Sony PRS 505 (continued)

(a few weeks later)

Just skip this post and go on to the other stuff if you’re sick of reading about this eReader.  I put it down because I started with my first impressions, and it’s been a while now that I’ve had it.  So I just wanted to do a conclusion.

In my first impressions, the main thing that bothered me was the poor SONY Client Software.  That’s the program responsible for doing the syncing between the computer and the reader and managing your ebook library.  If I had the time, I’d sit down and write a software report just on that aspect; but I don’t use it anymore.   I found a program (freeware) called Calibre that can be used for managing your library as well as controlling the conversion process between say a text file and the LRF format which the SONY likes.

The Calibre software is great (and I’m definitely going make a donation soon to what seems to be one guy working on it).  If like me you want control over the fonts, font-size, margins, indents, etc. and especially if you are mostly pulling free books from wherever you find them (as I am) it does it all.  I have yet to buy a single book.  So I don’t know, what does a paperback go for these days?  Let’s say $10.  So that’s $3000 worth of reading material so far.

Do I miss having Wiki on the thing?  No.  Or being able to download books while I’m jetting my way to Paris.  No, though I do miss jetting my way to Paris.

So, for example, you find a site that has lots of your favorite books in txt format. Calibre can read just about any source file format, including OSD (open office) which I use.  So you go into Calibre and set up how you’d like your txt / OSD books configured and once you have that figured out, you have complete control over the look and feel of the book and which format gets sent to the main memory of the reader, or if you are using an SD card – the SD card.

In addition to that, you can easily modify the metadata (author / title / sort order etc.) and it supports multiple tags for one book, and these tags show up in the SONY READER (the 505, but not the 500) as collections.

There’s a lot of talk out there about issues with PDF files.  The font being too small.  I can certainly make the font of the PDF source file whatever size I want with Calibre.  But there are still issues because the damned page numbers show up in the middle of the page… but I think this too can be resolved with a bit more work.  I think I’m going to need to run the PDF files through Adobe Professional Acrobat and turn out a txt file that can then be imported into Calibre.  But I haven’t tried that yet.

Again – none of this will work with protected files unless you unlock them.  So I do have a bunch of PDF files that are unlocked by installing Adobe Digital Editions or whatever that thing is called.  That’s what I use when I get PDF files from the library.  But I have to admit that the 20 day limit on the books annoys me.  I want to own the books and be able to refer to them when I want to.  So I haven’t been using the library much.  And their online program is a bit crazy.  No, a lot crazy.  You can use it but you do go through some hoops before you get the book.

Since I’ve bought the reader, I’ve downloaded about 300 books.  Just about everything I ever wanted to read is on the device.  (And this is all done without cracking any DRM protection.  i.e. there are sites that have done their own optical scanning and offer these books for free or for a donation.  I’ve only downloaded a few of these to see how it worked.

As far as further reactions to the device itself – it gets easier and easier to use – and a couple of things that didn’t quite seem needed (those individual buttons on the right side) turn out to be a well-thought out design.

As I mentioned in my earlier review – I still think that if you just want the easiest way of getting and paying for books – then most probably the Kindle is the way to go.  But if you are willing (or like me enjoy) figuring out how all this stuff works, and what’s the difference between various formats, etc.  and you are going to be looking for free material – and you like to have something that feels solid in your hands and well-thought out – then I recommend the Sony 505 reader even more than I originally did.

Currently, I’m on a Raymond Chandler / Hammett binge.  Being a big movie guy – and the Maltese Falcon being one of my all time favorite films – it is exciting to see how close John Houston stuck to the original material – almost word for word (with a couple of sexier scenes cut out).  A lot of plot points in the film that were confusing are perfectly clear in the book.  There are parts in the book where the narrator says something like, Spade looks at his watch over her should while he kisses her.  And sure enough, that sort of detail is in the film.  In other words, not only lines but movements, and even expressions made their way from the book to the screen.  (Did you know that there was an earlier film version of The Maltese Falcon which is plain awful).

Well, after the Black Bird (the thing that dreams are made of)  – it’s on to Farewell My Lovely.

The other thing that I love – is how easy it is to flip from book to book.  It’s true that I’m in the middle of the Maltese Falcon, but when I want to get depressed and inspried, I turn to De Profundus by Oscar Wilde (written while he was in prison).  I bookmark a bunch of pages in that sad story with quotes that I’ll eventually put into the blog with the proper picture.

And so I conclude with this thought – so long as people are curious about the world and want to be taken away by a good story – the eBook will eventually replace physical books.  Not completely of course.  But in the same way that digital cameras have surplanted film cameras.  Someday, the physical book will seem quaint – old-fashioned.  And as with film, it will have it’s devotees.  For all this to happen though – publishers must drop the price for contemporary ebooks.  Given that they do their print runs from digital input already; it’s hard to understand why the ebook prices are still so high, other than that they have a monopoly on contemporary bestsellers.  But competition will eventually kick in – and since the cost of producing and distributing an e-book is so little compared to physical book production – the time will eventually arrive.  At least that’s about as far as my blurred vision can see.

* * *

P.S. I’ve been somewhat apologetic about writing about the SONY 505 ebook, as this is supposed to be a photoblog (not that that’s every stopped me before about what I post here) and I usually don’t write much about new gadgets.  I still have my original i-pod Nano; and use the old clam-design cellphone.  But I did receive a bunch of email from people thanking me for writing about my experience with the Sony PRS.   I can’t say this these remarks are any sort of impartial comparison between the SONY and the Kindle II since I haven’t seen, or picked up the Kindle.  As far as comparison between the two goes, besides the specs, I was able to walk into a Borders and hold and read both the Sony 505 and the 700 with the touchscreen before deciding which I liked.  I couldn’t do anything of the kind with the Kindle.

That in itself is a limitation.  How could anyone buy an eBook reader without giving it a test drive.  It is, after all, one of those things where you can add up all the specs, but still not know if it’s for you unless you hold it and use it for a while.  At the time I was deciding between the two machines, I went to Amazon and found a list of where Kindles could be seen; and at least at that time, the closest to me was Albany.  I kid you not; and that is bad marketing; and in my book, several points taken away from the Kindle.


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My name is Dave Beckerman. I am a fine art photographer working in New York City.

One thought on “Sony PRS 505 (continued)”

  1. I’m glad you’re writing your experience. Whilst not photography, I’ve been looking for some solid, dependable views on Kindle (not available outside US) alternatives. I’m pretty enthused by the potential of these devices for travel, assuming battery life holds-up.

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