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Sony Reader Now Available 402

Yaksha42 writes "The Sony Reader, which debuted at CES in January, is now available for purchase on the Sony website. The six inch screen uses E Ink, rather than an LCD, to display the text, reducing strain on the eye while reading. While you can buy books on Sony's Connect site, you can also load eBooks and other text onto the Reader in a variety of formats, including PDF and TXT files. It also comes with the ability to receive newsfeeds, display JPG images, and can play unsecured MP3 and AAC music files. Additional information can also be found on the Learning Center site."
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Sony Reader Now Available

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  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @01:33AM (#16210903) Homepage Journal
    For example they have manga too(albeit a small selection right now). If Sony doesn't fuck it up totally it could be an interesting distribution model. But given their history in this type of thing, I don't have too much confidence.
    • by Dystopian Rebel ( 714995 ) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @01:58AM (#16211059) Journal
      I predict that the Sony® PRS-500 Portable Reader System® featuring innovative E-Ink® technology will meet the same fate as the Kamen Segway® Human Transporter featuring the innovative S-Feet® and S-Walking® technologies.
    • by DeborahArielPickett ( 336742 ) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @02:13AM (#16211173)

      I do hope that the supplier of the ebooks for this device take a little more care than do the current crop of ebook producers. Most of the books I read now are ebooks through eReader or Fictionwise, and they often are so poorly converted into electronic form that it hurts to read them.

      The one I'm currently reading is obviously an OCR job, because there are occasional soft-turned-hard hyphens peppered through it, and some lines where the wordspacing was evidently tight in the original, leadingtoareallylongwordin the ebook. Another one used hyphens for dashes too-which is extremely jarring in a proportional font-as this sentence demonstrates. Quotation marks and apostrophes are usually just the ASCII ones, which really isn't very professional-looking in print.

      Then you see situations where the culture shock just got too much for the converter and they gave up. The sample book in the SonyStyle web page, The Da Vinci Code, has some pictograms in it. Those probably just get included in the ebook as a low-resolution bitmap. They certainly did on my copy from Fictionwise. I've lost count of the books which have hard-coded page references ("see page 321"), which is useless considering that pagination is up to the device itself. Forget about tappable hyperlinks; I've only seen one such ebook in the dozens I've read.

      Don't get me wrong. I love my ebooks, and they compare well to Australian dead-tree books in price. But there's more to releasing an ebook than spitting out a plaintext file. If the parent poster is right about manga, hooray, finally. But history doesn't make me optimistic.

      • It can read PDFs. I usually LaTeXify Project Gutenberg books to make beautifully typeset texts.
  • PG (Score:2, Insightful)

    Imagine a Project Gutenburg DVD loaded on one of these.
  • by Trillian_1138 ( 221423 ) <slashdot@fridaytha[ ]com ['ng.' in gap]> on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @01:35AM (#16210911)
    See, I love the idea. I even might be willing to pay $350(!!!) for the damn thing. But the eBooks are still too damn expensive! Looking at Sony Connect shows, for example, "Marley and Me," "I Feel Bad About My Neck," and "Ricochet" as a 'bundle' for $42.03 as opposed to the list price of $53.89. *WHAT*?! With music I still think iTunes et al are often overcharging, but at least music has an inherent production cost, even if digital distrobution becomes cheaper. Don't lie to me and say books have the same production cost when distributed digitally and I should save a 'whopping' 11 bucks and change. Books distributed digitally become (almost) pure profit in a way music or movies can't, simply due to the nature of having to produce the damn things.

    Even the 'better' deals (Angels and Demons for $5.59) still seem absured.

    Jeeze, Sony. It's so like you! Create a really cool product, technologically, then have shit media for sale. And I want so hard to like e-readers...

    • Then buy your ebooks as PDF's.
    • by Nik13 ( 837926 )
      Same thing here in Canada. Last book I checked I wasn't saving 10%.

      But that alone wouldn't be too bad, as one can likely find some other stuff to load it up with.

      What I'm worried about is how good the software will be to read PDFs and such (not like the whole page can fit on the tiny screen, and what about graphics? etc). They say you should resize them yourself if you want them to look better on the tiny screen - not something I like to do. And if there is conversion required, how good will that be (for sa
    • BOOKS are too expensive. New ones, anyway.

      You know those Barnes and Noble hardback classics? The ones that are often in the $6-$10 range? Dostoevsky, Melville, that kind of thing?

      They are still making a profit on those!

      Now, think about the paperback classics you see around sometimes. Not uncommon to get one for $2 or $3, not on sale. And they're still making money at that price!

      Think about that the next time you're about to pay $14 for a trade paperback, or $9 for a normal one. Hell, I saw a shitty,
      • Haha, butchered the spelling of "Peloponnesian". Sorry. Heh.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by dan828 ( 753380 )
      alt.binaries.e-book might have content. I've heard. But don't download it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Knothere ( 1006355 )
      Check out places like baen.com. I've bought quite a few of thier ebooks the day the hardback was released 5-6$. Seems like the old publisher, may he rest in peace, really wanted ebooks to take off. They also have a free library with a lot of titles. Go, read, feed the addiction.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Technician ( 215283 )
      Don't lie to me and say books have the same production cost when distributed digitally and I should save a 'whopping' 11 bucks and change.

      The publishers love it. Low production costs and you get to lose the right of first sale. In otherwords, you can resell the dead tree edition when you are done with it, or exchange it at your favorite used book store.

      Your eBook? How are you going to sell the copy or even give it away? Isn't it DRM'ed to your registered display device?

      DRM, Right of first sale, etc. Don
  • for some things, like manuals in the field or for work elements or long bus rides and such, but not for casual home use. If I'm gonna read a book, I like to sit in a recliner and actually turn pages. The only thing I would use it for is for traveling or having reference on the fly.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by sankyuu ( 847178 )
      I've tried out the Japanese model (Sony Librie) on demo in a shop, and I have to say this thing makes me drool.

      It is very expensive, but quality-wise, it makes other e-book readers feel clunky and painful to the eyes. And it even comes with a cover that makes it *feel* like a book. No backlight, but it conveniently runs on ordinary aaa batteries. The quality only problems are the slow refresh and occasional slight ghosting that reminds me of an etch-a-sketch. It's as close to the real thing as it gets.
  • A recent Sony product I actually want??

    That's unpossible!

    I need to see one live, but I like what I see so far - The ability to also display pdf, word and txt are a (finally) smart move by Sony, and the mp3 AND AAC capability is a nice bonus.

    The GUI for the Connect app looks awful familiar though...
    • The GUI for the Connect app looks awful familiar \though...

      The display, based on technology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology spinoff E Ink Corp., is composed of tiny capsules with electrically charged particles of white and black ink. When a static electric charge is applied on the side of the capsule that faces the reader, it attracts the white particles to the face of the display, making that pixel show light gray. Reversing the charge brings the black pigments floating through the capsule to

      • Yes, but the poster was refering to the GUI on the Connect app, not e-ink technology; you know, the Sony "iTunes" for books...

        Why does it look familiar? BTW, if it's an itunes reference (thus making me look dumber than I am, due to my clarification above), then I should note that I've never actually seen itunes. I just know what it's supposed to do.
    • Let's starting counting the days until they offer a firmware 'update' [com.com] that turns off the free PDF/txt/MP3 reader bits :-p. I'm sure they'll wait six months or so, until they think they've got everyone hooked..

      • And, of course, no Ogg/Vorbis audio support. Next!

        Seriously, this thing cries out to be hacked. Although one with stylus input would be a lot more useful, hacked.
      • by Kris_J ( 10111 ) *
        Yup. With products like these, you can't trust that they'll continue to have the same features in the future. And with Sony, you know that if they want to downgrade your (their) product, they'll use some very underhand ways to get that update onto the device.
    • by anagama ( 611277 )
      A recent Sony product I actually want??
      That's unpossible!

      I was thinking the same thing ... then I looked at the specs:
      System Requirements
      Operating System: Windows® XP (Home Edition/Professional, Media Center Edition, Media Center Edition 2004, Media Center Edition 2005)
  • by ricree ( 969643 )
    From Sony's ebook store http://ebooks.connect.com/ [connect.com]

    We will offer titles on a pay-to-own basis - similar to the way a user expects to purchase and own other digital media today. The user will have the option to purchase this content and read it on up to 6 different activated devices (computers or Readers).

    So I'll own the books so much that I get to put them on a whole six different player. Thank you very much Sony, your generosity is awe inspiring.

  • Academics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by quarrelinastraw ( 771952 ) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @01:46AM (#16210977)
    This looks great for people in academics. I read 100 pages or so per week of articles in PDF that I may never read again. Reading them on an LCD screen is a huge pain, so I usually end up printing them out (and of course using both sides and recycling). This would save me a lot of paper.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by RMB2 ( 936187 )
      You're absolutly right; I spend thousands of pages on technical documents. It would be unbelievable to have them all on a card. I could have all my research sharing flash memory with my music.

      One important thing that sounds to be missing... I wonder if there is any way to annotate on the documents? While I read papers, I usually mark them up, references and formulae and such. Is there an E Ink equivalent?
    • I read 100 pages or so per week of articles in PDF that I may never read again. Reading them on an LCD screen is a huge pain, so I usually end up printing them out (and of course using both sides and recycling). This would save me a lot of paper.

      Yeah, but $350 worth of paper? :-)

    • datasheets are always PDFs.

      I have a serious hankering for this device. I can fit a giant shitton of PDFs on a 1GB memory stick. As long as I'm not forced to run some shitsack software to get stuff onto it, I may actually get one of these. I guess it's a choice between this and a Wii. :(
    • Re:Academics (Score:5, Informative)

      by dimension6 ( 558538 ) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @03:25AM (#16211521)
      I should warn you, as the owner of a Sony Librie (previous Japanese version, uses the same screen as the Reader I believe), that the screen (and resolution) is definitely too small to read a 8.5x11 or A4 .pdf document. For the Librie, I can convert the .pdf files into 2 pages for every 1 on the .pdf file, and that works pretty well. However, this means more flipping around, and at about a second per page turn, could be inconvenient for academic books.
  • Finally.. (Score:4, Informative)

    by anethema ( 99553 ) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @01:46AM (#16210981) Homepage
    I've been following these e-ink readers since I've first read about the technology. I'm an avid reader and re-read all the books I enjoy many times. Having all my books available on a SD card in a reader which lasts like 20 books worth on a single charge, all while looking a lot like real paper is like a dream come true for me.

    The main competition to this sony reader seems to be the Iliad from I-Rex. I think it is a much nicer reader for a couple reasons.

    It has a nice page turn interface, it has a proper paperback A5 sized screen, and runs linux. There has already been quite a bit of hacking on it. Can code your own readers for various formats etc.

    The downsize? It is like $850 instead of $350 of the sony :(

    Guess I'm still stuck waiting till the iliad comes down in price or another reader comes out at a lower price point. These things are way to specialized for the price they are demanding.
  • by Eric Smith ( 4379 ) * on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @01:46AM (#16210985) Homepage Journal
    Is on Sony's Source Code Distribution Service:

    http://www.sony.net/Products/Linux/Download/catego ry3.html#2 [sony.net]

    The older, Japan only model is there too. As well as various other interesting products.

  • Just say no. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dzimas ( 547818 ) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @01:52AM (#16211025)
    I like being able to share books with friends. I doubt that Sony's going to allow me to lend my book license to someone else, nor am I likely to find electronic books in a used bookstore. Libraries probably won't be allowed to offer them, either. It's easier to just say "no" and rely on the old battery free paper versions. At least no one can deny that I "own" it if it's sitting on my bedside table.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "Libraries probably won't be allowed to offer them, either. "

      The Indianapolis Public Library offers online electronic books.

      "It's easier to just say "no" and rely on the old battery free paper versions."

      It also represents a good solution against piracy. Certainly better than what the MPAA/RIAA are offering.

      "At least no one can deny that I "own" it if it's sitting on my bedside table."

      You own the "original book", not the words on the pages.
    • I'm a Barfly, eg, I hang out on the Baen Bar a good deal of time.

      What that means is I read a large amount of ebooks. Baen books, http:/// [http] www.baen.com , was started by the dearly departed Jim Baen who saw the internet as a way to hook readers. They created http://www.webscription.net/ [webscription.net] which has most of their library for sale. Books which aren't even in hardback and are 2+ months from publication are $15. Books in hardback are around 6. Older books are even cheaper, some less than $4.

      All of them DRM fr

  • Does not mean "now available".
  • by ian_mackereth ( 889101 ) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @02:19AM (#16211209) Journal
    I do virtually all my reading on my PDA (Palm T3, 1/2VGA) and have for the last couple of years.

    This Sony device has some of the same advantages; potential for large number of books in hand and ability to buy books online at any time.

    However, it still misses some of the point of an e-reader vs a dead-tree book!

    Portability: it won't fit in my shirt pocket like the Palm does. Why is it the size of a dead-tree book? Because that's what people who haven't used ebooks much think that they want!
    The paperback size is a compromise between having enough words to balance the effort and inconvenience of page turning, and having a reasonable thickness for an average-length book. When turning a page requires just a minimal thumb pressure, fewer words per page is less of a consideration.

    Backlight: Sure, it shortens the battery life, but being able to read in bed without the light on is great. Or in any other environment where the light levels are low enough to cause your mother to worry about you going blind!

    Dictionary: being able to tap on a word on the screen and have a dictionary entry pop up is so useful, especially with obtuse and erudite writers. I always _mean_ to go look up words, but with ereader and a 150,000 word dictionary loaded, I actually _do_!

    Availability: my PDA is a general-purpose device and I use it as an alarm clock, an organiser, an MP3 player, a movie viewer, a calculator, a map (with BT GPSr), a note-taker, etc., etc. Because I use it so much, I always have it with me. Because I always have it with me, I always have my current book(s) and magazines available for those unexpected spare moments (or hours!) Since even a long novel is rarely more than 3-400kB, they really don't make much of a dent in a 1GB SD card.

    I often hear fellow bibliophiles say that they wouldn't like an e-book reader because they really like the smell and feel of real paper, and the tactile experience of turning pages, and so on.
    I imagine that their great-great grandparents thought that automotives were never going to be popular, because people would miss the feel of the reins and the clip-clop of the hooves...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheSHAD0W ( 258774 )
      Ian raises some points, but I have to disagree...

      (1) Yeah, it's big, but if it's popular I'm sure you'll see variations in multiple sizes from multiple producers. Also, I don't think your PDA has 20 gig of space. Also, the Apple Newton was rather large, and there are people who STILL swear by it.

      (2) I don't think you can put a backlight on an e-ink display. Even so, it'll be of high enough contrast to read in most situations you can read an ordinary paperback book. You could always use one of those litt
    • by bunions ( 970377 )
      I do most of my reading on a PDA too (Sony nx80, because the jogdial is a must-have for ebook readers, IMHO) and while it's immensely useful for tech docs, it's not something I can read for hours. Maybe you have younger eyebones than me, but after 30 mins or so, I have to give my eyes a break for a while.

      I do agree that I'd like to see something smaller, but I guess I'd have to actually see how it looks and feels in person. If the device is decently durable and I can throw it onto a table like I would wit
    • by donaldm ( 919619 )
      Good post.

      The PDA does have its usages in that is is very flexible in what it can do, however the problem with a PDA is that it has a small screen which can be quite irritating to people who need to display large amounts of text and/or drawings in context rather than scroll. This is a major issue with human interfaces because you still need an input device (stylus, keyboard, mouse, .... etc) and an output device (screen, sound, ... etc) that a human can use either their hands or eyes (mainly) and that restr
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Bazman ( 4849 )
      Cleary you dont use your dictionary enough or you wouldn't have said 'obtuse' where you really meant 'abstruse'!

      • Cleary you dont use your dictionary enough or you wouldn't have said 'obtuse' where you really meant 'abstruse'!"

        (Quickly pulls out PDA and scribbles both words in dictionary lookup)
        Bugger. Well, don't I feel obtuse! 8-)}

        On the images/formatted text issue; yes, a PDA screen is too small for that to be at all comfortable. I've done it, when that was the only option available, but the scrolling gets annoying very quickly.

        Small(ish) images embed into ebooks fairly well, with those larger than screen size

  • What about images? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ofprimes ( 174237 ) *
    Even though the website says the reader handles "Unsecured Text: BBeB Book, Adobe® PDF, TXT, RTF, Microsoft® Word; Image: JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMPit", not on one page did I see an image displayed on the reader. This is the most important feature for me as I read many IT books on PFD that include numerous diagrams, pictures, charts, pieces of code as a graphic, etc. I noticed it said it displays 800x600 resolution with 4 shades of gray, but why are there no examples of anything other than plain text
    • by bunions ( 970377 )
      I've seen an image of images (!) on the devices. From what I can tell it looks fine. Or as fine as any image will in 2-bit grayscale, anyway.
  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @02:33AM (#16211289)
    Ultimate digital reading experience? I thought that was braille.
    • Ultimate digital reading experience? I thought that was braille.

      Well, at least the sight-impaired won't be distracted by the two logos and all the buttons. Last I checked, books didn't have logos or big buttons on every page, so my guess is that the sight-impaired will be at an advantage in that they'll less distracted than everyone else using this device.

      On the plus side, the device offers a list of features that include 7,500 page turns per charge, readability in sunlight, 180 degree viewing, and support
  • I wonder if they will ever stock books in other languages. I want to try to learn Korean(because Korean women are hot :P) and I think that being able to download books written in Korean(childrens books at first, then getting more advanced) would be an interesting way to learn the language. I can always go to hanbooks.com which offers some decent prices, but being able to integrate e-books with dictionaries and whatnot would be really cool. Plus you can be much less limited in your selection.
  • How do you put OpenDocument and other format files on the reader? I noticed even PDF files have to be converted to the Sony proprietary BBEB format before being loaded to the device...

    How do you perform the file conversions when loading PDF:s from a Linux host?

    I didn't see anything that looked like a conversion program among the published GPL files [sony.net] for the device.

    • by Budenny ( 888916 )
      Its a good question. The four questions about it are:

      1) Can you read your own books in native mode, and get them in and out using normal file transfer tools?

      2) Can you read books bought at the store on other readers?

      3) Can you read other ebooks bought at other stores on it?

      4) Can you buy the ebooks using an ordinary web browser or do you have to use proprietary software?

      Otherwise we are headed down towards a rather familiar place. In this place you are locked into both bookstore, reader and download/m
      • by vinsci ( 537958 )
        In particular, I'd like to see DjVu files (see DjVuLibre [djvuzone.org]) supported on this and similar E-Ink devices. DjVu, in summary, is a lot faster and a lot smaller than PDF files.

        About DjVu:

        DjVu is a web-centric format and software platform for distributing documents and images. DjVu can advantageously replace PDF, PS, TIFF, JPEG, and GIF for distributing scanned documents, digital documents, or high-resolution pictures. DjVu content downloads faster, displays and renders faster, looks nicer on a screen, and co

  • The Sony Reader looks really neat and I am excited, and I noticed a few things about storage on the Reader. For instance, I think it is good that Sony made SD card support available, in addition to Memory Stick compatibility. This is nice and all, but PDF files can get large and being able to add even more storage would be good. From what I understand MS cards on the PSP top out at 4GB at least with the older firmware, which leads me to believe the MS "standard" only supports cards 4GB (2^32 bytes) in si
    • I might be able to shed a bit of light here (I have a Sony Librie from Japan). First, the Reader doesn't support .pdf natively. You first have to convert it in some way to the BBEB format (proprietary Sony format, fancy that). I'm not too sure how different the Reader's interface will be from the Librie, but it's not too practical to have 300 books on the Librie, because scrolling through and finding the ones you want to read takes a long time (it takes about a second to flip pages). I have a 1GB card that
  • I got to wondering what the screen pixel count was, and found "170 DPI". Curious to put that down as "numbers I know"; my 20" dell is 1680 pixels wide and ~17 inches wide; almost exactly 100dpi. This is a fair bit higher (not quite twice!) so they should be able to put down a fair amount of decent-looking print on a "page".

    It's slightly disappointing that HTML support isn't standard; they support everything else, but HTML requires "conversion." Yuck.

    You know what I like best, though? Battery life is

  • I was really starting to get worried that my printed works would never benefit from the powers of DRM. I'm so glad we have Sony to protect us all.
  • OK, here's what I want-a format that combines a readable book with an audiobook. That would be great. I could then listen to the book in the car on the way to and from work, and read the book in bed at night.
  • by 200_success ( 623160 ) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @04:02AM (#16211673)

    From the presentation, it appears that the Sony Reader supports

    • SD card in addition to Memory Stick
    • Unencrypted MP3, not ATRAC
    • RTF and unencrypted Adobe PDF, among other formats

    So where's the real Sony? Does this show what they are capable of developing when their audio division gets out of the way? If this reader actually supports these standards natively without requiring silly conversion software on the PC, I might even consider un-boycotting Sony to show that they are on the right track.

  • I'm not buying a damned, DRMed book, but there's always Project Gutenburg (http://www.gutenberg.org/ [gutenberg.org]). I'd actually like a peripheral display using something like e-ink. It would be something I can dump text from the main monitor for long reading (like Slashdot comments) - or documentation...that'd be a relief.
  • This is a Sony product. Remember what Sony did? (Think "rootkit").

    So it doesn't matter how good the product is. I will not buy
    anything from Sony, _ever_. The boycott is eternal.

    Not that I have many illusions about the length of the
    collective memory...
  • by pcause ( 209643 ) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @12:29AM (#16224683)
    I was an avid fan of ebooks on my iPAQ 7 years ago, but stopped using them becuase I got pissed off at the pricing. I was paying the exact same price for a DRM restricted ebook that I was paying for the physical hard cover. This is a rip off. I understand why the publisher wants to maximize the bucks, but since they are saving printing, shipping, shelf space, and returns, ebooks are way cheaper and I should share some of the savings.

    Alas, the publishers were much like the record labels and that means too greedy! If they provide price incentives than I'd use this, but given the expected restrictions if the prices are the same, I'll skip it and use the old fashion hard copies.

Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success. -- Christopher Lascl