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Sony Reader: compelling review but too pricey?

Sony_reader_openMobileTechReview turns the pages, er page, of the Sony Reader in their latest review and gave the device a solid four out of five stars. While reading the review, I was drawn to many of the features and functions of the device:

  • Relatively small size at 4.9 x 6.9 x 0.5 inches
  • Only 9-ounces in weight
  • Enough juice for 7,500 page "flips" on a single charge
  • 5-way directional pad for navigation

Unfortunately, I can’t see a need to spend $349 for the device for two reasons: first, it’s pricey for the functionality and second, the same functionality is available in my UMPC. Even if fairly compare the technology and say the Sony’s battery will last much longer (a very true statement), it’s much cheaper for me to carry a spare battery with my Samsung Q1 UMPC. I also prefer to switch navigation between a D-pad and a touchscreen, depending on my mood an environment; something you can’t yet do with the Sony.

While I applaud Sony’s effort here, I see limited success at best. I want to see standalone eBook readers for the masses, I really do. Let’s face it: not everyone wants to spend $500 to $1,500 on a laptop or Tablet PC to read eBooks because they don’t need all of the computing functionality that comes with it. I do need that functionality so I’d rather read my content on devices that can do more. Here’s hoping the next generation of Sony Reader comes in at or under $200. I can live without computing features, but not for $350. How about you?

Additional Sony Reader reviews we’ve read recently:

16 Responses to “Sony Reader: compelling review but too pricey?”

  1. Volodymyr Stefanyuk

    PDFCropper is the application, designed to solve the problem with preparing for reading normal sized (A4-like) pdf’s on relative small (Sony Reader PRS500/PRS505, iRex Illiad etc.) devices.

    The problem is that pdf is not reformat able by nature. Yes, there is reflow mode in Acrobat Reader, but at first Acrobat Reader is not available for most e-book readers (especially for e-ink devices),
    and second even with reflow function reading of complex content (technical books, magazines etc.) is not comfortable. Bad formatted pdf’s and wide white spaces make the situation even worse.

    The only way how this problem can be solved (at least based on my experience) to cut original pages into smaller pages with removing white spaces.
    This is exactly what program do. But comparing with similar software PDFCropper is much more flexible, that allows to prepare books with much better quality in a very short time.

    Currently PDFCropper can produce text and image pdf’s. Later additional output formats (lrf, lrs, wolf etc.) will be added.

    PDFCropper web-site currently is under construction. But it is already available for downloading:

    PDFCropper v1.0 RC2 –

    Trial version of PDFCropper is fully functional, but output pages are shuffled and include watermark (which by the way displays registration code that you need for obtaining license).

    There are no yet tutorial or help available. But I prepared “How To” demo-video:

    Also, anyone interesting in software, can send me example pdf, and I will send back resulted pdf prepared via application.

    You can ask any questions about using or installing software (and details about purchasing the license) via e-mail:

    P.S. Application is implemented by using Java. You have to have installed Java environment version 1.5 or higher.
    Also Ghostscript has to be installed. In case if it is not, application will propose you to download.

  2. I think that Sony products are completely overpriced even if the quality is better than most. The idea for this product is great and I can see it being used in many applications. However, it will never gain a large audience, especially among individuals with minimal tech experience at the current price range. If it were around $100 to $200 it’d be much more attractive. Otherwise I’ll take my Q1 any day with its multi-functionalality.

  3. I have used the Sony Reader for about a month now, and am very pleased with the device. Here are the positives for me: physical dimensions, screen, battery life. Size: I bought the reader to cut down on the number of work documents I tote around in my bag. (Paper is heavy!) I’m a professor and have lots of papers to read. I tried using my tablet pc (and still do sometimes), but eyestrain is an issue.

    The screen is very nice on the Reader. The lack of a backlight is not a problem for me b/c, as I understand things, it is incompatible with e-ink technology, and I’d much prefer that to any backlight. (There is an external light, but I’m not sure when and where it will be available for purchase. See photo here:

    Battery life: The last thing I wanted was another device that required attention to its battery on a daily or every-couple-of-days basis, like my tablet and Treo. I love that I can use the Reader for a long time without worries about power or, more importantly, ignore the Reader for a long time, and still fire it up with power remaining.

    My one negative (and it’s a big one): PDF support is poor. Lots of papers I have to read are in PDF format. I think Sony as exaggerated the Reader’s ability to support PDF documents. I’m hoping they are working on some kind of conversion technology that will make PDFs easier to read on the Reader.

  4. Kevin, the price is certainly high. And it would be nice if the high price were made up by reduced ongoing cost (= cheaper books…). That said, plenty of people are willing to buy similiarly priced single-purpose devices (fancy phones, fancy iPods, fancy navigation systems, fancy jewelery…).

    For me, the biggest problem is lock-in to a particular proprietary standard. I don’t buy iTunes and don’t use an iPod because of that. And while my wife reads every book exactly once and then passes it on to a friend or family member, I tend to read books that have more long-term value (trying to be PC here and not get in trouble with my wife) which I wouldn’t want to lose once my Sony reader dies and can’t be replaced (because Sony obviously doesn’t have the best history for long-term support of products).

    Bluetooth capabilities for audio and keyboard (e.g., to enable searching) would be awesome features, too.

  5. You know I’m a huge user and proponent of ebooks. eInk really is beautiful, and easy to read, but there’s one thing that kills this Sony reader for me, and that’s the lack of a backlight. I do a ton of reading of ebooks on my PDA in bed, after my wife has gone to sleep, and I use the backlight so as not to bother her with the room light.

    If they dropped the price, made it backlit and at least resonably hackable, I’d buy one.

    Heck, I might buy one anyway, just because I’m a geek and I can’t resist stuff like this. ;-)

  6. John Christian

    As some has commented, the e-ink is the best technology around if you want to sit out in sunlight and read a book. Also, that UMPC will be dead out of batteries before you have read the first two chapters, while the Sony reader will go on and on. Most reviews say that although the resolution is good, its not nearly good enough to e.g. read a full A4 page PDF file – everything will be scaled down too much. Even Adobe has realized the limitation of their PDF format, and come with flowing text formats now. For those who like e-ink and still want to have somewhat readable PDF documents look to the much more expensive reader called iLiad. Specwise its tons better – unfortunately its that pricewise too.

    I agree with Kevin on the device(s) out now being too expensive, but I would expect this to fall soon. But backlight might seem convenient, but its actually worse than reflected light for your eyes when reading, so I also find it strange that there is no overhead light you could flip over so its possible to read it in a dark bedroom – a place where your wife will probably be happier about a tiny light than a glaring UMPC screen with a wooshing fan next to her ear. :)

    In short terms, e-ink and ebook readers has come to stay. Its a good technology and within few years I am quite sure you will have one of these in your bookshelf instead of that pile of rainforest turned into sheets for decorating your home…

  7. Good point Oliver, but I still think the price is a bit much; maybe it’s just me.
    Scotty, the Sony Reader does have 800 x 600 resolution with a very high DPI, but there’s no backlight. I’d call that MAJOR eye-strain at night. ;)

  8. As the guy in the movie said: at the end of the day you’ll know where that extra money went.

    There is simply no comparison between a UMPC screen and that of the Sony Reader.

    The reduction in eye strain alone is worth it to me.

    The major knock on the device is Sony’s bundled software. I have to help my wife purchase and then transfer ebooks each and every time…

  9. You’re a geek. My wife isn’t. I can imagine buying her a $350 ebook reader if that means she doesn’t have to schlepp six or seven paperback books on every vacation trip. I cannot image that I would buy her a UMPC or that she even would want to put up with a Windows device and its limitations (boot up time, poor resolution, poor battery life) if all she wants to do is read a book (if she wants to check her email on vacation, well, there’s always the laptop of her geek husband).