it...

    Battery life. No wireless sucking juice makes for a simpler and smaller device.

    I can also use a non WIFI device at work, whereas we get grouched at otherwise. So the 505 get's carried in a pocket and used whenever there's slow time waiting for something to break, or in transit between jobs.

    As for the complaints about the Google books that are only available for those of us in the USA, try just getting them from Google directly, or even from Project Gutenberg. The Sony readers aren't picky as to the format, for the most part. Unlike the Kindle, you can read TXT, PDF, and RTF without requiring conversion to the LRF format which Sony offers it's own books in.

    That being said, LRF allows a little easier embedding of images in books, as well as indexing them, but with a bookmark set wherever you're currently at in the book, it's not a deal breaker to read the other formats, just harder to search them.

    Finally, if you like Sci-fi, check out Baen.com for their free library and cheap ebooks from the associated authors there. Lots of good works, and even the new books are running at fractions of hardback prices, with older books dropping down into the $2-$5 range, if not to free.

    Also, as Andy Baird mentioned, the PRS700's screen was fuzzy compared with both of the 500 and 505's screens, due to the touch screen overlay. I looked at a co-worker's after initially drooling over the idea of it, but was quite happy to have 'missed out' once I actually saw one.

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