An American Editor

November 2, 2010

WOW! That’s My Take on the New Sony 950

I finally received my new Sony Reader, the PRS-950, and have been using it for the past few days. All I can say is WOW!

The first thing I did was enter a subscription to the New York Times. If I didn’t enjoy reading the Times on it, then the plan was to return it. The second thing I did was load on Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played with Fire, which I was in the middle of reading on my Sony PRS-505.

I began “testing” the 950 by continuing to read Larsson’s book. Turns out, the new 950 weighs less than my 505, so it is easier to hold. The reading experience is better as well. Even though it has a touch screen, a short finger swipe changes pages, the text is sharper than on the 505, whose screen was considered the gold standard for e-ink readers. In the predecessor 900 model, the touch screen, which was a different type than what is on the 950, did not receive accolades.

Then came the Sunday morning New York Times. Alas, if what you like to read are the advertisements, you are out of luck — the electronic version currently is ad free. But if your focus is on the stories, then the electronic version has them all. I found it easy to use and navigate and the same text as was in the print version appeared in the electronic version (I compared several of the articles). As bonuses, the electronic version is half the price of the print version and I can receive the electronic version when I want it, not having to wait for the delivery person to get out of bed — well almost. As I discovered today, the current day’s edition isn’t available until 5 a.m., which was a bit annoying this morning as I tried to retrieve it beginning at 4 a.m. But 5 a.m. is better than 8 a.m. or not at all, which is what my home delivery has become the past couple of months.

The biggest objections to the Sony 950 are its price ($299 without a cover), it is only available in silver (I would have liked black), and it uses a micro rather than a mini USB cable to charge. (If it had used the mini, I could have used the same charging device for both my 950 and my cell phone.) Except for price, the others are very minor obstacles. I must admit that I would also have liked to have received a printed user’s manual rather than the PDF version, especially as it is a long manual, but I can at least view the manual on either my desktop or via a printout.

The price has to be put in perspective. The immediate comparison that most people make is to the Kindle 3, which with all its bells and whistles runs $189. However there are some differences between the 2 units that increase the cost of the Sony, the two most notable differences being the touchscreen (Kindle uses a physical keyboard, buttons, and a joystick to navigate; the Sony uses a virtual keyboard, a couple of basic buttons if you want, and your finger or a stylus that comes with the device) and the screen size (the Kindle is a 6-inch e-ink and the Sony is a 7-inch e-ink; both use the new e-ink Pearl so are comparable in terms of clarity).

The Sony also provides basic web surfing capability and e-mail capability, which is nice for those of us who either rarely use a cell phone or who use cell phones without data capability (I happen to fall into both categories). It will be nice to be able to travel with just my Sony 950 and still receive e-mails.

For me, the biggest advantage the Sony has over the Kindle is that it accepts ePub format, which Kindle does not; I can buy ebooks at lots of different places, which is something I like.

I’m enjoying this 950 so much, I’m thinking about buying a second one for my wife. She is inheriting my Sony 505, which still works perfectly after 3 years of use, but the 950 has charmed me with its ease-of-use and greater functionality. The advantage to getting her a 950 of her own is that she will no longer have to wait for me to finish the New York Times before she can read it. That is one advantage that the print version has over the electronic version.

If you are looking for a great holiday gift and have been thinking about an ereading device, be sure to check out the new Sony 950 (the 650 is a 6-inch touchscreen version but without wireless; the touchscreen and the screen clarity are identical to that of the 950).

8 Comments »

  1. Thanks for the review. I often wonder what I might go for if my own Sony PRS 505 gives up the ghost, and the 950 looks a good bet. But there’s no sign of my old work horse packing up any time soon after more than two years’ heavy use, so there’ll probably be even better devices than the new 950 available when and if it does. And I can’t see a future where I’ll be in the market for wi-fi on a reader or the distraction of email and browsing when what I want most is to get away from all that stuff and simply read a good book, so the 650 has the edge over the 950 for me right now. Mind you, I guess all the fancy bells and whistles will become standard within a year or so, and we’ll have no choice (ever tried to find a phone that just phones?). Happy 950-ing to you and the Mrs. Very best wishes. Neil

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    Comment by Neil Marr — November 2, 2010 @ 8:14 am | Reply

  2. I have the Sony 350. The quality of the Sony’s are unmatched by any other e-reader out there. I like the fact that I can buy from any epub company out there (namely everyone but Amazon). I have gotten lots of great deals from Kobo even though their e reader is lackluster.

    The touch screen is fantastic and an incredible piece of technology. It is the one feature that everyone should be trying to replicate.

    I am planning on getting the 950 sometime soon. I would like the larger screen for home reading. The 650 is great for travel and it does fit in my pocket!

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    Comment by Zigwalski — November 2, 2010 @ 8:28 am | Reply

  3. I believe the new Sony range cannot read the B&N flavoured DRM epubs? If so then getting a Sony in the USA seems rather restricted from the content side of things. Do you have any insight of why they decided not to make it B&N compatible?

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    Comment by gous — November 2, 2010 @ 9:10 am | Reply

    • You are correct and no I do not. This has been an ongoing complaint/request to Sony. However, having said that, it must be realized that it is exceedingly easy to strip the DRM from the B&N ebooks and then read them on the Sony. The basic ePub is the same; it is just the DRM overlay that is the problem.

      If you have bought a DRMed ebook, as I understand recent court decisions and copyright law, you can strip the DRM for your own use. You cannot distribute/share the ebook, but you can read it on the device of your choice.

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      Comment by americaneditor — November 2, 2010 @ 10:41 am | Reply

  4. It is because BnN use a proprietary version of epub DRM for their content. It has nothing to do with the Sony e reader. No other epub reader (except for the Pandigital Novel which has the BnN bookstore built in) can reader BnN books either. It is more how BnN want you to buy only the Nook rather than the other way around.

    I buy stuff mostly from either Kobo or Sony, whichever has the lowest price (usually Kobo) or download freebies for my Sony.

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    Comment by Zigwalski — November 2, 2010 @ 1:08 pm | Reply

  5. But note that books from Sony’s bookstore are more expensive. See this survey http://goo.gl/SKwfv
    It concludes: “when it comes to ebook pricing, Amazon is still the best, but B&N is close on heels. Sony is much better than before, but still far behind and needs to tighten up it’s pricing to start making a big impact.” Try it yourself on Inkmesh.com which compares the prices for all the major e-book readers (incl. iPad).

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    Comment by Peter — November 2, 2010 @ 5:34 pm | Reply

    • I haven’t found Sony’s pricing to be all that much different than B&N’s for the books I read. As a practical matter, however, I buy most of my books from places like Smashwords. Generally, Sony’s prices are within the range of same as Amazon/B&N to $2 more, not a big enough difference to affect my purchase decision. Regardless, I can read B&N ebooks on my Sony device, which is what the review was about — it was not about the Sony bookstore — and to my mind, there are no better devices available than the current Sonys.

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      Comment by americaneditor — November 3, 2010 @ 9:05 am | Reply

  6. Give it to ur wife now fer Christs sake…what kind of selfish man r u giving her the 505?

    Like

    Comment by Mr Bo — November 16, 2010 @ 10:27 pm | Reply


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