Sony eReader Touch PRS-600

I pre-ordered this a few weeks ago when I learned it would be shipping after 8/31/09. Imagine my surprise when it showed up on Friday 8/28!

I had gone back and forth between what eReader to buy: Kindle or Sony. I have been watching Kindle since it first came out around two years ago. I compared it with the Sony eReader 505 and 700 and decided I would get the 700. When I finally decided to just take the plunge, I found the 700 was no long available. Instead, the two that would be available were the PRS-300 Pocket version and the PRS-600 Touch version.

Before I continue, I must confess that I am a huge fan. I have always gotten exceptional service with them. Even when I’ve had to contact customer service, I’ve always gotten considerate, helpful, and prompt treatment. Given a choice, I nearly always pick Amazon. So why didn’t I pick Amazon this time? Choice. I like knowing I have other options. Granted, Amazon is usually the most cost effective (lower prices, often free shipping, etc.). I love my iPod and am generally happy with iTunes software. But if I’m given a choice, I’ll buy my music from Amazon because their digital music can be played on more than just the iPod—I may one day go with another MP3 player—and is DRM-free.

Because of this, I do not understand why Amazon made their e-books proprietary when everywhere else the company subverts proprietary systems. I go to Amazon because I want to, not because I have to, and in the end, that was the biggest reason why I did not choose Kindle. I do not want to be stuck with Kindle if I invest money in a digital library. It’s the library people want to invest in, not the hardware we use to read it! The same goes for our music collections. It’s bad enough I bought ebooks via that can only be viewed on a Palm platform (for instance). I don’t use a Palm OS phone anymore so these books I paid for are virtually unusable. Argh! Note: would be awesome if they would open their formats to other versions—same with Mobipocket. I know Mobipocket is owned by Amazon, but still . . . usable by most other eReaders except Sony? Get real.

The Sony eReaders claim to support different eReader formats, such as ePUB, PDF, and RTF. I am not an expert on gadgets or various formats out there in the industry, so forgive me if I leave something out. This is just a regular person’s perspective based on what (little) I can find on the PRS-300 and PRS-600.

Which brings me to my next point, and in some way, I can only blame myself. I’m having a problem with syncing up certain PDFs/ePUBs to my Touch. This is why I don’t normally buy something that is so new. I like to wait until there’s more documentation out there (yes, I use info sites to help with quests when I play MMORPGs too). When I first noticed the problem, I thought it was just a sync issue in general on Sunday morning. I set the thing to sync and waited an hour only to see the sync stuck in processing mode. I left to go to a friend’s birthday brunch and when I came home . . . still stuck in processing mode. I rebooted the computer and tried again. Still stuck processing. Hmm. This didn’t happen earlier on Saturday when I synced up with books I bought at Sony’s ebook store or the Google ePUB free books, nor did it happen when I synced up a couple of freebie PDF comics. Going to Sony’s site didn’t really help. The online chat tech was very courteous, but the suggestion to uninstall eLibrary while in safe mode, then reinstall, didn’t work, and, might I add, doing anything in safe mode, much less getting to safe mode, is a frustrating endeavor.

So, back to troubleshooting by myself. I had previously deleted the excerpts that came installed on my Touch because they were in German. Fortunately, I hadn’t deleted them from my Library on my computer. I transferred them back via the old drag and drop process and it transferred instantly. I tested it with some of my own pictures. Instant success. I tried it with Wil Wheaton’s Sunken Treasures I downloaded from Lulu for five bucks: stuck. I tried it with Cindy Jack’s Red Shoes Collection from Freya’s Bower: stuck. The same with Cindy Jack’s Point of Distraction from Lyrical Press: stuck. Both version’s of the latter book—EPUB and PDF—stuck. I can view the books using the eLibrary software, I just can’t get it to sync onto my Touch. I’m pretty confident there’s a fix for this or there will be, but I’m bummed because I specifically waited to check out these books until I got an eReader. I love the idea of supporting small press—something I one day hope to be a part of.

If anyone out there has some advice for me, I’d appreciate it. Otherwise, I’ll do my best to wait patiently for a fix if this is, indeed, and unintended bug of Sony’s (or Lulu, or Lyrical Press, or Freya’s Bower).

I don’t want to end this review on a negative note. After all, this is a brand spankin’ new product, there’s bound to be issues that need to be resolved. Anyone who plays MMORPGs at first release (or after a new extensive update/patch) knows this very well. So . . .

There’s some really neat features with the PRS-600 Touch:

  • I can hand write notes with the stylus. Yes, even in today’s keyboard driven society, sometimes it really is easier to just write something by hand. I can also type a note with the handy keyboard on the touch screen if I don’t want to write by hand.
  • When I want to turn the page, I can sweep my thumb right or left, much like I do with my Samsung Instinct, or others do with their iPhones. I can also use the buttons at the bottom of the reader.
  • While eInk technology is still only available in black and gray, a good quality picture looks just as good in the reader.
  • The reader also plays MP3s if headphones are used (and sounds very nice), so I can listen to music while reading. When I read, I’m pretty good at tuning out the rest of the world no matter how loud (just ask my roommates who would have band practice then ask for my opinion on how it sounded. Me: “You were playing?” Them: “. . .” Neighbors: “I hate practice nights.”), but sometimes it is nice to have my choice of noises going on in the background. I plan to load it up with easy listening music—something like Judas Priest, maybe?
  • I can highlight text in the book I’m reading and it will be saved as a text memo. I haven’t played with this too much but I am very much interested in this feature because in the past I’ve always been frustrated when I’d want to remember something I just read and of course, didn’t have paper/pen handy to take care of it.
  • There’s a dictionary handy. This will be very useful the next time I read Foucault’s Pendulum.
  • I can change orientation if I want, from portrait to landscape.
  • This thing is is thin! It will be MUCH easier to put this in my purse. Any purse I buy must be able to hold a paperback in a book cover as well as other key items. The Touch makes my purse options that much more open.
  • Zoom in/out. This doesn’t work so well on some PDFs, especially comics, because zooming in makes the text go away, but this is a PDF problem if I understand the information I’ve read about this. But otherwise, the zoom in/out feature is useful.
  • Speaking of PDFs, on the other hand, I understand that Sony’s eReaders handle PDFs better than Kindle. I’m not going into detail here, but if I find the link where the conversion process is explained and problems with it detailed, I’ll update this post.
  • I can check out books from the library. Because of Sony’s open format (a HUGE factor for me), I have more options on where I get my books, including if I want to take advantage of the public library.
  • When I can finally afford to go back to college, I can buy digital text books. Surely this has to be cheaper than the racket system currently in place.

I look forward to reading about other experiences with eReaders and learning more about what mine can do. By the way, I got mine in red. Yet one more (vanity) example of why choice is so important to me.

(ETA September 15, 2009: Check out my syncing success post for an update to my problem syncing small press items)