Yes, you can still squeeze a fair-sized library into the Pocket's 512MB of built-in storage. Well, 380-odd MB after the system software takes a bite, but that is still enough for 225 copies of War and Peace or 600 of Moby Dick in ePub format. But not fitting a memory card slot of one form or another for those who want to carry a larger number of larger files about does seem both parsimonious and daft.
Pocket (left) and Touch: does an inch make a difference?
Presumably, Sony has shorn the Pocket of storage expansion to avoid taking sales from the Touch but that makes the Pocket look like poor value when compared to the 505, which had memory expansion slots and a larger screen but only cost £20 more, including an extra 2.5 per cent of VAT.
The absence of a music player is also a let down. One of our reservations about the Touch was the continuation of the 505's very basic AAC/MP3 player, but to remove the functionality altogether? That gets right up our noses here at Register Hardware as we regularly used both the Touch and 505 Readers to listen to music while reading.
Of course, without memory expansion you'd be stuck for anywhere to put your music files but that just underlines what a bad idea it was not fitting any storage expansion in the first place.
Format support is unsurprisingly identical to the Touch, so the Pocket will handle EPub and BBeB – with and without DRM – as well as PDF, Word, plain text and RTF files. Battery life has taken a small hit with Sony quoting 6800 page turns to the Touch's 7500, though in day-to-day use the difference is unlikely to be noticed.
Sony has missed an opportunity to pitch the Pocket Edition as the iPod Nano to the Touch Edition's iPod Touch. Sure the Pocket is a fine bit of kit as far as it goes – it's well made, light, compact and provides a fine reading experience – but at £180 its far, far too expensive for something which as had so much functionality stripped away. If the UK Reader line-up was priced closer to the US range – at $199 and $299 (£120 and £180) - we would be far more enthusiastic. ®
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Sony Reader PRS-300 Pocket Edition
Ebooks not where they should be
The DRM is probably the biggest blight on ebook consumers right now. Though some publishers are starting to figure out what the RIAA finally admitted about DRM - that people don't like it - they aren't enough and the amount of ebooks they offer in DRM free formats isn't yet enough either. There are horror stories of publishers going bust/offline, taking the validation services with them and users being locked out of their content indefinitely.
I think that the retail publishers are also in a tight spot - being forced to secure their products with DRM or expose themselves to litigation. It seems to be a deeper stemming problem than bull-headed online ebook brokerages. Other than attacking publishers' bottom line (I'm talking about boycotting, not stealing), I don't see any other way to communicate dissatisfaction with DRM, sadly.
A compromise is that secured epub files can easily have the DRM stripped by a few simple python scripts.
Way to miss the entire point of a technology.
As has been pointed out, there are many reason not to buy electronic books right now -- mainly cost and licensing issues, though they are still a little bulky too.
However, the idea of an electronic book is exactly what it says -- these things designed not to make your eyes hurt after an hour of reading as a laptop or phone would, they are designed to (eventually) replace paper books and, ignoring the points mentioned above, they do this pretty well.
I am sure it will be possible, in the future, to have a device which does "everything" but, at present, the technology simply does not exist. Unless, of course, you know of a device with a paper-like reading experience in colour with a refresh rate which allows it to display video?
For the eInk screen. A screen suitable for comfortable book reading is mutually exclusive with a screen suitable for video watching and gaming, or as a camera viewfinder.
For the size. A size comfortable for book reading is too large to conveniently carry as a phone or music player.
For the battery life. A device that must maintain a constant wireless connection or run background processes will drain the battery so much faster that a heavy compromise must be made on either battery life or device size or weight, compared to a dedicated book reading device.
I would very much like to own an eBook reader, and am not even particularly bothered by the cost of the device. The cost of the books, on the other hand, is still completely unacceptable. Until they become available for less than I can buy them online in paperback form, it's just not going to happen.
Reading a book on an LCD screen is painful. Reading it on an eInk screen is a joy, I've sat and read straight through a complete book on my 505 with no more break than it takes to pour another glass of wine occasionally.
However, eInk screens are one trick ponies. They are slow to update, and have a limited lifespan. So using the device for anything else makes no sense, with the possible exception of playing music.
In this case, I'd say convergence is not what it is all about. The eInk readers do one job so very well that having them dedicated to the task is fine.
I have an iPhone on which I read books (mostly PDFs), and the 3" screen is just way too small to be of any use for long reading sessions. And god forbid if the pdf has any screenshots or diagrams in it - to get them readable I can't fit the entire diagram on the screen.
Then there is the fact that sometimes I just want to LEAVE A PAGE OPEN and let it sit there, without running down my battery, without having my security screen saver kick in, without the backlight going off...just like I would with a real book. This is particularly true when using learning books - I would love to have my pdf of Blender training open next to me whilst I manipulated Blender in fullscreen mode...again, just like a book. Instead I am forced to juggle windows around and jump back and forth - or find desk real-estate for a second monitor.
I don't own an e-reader yet, but I wish I had caught the sale at Play.com on the 505. If anyone sees it on sale, please post to this thread...