29 June 2009

Sony e-reader review

I'm currently trialling the HanLin and the Sony PRS-700 e-reader for an ebook project at work. When I started this blog I thought I'd review the HanLin e-reader first, but it's actually the Sony one that I'm reading more from at present, so it's going to end up reviewed first.

So my first thoughts about the Sony? Easier to use and more modern than the HanLin. Unfortunately the screen isn't as clear and the reflection from lights is annoying. You can't change the font - only the font size. The touch screen is good, I like it a lot. The main menu has the Continued Reading button, Your books, Your notes, Collections, Audio, Pictures and Settings (see image). I think the picture option is stupid, as the e-reader doesn't come in colour. Why would I want to look at a black & white picture? Not sure what Sony was thinking here! Once a title is selected, it's easy to set up how to turn the page. You can use the buttons or the touch screen. I'm actually using the stylus that came with it and you can set up what direction you'd prefer when turning the page. Once reading you can increase the size of the font to suit your needs and if it's your cup of tea, you can change to landscape. I'm finding the search function works well as does the Go To page. I haven't really used the Notes component but I played around with it, and no issues there. The synching from the Sony ebook portal isn't as good as I would expect and they have a bit more work to do until it has the same functionality as iTunes, for example. My main concern relates to the downloading of ebooks to the reader and for me, it's not as obvious as I would like as to whether the books have successfully loaded onto the e-reader. I need to keep playing with the type of books placed on the reader and moving content on and off the device so I am more familiar with the process. Lastly, the battery life is not as good as I would expect. The website says it lets you turn up to 7,500 continuous pages (or up to 2 weeks reading) on a single charge.. However if you use the built-in light, it chews up the battery very quickly. I would not recommend using it unless absolutely essential.

The Sony e-reader was sourced through our office in Portland Oregon. I believe it cost around $350 U.S. from the Sony website exclusive of shipping and extras like the charger (although you can charge by connecting via USB to your computer). The U.S. website advises the eBook Store is limited to U.S. and Canadian residents so my address is c/o our Head Office and I used my hotmail address so it would not impact on my project. I hear rumours Sony Australia may be launching towards the end of the year but have concerns about what product will be able to be sourced from them. Will they be creating a Sony Australia ebook store? I haven't heard from any publishers about being asked to provide Australian content. I DO know some trade publishers have made the Sony e-reader available to their publishing and senior sales/marketing staff. I can imagine how brilliant it would be when assessing manuscripts - no more paper, just the electronic file downloaded to the reader. Portable, paper-saving, easy access. Makes sense. And it also helps publishing staff become familiar with the device and thinking about the reading experience overall. So far, I've only heard a few publishing contacts mention they may move to reading all their books electronically but most in the publishing industry love the look and feel of a book. I'll continue this train of thought somewhere in future..... that, and a review of the HanLin. The one I thought I'd review first!

15 June 2009

The fourth Twilight Book

I still can't quite believe I read 4 Stephenie Meyer e-books. In the end I read them all within a week, with Breaking Dawn finished late Thursday night the 4th June.

This was an interesting experiment with ebooks. I picked Twilight purely from the bestseller list. As far as I knew, it was a novel for teenage girls. There was very little chance I would read the bugger! Even when I started reading I thought the writing was poor, basic, unimaginative but I kept going. What "got me" was the Bella & Edward story. Yes hidden beneath this tough (cough cough) exterior is a soft mushy romantic. And of course let's pretend for a minute we aren't talking a vampire love story! I'm still trying to come to terms with all of this!! Somehow I just got sucked in (yes, couldn't resist the pun)....and really enjoyed it.

So to sum up my first ebook experience: Interesting choice. Resulted in 3 additional sales (4 if you count the Twilight DVD, 5 if you count the movie soundtrack, 6 if you count the piano score....). Yes, tragic isn't it. Consumerism gone mad.

But back to ebooks. The purchasing process was just like Apple's iTunes portal. You choose your ebook and purchase with a simple click or two. The site uses the credit card details stored from the previous purchase as per your profile. On completion of the sale, an email notification is sent but not an invoice like Apple's iTunes. I would have preferred the formal invoice but that's a personal choice.

Another downside is that you can't view before you purchase on the Sony ebook site. We are all used to sampling music tracks, why not sample ebooks in the same vein? Not having the preview functionality is a shame and I would have thought Sony had enough negotiating power with publishers - plus the technology - to do this effectively. Afterall Mobipocket's ebook site allows a demo to be viewed, stored, downloaded to your portable device - why hasn't Sony offered the same? Browsing is an important part of the ebook purchasing process and I trust they will add that to the portal in the near future.

STOP THE PRESS! I've just gone back into the Sony ebook portal and good news! They have "excerpts" as Coming Soon. They already have 20, 18, and 12 books featured for June, July and August respectively. At this stage they don't appear to be incorporated into the main functionality, but as a side bar. Hopefully the preview button will be part of the purchasing process in the coming months rather than having to navigate separately through the portal...

The last downside was reading on a computer. We spend all day on the blasted contraptions - email, websites, databases, spreadsheets, documents etc. Why on earth would we read a complete ebook as well? Well I have and I will again! I just have to position my body appropriately with better lighting. That may stop the headaches. I haven't had them since I stopped reading from the laptop, so I'm assuming the two are linked.

As to the handheld e-readers, I'm not liking the HanLin but will review that separately. The Sony ebook reader is enroute from our head office in the U.S. and I'm getting very excited about seeing it. (Particularly when my colleagues from the U.S. sent this email:

We have your Sony reader. If you ever want to see it again, place $10,000 in unmarked bills behind a certain convenience market in NW Portland ....!

I will post again once it's arrived and I've successfully downloaded the other ebooks I plan to read on the device. Stay tuned folks.

04 June 2009

The third ebook this week

Let's try and overlook the fact that I'm reading Stephenie Meyer. I can't quite get over it myself. On a positive note I've read my third ebook this week - Eclipse - and I'm onto my fourth and final in the Twilight Series. I expect I will have finished Breaking Dawn by tomorrow.

My Sony e-reader is yet to arrive from the U.S. (and when I say "my" Sony e-reader, it will be a work one that I'm using for research purposes, hence the reason for this blog) so I'm reading using the Sony ebook portal. 2 pages at a time, so the ebooks are like 1300 pages long, but I'm getting through them with a simple page down.

Taking my laptop to lunch has been an interesting experiment this week. Let's say it's causing quite the stir in the lunchroom, particularly since we are in the business of selling books - mainly the tangible product you can hold in your hands, write in, bend, throw around. Shouts of "traitor" have been heard already!

I haven't warmed to the HanLin yet (the black screen and delay when turning pages is off-putting) but let's get the distraction of Stephenie Meyer out of the way first and I'll then see how the reading experience goes on the e-reader and the other ebook platforms. I have several books lined up waiting to be read on both so I'll look at them over the next few days.

Oh before I forget, I should note the headaches that started earlier this week. Several days in a row. Linked to reading on the computer? Who knows. Anyone care to start taking bets?