Sunday, November 30, 2008

Another E-book Reader: PRS-700

3 weeks after I got my first e-book reader, the PRS-505, Sony released a new e-book reader, the PRS-700.

At first glance, this looks really promising. The loading time is way better than the old model. For my collection of 175 books on SD card, it takes 6 seconds to load. In PRS-505, it takes 12 seconds. Page turns take half the time compared to 505.

It has a touch screen capability. Which means you have more ways to turn a page. Also, thanks to this ability, you can do search and highlight passages on the book you are reading. It comes with stylus, but using fingers will be as effective.

Another thing I love is the buttons. The new PRS-700 has "back" button, "next" and "previous" page button, "home", "search", "zoom", and "option".

The "home" button is really useful. Using PRS-505, when I want to switch between books, it takes anywhere between 5-10 clicks. Now, thanks to this "home" button, it cuts down the click to between 2-5.

In PRS-505, if I want to see the Table of Contents, I need to "close the book", find the "table of contents", and click on the relevant entry. And if you change your mind half way, you need to click as many time to get back to your old position. Well, no more of that. The "option" button makes the option to see/create/edit bookmarks/notes hovers. So click on that button, then tap on the option you want, and off you go. And if you decide to just continue reading your book from the previous position, a simple tap will bring you back.

Now, PRS-700 can do search and make notes. We need to clarify what it means by "search" and "notes".

If you are looking at your bookshelf, the "search" will search the term on the title of the book only. It wouldn't search the text within the book. I am not sure if it searches the author of the book. If you are reading the book, then search will search the text within that particular book.

And "notes" does not mean you can type your own notes. Nope. By "creating notes", it means that you are highlighting the text on your book, and if you go to the notes menu, all your highlights are displayed there, along with your bookmarks. This is probably the most confusing feature for me.

In total darkness, PRS-700 works like a charm. It comes with 2-setting lights that lights the screen nicely. The light is emitted from the left and right side of the screen. As a result, the text in the middle of the page is not as lighted-up as the side texts, but it's readable enough.

You do have to watch out your angle, though. If the light hits your eyes directly, you will see black spots before long.

Of course, if you use the lights, the battery will die faster. It only allows me to read 3-5 books of moderate length (Arsene Lupin Collection). With PRS-505 (no light), it took me about 1 week before I have to charge the battery. And I read extensively (4-5 hours a day).

Unfortunately, under general lighting, this one is worse than the previous model. It reflects lights, which means reading under the sun is a total no-no. You can see the reflection on the bottom left corner on the picture on the side.

And the deal-breaker is the contrast. PRS-505's white is light beige, and its black is black. For PRS-700, sadly, its white is a shade darker beige, and its black is grey. Which makes reading very tiring. I tried reading exclusively on PRS-700 for 1 day, and I can't survive. And that was only regular book with zoomed-in texts, not manga with super small fonts.

But I did get to learn new features with this model. Their "book collection" is prominently displayed on their home page, and that is one thing I love. Thankfully, I found out that even my PRS-505 has this capability. Now I can group my books by series such as "Sherlock Holmes", "Arsene Lupin", "The Three Investigators", etc. Note that grouping the books can only be done via Sony software on your PC. It's the same for both PRS-505 and PRS-700.

And since the light is so useful, I ended up buying a cover with lights for the 505 instead.

[photo to follow]

The light cover does not blur the texts, nor does it gray the texts out. It does reflect light, but you can just not use it with enough lights, and use it only in the darkness.

Oh, and did I mention that the external lights work better, even compared to the built-in lights in PRS-700? It uses 2 AAA batteries, too, so it doesn't suck your e-book battery power.

The PRS-505 costs $299 + tax
The cover with light costs $59 + tax
The PRS-700 costs $399 + tax

For me, 505 + external light combination is the most beneficial one for my need. I don't need fancy touch screen. And although it's annoying to click several times to get to where I want to, I can live with it. And the loading time and page-turning time does not bother me at all. That's why I refunded the PRS-700 and stick with 505 for now.

I know I am being picky with this review. But I am trying to get the biggest bang for my bucks, so to speak. Everyone has different needs, though. So think about what you want before committing yourself to one.

Hope this helps for those who are considering one!

Related links:
- E-book Reader: Sony Reader PRS-505
- Sony Reader Shortcuts

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Little Man Who Wasn't There

I love random quotations and out-of-context sayings. It just opens up endless possibilities as to the context and the circumstances of the sayings.

Today, a quoted poem from an American poet and educator Hughes Mearnes caught my eye:
As I was walking up the stair
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today.
I wish, I wish he'd stay away.

This is exactly the kind of poem that triggers imaginations. I was intrigued by the non-existent of the person that the writer wrote about. But after I think about it more, this is quite a creepy poem, probably belongs in the opening scene of a horror movie somewhere.

PS: The above poem is called Antigonish, or better known as The Little Man Who Wasn't There

Friday, November 7, 2008

E-book Reader

I love reading. Specifically, I love reading fictions and mangas. Unfortunately, most mangas I like are not available in Canada. Fortunately, most of them are scanned and translated into English by their Japanese-reading fans. So there are lots of them online, if you know where to look for them.

Having lots of manga jpgs means that I can collect the ones I like. But since they are not real books, it's kinda hard to re-read the mangas I have. I don't have a desktop, and the LCD monitor hurts my eyes once I stare at it for a long time.

Knowing my addiction for books (and mangas), we did some research and decided to buy Sony Reader PRS-505. Yup, I got the red one. The reader acts like a glossy-paper book. So even under sunshine, you can read it without difficulties (supposedly... I cannot test this with Vancouver's weather).

Some people ask me why I don't buy Amazon Kindle. If you live in USA, you can search books on Amazon.com for free from anywhere (no wireless charge). You can also buy the e-book version of released books for cheaper.

But for me, one major drawback is that Kindle only reads 1 type of data, and that is Amazon's own data encryption. If you have pdf or word or jpg, you need to email them to Amazon for conversion. And if you want Amazon to email the converted files directly to Kindle, then you have to pay for the data transfer.

Sony Reader can read pdf, txt, epub, jpg, bmp, and png files. Of course, with 6-inch monitor, we didn't know how good the manga quality would be -- whether it would be readable or not. So we went and bought one for testing.

The manga is readable. It might be a bit on the small size, but for me, it's good enough. We found out that the reader refresh faster when turning a pdf file compared to loading new jpg. So I print all mangas into pdf file.

If you have pdf words, those words can be zoomed (there are 3 sizes available). But pdf images cannot be zoomed. So the mangas need to be single-paged (portrait).

Sony Reader does not read .doc file. That's understandable, since .doc files depend on Microsoft OS. So I print the Word document into pdf format using Primo PDF. I have mentioned before that pdf words can be zoomed in. However, the format of the zoomed in page changes and is unpredictable. I like my book display to be neat. So when printing the document into pdf, I changed the original format to the following:
- Paper Size = 8.5 x 11 (default Letter size)
- Margin = 0.25" for all Top, Bottom, Left, Right
- Font = Arial Rounded MT Bold, 22 pt
The settings above will allow me to read the files without having to zoom in.

A side note. When printing with Primo PDF, you need to change the Document Properties (Title and Author). Sony Reader does not read your filename to determine Title and Author. It reads the properties instead. These properties cannot be changed once you have the pdf file.

Yesterday, I borrowed e-book from the library. The e-book is in protected form; it has expiry dates etc. I couldn't figure out how to transfer the borrowed book to my reader, though. The reader gives me a "protected file" error. I will try again to see if I can find a solution for this.

This reader also plays MP3 and AAC files via headset. The quality of the sound is ok. I haven't tried it extensively, since it will drain the battery faster. (According to the specification, the battery will last for 7,500 page turns).

I would love to have a 7-inch screen one if one is available. As of now, all e-book readers have 6-inch screen though. Also, the page-turning time is a bit slow. But overall, I am satisfied with this reader.

Next week, Sony will release a new generation of Sony Reader, the PRS-700. This one comes with touch screen and an improved software, among other things. According to one review, the page turn is faster (it acts like a regular LCD screen). Chris is hooked on the "touch screen" part. I want to try the LCD-like page-turns. We plan to test and compare both of them before making a final decision in which one to keep.

Related links:
- Another E-book Reader: Sony PRS-700
- Sony Reader Shortcuts