Sony widens its e-bookshelf
Two more electronic books, with wireless to follow
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 down to five inches diagonal, or 12.7cm. For comparison, a traditional paperback is about eight inches (20.3cm) while five inches is nearer the size of a compact audio cassette box. A monitor resolution of 800x600 should give it a resolution of 200dpi (assuming square pixels), which drops to 170dpi when stretched to fill the six inch screen of the PRS-700.
The PRS-700 does have a finger-friendly touch screen, allowing users to turn pages with a swipe of the finger (something iPhone users seem obsessed about), but also sports a stylus for taking hand-written notes in the margins. But what's more interesting than the specifications (which are available in full from SonyInsider) is Sony's commitment to its own bookstore and promises of wireless connectivity soon.
Sony recently added half a million copyright-free books from Google, which it provides free for side-loading from a PC onto the existing Reader as well as the new models. Users can also copy PDF, EPUB, Word, MP3 and the traditional list of graphic formats, but for those prepared to pay, Sony is cutting a couple of dollars off the price of the latest books - down to $10 a title, in a move clearly aimed at Amazon's Kindle.
Of course, the Kindle has wireless networking built in, but Sony isn't going to let that unique selling point stand as the company told Gizmodo: "we will be bringing a wireless product to market. The particulars of 'when' and 'how much' will come later. Wireless is important and wireless is coming from Sony."
E-book devices, as opposed to document readers, need to be small and cheap to compete with real books, $200 is a nice price point and at least Sony doesn't keep sticking keyboards onto books. But new hardware is really just a weapon in the war between electronic book stores, which will be a long and drawn-out fight, for both users and publishers. ®
@ 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.
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.
@various re.@frank 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.
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.
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.