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Sony Pocket Reader (PRS-350) - Sony Pocket Reader (PRS-350)

By Hugo Jobling

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

User Score:

Another advantage the Sony Reader Pocket has is its support for EPUB-formatted eBooks. While software such as Calibre will happily convert EPUB files to a Kindle-supported type, they have to be DRM-free (or stripped of it illicitly). The Sony Pocket Reader, conversely, supports Adobe DRM and as such will display EPUB books with no fuss or bother.

However, while it's a shame that Amazon Kindle owners can't easily access non-Amazon eBook stores, it's a major annoyance that Amazon eBooks are incompatible with the Sony Reader. Because if there are two things that Waterstones, WH Smiths and their ilk have in common it is that their eBook stores are, first, woefully under-stocked and, second, horribly overpriced. Although it's entirely possible to find cheap eBooks, finding a selection that you'd want to read is another matter.

There's no 'Sony Reader' iPhone app to browse these purchased books on, either (as there is for the Kindle). Having the ability to carry on where you left off on your iPhone or iPad is a real boon when stuck for entertainment and without your Kindle.

You have to manually load eBooks onto a Sony reader, unlike the Kindle which accesses Amazon's online repository either over Wi-Fi or 3G. Admittedly Sony's Reader software is pretty simple to use, and it's stored on a separate partition of the Reader Pocket's 2GB of memory so you'll always be able to install it on a PC (Windows or Mac) if required.

The very fact that you need software to authorise transfer of DRM-laden eBook will be enough to turn some people off from the Sony reader. There is one advantage to this otherwise dire state of affairs, though. Because it supports DRM, the Sony Reader Pocket can be used to read eBooks loaned from a public library.

The number of libraries in the UK offering eBooks is still limited, and the management of digital copies is still hilariously archaic, but that the ability to 'borrow' digital copies of books for free is there at all goes a massive way to compensating for the frankly abysmal options for purchasing eBooks for a Sony Reader.

Hopefully in the future libraries will be allowed to offer more than two or three 'copies' of an eBook for hiring at a time, or allow users to select a shorter loan period than two weeks, making copies available sooner than currently. Ideally people would be able to return books as soon as they finish reading them, but without an Internet connection on a Sony Reader it would be hard to verify the removal of a finished-with loaner eBook from a device.

But we digress. The salient point here is that although the Reader Pocket ecosystem has its merits, Sony simply can't compete with Amazon yet. Put simply, if the choice between the devices were down to the hardware alone, we'd have a tough choice on our hands, and would probably hand the Reader Pocket the advantage. But looking at both companies eBook reader offerings as a whole, Amazon's simply outclasses Sony's by a country mile. That the Kindle is also a cheaper device just adds insult to injury.

Verdict

Despite its attractive form factor, excellent display and intuitive touch-driven interface the Sony Reader Pocket can't quite compete with the Amazon Kindle. Whispernet not only makes managing eBooks easier, the Amazon eBook store is also more comprehensive and cheaper than those available to Sony Reader users. Given those considerations, as much as we like the Pocket Reader, we simply can't give it an outright recommendation.

Overall Score

8

Scores In Detail

  • Value 6
  • Features 7
  • Design 9

piesforyou

October 14, 2010, 2:42 pm

I'm tempted to go for the sony (650) because it has much better handling of pdfs. I'll mainly be using it to read academic pdfs which are often two columns, and the sony reader offers a display method that follows columns rather than pages.

RageBoy

October 14, 2010, 2:59 pm

Simon Pegg has a new book out today.





The book is not available to download from either Waterstones or iBooks.





The Kindle Store has it for £8.





I'm sure this isn't an isolated case and for that reason I wouldn't even consider a non Kindle compatible device - even if it were £50 cheaper.

Ash

October 14, 2010, 3:25 pm

I got one of these as a gift just a couple of days back and plan to return it and get the Kindle instead. I dont see why I need to connect it to a PC to buy books, thats a big put-off for me, else its okay.

Ash

October 14, 2010, 3:31 pm

BTW, I Morgan Computers is selling a 7" Android tablet for £85, anyone know if its any good? I would like to know if its worth considering instead of the Kindle...

Ash

October 14, 2010, 3:32 pm

Forgot to put the link ;)





http://www.morgancomputers.co....

Ash

October 14, 2010, 3:50 pm

Now I am confused, there seem to be several unknown makes of Android Tablets in the market. Have a look at





http://www.thecheaplaptops.co....





Anyone know if these are genuine or a scam?

Luan Bach

October 14, 2010, 4:25 pm

@Ash, I can tell even without clicking on the links that the answer will be, no they won't be any good. I've made the mistake of getting the Augen's device and it's a piece of crap.

Sulla

October 14, 2010, 4:50 pm

The Sony hardware looks impressive, but I was very disappointed by the limited range of improvements made in this generation of the Sony eReader. As stated in the article, I do not see it as being worth the asking price when compared to the new Kindle.





It is possible that the product team was allowed limited funds given that it was unlikely to make a significant impact on Kindle sales. Could this be the last iteration of the eReader?

Charm El Snake

October 14, 2010, 5:16 pm

@piesforyou - I bought the 650 at the weekend, mainly to read PDFs. It's fine so far, although it depends on the PDF (they can end up with, er, an eccentric use of fonts, depending on how they were created).





I have put my university course work onto mine, and had no problems. Text reflows well around pictures within PDFs.





I rarely need to add notes to the books, so an on-screen keyboard is a preferable to a physically larger device with a real keyboard. The touch screen is a joy to use, although it's still necessary to use the physical buttons for certain operations.





I was well aware of Waterstones et al policy of "let's get as much money out of the punters as possible" (which is self defeating, as it puts off people from buying the device and the ebooks), but I don't expect to buy large numbers of books.





Don't forget to factor in a cover too (£29). It's a well made bit of kit, but it's not going to fair well in a bag full of pens and keys. I bought my PRS-650 and cover from Waterstones and got £6.80 worth of points, which goes most of the way to an ebook (probably would get you two Kindle ebooks though).

Hugo

October 14, 2010, 5:43 pm

Sulla - actually I think integration with Qriocity (Sony's music and video store) in the next gen Reader is likely. They need a whispernet-like distribution system to compete with the Kindle.

HarryGlass

October 14, 2010, 7:50 pm

I've been thinking more and more of getting a Kindle, but wanted to wait for this review first. Going towards the Kindle now, but I have to say I don't think it's quite as clear cut as your conclusion.





I think the better PDF support deserves a bigger tick for Sony. There's no mention here of Newspapers, can someone with experience of both say what newspaper support is like for the Sony & the Kindle.





Doing a little research shows that Sony will soon have a desktop, iOS & Android app that will sync with a Reader.





http://www.sonyinsider.com/201...





So that evens that side up.





The same site also has an article about newspapers and the fact there's 1.2 million books in their store. Once they get Qriocity (atrocity) up and running for e-Books it'll could potentially change the balance as well.





It's all about the software and right now that gives the Kindle the edge, but if Sony can balance that out then their nicer hardware could swing things back in their favour. I think the next round will be key, so yet again I'll probably wait and stick to real books.

lensmann

October 15, 2010, 1:52 am

It seems to me that the really competitive product - and the one I'd have bought if they'd introduced it here - is the PRS-950, which sits very nicely between the Kindle and the Kindle DX in terms of size and price. Unfortunately, it's US-only for the foreseeable future. Sony really seems to hate Europe.

piesforyou

October 15, 2010, 3:06 pm

Jeeze, the 950 could be just the ticket. Wifi, 3G, and a 7 inch screen. Perfect.

trini

October 15, 2010, 5:24 pm

It is very rare that I realize I know more about the products being reviewed than the Trusted Reviewer but in this case I think that it is the case and I have a few additions / corrections to your article:





1. Addition - The PRS-600 model has a resistive touch surface on top of the e-ink screen. This made the e-ink less clear (compared to a K2 for example which uses the same e-ink panels – same manufacturer), a cardinal sin for e-book readers. I think it is important to make the distinction that the new Sony ereaders have now introduced a whole new touch screen interface for a consumer product by using infrared beamed just about the e-ink screen rather than any extra touch interface layer above e-ink screen. This innovation means there is no loss of screen viewing quality and the screen is now comparable with the K3 (again same manufacturer). The touch interface is also a lot more responsive, not quite Iphone capacitance responsive but still good.


2. Correction – Calibre is software for creating e-books (non DRM) and managing the library of e-books. It is a free and pretty open system. I am also pretty sure it has no more special relationship with Amazon than it does with any other e-book publisher. Therefore your comment "Amazon's Calibre software" is incorrect and I would suggest you change it. I can ask the Calibre creator on the excellent MobileRead forums if you would an "official" response?


3. Addition – The comment "There's no 'Sony Reader' iPhone app…" is correct but you might want to add that when Sony officially announced the new Sony Readers in August they also stated they would be releasing said apps (Android, iOS) this year (November, I think from memory)


4. Addition – check out website www.inkmesh.com It allows you to do a comparison of e-book prices for any given book available. Amazon are not always cheaper. Just watch out for geo restrictions (the way the publishers are trying to kill their industry)





Agreed that Amazon e-book ecosystem has Sony beaten hands down. The easy of purchase, download and seamless integration between devices using whispernet push the Kindle above the Sony readers. The Kindle is also a lot cheaper; you can debate the cost differential of the 3G/wifi units in the K3 and better build quality of the Sony readers but it basically come down to the fact Amazon are not just selling the hardware but also selling the ecosystem so they can discount the hardware against future book sales.





But, and there is a but this is not future proof. Amazon has a closed system and that means you will forever be tied to them. The longer you have a kindle, the more books you buy from Amazon and the more you have "invested" in that eco-system. What happens 5 years from now when the latest gadget catches your eye and you ditch your Kindle? Those 200 books you bought for a total of US$2000 goes where? You download them to Kindle for PC…but when was the last time you sat reading a full book on a laptop? But who can tell if your latest Apple gadget will allow a Kindle app? What faith in Jobs and Bezos! For ease of use, go with an ecosystem but be warned in the long term you will lose your investment





I have been reading e-books for 11 years now and spent thousands and thousands on legally downloaded books. I have been burnt twice by the format, DRM and geo restriction wars so I went out and taught myself to strip the DRM off e-books (legally purchased only). I now buy e-books from Amazon, Diesel, BooksonBoard, WH Smith, Waterstones, E-reader etc. I strip the DRM and then use Calibre to convert to EPUB (open common format) which is considered one of the better quality formats and then I load it on the best quality e-book reader available, which for me is a sony.





Could the sony be better? The answer is yes, absolutely. The lack of 3G and/or WiFi is probably the biggest missing factor. But for me the sony readers are the best built and most stylish e-readers out there. And for this i-phone generation where looks and a touch screen matter over some function I think the Sony readers will be more successful than some might think.

Athenian

November 25, 2010, 2:28 am

Having read numerous reviews I was ready to buy a Kindle, although the design,appearance and touch screen on the Sony PRS350 was attractive. Much is made of the wifi connection, but is it really that important? For me, the cost was an important factor as well, the Sony being considerably more expensive. My only concern was that I had not seen/handled the Kindle. This changed when John Lewis started selling them, and I was able to go and see/handle a Kindle.


This was an eye opener. Considering that probably 90% plus of the use of the device will be for reading books, the Kindle was a huge disappointment.


In my opinion it is too big for one hand, but too small for using two hands. I found the keyboard to be distracting, and in touch screen times, rather dated. The Sony, however is better looking, and certainly to my mind better for reading from.


These things are of course subjective, but I do suggest that before buying a Kindle you go and have play with one. Remember that most of your use will be reading from it, not loading books into it.

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