Kim Kovacs, BookBrowse reviewer

The following is in response to Lynda East's question to Kim after reading her Jan 1st blog "My Secret Addiction".Lynda asks, "Can you comment on the benefits and problems of the Sony eReader versus the Amazon Kindle? Their prices are comparable and both out of my price range right now (like you, my Christmas gift hints fell on deaf ears) ..."

I've thought ebook readers were a nifty idea ever since seeing one in the first Star Trek movie way back in 1979 (the technological dark ages!).  I purchased my first digital reader in 1998, but paid the price of being an early adopter when the model I had was discontinued a few years later and I could no longer purchase books for it. I tried reading digital books on my Dell Axim for awhile, but it just wasn't the same. I eventually abandoned that, too, coming to the conclusion that the rest of the world just wasn't as ready for digital books as I was, and contented myself with old-fashioned paper for the next several years.

Then Amazon announced their reader, the Kindle.  As far as I was concerned, the heavens opened and the angels sang on the day I heard about that device! I was certain that with Amazon's prominence, plus their backing of digital paper technology, the ebook was about to see its renaissance. I was all set to buy one early last year ... and then I saw Sony's version and fell head-over-heels in lust.

I proceeded to debate for MONTHS as to which ebook reader to purchase. The Kindle unquestionably has better features. You can get content anywhere, without a computer. It comes with an e-mail account. You can read newspapers and magazines on it. It's got free access to Wikipedia and other web sites. You can write notes in it. It's got a built-in dictionary. The books are generally less expensive.

However ...

I'm sorry, but the Kindle is just plain ugly. Its controls look like something out of a bad 1950's sci-fi flick.

And so, I waffled. Should I go with features or design?

My husband, eventually tiring of hearing my non-stop deliberations, asked me why I wanted one, and my response was that I wanted to read books with it. The question made me realize that the features on the Kindle are nice, but unimportant if you don't use them. It was the push I needed. I went with my heart instead of my head. I just couldn't love the Kindle, and so got the Sony PRS-505 in metallic navy blue.

On the plus side, Sony was less expensive than the Kindle, and I got 100 free classics as part of the purchase, most of which I would have bought anyway, thus actually saving money (so I rationalize). The Sony Store frequently offers free books and very low-cost books; most paperbacks are priced comparably to those offered for the Kindle, with new books often being more expensive. I've purchased 12 books averaging out to $10.66 per book - a little higher than the Kindle's $9.99. When you factor in the free books, though, my cost per book drops to $1.08 (118 books in my library). I understand there are more books available for the Kindle than the Sony reader, but so far those on my list are either available in both formats or in neither.

The ideal, of course, would be to combine Sony's design with the Kindle's features. I'm hoping that someday Amazon will improve the appearance of their product. The version due out next year looks even worse than the current one in my opinion, which further influenced my decision (which I haven't regretted for a moment). I doubt the Sony device will be my last ebook, though. Rumor has it Apple is coming out with their version next year (yes, I'm fickle).

Kim adds .... There are about 10 ebook readers on the market, plus you can use Microsoft Reader or Adobe Reader to purchase books in electronic format, readable on any handheld device (like the iPhone, Palm Pilot, Windows Mobile devices, etc.). The other readers are mostly bare-bones versions that don't have enough content available for them to suit my tastes (or most other readers', I imagine).

I, like Kim, bought the RCA Reader in the '90s and loved reading it, especially on trips where I could read in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep as it was back lit. Then they went out of business and I carted paperbacks on our trips. I have both the Sony and the Kindle readers, but find the Kindle to be much easier to read, once I got the hang of where to put my fingers. The print on the kindle comes in 5 sizes and although the Kindle itself isn't "cute", it does what I need it to do. We go on cruises each year and how wonderful to bring along 30 books in one tiny space. I can also send the manuals for my camera and GPS via email to the Kindle to refer to away from home. We have a big library here at home, so I wasn't impressed with the 100 free classics from Sony. The Kindle is so easy to read at night in bed with one hand and should I fall sleep, it goes into sleep mode, too.
# Posted By Pat Schubert | 1/14/09 4:00 PM
I bought a kindle last year when Amazon offered it for $249 ($100 off) if you signed up for their no annual fee Visa card. I really like it. I never have to connect it to a computer. I have
wirelessly downloaded free classics from various free websites ( is one). Amazon also often offers free downloads of recent books. I enjoy using the web browser. It
is like having a mini laptop, but will not let you go to magazines or newspapers because Amazon wants you to buy a subscription. I can get to many of the articles by going to news
websites. My favorite thing is the ability to download free sample chapters of unlimited books from the kindle store. It is instant gratification. The kindle store is set up the same as
Amazon with reviews, price, pages, a synopsis, etc. I do still try to use the library. I find that I read faster with the kindle. I like being able to highlight parts of the book. I do not like
that Amazon (or the publisher?) will occasionally change the price of a book. Not all books are $9.99. Some are more and some are less.
# Posted By Roni Semins | 1/14/09 5:19 PM
I purchased a Kindle when Amazon restocked after the first big sales wave. As another poster stated, I mainly bought it for travel so I could carry multiple books. I did compare the two devices (Kindle and Sony) but since I mainly read best sellers and current fiction I wanted the more expansive library and lower prices available through Amazon. I also wanted the ability to highlight and make notes because I participate in and lead several book discussion groups. It is perfect for book club reading that Kindle facilitates note taking and then saves them as documents that can be retrieved. I don't mind the appearance of the device but I did have some issues in the beginning figuring out how to hold it without accidentally turning pages. That's now all gone and I have actually become so engrossed in my reading that I've found myself reaching up to turn the page as I would with a real book. I don't read on the Kindle all the time but since the price of the digital books is less than even many paperbacks I'll sometimes buy books for the Kindle rather than buying a real book. The only thing I miss on the Kindle is the backlight from my old Rocket reader. It was wonderful for reading in bed, on planes and in other low light situations. However, I wouldn't want to lose the capability of reading in sunlight that the new devices offer. It would just be nice to have both.
# Posted By Anne | 1/15/09 8:34 AM
I LOVE my Kindle, which I've had for about a year. Like some of the other posters, I especially enjoy it on trips. On a cruise last year, I had a chance to compare it with a Sony reader that another passenger had and I much preferred the Kindle, mainly because of its browser features and the ability to shop on Amazon directly. Yes, the design leaves a little to be desired, but I've adapted easily. I still use the library and I buy a few books along the way, but I know my "addiction" is costing me less these days! I must say, however, that I love my MacBook and my iPhone, so if it's true that Apple is coming out with a book reader, I'll have to give it a look!
# Posted By Sherry Royer | 1/22/09 4:20 PM
There is a new Sony Reader out now, has the features of Kindle and design of Sony. I would love to have one, but with this recession, I'll wait another few months (and save money) Birthday gift hint for the family? The new model costs €350, way too much for me.
# Posted By Kasia | 2/18/09 7:03 AM
I think many folks who try to compare the Sony and Kindle devices are missing a few key points.
- Kindle wants the device to 'disappear' while you read it, enhancing the illusion that one is reading
a regular print book (where all you see is the page), and hence made the device plain and unobtrusive.
Sony wants their device to look flashy, and hence made it beautiful, but at the expense is making it
a distraction from the page while reading. Kindle got it right.
- Kindle wants page turning to be an automatic reflex, no more difficult than turning a printed page.
They made the long buttons on the edge, where the reader's hands fall naturally, and only a rocking motion
of the thumb or other finder(s) is needs to turn a page, regardless of which hand is holding it the moment.
Sony makes you move your fingers from the natural holding position to either touch the screen of press a
small button in order to turn the page. Kindle recognizes that a device dedicated to reading will be irritating
if the screen has fingerprints and smudges, whereas Sony (on the touch screen version) makes you rub your
fingers on the screen to turn pages; if you have any oil, hand lotion, etc; on your fingers the screen will be
harder to read through. once again, Kindle got it right.
- Kindle is designed to withstand a drop of 3 feet, should it fall from a table or your lap, or if you drop it
while falling asleep while reading. Its cornders are rounded to avoid injuring the reader should it fall onto
your face while reading in bed. I can't speak for Sony's attributes in this regard.
- The Kindle 2, with wireless turned off, lasts weeks on a charge (my own experience).
- You can buy new books from Amazon for the Kindle, or download tons of free titles from other services.
Sony's own bookstore pales next to the power of Amazon in this regard.
- Both the Kindle and the Sony use the same kind of screen, from the same company I believe. Both are
optimized for natural reading, so they do not produce their own light. This is why they can be easily read
in sunlight and in other situations where glare would make a computer type screen hard to read. These
screens do not use power except when turning a page. People who want backlit screens for reading should
consider getting a web-book portable computer instead, and live with the reduced utlity and shorter battery
# Posted By Paul | 12/2/09 2:18 PM
As people are weighing the pros and cons of the Sony versus Kindle, I would like to share my discovery. My parents purchased the Sony Pocket reader for Christmas. It was a huge surprise and I'm very happy now that I have the hang of using it. The bonus that comes with having a Sony reader is that I can actually access (borrow) e-books from my library. Additionally, I can utilize PDF files and access the public domain books that are available through Google. Having access to these free sources really boosts the Sony in my opinion. Borrowing books from the library is simple and effective (I've now tried it a couple of times) and FREE. So, I found that having these options really made the Sony stand out for me.
# Posted By Michelle VanSetten | 1/14/10 2:05 PM
The primary consideration is access to media. Sony is more adaptable and can access free library content. Kindle means you have to use amazon. The Sony site is growing but to date not on par with Amazon. I have not had any problem finding more than I can use on the sony site, and at competitive prices. The #G connection may be a concern if you want a dily periodical, but I have not missed this feature, since downloading via my laptop takes seconds.
# Posted By yabanada | 1/22/10 5:21 AM
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