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The sony Ebook in the UK

Updated on August 2, 2009

The Sony e-book has been in the UK since autumn 2008 and we are now a year into its release.  I am first going to talk about the E-book itself, the Sony PRS-505 is a way of reading a book in a digital format.  Its dimensions are similar to that of a standard paperback (but much thinner).  It will fit in a your bag or even a big pocket but that isn’t the main feature to this product.  Unlike PDA’s of other such products in the past this use’s a new technology called “e-ink” or digital ink.  Basically it isn’t backlight and instead the words are created around a greyish background.  What this does is make the e-book very easy on the eyes similar to reading from is paper equivalent.  What I have found it the e-book is like reading a book including the lighting conditions e.g. good in non-direct sunlight; you will need a light to read in dark areas as it isn’t backlight as you would a normal book.

Its main key benefits come from saving space and it is great if you enjoy reading when travelling.  The PRS-505 comes with around 200mb of ram and with your average book taking up around 1mb you can get a good amount of books on the reader.  It also has 2 slots for memory cards, 1 for Sony’s MS Duo format and the other Secure Digital and you can use both at the same time allowing for the space to store a lifetime amount of books.  For people who travel will likely see the biggest benefit from this device but for me not having to have bookshelf’s filled with books taking up space is also a great benefit.  As I currently have more than my fairs share of cabinets filled with DVD’s and other things the last thing I need is having it taken up with books.  Also while this is a more hidden benefit to this product but there is also the environment to consider.  Now I am under no doubt that our standard books having little to fear from these e-books, the standard book does require paper to be made.  With the E-book it is only digital information which is very friendly to the environment.  One last point about the main benefits while I have already said this I feel it has to be stated again but the progress of the E-ink for the reader display can’t be overstated and while some people might think they can get a app to read a PDF on their I-phone etc it isn’t the same thing.  I don’t mean in size etc but the e-ink is really like reading a book unlike LCD displays it is very easy on the eyes and that is what really brings this product into its own.

Well so far I have been ranting about this product well here comes the bad points in my view and in a way it is focused on the UK market.  Unlike the US where Sony has their own store the UK release has been tied in with Waterstone’s.  Now I have nothing against Waterstone’s as a company before I have my rant.  But if you buy the UK version of the Sony E-book then you can’t use the Sony Store but instead have to use the Waterstone’s store.  The problem here is not only is Waterstone’s more costly their range is a fraction of that available in the Sony store.  Even after a year after the release while Waterstone’s range is probably now double in size its growth is still smaller to the growth rate of that of the Sony store.  The next element is the price while the cost of E-book’s is mostly cheaper than buying the paper back version this strangely isn’t always the case.  While this example I am going to give is the exception rather than the rule it does show that their high cost might be the downfall to this format.  On Waterstone the book Graceling by Kristin Cashore will cost £6.39 for the paperback version and at the time of making this hub will cost you £4 for a second hand copy from the amazon market place.  To buy the e-book version from Waterstone’s will cost £14.86, and from the Sony store $11.90 and with the exchange rate in pounds that is under £10.  Considering the production cost involved in making paperback books their cost should be much less than their paperback equivalent.  Considering that the publishers have all the text of their books on digital format and it takes around 1 hour to convert it to a e-book format to a very high professional standard I don’t see how they justify the high cost of the current e-books except that of greed which is right now holding the format back.  Before you ask I have converted PDF’s using open source formats to the Sony E-book standard BBeB and while it took me a bit to figure out the tricks and tips to a great conversion once done it is easy to do.  Publishing company’s don’t even have to use the limited open source us public is held by but have the software from Sony so can do a much easier and faster job at it.  Now after saying all that Waterstone’s or even the Sony Store (if you bought a US version of the E-book) isn’t the only place you can buy books there are plenty of stores online and while many if not most will require you to do some converting to the books before they can be read on the E-Book software like Calibre is free and is open source.  You will also find the range of a lot of these stores to be far greater than what Sony and Waterstone’s have to offer.  However unlike products like the I-pod which has a very great store for both the US and UK.  That is a one stop shop with good prices, is very easy to use and get downloads to the product.  For books you have to start looking a lot further afield.

The other main criticism I have with the E-Book is the software that comes with it.  While it isn’t too hard to use you have 2 separate software the Sony library and Adobe Digital software (for purchasing the e-books).  To be honest these software should have been combined to work as one similar to Apple’s I-tunes.  Also the Sony library software is very basic and lacks many key features.  There is open software like Calibre that does fill the gap but to be honest it is a bad day when a company like Sony is depending on free open source products to make their items work.  In regard to the Sony library unlike the US version that has a section for buying books, this is basically a built in browser that lets you use the Sony store, while it is a far cry from the I-store, it is better than nothing we in the UK only have a link to waterstone’s website.  They haven’t even bothered coding a browser into the application but instead have a cheap link the will open a web browser instead.

Below I will list my pros and cons

Below I will list my pros and cons


- E-Ink technology does allow the e-book to be read like a book.

- That vast storage space allows a Library in itself to be in something that can fit in your bag.

- This is similar to the above but for travelling it does cover all your book needs in a easy space.

- The battery life is great allowing a number of books to be read before needing a recharge.

- As on paper is used it is good for the environment.


- The cost of the current E-books from both the Sony store and Waterstone’s are heavily overpriced considering the vast saving in production costs that isn’t getting past onto the consumer.

- Other online stores aren’t easy to find and will generally require you to convert using open source software before the Sony E-book will read.

- Provided software leave’s a lot to be desired when compared to the like’s of I-tunes and considering open source software seems to be filling the gap, this is a poor situation.

- The cost of the E-book is around £200 which can be a lot of money considering the amount of books you can get for that if space isn't a issue.

Well I hope that in a way helps you make your choice in regard to the E-book, but despite the negative side to the product I would recommend it, if you are from the UK I would consider getting a US model so you get the benefit from the Sony store as I feel with waterstone’s until they get more reader sales they won’t invest the same. But I suspect many will hold off until their e-book library gets much better. So I feel that the Sony store is much better and really should have been made worldwide.


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