Sony Reader is in the house!!

Sonyreadercontents I just popped out on a couple of chores and returned to find a very welcome package from Waterstones in the form of the all-new Sony Reader PRS-505.

A full review will follow but first impressions:

- Small - really surprised at how small
- Light - lighter than a standard paperback, by far
- Amazing screen - Wow!!!!

What's in the box?

- The Reader in a nice brown faux leather case
- 100 FREE Classic books CD
- Sony eBook Library software CD
- Fold-out Quick-start guide
- Sony guarantee info document
- Registration document
- A note on browsing PDFs

I'll post a full review over the next few days but I'll leave you with a quick snap of that amazing screen:
Sonyreaderscreen

Waterstones being lethargic with their pre-launch marketing of Sony Reader?

Waterstonesreader So with only 4 days remaining until Waterstones unleash the Sony Reader PRS-505 into the UK market, you’d expect their ‘wheels of marketing’ to be in full motion, chipping away at their customers, convincing them that they REALLY NEED to invest £199 in some ‘new-fangled’ book/reading technology.

Sadly, not so. Any notion of Waterstones’ wheels of marketing ‘chipping away’ seems not to have materialised.  The stores I visited in the past week may have had one or two ‘pre-order online’ posters on display, but from what I saw that’s about as far as Waterstones’ marketing wheels seemed to have turned on this.

If that’s not bad enough, the sales staff I questioned seemed bewildered about the impending launch of the Sony Reader (other than knowing the launch date), and showed little to no enthusiasm for its arrival. I did manage to speak with one member of staff (nice guy), who was tasked with setting up an in-store Reader display ‘in the next few days’, but again he was foggy (perhaps purposely) on any detail.

All of this lethargy makes me really disappointed in Waterstones. Here they are, in the enviable position of being able to host a landmark launch in the UK, one where they can build some real pre-launch excitement, and it looks like they’re just going to let the Sony Reader pretty much slip in the back door next Thursday.

In fairness maybe I’m just being a bit premature and Waterstones are waiting until post-launch to really set their marketing wheels in motion. However in light of the pre-launch excitement and hype that has surrounded other key gadget launches in recent months (key gadgets such as the iPhone, which can pretty much sell themselves anyway), it’s a huge disappointment that Waterstones, or Sony for that matter, have failed to build any kind of feverish anticipation.

Personally I don’t need Waterstones’ help in getting excited about the arrival of the Sony PRS-505 in the UK. As regulars know I’ve already pre-ordered mine - I know how good they are. But it’s not me that Waterstones need to convince. It’s the traditionalists; those who balk at the thought of parting with almost £200, for what they must see as an alien technology, one that has no place in the tactile world of books and reading. It’s going to be no easy job winning over these readers, and Waterstones should really set out on winning that tough 'battle' sooner, rather than later; it isn’t going to be easy!!

Anyway only 4 days to go so let’s see how this pans out. Roll on launch day!!

Sony PRS-505 set to increase my paperless arsenal

Sony_prs505_2 Well I’ve spoken about it often enough lately and I’ve decided that I can’t wait any longer. The pros outweigh the cons, the price is absolutely right, and most importantly, I’ve convinced my wife that I need one :o). So it’s with great pleasure, and no little excitement, that I announce the latest addition coming to my paperless arsenal - the soon to be UK launched Sony PRS-505 Reader.

Since beginning my quest to operate as paperless as I can, I’ve yearned for a dedicated ereader. As many of you know, my Tablet PC has filled my ebook reading needs admirably, but the advantages of a dedicated reader, especially with regards to battery life and weight, can’t be ignored. I’ve lamented the lack of ereaders in the UK and now that Sony are stepping up and doing something about it, which probably has more to do with Sony pre-empting Amazon’s UK introduction of the Kindle than anything else, I should be putting my money where my mouth is, and I am!

Coincidentally I’m also embroiled in the midst of a novel-reading challenge right now (I’m on my thirteenth in 8 weeks), and so I feel it’s also the perfect time to add a dedicated ereader to the mix, while I have plentiful ‘fuel’ available to really put the reader through it paces, and perhaps redeem some of my paperless principles.

I talk of redeeming some of my ‘paperless principles’ because my novel-reading challenge so far has been anything but paperless. That said, I’ve never really considered books that I really want to own to be sacrificial lambs in my quest for a paperless lifestyle. Sure I went through my degree using ‘physical’ books as little as possible, and I benefited massively from doing so (as I’ve discussed here many times before), but often I like to own a book in its physical form, and attempt to re-balance my paperless principles by only buying (or ‘mooching’) 2nd-hand books.

Most of the books in my novel-reading challenge have been physical, but most have been 2nd-hand. However it would be nice to appease the paperless deities that little more though and begin collecting some of these titles in electronic format, not only because I’m no stranger whatsoever to using ebooks, but also because it adds an additional quirk to my novel reading challenge :o)

So, as I’ve written before, launch day for the Sony PRS-505 here in the UK is on  September the 4th (a little over three weeks away at the time of writing), and my pre-order is in. I’ve ordered through Waterstones, with the only other option being to order directly from Sony UK themselves. However I’m putting my faith, and my money in Waterstones. I’m not sure why, as they never made me one of the winners in their recent competition to win one of 5 of the ereaders :o), but I’m hoping they’ll at least ship the units to arrive at the customer on launch day. That however is something that is in the hands of the gods (or rather Waterstone’s warehouse staff), so only time will tell if the readers ship out ‘early’. Whatever the outcome I’ll be sure to let you know how it works out.

I can’t believe it. A dedicated ereader finally landing in my paperless mitts, after all of this time? Anything can still go wrong, so everything that can be crossed is crossed.

Bookeen's Cybook Gen3 enters the UK ereader scuffle

Cybookinhand There's me thinking the ereader market in the UK was shaping up to be only a '3 horse race' between the Sony PRS-505, the iRex iLiad and the Amazon Kindle (when it finally arrives..sigh!), but today I've discovered another 'player' joining the 'fray' in the shape of the sleek looking Cybook Gen3, from French company Bookeen.

With my ereader interest at this time peaking towards the Sony PRS-505 (the iLiad is well out of my price range at this time, and the Kindle is nowhere in sight), I spent some time comparing the specs of the PRS-505 with those of the Cybook Gen3 to see how they measured up against one another. Not surprisingly, given they're built on a similar technology, both readers are quite comparable:

  • Both units are of a similar size, using a 6" E Ink® display
  • Both operate on an embedded Linux OS
  • Battery life is similar, although Bookeen publish a '8000 page turn' battery life for the Cybook Gen3, while Sony only specify '6800 page turn' battery life for the their reader.
  • Weight is similar although the PRS-505 comes in slightly heavier at 260g, compared to the Cybook Gen3 at 174g
  • Both cover a wide range of document formats - PRS-505: EPUB, BBeB, PDF, Word, TXT, RTF; Cybook Gen3: MOBIPOCKET, PALMDOC, PDF, HTML, TXT
  • Both support MP3 storage and allow playback when the reader is in use
  • Both have SD slots (with the Sony reader also possessing a slot for its proprietary MemoryStick cards) to allow for mass ebook storage.
  • Both allow screen orientation

So in terms of tech specs and features, there appears to be little to separate the PRS-505 and Cybook Gen3 from one another, but there does seem to be a distinct difference in the way the user navigates/interacts with the ereader. It's difficult to gauge either ereader's navigation/interaction system completely, but after watching video presentations of both ereaders in action, this aspect does become a little clearer.

It seems the primary navigational tool on the Cybook Gen3 is a 'rocker pad' (seen in the lower right corner of the unit). Scrolling, page turns, menu selections etc. all seem to be activated via this pad, which makes things simplified and uncomplicated. The use of on-screen pop-up menus for various functions also seem to be a heavy interaction device used by the Cybook Gen3 . The PRS-505 on the other hand, is set up with an array of buttons to facilitate its user navigation/interaction. Aside from large buttons to aid page turning, scrolling and bookmarking, a series of 10 contextual hotkeys assist navigation/interaction with the unit.

The other primary difference between the two readers is the price. The Sony PRS-505 retails at £199 (which at this time includes a CD with 100 FREE classic titles), while the Bookeen Cybook Gen3 comes in at £279. The question is, is the Cybook Gen3 worth that extra £70? Well without testing them 'in the flesh' that's a difficult question to answer. The extra buttons on the PRS-505 seem to make navigation, and interaction a bit easier, but remember these are on the cheaper of the two models. Does that mean then, that Bookeen are charging a premium for the slick, minimalist look of the Cybook Gen3, which seems to be the trend at the moment

Whatever the reason for their higher price, Bookeen certainly have one thing in their favour right now. Unlike the Sony PRS-505, which doesn't begin shipping until early September, the Cybook Gen3 is available to buy in the UK right now, via Pixmania (note: although Pixmania use a .co.uk address they are a French retailer, shipping directly from France. Try not to let that put you off too much though. I've ordered a couple of times from Pixmania, and everything has been flawless) 

So the Cybook Gen3 joins the army of ereaders hitting UK shores in the coming weeks. These are seriously exciting times for the paperless book lover! Only a couple of weeks ago I was lamenting the dire absence of ereaders for the paperless operative in the the UK and here I am discussing a veritable flood of ereaders, all of which are at the fingertips of us paperless book-loving Brits. Good Times!

Sony Reader: UK Launch on 4th September

Readerhands_250 No sooner had I finished bemoaning the lack of ereaders coming to the UK, when an interesting email dropped into my mailbox from Waterstones, inviting me to pre-order the Sony PRS-505 reader which..wait for it...launches on 4th September. Yahoo! This is great news on its own (remember it came out top in the Gadget Show 'road test'), but the even better news is the retail price - a very reasonable £199 (which is almost half the price of the iLiad!!). Unlike Borders, with the iRex iLiad, I don't think Waterstones have an exclusive on selling the Sony Reader in the UK (?) so we may, or may not, see the UK price being shaved off slightly in the months to come. Edit: It appears, aside from 'selected electrical shops' and Sony themselves, that Waterstones is the only 'bookshop' distributor for the PRS-505 in the UK. This is heading for a nice retailer head-to-head ereader competition with Amazon and their Kindle (when it finally arrives on British shores), Borders with their exclusivity with the iLiad, and now Waterstones with the Sony :o).

Going back to the pre-order invitation from Waterstones though, and I want to make it clear that this invitation isn't solely open to me (I just subscribe to their loyalty cardholder newsletter). So if you're interested in pre-ordering the Sony PRS-505 ereader for yourself, then get along to Waterstones and get that pre-order in ASAP.

Now, how to raise £199 quickly? :o)

E-reader choice in the UK still woefully inadequate

Gadgetereaders So I was watching The Gadget Show earlier tonight (the UK’s premier show about, you guessed it - gadgets), and for the first time on British television (as far as I know), there was a feature on e-readers. Great I thought! About time I thought! The Gadget Show is pretty good at getting their mitts on the latest gadgets, so we should be in for a bit of a paperless reading treat here I thought; heck maybe we’ll even get a glimpse of the Amazon Kindle ‘in the flesh’, on British soil, for the first time. Sadly however my initial euphoria was quickly dampened, and not even the presence of ‘we’re not worthy’ Nigel Havers as guest ‘reviewer’ could raise it again :o).

Sure we got to see the BeBook in action; which looks to be an ok e-reader (and reasonably priced). We got a ‘hands-on’ demo of Irex’s iLiad Book Edition e-reader (which I’ve mentioned before as being new to our shores, but with the caveat of it being TOO DAMNED EXPENSIVE - but oh how I love it's 'inking' feature), and we got to see the reviewers pawing over the Sony PRS-505, the best of the bunch by far, but STILL not available in the UK. That was it - one reasonable e-reader, one over-priced and one unavailable, and no sight nor sound of the Kindle, or any other e-reader for that matter.

So guess which e-reader of the three came out on top with the reviewers? Yep you got it - the Sony PRS-505. Thanks for that guys! I’ll be sure to rush out to the shops first thing in the morning to fruitlessly search for your recommended, ‘unavailable’ e-reader :o).

Seriously though the Gadget Show’s e-reader feature really depressed me. In the end it achieved nothing but to highlight the fact that e-book provision in the UK is STILL woefully inadequate, and as a  paperless operative who’s screaming out for better e-book provision in the UK, that’s a tough pill to swallow. I’m just thankful that BeBook seem to have the right idea. Worldwide distribution and a ‘reasonable’ price, means that the average wage-earner in the UK, has at least one viable choice of e-reader. Thank heavens!!

Rob Graduates - a remarkable personal journey comes to an end

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As the image above may hint, my time as an undergraduate has come to an end and I have graduated from the University of St. Andrews, with my MA degree in Mediaeval History and Archeology. The graduation was on Thursday 26th June 2008 and being the University of St. Andrews, the occasion was full of pomp and ceremony. I’m not used to, or particularly comfortable with, such flamboyant occasions but my wife convinced me to go and I’m glad I did. Aside from gaining the honour of being able to watch many of my friends graduate, which in retrospect was unmissable, I think the ceremony brought to a fitting end, what has been a remarkable personal journey for me.

Megraduate I’m absolutely delighted to have finally reached my goal, but I’m also more than a little sad. Although I was never a resident student at St. Andrews (I commuted every day as I only live 40 miles away), the place has become so ingrained in my soul that I’m really going to miss studying there. More painfully I’m going to miss the many great friends, both students and teachers, that I had the pleasure of studying with. These are the kind of people that you treasure being in the company of. These are the kind of people whose intelligence and motivation drive one to learn, and to strive for academic excellence. Consequently, these are the people who will forever remain as my unequivocal role-models.

Of course it would be wrong for me at this point to not also acknowledge my public appreciation for both my wife (Michelle) and my two daughters (Laura and Katy). Together with my parents (who have also lent their unconditional support to me during the past four years), they are the most precious people in my life, and I could not have achieved what I have without their love, support and encouragement, which has helped to pull me through the difficult bits (of which there were many). 

And so it ends. One remarkable chapter in my life closes but a new one, which I hope will be just as remarkable, is just about to begin. I don’t know how this next chapter is going to be written but one thing is certain: I move into it more enlightened, more driven, and more equipped to take on any and all opportunities and obstacles that come my way, and for that I’m indebted. So thank you St. Andrews. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart!!

P.S. Don't worry about this place closing down now that I'm no longer 'officially' an undergraduate. The site will continue to operate as before, although hopefully with a lot more posting than has been seen of late.

iRex first to hit the UK high street with dedicated ebook reader

Iliadbe_front Thanks to iRrex Technologies, and a deal with Borders UK, a dedicated ebook reader is finally coming to the British high street...and about time too :o) Based on the original iLiad, the newly marketed iLiad Book Edition is almost identical in tech specs except for an expandable memory up to 8GB (the original iLiad only allows for a max of 4GB), a new silver livery and an absence of in-built WI-FI. Additionally iRex are preloading the iLiad Book Edition with 50 classic book titles.

The all important price at launch on Saturday May 10 will be £399...ouch!!!

I'll be honest and say that I was getting pretty excited until I saw the price :o( Sure iRex are giving away 50 classic titles as part of the deal but considering you can download every one of the titles for free to create your own versions, it doesn't seem such a cost-saving 'sweetener'.

However credit where it's due. This is the first dedicated ebook reader to hit UK shores, offering us paperless Brits a much needed additional avenue for operation. The absence of in-built WI-FI in the iLiad Book Edition makes it a cheaper solution than the iLiad, but I'm not sure the price point will tempt many away from their budget and mini-laptop solutions (even with the iLiad's inherent ebook reading features). Does that mean that the iLiad Book Edition is already destined to become a machine solely for the lap of the ebook reading connoisseur? I certainly hope not, but I can't help thinking, until the price drops significantly that it will.

NOTE: The iLiad Book Edition will only be offered in 8 of the Border UK stores from Saturday 10th May - Oxford Street and Islington in London, Oxford, Cambridge, Glasgow, Cheshire Oaks and Brighton

Introducing the latest addition to my paperless arsenal

Neo_2

Well I certainly showed plenty of excitement last week at discovering the AlphaSmart Neo and I closed that post, noting the difficult task I would have convincing my wife that I needed one. Well thankfully she wasn't such a tough nut to crack this time, mainly because she knew she was on to a losing battle when she saw the burning passion in my eyes  :o). Now, thanks to her kindness and understanding, I am pleased to announce that an AlphaSmart Neo has been added to my paperless arsenal (and I'm hugely excited).

Continue reading "Introducing the latest addition to my paperless arsenal" »

AlphaSmart Neo - wooed by its zen-like simplicity

Neo_large Every once in a while you discover something that absolutely blows you away. From the moment you first see it you know it's going to fill a purpose in your life so perfectly, that you must own it there and then. I last had that feeling when I first saw a Tablet PC. I knew instantly  that it was exactly what I needed to make my paperless operation complete, and I wasn't wrong. Today, after reading an Unclutterer post I've discovered a new absolute 'must have', a minimalist portable word processor called the AlphaSmart Neo (full specs on the machine are available via this link).  

Continue reading "AlphaSmart Neo - wooed by its zen-like simplicity" »

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