My Sony Reader, one week in

image So, how are things going with my week-old Sony Reader? Great, thanks. I love it. It was a wonderful buy for me. Now that I have had time to put it through its paces, here are my thoughts on how it stacks up as a book reader.

Ease of Use

My Sony may not have the Kindle's wireless function, but it's a snap to just pop in the USB cable and zap stuff over. When I compare it to the laborious upload method for my old eBookwise---convert documents to correct format, transfer or upload them to to your on-line bookshelf via clunky web form which requires two separate log-ins, plug in the cable, navigate to the bookshelf, transfer your files one at a time, log back into your server on-line, delete them, etc., etc., etc.---this is just a breeze. Open Calibre, choose a file, click send and voila.

How the Sony changed my reading choices

I have been enjoying the wealth of free public domain books for the Sony at MobileRead, Feedbooks, Manybooks and elsewhere. But I do like buying more contemporary e-books too. Using the Sony has really changed my e-book purchasing habits because it cannot read "secure" eReader, which is what I have bought for my previous Palm and iPod Touch devices. The bottom line is that it is easier---and I get a much more presentable reading experience---when I stick to the non-DRM "multiformat" choices at Fictionwise. They are just ready to go on any device you might have, right out of the box. Once you own the title, you own it and can download it at will in any of the offered formats you choose.

So I have found that since I bought the Sony, I have been much more reluctant to buy the secure DRM’d titles because I know I can only use them on the iPod whereas if I spend the same money on a "multiformat" title, I can use it on both machines with almost no fuss or effort. It just works! Score one for eBabel in costing authors actual sales yet again! In the future, I will probably only buy a "secure" title if it’s one I desperately want to read, and it’s being offered at 100 percent rebate. I could read it on my iPod Touch and then spend the rebate on multiformat books which are a better value to me.

I have also been discovering the world of e-magazines. When Fictionwise had a science fiction sale and I was narrowing my browsing to only multiformat choices, I found that several well-known literary periodicals are available in e-form as multiformat offerings. I picked up a year’s subscription to Asimov‘s for less than $20, and am eyeing some of the mystery ones, which I may pick up if they go on sale at some future date.

Calibre is also capable of downloading RSS feeds and making them into customized e-books for you. There are many on-line newspapers and other sites already pre-configured by the program, including one for the TeleBlog! You can set it up to automatically download a feed for you at specified times, or you can manually download them when you choose. You can also create your own custom ones, but this is not always a straightforward business. I wanted to create one for my local free commuter newspaper and had trouble getting it working on my own. Thankfully, the wizards over at MobileRead have a thread set up where one can ask for help with "custom recipes" and one of the other posters was able to help me get the feed working. Now, I can download a fresh feed while I am in the shower, then pop it onto the Sony and read it on my way in to work!

Using the Reader

Using the Reader is easy. It takes a big file a minute or so to load if it’s the first time you’re running it, but once you’re reading, it’s easy to get lost in the book. After a week of use, I still find the cover a little uncomfortable. I have ordered a cloth sleeve off Etsy, and it is adorable and will make my reading a little more comfortable.

There are two display issues which continue to irk me. Firstly, the Sony seems to use different font sizes for long titles and short titles. I would prefer that they be a uniform size. And secondly, the manual claims to sort books by title, but I have not always found this to be so and I wish there were more flexible options for how your items get sorted.

Finally, I find that the one feature I am really missing is a search function. Sometimes, I will start reading on the subway on my iPod Touch, and then later want to continue reading on the Sony (as I mentioned in my other review, it is not always seemly to read at school on the iPod—people think you are playing games, even if you’re not! One of the benefits of the Sony is its resemblance to a real book. I won’t have to be embarrassed or shy about reading in front of other people!) In the absence of a search function, it’s hard to conveniently jump to a new place and resume my reading. I suppose I’ll have to just keep some books in progress only on the iPod and keep others in progress only on the Sony.

So overall, how happy am I? Very happy. The reader is a joy to use, Calibre gives me flexible options for organizing, converting and archiving my ebook collection, and I am reading up a storm. I am reading poetry again. I am reading magazines again. I can download my daily newspaper and read it on my way to work. With my new Sony Reader, (reading) life is good!

About the images: This is a file shot and does not show Ficbot’s machine.

4 Comments on My Sony Reader, one week in

  1. If you look in the MobileRead Sony section there is a hack available to give uniform font sizes across the entire menu. It makes it much nicer.

  2. I’m glad you’re enjoying your new reader, and of course the wonderful organisational genius that is Calibre. And I also must thank you for the shout out for Anne’s Addictions (your cover should be there by the end of the week!)

  3. Logan Kennelly // March 23, 2009 at 7:33 pm //

    Regarding the movement between eBook readers, I have a similar problem. Fortunately, Adobe has already solved the issue with a defined method for electronic page numbers. (I believe that the Kindle has a similar, although probably incompatible, system in place.) These are the small numbers you see on the right-hand side in Digital Editions and the Sony Reader.

    Unfortunately, Stanza does not support them, and I haven’t seen any indication that they plan to or that people are asking for them. (It’s actually the kind of thing that would be really fun to add if the application were open source.)

    We’ll get there, though.

  4. Keep us posted from time to time; this is interesting. The Sony Reader has always seemed to me to be the closest to a mature product. Sony’s design skills are second to none and it shows. Their excessive attachment to their own ideas is an unfortunate and forgivable side effect of that. (Memory Stick? Right.) Amazon seems to be intent on locking Kindle down so tightly that it’s too risky to buy. I remember their last ebook venture; no thanks.

    Come the day Sony bites the bullet and adds all the common non-DRM formats in general use*, I’ll probably buy one. Since I don’t buy DRMed ebooks, I can then us one device for all kinds of reading. Until then, my old reliable Dell X51 (which can use almost any format) will have to serve.

    Jack Tingle

    * plucker, fb2, chm, pdb (eReader), prc/mobi, and html/xhtml would cover most of the ones they don’t have. A lit file reader would be good, but I don’t imagine MS will ever let that happen.

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