Other Media Review

Sony 505 Review: A Report from Randi

Used by permission of Sony Electronics IncI don’t know where to start about my 505.  I am of two completely different minds about it.  One is about the experience of reading on it, the other is about the experience of trying to own it.  This will be about the former.

I read somewhere that the ancient Greeks had dozens of different words for types of love.  There was brotherly love, romantic love, the love one feels for a battlefield comrade, etc.  I’m not sure what the word is for the love one feels for an electronic reading device – but I’d bet it has ‘kos’ in it somewhere.

The reader does what it says on the box, and it does it (almost) perfectly.  It’s easy to use, mostly intuitive, and very sleek and very very pretty.  Actually, after the chorus of angels finished their refrain of ‘ah-ah-ah-ah-ah’ when the box was opened one alighted on my shoulder to mutter a cooing ‘aww…’.  I’ve found I can read about a thousand pages worth of text before I lose the first bar.  The final bar lasts right around that, maybe 850 pages.  This is an easier way for me to gauge the battery than time as I tend to read during breaks, only 15-20 minutes at a time.  The only reason it gets an (almost) perfect, rather than a perfect is that there is sometimes a significant lag when you ask it to turn a page.  If I own a device that is meant to perform only one function, I want it to perform that function in a timely manner. 

The Sony e-store software is very slow, but the interface is easy to use.  It could be much better, and I look forward to a revamp when they release the new line of readers.  However, if you are not running Windows, you are SOL in regards to your reader.

I made the switch back in July to Ubuntu which is a Linux based OS.  Also, it’s awesome

.  The Sony e-library software is worse than useless on it however.  The recommended alternative, Calibre, was supposed to be the best program for your reader evah!  Instead, I got an obsessive, controlling, and manipulative program who wanted oversight over my every reading need.  Not cool, Calibre, not cool.

I kind of wish there were a way to just go to a bookstore and wave my 505 in front of the book I wanted and voilà!  It will be on it.  That may take out some of the ‘convenience’ of it though.  I don’t know.  If I were smart enough to solve these problems I’d be a whole lot richer than I am.

The thing is… when I’m not trying to put books on it, buy ebooks, or deal with my 505 in relation to another piece of hardware – it’s the most amazing gadget I’ve ever had the pleasure to use.  It’s so convenient and I cannot tell you how great it is to be able to change books in the middle of a workday because the first lost my attention.  The reader just lives in my purse, holding all the wonders of the world.

If all of the problems I have with the actual ownership of the reader were overcome (starting with the price, good god!) I would gladly purchase three of these.  I’d be the coolest nerd in the archaeology department, not a difficult title to hold actually.  As it is, I shall yearn for the days I can justify owning one as it is still definitely a luxury good and my student loans think I’m an idiot for even considering shelling out the moolah for something I don’t really need.

But man oh man, I want.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    This is very useful to know. Now I definitely don’t want an ereader.

  2. 2
    FD says:

    Uhuh, no Sony for me either. 

    Saying86: not all the world uses windows.  Really, truly.  You know what baffles me?  Geeky people are more likely to be into newest tech, and thus early ebook adopters.  Geeky people are a lot more likely to use something that isn’t windows based.  And yet, none of the companies seem to have twigged this.  Customer knowledge base fail.

  3. 3

    I’m not at all familiar with ubuntu, but one simple that would work probably work is just to save your books to an SD card and pop the SD card in the reader.

    More often than not, that’s all I do.  I don’t add the files to the reader, I just load them onto the SD card.  The reader will read them from that and you don’t need to save them to the reader itself.  Works just as well.

  4. 4

    If it’s just a matter of getting your laptop to talk to the PRS-505, you may wish to try Calibre, an open source library management and conversion program with Windows, Linux and OSX support.

    You can consult the user guide found on the Calibre site or visit the Calibre forum at Mobileread.

    Once you’ve solved the connectivity problem you still have the issue of obtaining content: you can’t buy books from the Sony Bookstore without the Sony software, and depending on the file format you choose when buying from another ebook retailer you may need Internet Explorer (M$!).

    If you buy your books from a third party you’ll be faced with massaging your files (DRM!) before you can get them onto the PRS-505. More information on this can be found elsewhere on Mobileread.

    Calibre can convert non-DRM ebooks from many formats to LRF (Sony’s native format), EPUB, or any of the formats that the PRS-505 supports.

  5. 5
    Diana says:

    I use Ubuntu, and just use Calibre to manage my Sony ereader library.  And I buy ebooks from fictionwise and Barnes and Nobles. 

    But it’s strange that your ereader isn’t even responding to your computer.  Mine worked perfectly, right out of box…  What distro of Ubuntu do you have?

  6. 6

    If you buy your books from a third party you’ll be faced with massaging your files (DRM!) before you can get them onto the PRS-505.

    When I’m running my laptop on Ubuntu I’m not able to read the ebooks I bought from Harlequin in pdf format. I have, however, been able to read Harlequin’s 60th anniversary books in pdf format, and I wondered if that was because they didn’t have DRM.

  7. 7
    Randi says:

    I did make the switch to Calibre, which is a story in and of itself.  I hate hate hate Calibre and ended up uninstalling it.  My final review (I promise, I am doing one, even though Sarah keeps pulling from my blog.  I have ten more days!  The devil made me do it!  The dog ate it!) will be about non-Windows issues and DRM.

  8. 8

    Wow! I’ve never seen that kind of behaviour from either the Windows or Linux versions of Calibre, and I never want to.

    And may I say, I love your illos.

  9. 9
    Stephanie says:

    Yeah, I have nothing to say but GO UBUNTU USERS! :)

  10. 10
    Amy! says:

    You know, it’s kinda funny, in a way.

    The Sony readers run Linux.  I was surprised to find that out (you discover it if you find the site on “hacking the 505”, which is linked from MobileRead).  So those kind, generous, caring folks at Sony presumably went out of their way to insure that anyone running the same operating system that they install on the readers wouldn’t be able to actually use a reader.

    I bought a 700 back when they did the price-drop (which was the same time as they announced the availability of Google books in epub format).  I had, at the time, two Apple laptops and a linux workstation (as well as several linux servers).  You can imagine my ecstatic joy in learning that, though the Google books were free, *I* couldn’t have them, as I’ve preferred for years to run an operating system that allows me, rather than some aggressive third-world teenager, to own the computers that I pay for.

    Now they have an OS X version of the “ELibrary” software.  What a … steaming pile of pig whiskers.  Okay, yes, I understand that the goal is to create, for books, an environment like the iTunes store, and I admit that I’ve never been tempted to use the iTunes store … but surely, surely, the iTunes store isn’t *that* ragingly incompetent, is it?  Even in version 1.0, it’s hard to imagine it being so … worthless.  I think the iTunes store, like the Sony store, preferred to hide the fact of DRM (until, recognizing that customers hated it passionately, Apple negotiated DRM-free downloads), but … well, until I figure out how to port inept from Windows to a sane platform, I’m not buying DRM-encumbered stuff.  Leaves me with a fairly short list of publishers (who publish DRM-free and epub format), and I’ve discovered that a number of those are not particularly professional (any time I encounter a file converted by Calibre, I know I’m not dealing with a professional publication—it only takes me two to four hours to convert a book from clean HTML to epubcheck-compliant epub (proper XHTML, toc, CSS cleanup, etc.); a publisher who can’t find someone able to do so, and who therefore relies on the necessarily flexible and less attractive algorithms embedded in the two-to four minute (at most) Calibre conversion doesn’t deserve respect, and if they charge trade paperback prices, they won’t get a second chance, either).

    Why are publishers having such a hard time understanding what makes a ereader worth while?  All they’d have to do is buy *one*, hand it to someone who thinks it might be cool, and get feedback.  Okay, so they don’t want to hear that “tell me I’m a crook and I already don’t like you or your company,” but … sorry, life’s like that; slap DRM on and that’s what you’re saying.  It’s *particularly* glaring because I know at least two highly professional publishers (O’Reilly and Baen) who “get it”.

    Unsolicited review: I’m less thrilled with my PRS-700 than I was to start with, but that’s because I keep adding titles to it.  The basic software is adequate, but … come on.  I have like 40GB of storage in the thing.  eBooks are like one MB apiece.  If I ever filled it up … I’d never find anything, not with the ridiculously primitive tools provided for finding books.  Every book published in the US comes with LC CIP data—plug it in, write a little piece of software that turns it into card catalog view, and go.  When I hit a thousand titles (perhaps a *fortieth* of the storage capacity (I have a 32GB card and an 8 GB stick)), I won’t be able to find anything.  That’s about an eighth of my hard-print library (because I have the habit of decimating my library every three to five years; storage space gets to be a premium); I don’t think that many would fill more than a fifth of the available space on my device … but it would be unnavigable, I suspect.

    Apart from that, it’s a joy to read, and the most perfect size I could imagine.  Reminds me of the wild kids I grew up with, and the old ladies shaking their heads: “So much potential! Wasted!”

    Amy!

  11. 11
    RKB says:

    BSD > Linux

    (Waits for the geek flame war to start.)

  12. 12
    RKB says:

    @Amy!

    I’ve discovered that a number of those are not particularly professional (any time I encounter a file converted by Calibre, I know I’m not dealing with a professional publication—it only takes me two to four hours to convert a book from clean HTML to epubcheck-compliant epub (proper XHTML, toc, CSS cleanup, etc.)]

    Copy and paste from the HTML to an RTF file.  Formatting works fine for me and it takes all of 5 seconds.

    eBooks are like one MB apiece.

    Just FYI, when I convert from HTML to an RTF file with large print the books are usually only around 500k.  YMMV.

  13. 13
    RKB says:

    @FD

    Geeky people are more likely to be into newest tech, and thus early ebook adopters.

    Of course I can’t find the article I just read, but it said that most Kindle readers are senior citizens.  They mostly use Windows unfortunately.

    Geeky people are a lot more likely to use something that isn’t windows based. 

    If that were true, Apple and (put your favorite Unix flavor here) would have more of a market share in the PC market.  Many many geeks are gamers, which doesn’t lend itself to anything non-Windows.

    BSD, Linux and other Unix variants don’t write device drivers for multiple pieces of hardware (especially gamer hardware), unlike M$ Windows who will write a device driver for just about anything under the sun.  BSD and Linux only write a minimal amount of device drivers for the most generic hardware.  Thus Unix is mostly used for servers, not desktops.

    And yet, none of the companies seem to have twigged this.  Customer knowledge base fail.

    I think your opinion is incorrect, but opinions are like noses, everyone has one.

  14. 14
    SusannaG says:

    Still giggling at those illlustrations.  Snort!

  15. 15
    Apple Linux and windows user says:

    Now i just could not let that last piece of *FUD* go. I have extensively used all three platforms and Linux actually supports widest range of hardware and software that windows does not even exist. If you are going to post on forums, atleast make sure you are posting correct information.

  16. 16
    Madd says:

    1) This is not a forum, it’s the comment section of a blog post. 2) You don’t need to be rude to correct someone.

  17. 17
    Asli e. says:

    lol.

  18. 18
    Carla says:

    The new Sony eBookstore software is out and it is compatible with Macs now. I often skip the software and just drag and drop the books onto my reader.

  19. 19
    Zita Hildebrandt says:

    I hear you about the software. I loaded VMWare Fusion onto my Mac and can run Windows through it. I use Windows only for my Reader and so far it’s not bad. I do hope Sony comes up with a Mac software version one day, though. Every time I log into Windows I remember why I switched to a Mac :-)

  20. 20
    De says:

    Calibre on my Windows computer is a dream.  Calibre on my eeebuntu computer is a serious pita.  I’ll agree that some of that annoyance is because of the 7 inch screen on my old eee pc, but most of it is just Calibre for Linux isn’t as good.  That said, if I’m out and about and desperate I can use Calibre on the eee pc to convert whatever needs converting, and then just drag and drop to get the files on the Reader.  It works, but it’s not great.

    spam word: reading47 I’m not going be reading 47 books this month.  My best month this year was Feb with 32 books in 28 days.  47 is a little too much.

  21. 21
    Jessica G. says:

    On a completely unrelated note, there were quite a few geeks in my archaeology groups, but especially during dig season we were pretty damn good at hiding the geekiness by smothering ourselves with alcohol. Ahhh those were the days.

  22. 22
    Suze says:

    I kind of wish there were a way to just go to a bookstore and wave my 505 in front of the book I wanted and voilà!  It will be on it.

    That would be AWESOME!

    You know that app where you take a shot of a book’s bar code with your built-in camera and it builds a library for you?  Wouldn’t it be cool if you could do that with your e-reader?

    Take a shot of the book you want (in the store) and be able to just download it.  Cooool.

    (Of course, you’d still need people buying paper books so that they’ll keep the stores stocked…)

  23. 23
    ev says:

    If you have a Sony store anywhere near you, keep an eye on change outs of window displays. I got our daughter a red 505 that had done nothing but sit in a window for less than $150, and a discount off of the lighted book cover.

    Also, keep an eye on B&H photo video (where we get all of our electronics). They have an awesome used shop- much of the stuff is not “used”, but older models that have never even had the tags off them, returned items, refurbished stuff. They have a great warranty program right through the store that is worth it.

    However, their website is closed from 2 pm on Fridays until Sunday mornings. And they are open Thanksgiving. So while the turkey cooks and the parade is on, I go to the adult toy store in Manhatten. Can’t have more fun than that.

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