Other Media Review

Sony 505 Review: A Report from Karen

Used by permission of Sony Electronics IncSo I’ve been looking at ebook readers for a while, as I’m a voracious reader and I am rapidly running out of space for all my books.  Like with my iPod I wanted the freedom to have options with my reading on the go, not to mention not having to lug heavy hardcovers.

The main thing keeping me back at the time?  The variety of formats and the price.  There was no way I was going shelling out $350 Canadian for something when I couldn’t be sure I was going to be able to buy books wherever I want and read them on the device, and without trying it out first.

Enter the test drive (vroom vroom!).  So far I’ve had my Sony PRS-505 for a month and I’ve found it to be much like my iPod was when I first got it: it fits easily into my life as-is.

Let me explain.  I commute on the bus to work every day, and in the last month I’ve read more during that commute than I think I have in the 6 months before that.  It’s easy to pull out of my bag and read, flicking from one page to the next, and whenever I need to stop I just turn it off and it remembers what page I was on.  I can flip through my list of books and see what I feel like at that moment.  Because of its slim size and reasonable weight, I find it easier to hold than some books, and it certainly sits open a lot easier when I’m reading during lunch.

When it comes to the Sony specifically, there are a number of other advantages. The slots for SD cards are handy for adding music to the reading experience as otherwise it does tend to take up a sizeable part of the hard drive.  The music feature is also handy for when I’m at the gym and need something to get my heart rate up (and I don’t happen to be reading a smutty bit).  The battery life is excellent and without using the music feature, I can usually go a week on a single full charge; and that’s with reading a couple hours a day at least.  The contrast with e-ink is about the same as a printed book, with very little glare from the screen, and it’s about as easy to read in low light as a print book.  For this reason I’m not missing a backlight or any other kind of light attachment, as if it’s dark enough that I’d need one, I would need a light to read a traditional book as well.

There are a few drawbacks, though.  Like no books in the tub (don’t spread that around or I might be cast out of the library community).  Or the way PDFs display on the screen.  If you’re buying books from places other than the Sony store, Adobe PDF—with or without DRM—is one of the most common formats and the one that’s easiest to use with Sony Readers without futzing around in Calibre.  It does, however, display fairly small on the screen when you’re talking a mass market paperback, or very small when you’re talking a PDF with a page size of 8&1/2 by 11.  Sadly, one of the things I’d love to use the 505 for more—knitting patterns—is in the latter category.  You can bump up the font, but with the larger-page PDFs it can take 30 seconds or more to change font sizes or pages which is aggravatingly slow.

And then there’s the Sony store.  Now for those that have iPods and are familiar with the iTunes store and program, the learning curve is perhaps not quite as steep.  Authorizing devices is a bit roundabout and it can be a bit tricky finding things in the store, which can also tend to crash the program when you try and do simple things (like tell it to display more than 10 titles per page).  But once you’ve found what you’re looking for, it’s relatively simple to buy and load books onto the Reader.  Similarly, it’s pretty easy to find files on your computer, add them to your library and then drag-and-drop to the reader.

However one problem with the store is the somewhat limited availability of certain books, and the price of some of those books.  I’ve had varying luck with finding titles, with recent titles being the easiest to find, not surprisingly.  It had all the Nora Roberts titles I was looking for, though many were at the US paperback price (which, at a dollar less than the Canadian paperback price, isn’t much of an incentive, once you do currency conversion) and only two of Julia Spencer-Fleming’s books, both of which were the same or more than the Canadian paperback price.  I’d possibly be willing to pay for them if I knew I was going to keep my reader…and if it meant that I owned those books outright.

So at this point, if I had to pay full price for the Sony, would I buy one?  Probably not.  Not right now, at least.  The Sony would definitely be at the top of my list of ebook readers to buy, thanks to the features it has that others don’t as well as having the store as another option for shopping.  But with my part-time salary, it’s the kind of thing I’d wait to spend part of my income tax refund on.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Jennifer says:

    Like no books in the tub (don’t spread that around or I might be cast out of the library community)

    You might be surprised at the number of books that get returned to the library where we can easily guess where the person was reading it.  In the library lore:
    1.  A book that was obviously dropped in water and ALSO had a red wine stain on it (I wonder if they were taking a nice long bath?).
    2.  Book with bacon as bookmark.
    3.  Book with (unused) panty liner as bookmark.
    4.  Books with cigarette stains.
    5.  The dog training book that had been chewed on by a dog.

    My personal favorites are the books that get checked out of our library near a large South-East Asian community.  All the books come back smelling like curry.  It’s heavenly!  Makes me hungry every time I find one.

    If all this makes you nervous—the books are cleaner than money.  Having worked as a cashier, money is filthy.

    SPAMWord—public95, 95% of the library public probably also reads in the tub

  2. 2
    Carla says:

    I read my PRS 505 in the tub all the time. A gallon size ziploc bag is the perfect way to make it water resistant!

  3. 3
    Lyndsey says:

    You don’t have to limit yourself to the Sony bookstore anymore. Shortcovers.com now supports Adobe Digital Editions and offers books in Canadian prices!

  4. 4
    Karen S. says:

    @Jennifer, I’ve heard the bacon and pantyliner stories, though thankfully the only books I’ve handled on return that were somehow odd were the ones with some unknown stickiness on the covers.  Which is bad enough, really.  Reference desk stories, however, oh I have got those in spades.

    @Carla, I’ve been tempted.  Very, very tempted.  I’m just paranoid enough not to have done it though.  Yet. :D

    @Lyndsey, thanks for the heads-up.  I’m pretty sure I heard about this recently, but this was the first review I wrote, a little more than a month ago (on the due date, I admit).  Understandably, with 30 test drivers doing two device and one book review each, that’s a fuckton of reviews for Sarah to process. :D

  5. 5
    Anna says:

    I’m guessing that Sony gave you these readers and paid you to do these reviews of their product, but you don’t mention that in the reviews ??  The FTC is changing rules about bloggers and paid reviews (you must disclose):

    Bloggers Must Disclose Payments for Reviews

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hkwZoioSbjzxT0I75HWiZSvFrAXAD9B53U983

  6. 6
    SB Sarah says:

    We were not paid for these reviews, nor is there an expectation of positive commentary. Some of the reviews are downright negative.

    You and the FTC can kiss my ass. Their draconian (TM Robin) reach and ignorance with little understanding of blogging and reviewing is an insult. So is the tone of your comment.

  7. 7
    Karen S. says:

    This does make me wonder who assumes responsibility for said disclaimer.  The reviewer?  The blog owner?  ‘Cause if it’s the former, I’m in Canada, bitches.

    Not to mention oh hi, this is from two weeks ago, and said person obviously didn’t bother looking about any of the early posts re: the test drive.

    Also, just LOL.  OH NOES, THE INTERNETS POLICE (who didn’t leave a blog address themselves, interestingly) ARE AFTER ME.

  8. 8
    Suze says:

    Speaking of being in Canada, I don’t get this shortcovers.com thing.  WTF is it?  I got all excited thinking I could buy ebooks in Canadian money, and browse by author, and pretty much shop like I always do at Chapters & Indigo.  Instead it’s some kind of virtual coffeeshop kind of thing with a grand total of 2 romance novels (when I follow the browsing clicks).  Just show me the damn books!

    Also, Anna, wow.  Did you even read the article you linked to?  The FTC WILL, in future, TRY to regulate the blogs, and regulations will take effect in December.  In the future.  And I’m just guessing here, but they probably aren’t going to enforce these new, FUTURE regulations retroactively.

    Plus, I think the whole announcement of the test-drive program of readers provided by Sony was pretty much full disclosure.

  9. 9
    Anna says:

    SB Sarah,

    No need to get hot about it. Did Sony give you the readers for the reviews? Or did you purchase them yourselves?

    I don’t think it’s draconian to disclose (to the consumer) the terms of a contract for reviews (free hardware given or payment or NOT) when publishing product reviews on a blog. Most product reviewers do get the hardware for free, but return it when the review is completed so that there is no renumeration.

    As a consumer I appreciate full disclosure when reading product reviews. I’ve been burned by less than honest reviews in the past (and I can cite many examples where the blogger was being paid or had financial interest in the company of the product under review), so I don’t think it’s draconian for the FTC to require this “fair play” standard.

  10. 10
    Anna says:

    Yes, I did read the article, and I realize that the regulation takes effect December 1.  I was just trying to give the SBs a “heads up” . . . and quite honestly when I read all the Sony reader reviews I was wondering whether they got them for free or were paid to review them. It wasn’t clear to me at the time, and because I didn’t know, I discounted the reviews somewhat.  I would have liked to have known the specifics of the program, but apparently the blog owners feel that requiring this information is an overreach of FTC power.  That’s fine, and now I understand what to expect here vis a vis product reviews/disclosure.

  11. 11
    Karen S. says:

    The specifics of the Test Drive were outlined in the original contest announcement.  I think the only part of it not mentioned (because Sarah wasn’t able to get an answer from Sony until about mid-September) was whether we would be able to buy out our readers if we wished to at the end of the trial.  In the end, we were (probably because they were already refurbished models; not sure how many times they can refurbish/wipe and reload something and still sell it as “refurbished”).

  12. 12
    Anna says:

    Karen S,

    Thanks for the explanation. I didn’t see the original announcement, just the reviews. I always look for disclosure . . . I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read reviews or financial advice on the internet that masquerade as “unbiased”, only to learn later that the reviewer was paid or is under contract to the reviewed product’s company.

    I think the FTC disclosure rule is a good thing—these rules already exist for advertising in other mediums.  More information, from my perspective as a consumer, helps me to make better informed decisions.

    Thanks.

  13. 13
    Anna says:

    Thanks for the “FTC Asshattery” disclosure on the home page. I find it odd that the site is anti-plagiarism (defending laws regarding copyright protection), but then editorializes against laws requiring transparency in reviews and advertising.

    It seems incongruent, kind of like the people who say “I’m against a government-run healthcare plan, but don’t take away my Medicare (or VA or Medicaid benefits).”

    Just strange, to my way of thinking.

  14. 14
    Tina C. says:

    I find it odd that the site is anti-plagiarism (defending laws regarding copyright protection), but then editorializes against laws requiring transparency in reviews and advertising.

    It seems incongruent, kind of like the people who say “I’m against a government-run healthcare plan, but don’t take away my Medicare (or VA or Medicaid benefits).”

    So, Anna, what kind of fight are you trying to pick here?  Your first comment was insulting in tone:

    I’m guessing that Sony gave you these readers and paid you to do these reviews of their product, but you don’t mention that in the reviews ??  The FTC is changing rules about bloggers and paid reviews (you must disclose)

    by implying that obviously, we must have received these free in exchange for a positive review (and that’s because all positive reviews must have been bought or just reviews of Sony Readers or just reviews here, I wonder?)  Then you want to get all disingenuous with the “Oh, if you’re so against plagerism, why are you mad about transparency” bit.  I’m not sure what your game is but if you can’t be bothered to actually do the slightest bit of research before you start making some rather nasty inferences, you can’t play the poor, unjustly attacked innocent when someone takes offense.

  15. 15
    Anna says:

    To be honest, I didn’t know what the deal was with the Sony reviews—I read the reviews only, so I was asking for clarification and giving a “heads up” on the new FTC policy.

    Now I’m just making an observation here about the editorial slant on the site.  It just seems inconsistent to me, that’s all. I’m not trying to pick a fight, just point out something that I find odd as a reader . . .  I didn’t expect the “you can kiss my ass” response at all to the first post (not too friendly in my culture, but then again things don’t always come across clearly when they are written only), but then the “FTC Asshattery” editorial comment on the home page, posted today, was, again, rather a surprise. Why not choose neutral wording, a simple disclosure statement?  That’s what is generally done on other blogs.  Usually it runs something like this:

    Disclosure: Reviewer does not have a relationship, financial or otherwise, with the companies listed in this article.

    Obviously you can do what you want (and I can “kiss your ass”), but when you editorialize you invite comment from readers with an opposing opinion (and that’s what you got).

  16. 16
    Tina C. says:

    To be honest, I didn’t know what the deal was with the Sony reviews—I read the reviews only, so I was asking for clarification and giving a “heads up” on the new FTC policy.

    “Now I’m just making an observation here about the editorial slant on the [original comment where you ask] for clarification and give a “heads up” on the new FTC policy.  It just seems inconsistent to me, that’s all. I’m not trying to pick a fight, just point out something that I find odd as a reader . . .  I didn’t expect the [direct accusation of accepting payola for a favorable review] (not too friendly in my culture, but then again things don’t always come across clearly when they are written only), but then the [feigned(?) surprise that those of us who wrote a review might take offense at being called a paid shill], posted today, was, again, rather a surprise.  Why not choose neutral wording, a simple [question]?  That’s what is generally done [by other readers].  Usually it runs something like this:

    [“So, how does this test drive work?  Did Sony give the reviewers the Readers that they reviewed?”]

    Obviously you can do what you want (and [pretend you didn’t mean insult when you obviously did]), but when you editorialize you invite comment from readers with an opposing opinion (and that’s what you got). “

    ~original text by Anna.  Bracketed text by me to show that it cuts both ways.

    Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure, I was one of the test drivers—and, otherwise, just another reader of this site.  My review was mostly positive.  I decided to pay to keep my Reader because I really liked it—and if it hadn’t been a birthday present from my son, I wouldn’t have been to afford to do that.  So the next time you want to accuse someone of “pay to play”, be aware that you are making accusations about situations of which you admit to having no real knowledge and of people about whom you don’t have a single clue.  Considering your constant “plagerism” drumbeat, I’m guessing you’re one of the “Cassie Edwards RULZ and yer just a bunch of mean girlz!” crew.  If so, get over it already.  If not, I apologize for my assumptions that you have a specific axe to grind and offer the advice that if you want civility, you offer it first.  I also invite you to spend a moment or two engaging your brain before your fingertips hit the keyboard and ask a question before you make assumptions.  In the long run, you’ll look a lot less stupid.

  17. 17
    Suze says:

    Anna, I was going to come on an apologize for dumping my work-related irritation on you, but now I’m confused.  I’m getting mixed messages from you.

    Cool that you wanted to give SBTB a heads-up, uncool how you worded it.  Cool that you followed along the plagiarism thing, uncool that you couldn’t seem to follow the test drive threads back to their beginning.  Cool that you’re all about full disclosure, uncool that you take a chiding tone about how people apply it.

    Smart Bitches don’t do neutral or discreet, as witness the general design and name of the blog.  If there’s a stupid, irritating, ineffectively-applied rule that they have to follow anyway, they’ll snark about it.  Which, if you’ve been reading long enough to be in the plagiarism loop, you ought to know.

    In any event, my frustration yesterday led me to jump on your comments a little more harshly than I like to behave, so sorry for that.

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