Sony Meetup: New Reader Roundup

Yesterday was the Sony Reader Meet Up in New York City, and a very awesome crowd of people were in attendance, which was awesome. There were passed hors d’oeuvres and refreshing beverages, or grog, if you’re me, and there were giant TVs all over the place that didn’t fit in my purse or else I’d have one now.

What *did* fit in my purse but what I alas do not have with me now are the new Sony Readers. The new line was introduced to the crowd at the Meetup, after which we talked about what books we’re reading, which books we were loving, and which books were not rocking our worlds. During the book chat, the Readers were passed around so everyone could try them out. Plus, everyone who attended received a coupon via email for a free download from a selection of Carina Press books – which I recommended because they are DRM free. If you’re curious about digital books, DRM-free is a good place to start with your trial reading. (Thank you, Carina!!)

They were sleek and sexy and beautiful and since the event, many people have asked me what I think. Here’s my exact answer:

 

- They are thinner, sleeker, different, and gorgeous to look at and lightweight to hold. The new Sony Pocket, for example, is amazing in the thin-and-light aspects.

- The aluminum cases that come in pink (for the Pocket) and red (for the Touch and I believe also the Daily) are piles and light years the most attractive devices I’ve seen.

- The new eInk resolution is spifftacular. When the Pocket was across the room from me, I could still see the difference in contrast, too. The letters are darker, the background is lighter, and the increased contrast makes me one happy reader.

- The touchscreens do NOT have that hazy film that degrades the text so that the edges of the letters are fuzzy and harder to read. The older touchscreens on the Sony devices, such as the 700, were harder for me to read because of that muddy quality on the surface- almost like I was reading without my glasses on.

- The ability to borrow books from the library: tres awesomesauce. I wish Sony would highlight the library borrowing ability more heavily in their advertising campaigns for the Readers, because it’s a brilliant feature of their devices. The Sony Reader and the Kobo have it – and both should pimp it harder, imo.

- In the “Bonus, Honus!” department: on the Sony devices is a library finder option that allows you to find the nearest digital-lending library according to your zipcode. You can also search for digital lending libraries on Overdrive‘s website. Just click the “Search for a Library” tab in the middle.

- The new features to come in the “very soon” near future: Goodreads reviews will be integrated into the Sony eBookstore, which is also going to be gifted with that spiffy option to pre-order books.

BUT.

Yes, after the litany of rather win-full improvements to the line of Sony Readers, I had to say… BUT. But I do not understand the price points, and am mystified as to whether these improvements are enough of a positive to (a) justify the price difference compared to other wireless devices already available and (b) justify to a curious digital reader the actual purchase of a Sony device.

For me personally, I’d have to collect some gift cards to bring the price down before I could purchase one. I do miss the ease of organization, the ability to borrow from the New York Public Library, the tagging and the sexy friendship between the Sony Readers and Calibre’s tagging system. (I am still evaluating the Kindle III:TamTam Edition, and will write up my review after I travel with it this weekend.) I have pondered switching back to a Sony, especially as the rumors of new improved devices popped up this past week. But I don’t know that I could justify the purchase price when, for me, the improvements don’t justify that cost difference.

Also, that may be why the library-borrowing isn’t highlighted as much, because anyone who drops that kind of money on an e-Reader probably isn’t a regular patron of the local library for cost-cutting measures. Moreover, it would be pretty difficult to make the argument that reading digital library books over the course of a year or two would allow the device to “pay for itself” with books you “didn’t buy.”

My own misgivings and curiosity aside, I do maintain that This Isn’t The Highlander. There doesn’t have to be only one Reader to rule them all. We don’t all own just one television (though Sony might appreciate it if we did!) and we don’t own just one type of car. So having more than one option in digital reading makes me happy – and having three pretty slick options from Sony also makes me happy. But the price? Not so much with the happy. My reaction to the prices is more along the line of 0_o?

This article by Larry Dignan at ZDNet explains the global perspective that must be employed when looking at the new line of Sony Readers. I see his point, and think it is a good one, but for me and my wallet, I’m waffling.

But back to the devices themselves at the meetup. One device was raffled off, and Kate Garrabrant won – the second time she’s won a Sony Reader in a random drawing I’ve done. This is eerie, no question.

Have some pics! And video!

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Pardon the blurry picture, but look! It’s a low-light living room in the Sony Style Store! (Nice small event space, seriously).

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Stacy Agdern holds the Sony Touch and the Sony Pocket (note again, dim light, I’m sorry about that).

You can see the note-taking features on the Sony Pocket on the right. Using the onboard stylus, you can highlight and write notes on the screen, but I found after some trial and error that screen response improved with a continued pressure for writing, so writing in script worked much better than printing individual letters.

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The Sony Daily Edition – big, especially given my small hands.

Turning the Pages on the Sony Pocket:

The highlight (aside from the grog, obviously) was the opportunity to try out the three new Sony Readers and to see the huge selection of cases that are coming for each one. One case has an onboard light that Angela James demoed for me. I really liked this case – it was much lighter weight than the light-panel case for prior Sony models.

When I can get an extended date with some of the Sony Reader line, I’ll post a more detailed review. Kwana Minatee-Jackson posted Meetup thoughts and pics online, and Susan Blexrud, who was in town from North Carolina dropping her son at graduate school, also attended with her husband. While Susan already has a digital reader, her husband left the event thinking that he really wanted a Sony Reader. It was a very spiffy demo, both for Mr. Blexrud and for me as well. Thank you to Sony Style for hosting the event and inviting me, and to Carina Press for offering a free download to those who attended.

So, what about you? Are you thinking about the new Sonys? What do you think of what you’ve heard?

 

Categorized:

General Bitching...

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  1. 1

    I’m bummed that the price is so high, but ever since my Kindle was stolen in January, the new Sony Touch is the first e-reader that meets all my criteria.

    Which is to say, first, it looks pretty, it has touch without screwing up viewable quality, and—my new most important quality of all: it doesn’t constrain me to buy all my books from one source, which, if lost, means that the thousands of dollars I spend every year on books goes caput.

    Right now, that’s my number one requirement in a reading device: one that lets me buy books wherever I want, without having to engage in a song and dance to get the books I buy on my reader.

    The price is high but I’m probably going to spring for one.

  2. 2
    tricia says:

    I’m always a tiny bit (tiny! bit!) surprised when anyone mentions that the Sony costs more. As far back as I can remember (just to the eighties!), Sony electronics always cost more than other companies’ versions. A Walkman cost more than a Panasonic portable tape player, as did a Discman, as did their TVs, DVD players, and their VAIO computers. It’s just a thing I associate with their brand at this point.

    Sarah said:

    Also, that may be why the library-borrowing isn’t highlighted as much, because anyone who drops that kind of money on an e-Reader probably isn’t a regular patron of the local library for cost-cutting measures. Moreover, it would be pretty difficult to make the argument that reading digital library books over the course of a year or two would allow the device to “pay for itself” with books you “didn’t buy.”

    I know I’m in a very small minority, but that describes me to a T. I take public transit to my library and I was really glad to avoid it during last year’s flu outbreak—not to mention that digital books do not reek of smoke or have chunks of other people’s dinner (or fingernails) inside. It took me a little while to save up for a reader, but it didn’t break me, and as of this writing, I still have not paid for an ebook. I get a free download here and there, but I really use it for library reads. If I pay for a book, I pay for paper, because I still haven’t emotionally detached from my physical bookshelves yet. I think that’ll happen when ebook reading evolves a little bit more.

  3. 3
    Lil' Deivant says:

    digital books do not reek of smoke or have chunks of other people’s dinner (or fingernails) inside.

    *sets library book down*  Euwwww!  You just ruined my whole stack of library books.  I’m going to wash my hands now and lysole the shelf.

  4. 4
    Rebecca says:

    Dorky question: how are the Sony Readers (all generations) at handling non-Western character sets?  I’m thinking specifically Chinese, Arabic, and Japanese.  Korean and Cyrillic would be a bonus, though not of quite as much interest to me (at least at the moment).

  5. 5
    Gina Bernal says:

    Oooh, I want one of the light cases, assuming it’ll fit my current Sony Pocket too.

    Since agency pricing (thus, fewer opportunities for comparison shopping) came about, I shop for agency pub books at the Sony store more often out of convenience and am glad they’ll soon implement the ability to take pre-orders. They’ll be able to get all the impulse shoppers, like me, who want buy books as soon as they hear about them.

  6. 6
    tricia says:

    @Rebecca:

    Dorky question: how are the Sony Readers (all generations) at handling non-Western character sets?

    My husband has put Ukrainian documents on it—not with Word, but if you convert them to pdfs they work just fine. A little small, though… they seem to come out at the very smallest size and don’t scale as well. I think he hit on a particular type size that works for him with a bit of trial and error, but yeah, totally possible.

  7. 7
    Mike Cane says:

    >>>Moreover, it would be pretty difficult to make the argument that reading digital library books over the course of a year or two would allow the device to “pay for itself” with books you “didn’t buy.”

    Huh?  If you buy a borrowing-enabled device, you’re essentially getting *all books for free*.  So if you read $300 worth of books (what’s that these days, like 10-12 hardcovers at full SRP?) you’d otherwise pay for, you’re ahead.  And then, too, NO library fines.

  8. 8
    Mike Cane says:

    Rebecca’s Comment showed up while I was composing mine.  Sony offers a GUIDE for creating PDFs specifically for the Reader.  This is old and covers only 6”-screens, so play with it if you have a 5” device:
    http://mikecane2008.wordpress.com/2008/09/15/reference-optimize-pdfs-for-sony-reader/

    —those PDFs should work well with most eInk devices that can do PDFs.

  9. 9
    Avrelia says:

    @Rebecca:

    Dorky question: how are the Sony Readers (all generations) at handling non-Western character sets?

    You would probably have to ask the store about Chinese specifically. I asked about Russian, and Sony doesn’t support Cyrillic by default. One could tweak it somehow – or read PDF-files as said above, because they do sell Sony Readers in Russia, and I’ve seen older model showing the text in Russian.

  10. 10
    mikaela says:

    I am tempted, but I also know that it will take awhile for them to show up in Sweden.  I also know they will be roughly 300-350 dollar. 

    So I’ll wait.

  11. 11
    Avrelia says:

    I was very happy to have the opportunity to meet cool people and cuddle new Sony Readers. I even had to exercise some questionable parenting to be able to do that (cookies work wonders). Both Sony Touch and Sony pocket are a delight to hols and use. I’d rather have them in aquamarine and emerald, but these dark pink and rich red are very nice. Price is an issue, yes. But even more an issue for me is lack of Cyrillic support by default. I can get a book in English in paper easily, but with Russian I am stuck with digital, and I don’t want to jump through hoops to be able to do it.

  12. 12
    Ridley says:

    Is the glare on the touchscreen pretty much the same? I have a Sony Touch I got last fall and the glare it picks up from indoor lighting is less than enjoyable.

  13. 13

    @Ridley:

    I think they fixed this. They switched from having a touch-sensitive film over the screen to something-or-other else with something-something infrared sensors for precisely this reason. Someone (Angela James?) commented on this on twitter at the meetup.

  14. 14
    Anna Piranha says:

    I am hoping to get a nook very soon.  They do support library books (at least via the Omaha Public Library).  Also, the read in the cafe for an hour thing sounds awesome.  I justa metric buttload of books to the library to donate. That’s like 2.2 standard buttloads.  ANYHOW,  many of them were buyer’s remorse books that I never finished because they didn’t live up to the hype of the back cover.

  15. 15
    Mireya says:

    I have been thinking about them, but my Sony PRS 505 is still very much alive, plus I got a Pandigital Novel in July which I am in the process of hacking to use as tablet.  Husband is going to kill me, but I so want one of the new Sonys :(

    I was thinking of sending my to my sis the PRS 505 with an SD card filled up of romance stories I know she’ll enjoy. 

    Oh man… this is killing me *sigh*

  16. 16
    meoskop says:

    I had a metal price point that was above the Kindle but below the Touch price. If Sony had hit that price, I was ready to pre-order a Touch. Or Two. I don’t want the touch feature, but I am convinced Sony has the best product. A better screen was appealing.

    At this price point I am not only hesitating, I’m looking at K3 and iPad again. And again. And again. And waffling. And thinking maybe I don’t NEED an upgrade, and there are other things to buy and…

  17. 17
    meoskop says:

    Um, MENTAL price point, not metal. But yes, the metal is very very very nice.

  18. 18
    Terry Odell says:

    Still on the fence. Like the light, don’t like that it’s a ‘real’ light. Still hooked on illuminated readers like my eBookwise, dinosaur though it may be. The page turning black before resolving into the next page … don’t know if I like that at all.  Again, page turning on my dino is immediate with no flash or anything distracting.

    But, I’m going to need something new, and will continue to monitor demos and reviews.

    Terry
    Terry’s Place
    Romance with a Twist—of Mystery

  19. 19
    meoskop says:

    Terry – thanks for pointing out the black flash. I hadn’t watched the video yet. Hm. If you can’t turn that off that is a problem to me.

  20. 20
    Liz says:

    i’m in the group that really likes the idea of a Sony Reader, but thinks that the price is a little ridiculous, especially when I’m hoping the parents will get me an e-reader device for my birthday in a couple of months.  Unless the price comes down drastically for the Thanksgiving sales, I’ll ask for the Kindle instead, which makes me a little sad because I really was impressed by the Sonys, especially the Pocket, at the meetup.

    For the woman (at the meetup) that asked about kids books being available in e-format, I saw a commercial for a Vtech kids e-reader today.  Apparently, they already have books on there, but you can also download others.  I did a quick google search, and found that they’re available at JC Penny for $59.99.

  21. 21
    Adley says:

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  22. 22
    Carin says:

    About the black flash – I have a Sony pocket and after about my first 10 pages… I don’t even notice the flash.  I was worried it would bother me, but I’d forgotten it even flashed black like that until I watched the video.

    My issue with Sony is that I wish it were easier to load books on it.  Now that I’ve got set up I’m doing ok, but the set up was a real hair puller.  The problem now that I have 70+ books on the Sony is how slow it’s running!  Push button, wait 10 seconds, now I’m at the home menu.  Push button, wait 10 seconds, now I’m at the collection list.  Push button, wait 10 seconds, now I’m in a book list.  Push button to select book, wait 10 seconds, now my book is loaded.  Once I’m in the book it’s fine, and I suppose I’m being impatient… but at about second #9 I have to restrain myself from re-pushing the button and either selecting something I don’t want once the menu is loaded or freezing the whole thing up.  Patience required!

    I’ve never used a Kindle, but I’ve got Kindle software on my android phone and I’ve been really, really impressed at how easy everything is.  I have to remind myself that it’s easy because I’m only using amazon to get books for it. 

    With my Sony I can shop around.  This means I used to get great deals, now with the price restructuring I get sometimes ok deals, but I have to remember where to save my file to, then find it and import it, then get it tagged and onto my reader… 

    So it seems like a choice of Kindle=ease of use+stuck with amazon files OR Sony=shop around+patience+manage your own files.

  23. 23
    SB Sarah says:

    @tricia @mikecane: Thank you – as dorky as this sounds, I enjoy it when I’m wrong, since it reminds me that everyone reads differently. I do not as a rule agree with any enticement that touts that a device, especially one over $99, will ‘pay for itself’ – when Oprah used that argument for the Kindle re: $9.99 books I nearly shot my tv. I love knowing that there are folks who read digitally who borrow heavily if not exclusively from the library (and oh, are the no-disgusting-library-books arguments SO strong). Regardless of whether you buy a book or borrow it, I still think the Sony prices are much higher than I would have expected.

  24. 24
    Jessica C says:

    The Nook has touch page turning when the touch screen goes dark, just like Android phones.  It isn’t advertised.

    The price point worked well for me, and B&N does $1-$5 deals on books often, and introduced me to some great new-to-me romance authors. I use my wireless router at home or Starbucks. Library books work well on it.

    I would go for the new Sony if price wasn’t an issue, and I didn’t already have my Nook.

  25. 25
    Pickle says:

    Thanks so much for all the comments.  I’ve been on the fence, but I think that I’ll just keep using my MacBook with the Kindle app for a while.  I still have to justify that $1300 MacBook!’

    SPAM word him27.  I’ll be paying for this computer until my son (him) turns 27!

  26. 26
    Laura Iseman says:

    I just ordered a Kindle 3 to replace my bebook that drowned. Sony talks about looking at the “global picture” but they won’t sell to me here in Australia. It has me tearing my hair now because I would so have gone for that pink one.

  27. 27
    brooksse says:

    The lack of wifi on the new Touch model was the deal breaker for me.  It’s nice that Sony is finally going to release phone apps, but the lack of wifi on the lower end models makes the new apps meaningless for me since they won’t be able to sync reading locations between the reader and my mobile devices.  I don’t care about the touchscreen, so I’ll hang onto my current prs-300 and trade my prs-600 for the new kindle wifi model.

  28. 28
    Brooksse says:

    The lack of wifi on the new Touch model was the deal breaker for me. I’d rather have wifi than the touchscreen.  It’s nice that Sony is finally going to release phone apps, but the lack of wifi on the lower end models makes the new apps meaningless for me since they won’t be able to sync reading locations between the reader and my mobile devices. So I’ll hang onto my prs-300 and trade my prs-600 for the new kindle wifi model.

  29. 29
    Carin says:

    “It’s nice that Sony is finally goign to release phone apps…”  Wha?  Did I miss something?  Phone apps would be awesome!  Oh that I could read my DRM epub books on my phone!  Please!!

  30. 30
    Danielle D says:

    I was kinda of disappointed at the prices of the new Sony Readers.  I have the Sony 505 and was looking to upgrade, looks like I’ll just keep this one until Sony wakes up and drops the prices of their new Readers. 

    Geesh I was hoping that they would also have Wi-Fi!!! 

    I was talking to my friend about getting a Tablet since Sony will FINALLY be coming out with an app in November.

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