Other Media Review

EReader Olympics: Round 1

With the arrival of Kindle II: Electric Bugaloo, I’m pleased to announce the E-Reader Olympics, sponsored in part by Sony, who wants to lure me to the Reader side, and by the letters O, M, and G.

Since Sir Kindle I and I aren’t having the best of relationships right now, and since I’m curious, I’ve decided that the best way to figure out which reader is the right one for me is to force each of them to complete against one another. The four devices facing off are:

The Sony 505, The Sony 700, Sir Kindle I, Baron of Fusspot, and Kindle II: Electric Bugaloo.

Sony 505Sony 700Kindle I Kindle II

First, I’m going to look at the packaging. I don’t have my packaging from Sir Kindle I, and the Sony 700 I have was a demo model, so it wasn’t packaged exactly as it would be for the consumer. But I do have Kindle II, and the packaging for the Sony 505.

But why are you looking at the packaging, you silly woman? It’s the device that matters! I disagree, for the following reasons:

First impressions are everything.

I’m specifically looking at these readers from the perspective of an avid reader who is female and extremely busy without a lot of time to futz with technology to make it work for me.

The packaging makes a difference in brand reputation. Take a look at Apple: when you buy an iPod or a laptop, it comes in a branded, custom-designed package that’s recyclable for the most part and intended to treat your purchase as if it were a gift to be opened. From the flippy top box for the iPod to the case design for laptops, the box is key (pun intended).

Plus, as a user who is eagerly and addictively into reading, you can guess that what I want to do is… open the box, plug in and Start Reading. How the device is presented to a user, particularly one who has little time (me) or who might not be technologically savvy (not me) is crucial in establishing that all-important first impressions.

But rather than describe the the process, here are some videos that detail the experience of opening a Kindle II: Electric Bugaloo package, and the packaging for the Sony 505. Special guest appearance by one of my cats.

First: The Sony Reader 505

Then: Sony’s User Guide

Contrast that with Kindle II – Electric Bugaloo which arrives packaged very differently:

And: the Kindle II User Guide – full of Win.

I was incorrect in stating that the 1-2-3 guide is a sticker. It’s actually the e-ink protected by a sheet of plastic, and the step-by-step user guide continues after you turn the Kindle II on and plug it in.

So the first round of competition goes to Kindle II and the Amazon Family of Devices, because anyone who wants to get going already with the reading and who doesn’t want to set up and futz and read three feet of paper is going to love the ease of use of Kindle II and Kindle I, Baron of Fusspot.

Kindle: 1 Sony: 0

Now, the scoring for the E-Reader Olympics will be odd, because the two Sonys are different, as are the two Kindles. I’ll be evaluating and reviewing each device individually with video and text, but I’m also comparing how each company approaches marketing, usability, file management and end-user satisfaction (the end user in question being: me). There will be team scoring and individual device scoring, and in the end I’ll try to figure out which device is tops in terms of the major categories defined above.

If you have suggestions about which device you like best, or what types of competitions will be faced by each ereader, let me know.


Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    Kindle II is my very first e-reader. So far, I’ve got to tell you, I could not change to a device that doesn’t have wireless purchasing. It is da crack. Immediate gratification for me. Impulse buy for Amazon. Oh, man. I’m sunk.

    Picture this from yesterday. Hmm, this is an interesting article about the obsession with El Dorado and a writer’s interest in one of the last explorers to search for it. I wonder if this book is available on Kin—Oh, shit! I’m reading it! I’m reading the book right now!!!

    So F-ing good.

  2. 2
    MichelleR says:

    Victoria speaks, er, types the truth. 

    So instant. So tasty. Book gets a good review, plot sounds like my thing, author doesn’t say anything really dumb in comment section, a minute later I have a copy.

    I…I think I love it more than I do my husband. It was sitting on the couch and my husband sat down next to it, and I almost asked him if he wouldn’t be happier on the floor. So he wouldn’t accidentally damage it.

    opened42: Because Kindle is the answer to Life, the Universe, and You Know The Rest.

  3. 3
    Peggy P says:

    Kindle I user here and while I love to click the “buy” button way too much – I really love the “sample” button even more.  A free first couple of chapters delivered in the blink of an eye, folks, that is some kinda techno voodoo there! It’s like eating chocolate with no calories!

    So when we get to comparing features – samples are worth way more than 1 point, 10 at least.

  4. 4
    ev says:

    The more I see the Kindle and how big and clunky it is, the happier I am that I kept my Sony and cancelled the Kindle order.
    I don’t need a keyboard taking up reading space. I have my reader to, well, read.

    I will agree that the instructions are a pain, but since I barely looked at them, I didn’t care. You plug it in and download the software. No biggie.

    And the packaging for the 700 is basically the same for the 505.

    But at least mine came with a cover!! No extra cost.

    On that front Sony-1 Kindle II-0

  5. 5
    CT says:

    I just became the proud owner of a deeply discounted Sony Digital Reader (thank you, Circuit City!) this past weekend. I wasn’t going to buy a Kindle OR a Sony until someone, anyone, became the clear winner. (I didn’t want to be that person who invested in Beta a month before VHS won the marketplace. Seriously. This thought terrifies me.) But since the Sony was so heavily discounted, I figured I’d take a chance.

    To be honest, I’m quite happy I don‘t have wireless. The impulse buying would be out of control—for me at least. And ev is right: the Sony is packaged with a cover which is super awesome.

    Anyway, I’m stoked for this competition. If the Kindle wins, I won’t be too upset because I got such a great deal on my Sony.

  6. 6

    While wireless purchasing sounds great (and really envy-inducing!), it’s not an option across the ocean. So other features mean more. Like:
    -How long can I read on it?
    -Can I read on it in the dark?
    -Does it come with all necessary gadgets/appliances for continued use?
      -If not, how expensive and how easily available are the necessary items?
    -What is the guarantee like?
    -Is it comfortable to hold/use?
    -Can I make sense of the list of contents? E.g. if I have all of JD Robb’s In Death-series…
    -How easy/awkward is purchasing ebooks and moving them to the device?
    -Which format do I buy from ebookstores? E.g. ebookseharlequin.com?
    -What necessary features are missing from the device?
    -Do they sell the device beyond the US borders, or do I have to be sneaky about acquiring it?
    -Is it Mac-friendly?
    …Many more questions where those came from, not the least of which is:

    -How soon will the device/technology be obsolete?

  7. 7
    Melissa S. says:

    GO SONY 700! Even though I know it’s going to lose points when you start taking about the screen. The glare always makes it an instant loser, but I love it.

    And I really don’t need the wireless purchasing…I’m horrible about compulsive shopping and books.

  8. 8
    ev says:

    -How long can I read on it?

    Quite awhile. Hubby hasn’t charged his 505 in days. I use mine more though since I am at home during the day.

    -Can I read on it in the dark?

      The 700 comes with a backlit screen and the 505 has a cover you can buy that has a light screen and operates on 2 batteries. Makes it a little heavier, but hubby likes it when we are driving and he wants to read. In some ways, I like the cover light better than the built in one.

    -Does it come with all necessary gadgets/appliances for continued use?

    Every thing but an outlet plug but I just plug mine into the puter anyway. I do like the suggestion of using a PSP 2 plug someone had on an earlier blog though.

      -What is the guarantee like?

    I haven’t had a problem but then I also bought mine from B&H so I have a seperate warranty with them which is awesome.

    -Is it comfortable to hold/use?

    Oh hell yes and I dont’ hit the buttons by accident either.

    -Can I make sense of the list of contents? E.g. if I have all of JD Robb’s In Death-series…

    All my books are stored in individual folders by author on the puter and I can play with them in lots of ways.

    -How easy/awkward is purchasing ebooks and moving them to the device?

    Hell, if I can do it, anyone can. You can put them in the library or drop them right on the books. Takes about 3 seconds, tops.

    -Which format do I buy from ebookstores? E.g. ebookseharlequin.com?

    .LRF although I am going to start playing with Calibre so I can put other formats on. However, I am not that tech savvy myself, so I tend to stick with what I know. I have downloaded free stuff from Baen with no problem.

    -What necessary features are missing from the device?

    other than putting one more page change button on the 700, I can’t really think of anything. I don’t want immediate downloads. I spend too much impulsively as it is.

    -Do they sell the device beyond the US borders, or do I have to be sneaky about acquiring it?

    I thought someone else had said they could use it at least in Canada and the UK and Australia????

    -Is it Mac-friendly?

    …Many more questions where those came from, not the least of which is:

    -How soon will the device/technology be obsolete?

    I don’t think it will be obsolete since they are not only selling the new 700 but have kept the 505. they haven’t deeeply discounted them and tried to get rid of them. Even the displays at Border’s have both of them so you have a choice. Any of the older models are still very much useable too.

    Did that help???

  9. 9

    The in-box manual for the 505 is kind of useless beyond getting the machine set up BUT that is all it takes to get to an absolutely invaluable tool.  The full user’s manual comes pre-loaded on the machine, with all the bookmarking, indexing and hyperlink support a manual like that should have.  I never look at the brochure thing anymore (actually, I’m not even sure where it’s gotten to…), but I often refer to the electronic manual when I have questions.

  10. 10
    Teddypig says:

    Are you gonna download and install the Stanza Desktop App for testing with your Kindle?

  11. 11
    Christine M. says:

    While I do like the idea of comparing them all… Well the question is kind of obsolete for anyone living outside of the U.S., yes? I mean, the Kindle is only available through Amazon.com and it won’t ship to non-U.S. addresses so if I ever want to make the jump, it’ll have to be with Sony.  I guess for me the battle will actually be between the 505 and the 700.
    I’m still very curious as for the rest of these Olympics, though!

  12. 12
    Janicu says:

    Aw, you’re cat looks like my old cat! He’s a cutie.

    Yes, totally unrelated. I like the kindle packaging better too. But looking at the ACTUAL device, I think the Sony is prettier. The Kindle II is semi ugly.

  13. 13
    Silver James says:

    Since I’ll likely take the plunge eventually, I’m watching with a great deal of interest. I’m a technophobe (and got burned in that whole Beta/VHS thing) so I’m hesitant, but will have to bite the bullet at some point. Keep us posted, SBSarah!

    ev, I can’t wait to get my hands on your Sony when you come through. And yes, we’ll party to celebrate our b-days. *psst* You need to check my site. You won. :D

  14. 14
    Courtney says:

    I am a first-time e-reader owner and just got my Kindle 2. I really love it! For me, the wireless thing was huge as are the sample chapters. I am not technically inclined so my e-reader needed to be basically idiot proof and Kindle achieves that. Go team Kindle!

  15. 15
    Kalen Hughes says:

    What about the CyBook? Me and my Eurotrash reader are feeling slighted! I LOVE the CyBook. I checked out all the others (a friend who is part owner of Loose-Id owns them all) and this one was by far my favorite.

  16. 16
    Rinda says:

    I want!  Don’t know which one yet, but I want one of them!  Can’t wait for the rest of this series since maybe it’ll help me finally choose something I can’t afford yet anyway. LOL!  One of these babies will be my book sale gift to myself.

  17. 17
    Zita says:

    Just one quick note to add to ev’s answers:

    Is it Mac friendly?

    Not on the Mac operating system. BUT (isn’t there always a but?) if you have a newer Mac with an Intel Core 2 Duo, you can download a really valuable bit of software called VMware Fusion. With it you make your Sony think your Mac is a PC. I have a Sony 505 and use it on my Mac easily.

  18. 18
    TaraL says:

    I’ve been putting off buying an ereader, so I’m looking forward to seeing all the comparisons.

    I must say, I’m already pulling for the Kindle II, because I’m all for anything that encourages a Mr. Creosote reference. Nothing like a quick Cleese impression to perk me up on a Monday morning.

  19. 19
    Lovecow2000 says:

    MobileRead.com is giving away a Kindle 2.  Contest closes on 3/9.  Click link below for details.


  20. 20
    Teddypig says:

    Is it Mac friendly?

    That is why I was asking about the Stanza Desktop App.
    The program is Mac OS native and allows you to work with the Kindle and convert eBook formats to it.

  21. 21
    ev says:

    *psst* You need to check my site. You won. :D


    you can download a really valuable bit of software called VMware Fusion. With it you make your Sony think your Mac is a PC. I have a Sony 505 and use it on my Mac easily.

    Cool. I will be sure to let my daughter know this! thanks. Not owning a Mac, I only went by what the box said. LOL

    When all is said and done though, I don’t think there is a “winner”, but more what someone is looking for that one of them has to offer. Me? The wireless thing was a no-no and so were the looks, for the Kindle. The bigger reading screen and the light (built in or bookcover) did it for me on the Sony. That and it came with a protective case to begin with.

  22. 22
    SonomaLass says:

    Thanks, Teddypig!  I don’t have a newer Mac (and don’t want one, thanks), and everyone talks a lot about the Sony interfacing with a PC.  I’m still in the Betamax holding pattern too, but if an e-reader needs to be used in conjunction with a computer for some functions, it would have to be Mac OS friendly for me.

    And I’m not sure I’d trust myself with that auto-buy function on the Kindle….

  23. 23
    Stacey P. says:

    I have a Sony 505 and the only real gripe I have with it is that it’s not Mac compatible—I get around that by setting up my library on my husband’s laptop rather than my own, but I’ll definitely have to check out the VMWare Fusion software! I’ve gotten accustomed to not having the wireless (probably a good thing I don’t have access to the impulse buys), and I love the design of it, and I like the fact that it’s more flexible in terms of what file formats it will read, without going through all the conversion mess.

    The one thing I’m struggling with at the moment is how to move books I’ve purchased from the Sony store off of the reader without losing them completely—I know there has to be a way, since there’s options to drop books onto an external memory card, I just haven’t had a chance to sit down and figure out how to do it. And I need to do that this week, because I’m going on a week-long trip to Canada this weekend and don’t want to have to take a bag full of paperbacks if I can just change out what’s on my reader, heh.

  24. 24
    ev says:

    The one thing I’m struggling with at the moment is how to move books I’ve purchased from the Sony store off of the reader without losing them completely

    Once you purchase them, they are yours, even if you dl them right to a card or the reader, they are in the library anyway. I just delete them from my Sony and then make sure I put the book from the library into my Read file. I have lots of files.

  25. 25
    Ciar Cullen says:

    I really, really need to stop reading about ebook readers and buy one. Just someone, anyone, tell me what to buy. I’m not an impulse buyer, I want lots of free stuff (like when Amazon was offering all sorts of classics), and I only read about two books a week (shame, shame, but I’m a writer too). I would like the wireless capability I think, but I want a good price.

    To make matters worse, I swore to ONLY buy ebooks in 2009. So I’ve been doing a lot of computer screen reading. Again, budget is a consideration.


  26. 26

    Thanks for the answers ev, Zita and Teddypig!

    Stacey P. – please let us (namely, me *g*) know how the VMware Fusion works for you.

    Another question:  How long was it from the time you ordered it to when you received the device? (If I decide to buy a reader, I have a relative coming to the States this summer who will pick it up for me so I want to time my order appropriately.)

  27. 27
    ev says:

    How long was it from the time you ordered it to when you received the device?

    Border’s sells them right in the stores. No waiting.

  28. 28
    amy lane says:

    I’ve got nothing to add (since I’m waiting for my next royalty check to replace the ipod my ungrateful bastards, uhm, I mean students, stole this fall and the Kindle is far out of my ken) but here are a few details that might interest you:

    As an indie author, it costs roughly $50-100 per book to have your manuscript added to the Kindle/e-reader library.  Not every company charges for this, but not every company offers to format it for you either. 

    People overseas have no Kindle access—I don’t know if this is true for the sony product, but I know a few folks who feel VERY left out!

    I understand that with the Kindle you are paying (a lot!) for the access to Whispernet—what kind of network does the Sony have? 

    *sigh*  I’ll watch eagerly… someday, after Things 1 & 2 have gotten through college, I may sign on to the 21st century.

  29. 29
    ev says:

    I understand that with the Kindle you are paying (a lot!) for the access to Whispernet—what kind of network does the Sony have?

    sony is free. you just plug into the computer, open the link and shop. Or shop somewhere else. You don’t need to plug in until you are ready to drop it onto the reader, so you can shop anytime.

  30. 30
    Adri says:

    Is it okay if I send these videos to my packaging design teacher?  This is exactly the point he was trying to get across to us during class (he brought in his iPhone box to show us the awesome that is Apple packaging/graphic design).

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