I was waiting for the bus, reading The Virgin Secretary’s Impossible Boss on my Sony 700—finally HPs and I could once again indulge in our secret love!—when the guy next to me leaned over.
“Hey, is that a Kindle?”
Sadly this was not the first time I’ve been asked this question during the test drive, and it wouldn’t be the last. Oh, Sony marketing fail.
“Nope,” I explained, “it’s a Sony PRS-700 ebook reader.”
I showed him the touch screen with its iPod like icons, and I showed him the catalogue function. I even did a little demo to illustrate how the touch screen could be used to flip pages with a swipe of the finger.
“Best of all,” I ended my little sales pitch, “it has the ability to operate outside of Amazon!”
“Nice,” he agreed. “Where do you get one?”
Ah, yes, about that. They’re extinct, and it’s pretty hard to convince someone to go Sony when your model is already obsolete. Even as I write this review the 700 is nowhere to be found on the Sony website and the only 505s remaining are the specialized versions. According to reports, in the next several months we’ll see two new Sony models: the 300 and the 600. Both sound like they have advantages over their predecessors—which is good. Although I like the ability to catalogue my books, shop where I want, and the fact that no one can take my books away from me with a click of a button, there are features I hope they improve.
While I’m a fan of the 700’s touch screen, the e-ink technology being used makes the screen far too dark to read on in anything other than direct light. I find myself using the backlight more often than not, just so I can provide enough contrast between the screen and the text to read.
When I first discovered this issue, I got online to see if there was any quick work around, only to find that the best suggestion involved taking the Sony apart. I’m pretty sure that would void my warranty.
Constant use of the backlight in turn wears down my battery so quickly that I find myself taking the 700 to work in order to charge it daily. Why take it to work, you ask? Because the 700 needs between two to four hours to charge. I’m not on my laptop that long on my off work hours, and the 700 cannot receive a charge from the USB port when the computer is asleep.* If I had actually purchased the Sony, instead of just test driving it, I definitely would have broken down and bought an a/c outlet cable. As it is now, I ration** my weekend reading so that the battery will last until my next work day.
With these issues, along with the store’s slow connectivity issues and the basic evil that is DRM, it’s hard to say if the Sony ebook reader is right for me. I’m glad that I got to try out the 700 instead of just buying it, but there is still a great deal of room for improvement. Hopefully the 600 will go a long way towards addressing those concerns, but until I see some reviews I’m not adding it to my Christmas list.
It’s interesting to note, that right after my talk with bus stop boy, my 75 bus showed up. The bus was full of people reading books—paper books—some definitely from the library, others rereads, and some clearly new. The kid I ended up sitting next to though was reading on his iPhone. While he didn’t even glance my Sony’s way, I was tempted to ask him several times what he was reading, and how he liked it.
And I definitely did not mistake his iPhone for a Kindle.
* If only I had realized that right away on the day it arrived. I could have avoided a lot of “Hey, it’s done!” “Oh wait, no.” “But yes!” “But no?” Yes, the Sony and I enacted our own scene of forced seduction. Come to think of it, the USB thingie is kind of phallic looking.
**Rationing, otherwise known as reading books made of dead trees. When participating in said rationing, I highly suggest printing off one of the many, many Borders coupons going around out there and checking out Meredith Duran’s newest.