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.
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.
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