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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!

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