Saturday, September 05, 2009

Sony PRS-700 Review: El Segundo

I’ve had my Sony PRS-700 for over a month now, and in that time I’ve downloaded over 40 plus ebooks. In the same time, I’ve bought around eight paper books. Of those paperback books I bought, almost all were mass market and purchased for the following reasons:
  • I will want to read them again and again (away from an electronic device that I may not have in the future).
  • I will want to loan them to friends.
  • The print version was cheaper than the e version. (Never discount the power of a coupon to push a book browser over the edge to become a book buyer, bookstores.)

Of the 40 some-odd books on my Sony, I’ve read about 46. These 46 books range from the free Harlequin downloads (60th anniversary love,) to excerpts on authors sites (Courtney Milan,) to books that I picked up due to web discussion (Delilah Marvelle,) to authors I’ve just been interested in reading for quite some time (Naomi Novik.) As a reader I’m much more likely to give an author a chance in ebook form because if I don’t like it, well hey, I can just hit delete.
Unlike other readers I really haven’t had any compatibility issues beyond my basic ignorance of the Sony’s formats. This may be because I’ve got a PC and the Mac peeps have been getting the Sony cold shoulder until recently, or it may be because I refused to read the directions. If you don’t know what you are supposed to do, then you can’t misinterpret right?
My test download was the free pdf of Bettie Sharpe’s Ember. Originally posted in a serialized format, Ember was my first taste of Sharpe’s writing and it was why I eventually picked up her first novel from Samhain to read on my laptop oh so long ago. The pdf format transferred to my Sony no problem, but the font was incredibly tiny upon viewing. Unfortunately increasing the size only destroyed the paragraph formation. Still readable, sure, but also still hard on the eyes. It wasn’t until I downloaded a novel in Adobe ePub that I realized that this was a result of the file format, not the Sony. With the fluidity of ePub format, I was able to use the Sony’s ability to increase text size for my poor eyes without losing the formatting that makes it possible to actually read the story.
From the looks of Sony’s latest press release, it seems I’m not the only one who likes ePub. Sony announced that it will default to ePub as the format of choice for the Sony bookstore and the Sony readers. In an effort to increase market awareness they have also partnered with Independent bookstores, Booksonboard, Net Galley, and created a program called Library Finder to hook you up with ebooks from your local library.
Of these partnerships, the ones with Library Finder and Net Galley have me the most excited. One of the worst issues I had with writing book reviews was not the actual writing the review itself, but finding the time to review a book from a publisher when I might have had other books I want to read more. With the Sony the “I don’t have it with me” excuse is gone, and I’m (at least) much more likely to flip it open and start reading when the mood strikes. As for the library partnership? Well, what better way to test drive an author before buying. In this economy I like having some idea about the person’s style before I put money down for paper or a file (…and this is why you should have excerpts on your website.)
As I mentioned in my earlier review, I’ve continued to have issues with the contrast, but I’ve compromised by either turning on more lights in my room, or just reading something in print (if I must read) before going to bed. In rare—stubborn—cases I’ve also increased the font size. I hear that the contrast improves in the 600 (and also possibly in the web connected Reader Daily Edition,) but still suffers due to the touch screen technology.
Which brings me to the reason this test drive has taken place: having tried it, would I buy a Sony?
The answer: I still don’t know. I love the convenience. I love always having a library of books with me without adding more to my already overflowing bookshelves. I love all the new and exciting things Sony is doing. That said, in this last week I maybe picked up the Sony once or twice. Since I’m currently not commuting or running a lot of errands where I’ve got sitting around time, the Sony has been relegated to a break-time or home-time device. Also a lot of books that I’ve been waiting for finally hit the bookstore shelves (in many cases, before the ebook was available.) Since I knew that I would read them again and again, I didn’t mind buying those books in paper. It should be noted that not a single book belonged in the new-to-me-author category. All were discovered via previous books and some, like G.A. Aiken, were authors whose previous books were only available online.
With so many changes going on with Sony—three new ereaders and multiple new partnerships—part of me feels like I should sit back and see how it all goes. What if I buy a 600 and next year its obsolete like the 700 is now? What if I get the Daily Edition despite its high price point only to have its price drop (see: the iPhone) or for its internet access to get restricted or costly (a la Amazon?) And despite all of these great updates, the Sony store remains long to load and odd when it comes to navigation. More and more often I’ve just bypassed it completely and bought from BooksonBoard.
That said, we’ll have to see what happens after I send the Sony back to SB Sarah. I’m sure there will be horrible withdrawals because even if I’m not reading something on it, it doesn’t mean that it’s not available. It’s entirely possible that the absence will not only make my heart grow fonder, but also make me take a good, long look at my checking account balance (or at least my Christmas List.)

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