January 1, 2010

Product review: Sony Reader PRS-600 "Touch Edition"

Shots of my new Sony Reader PRS-600, January 2010

Shots of my new Sony Reader PRS-600, January 2010

So guess who got a Sony eBook Reader for Christmas? That's right, it was me! I got one of the brand-new PRS-600s, in fact, otherwise known as the "Touch Edition" because of having a touchscreen; there is also a model even more expensive than mine, the 900 "Daily Edition" which was heavily touted by Sony itself this holiday, because of that one having WiFi equipment and a way to buy books directly from the Sony Bookstore, check out eBooks directly from your local library, subscribe to e-ink versions of newspapers and the like. As you can see, with this latest iteration of eBook readers we are finally getting closer and closer to that fabled "iPod for books" I've been predicting for a decade now will need to be invented before eBooks will finally catch on in a big way with the mainstream public; this one even works like an iPod, plugging into your computer in the back with a USB port and with a desktop interface where you simply drag and drop the books you'd like to transfer. (There's a direct connection to the Sony Bookstore there too, by the way.) Once you're unplugged and on the go, then, you can simply call up the total list of books and articles you have on your device -- maybe around 500 maximum using the internal memory of 350 megs, virtually unlimited due to the slots for memory cards.

Shots of my new Sony Reader PRS-600, January 2010

Shots of my new Sony Reader PRS-600, January 2010

Shots of my new Sony Reader PRS-600, January 2010

Shots of my new Sony Reader PRS-600, January 2010

Shots of my new Sony Reader PRS-600, January 2010

Shots of my new Sony Reader PRS-600, January 2010

Shots of my new Sony Reader PRS-600, January 2010

As you can see, in general the Sony Reader versions of CCLaP Publishing's books look pretty nice when actually opened in a Reader (this is the same version for Kindles and B&N Nooks as well, by the way, because of all three devices having the same screen dimensions.) There's only one problem, though, as you can see in the last two images above, which gets into a technical side of the limitations concerning electronic literature -- that PDFs, for those who don't know, are essentially photographs of book pages, meaning that devices have a hard time trying to figure out what's actually text and how to reflow it in different situations. CCLaP's books may look great when you view them in the size they were designed; but if you try to enlarge the text, as you can see, it basically keeps the same hard returns at the end of each line that you saw in the smaller view, making the lines now break in these strange spots and cause a lot of difficulty in reading.

Shots of my new Sony Reader PRS-600, January 2010

Shots of my new Sony Reader PRS-600, January 2010

Shots of my new Sony Reader PRS-600, January 2010

Better I think to as much as possible simply use the new EPUB format, an open format for electronic publishing that is quickly becoming a standard in the industry; that's why I waited so long to ask for an e-ink device, in fact, because I was waiting for one of them to finally accept the EPUB format. (The Kindle still doesn't, by the way.) Here above is the public-domain classic The Ambassadors by Henry James, which I simply got over at Project Gutenberg, even in EPUB format already which someone else nicely did before me; as you can see, when text is enlarged in this format, it reformats all the lines and paragraphs to give you once again a smooth, uninterrupted reading environment. There's all kinds of software out there for converting documents into EPUB format, and its conventions even allow for splashy covers and hyperlinked tables of contents; now that I've got an e-ink device myself, I'm coming to quickly realize how much better it is than a specially designed PDF document.

Shots of my new Sony Reader PRS-600, January 2010

Shots of my new Sony Reader PRS-600, January 2010

The Sony Reader does all kinds of other stuff too, by the way; here above, you can see how one can leave either a typed memo or handwritten note to oneself, and even transfer these to your home computer later, while yet other options let you display photos and play MP3s, neither of which I actually bother with on my particular device. It's a touchy system, to be sure, and I still for example haven't been able to get my device authorized at the Sony Store, despite numerous re-installs of the software and a couple of tickets to the help desk, which means I can neither purchase books from Sony for it or download encrypted files from the Chicago Public Library, who believe it or not actually have around 1,500 titles right this second available for digital checkout. But still, in general it's working just fine right now when it comes to loading my own documents, although with a certain amount of finessing that goes into the whole thing as well; and that's mostly why I wanted an e-ink device in the first place, not only to take longer online articles on the go with me but because of the growing amount of advance review copies of books I'm now getting electronically instead of physically. When it comes to that, my PRS-600 seems to work just fine, although like I said I highly encourage all you digital publishers to switch to the EPUB format as soon as possible, for the sake of all those e-ink device owners out there. I'll be redoing CCLaP's own EPUBs, for example, to take advantage of the formatting tips I've now learned by owning a device, and will of course make a mention here again when they're ready.

Filed by Jason Pettus at 12:56 PM, January 1, 2010. Filed under: Arts news | CCLaP Publishing | Design | Literature | Profiles | Reviews |