Friday 7 November 2008

Sony PRS-505: roadtest/review

Well, since my preliminary review (incl free book links for Mac users) I’ve now done a couple of months’ electronic reading, thanks to the Sony PRS-505. In the time I’ve had it, it’s come out in the UK, with a tie in to Waterstones. There are now 161 books on my device, largely freebies, including complete Milton for my Anniversary homework, but including bought offerings from various publishers both sides of the Atlantic.

Is this the iPod for eggheads? Maybe. Especially now I have a case with built in reading light, I think it could be. I remain impressed by the brightness of the print on the electronic paper page, and the ability to play with the size of it according to light conditions. I’m now entirely OK about the controls, which are largely instinctive. It’s good to be able to access texts without a trip out to a bookshop. The machine is sturdy and pleasant to use.

Beefs? Very few, really. Scraping the bottom of the barrel...
  1. Some books are better than others for footnotes, indexing and searching. Good ones can be navigated by simple choices on the little wheel at the bottom right. Bad ones are just chunks of text you have to thumb ariund with manually, with page numbers that don't match up properly, just to make it impossible to use an index, even if there were one.
  2. The .lrf format could and should be slightly tightened up to produce a more consistent reading experience.
  3. Pricing is on the high side, given you can’t easily copy or print out the content. Given the way ebooks take the guesswork out of production, revision and distribution, whilst eliminating any need to remainder, I believe a price offering of paperback minus 20% would be more fair. Ecologically, ebooks are obviously a responsible option. The only reason to keep prices high would be to protect conventional publishing, especially hardback.
  4. Page-turning for books stored on large cards can be slightly clunky and slow.

The more people buy these things, the more titles will become available, in both the freebie and paid sectors. Right now there’s plenty out there. So if there’s an egghead in your life, Christmas is coming — time to tell Santa now, in case Sony UK manage to make as big a pig’s ear of the supply lines on yuletide product as they did on the accessories back in September...

I am banged up having my annual reality check at Saint Wandrille, Normandy, until Saturday. This entry has been preposted. The internet is switched firmly off for the week, and I will be delighted to respond to comments, but only at the weekend.


Anonymous said...

"Ecologically, ebooks are obviously a responsible option"

Not obviously at all - depends on the lifecycle of both products.

There are often all sorts of nasties involved with the manufacture and disposal of electronic gizmos.

One's library OTOH is entirely justified by the carbon sequestration service it provides ;)

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks for the thought. I was only really thinking of direct production/ distribution costs and carbon miles; but you're right, to do a proper calculation, I'd have to take into account all kinds of other costs, including recyclability (with attendant energy use.) As to the lifecycle of this form of infromation storage it's a “no trees were destroyed to produce this, but a large number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.” Long term storage of digital media is probably a very dodgy propoition, actually. Thanks for an interesting point...

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