Other Media Review

Sony 505 Review: A Report from Jennifer

Used by permission of Sony Electronics IncI was tickled pink when the magic box of future books showed up on my front porch.  The Sony 505 is a thing of beauty.  It’s sleek, fits nicely in my purse, and impresses people in meetings.  Not having Internet at my house, I took a laptop to my favorite bar (it’s like a coffee shop, right?), sat down at my bar stool and ignored the scowly face of James Joyce on the wall next to me as I set up my new toy.

The “Quick Start Guide” was not really quick.  Nor did it really get me started and it sure as hell didn’t guide me anywhere.  I had some touch and go moments where I worried about pulling the plug at the wrong moment (the picture and the grammar in the guide contradicted each other nicely), but I figured it out.  Using the Sony bookstore and and the reader was a lot like navigating iTunes or an iPod, without the magic of Steve Jobs to make it idiot proof.  To wit, the first two times I tried to buy books, the Sony bookstore kept losing them.  My cart would have 2 books and then 3, then 2, and then the bookstore wouldn’t let me add the third because it was already in my cart but then it wasn’t there and . . .  I thought I was going mad.  Maybe scowling James Joyce cursed my attempt to buy romances, but I think it was probably the software’s fault.  Whatever was wrong has worked itself out, but every time I use the software I wonder, “will my books disappear again?”

If the “Quick Start Guide” was designed to befuddle Marilyn Vos Savant, the Sony itself is super easy and intuitive to use.  Directions? I didn’t need no stinkin’ directions!  There were some little things (good and bad) that I happened upon while reading which I think everyone should know.  The good, you can press the number buttons on the side to go to a specific page.  Press 1 then 5 then 1 and the little circle button on the bottom right and it will magically go to page 151.  I learned that by accident and was pleasantly surprised. The bad, I was sitting in the doctor’s office and realized the Sony had skipped some pages.  Since it’s not a book, you can’t just flip back to the page.  Another Test Driver clued us into the solution—the history feature will show you the last pages you were on.  It was easy to find the jump from 143 to 157 and then get back to where I was, but I never did figure out how the Sony jumped so far ahead.  Did error exist between the Sony and chair or between me and the person sitting across from me?

The things I really love and the things that bug me about the Sony are very personal.  I love that it lies flat so I can read while eating a sandwich.  I wish it didn’t take so much pressure to change the page, but if it changed too easily, I’d probably complain about that too.  I love that people ooh and ahh about it.  I love that when I get accused of being a librarian and thus unhealthily attached to the paper book (like I was Monday night), I can pull out the Sony and the person has to eat their words.  Of course, I neglect to tell them it’s a loaner.

The things that bug me are silly.  I wish the back cover copy was on the ebook.  I like to read the back cover copy.  Even when it’s wrong (really wrong), I want it.  Perhaps the back cover copy is only something people who OWN the book (i.e. buy the paper) get.  It also really bugs me that when I get to the last page of the book, I can’t hit the button to turn the page and have the book “close” itself by returning to the cover.  I want the satisfaction of closing the book and, no, closing the Sony itself is not the same thing.  I want to close the book and gaze upon the cover that I just finished.  I want to reflect on how well the art and title match the story.  I can push some buttons and get back to the cover, but I want to push the next button and have the book close itself.  Silly?  Yes.  Does it bug me every time?  Also yes.

I like the Sony Reader.  I do.  I’m sure it will be very convenient when I travel at the end of the month.  My husband will be thrilled I’m not backing 10 books for a week of wedding and family.  But, and this is a big but, I don’t find myself reaching for it when I want to read.  It’s got a lot of books on it.  They are books I want to read.  I can even pirate my neighbors Internet now to get more books while at home, rather than having to travel to the bar for their Internet.  However, when I close the book I’m reading and go hunting for another, I don’t reach for the Sony.  After much deliberating, here is my theory about why.

Unless I have a specific book I want to read, I pick out books by browsing.  Even when I’m looking through my keepers, I want to hold up a couple books, read the back cover, look at the cover and mull over which one I want to read.  Sometimes, I pull out three or four and lay them down on the table to compare.  I will do this
even with books I’ve already read.  Browsing with the Sony is just not possible or, if it is, I’ve not figured out how to do it.  I pick up the Sony, open it up to title listings and . . .  that’s all I get.  I’ve blown through all the books on my Sony that I knew I wanted to read right now.  Now all I have left are ones I think I want to read sometime.  But, I can’t remember what they are about, there’s no back cover copy I can find, and I can’t compare two books when away from the Internet.

So, despite the fact that I like reading on the Sony (maybe even better than I like reading a paper book), I find myself NOT reading on my Sony.  Even being able to look at two covers at once would be an improvement in its browsability.  Just, something so I can compare two books while looking at both of them at the same time.  The actual reading experience on the Sony is great.  I don’t mind the lack of back light and I don’t mind the lag time between page turnings.  But, the software is designed for people who are interested in reading a certain book.  For browsers, who want to look at many books and decide which is the right book for them at this moment, the Sony software is no good.  All the information I want may even be on my laptop, but my laptop does me no good sitting in my doctor’s office deciding what to read next.

And this may be the kicker for me.  Even if I like the reading experience and find the machine itself convenient and sexy, unless I can browse my library on my eReader, it’s not for me.  Perhaps having the Sony with wireless capabiality would make it better.  In theory, I could then read reviews of books and decide.  It wouldn’t be the same as comparing the two books side-by-side, but it would be better.

Oh well.  I’ll take it with me to Maine.  Maybe a week with just the Sony and nothing else will change my mind about browsing.

And, because I promised Sarah, a (bad) limerick for your enjoyment:

There was a Cackalacky reader,
With an electric romance feeder.
Called it a Sony,
Looked quite tony
Feeling like such an insider.

Those titles she wanted to browse,
See covers designed to arouse
Interest in story
Love, sex and some glory.
Characters pledging love though vows.

But who is Smooth Talking Stranger?
Vampire or Army Ranger?
Lack of information,
Fills with frustration.
Lack of data is a danger.

She’s got the book selection blues,
How does a romance reader choose?
A Victorian duke?
A Regency spook?
Surely our reader can’t lose.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Jamie says:

    I agree with the ebooks and readers are not for browsers. I don’t have a Sony or even a Kindle. I do have an iPod touch with the kindle app. I absolutely hate that there is no back cover copy. I read and reread books galore. But after a period of time I cannot remember which title and author goes with which plot and the only way to remember with the kindle app is to go in and read the first few lines. It is just annoying. And personally, until reading an ebook is just like reading a paper book I’m not shelling out any dough to get one.

  2. 2
    Fiamme says:

    I’m a “flip to the front cover and contemplate” person as well.  I especially do it when there’s some description of the protagonist or their main squeeze and I need to look at how very wrong (or occasionally, how very right) the artwork is, compared to their description.

    I get very hung up on fantasy type covers with a wildly wrong hair/eye colour (had a book called The Warrior Within as a teen which had pale blue eyed heroine when the fact she had green eyes was a major plot point later in the … awesomely trashy and unPC … series and I took a green pen in the end and COLOURED THEM IN because it bugged me so much!).

    Ahem. I like to do the same thing with the back cover copy.  Flip to the back cover and go “they so missed the point!”.  So I’m with you on “adding a browse feature would be good”.

    Loved this quirky review. So the reasons for not liking the ereader are illogical. We are illogical people.  I’m still planning to buy one sooner or later though.  When I”m more confident people will sell ebooks to me.

    Had a nasty experience trying to buy sequel to an ebook I’d bought just recently, from Ereader.com.  Happy to sell me the first one, but second one apparently was too new. Why? I don’t live in America or Canada, and they’re afraid of our legislation which is apparently too pro pirate or not pro-DRM-y enough or something. Excuse me? I’m TRYING TO BUY AN E-BOOK. Kind of … not a pirate! :)

  3. 3
    Wendy says:

    While I’ve really enjoyed the “theme” reviews, I also really like this straight-forward approach. Easier to understand the e-Reader pros and cons!

  4. 4
    De says:

    This may or may not be helpful, but what the heck.  My default theory is that more information is better.
    If you’re using Calibre, which really only works with non-DRM infested files, there’s a way to kind of do what some of what you want.

    If you go into Preferences -> Conversion -> Structure Detection there’s an option for “Insert metadata as page at start of book”
    The easiest way to fill in the metadata is to have a book title, author, and ISBN filled in, and then you can just download the rest of the data. (Assuming the book is found of course.) 

    One of the bits of metadata that gets filled in, is a summary.  Usually the text from the back cover.  So within a page or two of the start of a book you’ll have the back cover text you’re looking for.  You do still have to go into the book to look at it, but it’s there to see.

    front93- I certainly home the metadata is closer than page 93 :)

  5. 5

    wow, nice article and i think your vistors will also like the discount ugg boots and women’s ugg boots for winter.

  6. 6
    mrs.mj says:

    Jennifer, your preference for looking at and holding books while you choose what you are going to read is exactly why I haven’t seriously considered buying one of these snazzy new deals. I think they are neato, and my daughter will probably be useing one on a daily basis when she’s in HS, but I need to hold my books, and get a feel for them before I commit to their story. I love love love laying my books out (especially new ones) on the table and looking at them, thinking about each one and which one I should begin with, I wouldn’t want to miss that.

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