You Know, What I Really Want is a Sony Kindle

By  |  Friday, October 3, 2008 at 10:31 am

Sony, which is among many other things the other big company besides Amazon that’s in the e-book game, has announced a new model: the Reader Digital Book PRS-700BC. Available in mid-November, it will sell for $399 and sports two significant features: a touchscreen that lets you turn the page by swiping and sidelighting that illuminates the screen. In theory, at least, both should be great big advances, since both previous Sony Readers and Amazon’s Kindle have had quirky user interfaces that involve buttons off to the side of the screen, and the e-ink technology used by both devices works pretty well in bright light and not at all when the environment’s too dim. (In that respect, it provides an uncanny simulation of real paper.)

Ars Technica’s report on the new Sony says it “seemed superior to the Kindle in nearly every way,” but it still lacks the Kindle’s most impressive feature by far: the EVDO wireless that lets Amazon’s e-reader download books rapidly and seamlessly over the air. Like previous Sony models, the PRS-700BC requires that you shop for books on a PC and download them to the reader via USB. Ars also notes that Sony plans to have 100,000 books available by the holidays, versus the 200,000 titles Amazon offers for the Kindle.

All of which just proves a point that didn’t need proving: Sony is great at making gadgets but no expert at selling books, and Amazon is an extraordinary bookseller that’s a newbie at making hardware. (Rumor has it that two new Kindles are in the offiing, but from what little we know about them they don’t sound radically different from the first one.)

Amazon having to turn itself into a hardware company is kind of silly.

Sony having to build a bookstore is kind of silly.

So why don’t they join forces? Something like the new Sony but with wireless capability and access to the Amazon bookstore would be a lot more interesting than any existing e-book reader. And it might well sell better if Amazon and Sony pooled their resources and knowledge to sell it in as many venues as possible.

(There’s one catch with that scenario: Sony seems to focus a lot of its marketing energy on selling its readers in Borders bookstores; Borders might not be thrilled with the idea of hawking an Amazon-powered gizmo.)

I’m sure Amazon has at least contemplated the idea of licensing other companies to sell Kindle-compatible readers. For all I know, that’s its long-term strategy. Or maybe not–and I’m willing (excited, even) to accept the possibility that future Kindles will be more perfectly polished than the first-generation model which I bought on its first day of availability. But at the moment, Sony Kindle sounds a lot more appealing to me than either Amazon Kindle or Sony Reader Digital Book PRS-700BC does…


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12 Comments For This Post

  1. Daniel Hollister Says:

    I agree completely. I’ve always liked Sony’s readers, but I don’t know what content I would put on them. Since I’m a Mac user and Sony tends to enjoy ignoring that market, I’ve always been hesitant to pick up anything by Sony. But seriously, Amazon cannot design a piece of hardware. At least hire a consulting company to design the thing for you or something.

    I don’t really care about the EVDO, but how about wifi? I’m still not convinced that I’m going to be out in the middle of nowhere and suddenly want to read the latest Wall Street Journal. I think 95% of customers have wifi in the house they sleep or the place they work, and since the morning is when the newspapers and such would presumably auto-download, I think wifi would be just fine.

  2. Jake Seliger Says:

    So why don’t they join forces? Something like the new Sony but with wireless capability and access to the Amazon bookstore would be a lot more interesting than any existing e-book reader.

    Chiefly because we don’t want a single company to dominate the e-Book industry in the way iTunes has come to dominate the music industry. Amazon has already been expending its power as the giant of the book retailing world, and eliminating its only important and potential competitor in Sony would leave it in a monopolistic position from which the market might never recover.

    Granted, Sony had a chance to stop Apple’s iPod and failed, and the music/book situations are sufficiently different to make that analogy questionable. Even with those caveats, however, having more than one company to choose from seems like a Good Thing.

  3. sahar009 Says:

    I think I would want a Sony Kindle, too, but I just have one question – is it hard on the eyes, like a computer screen is? I read *a lot* and I don’t want my eyes to start burning the way they do when I spend too much time on the computer!

  4. SomeFella Says:

    To Daniel Hollister:

    Speaking as a 100% Mac owner who owns a Sony PRS 505, there is no need to worry about using the Sony reader on a Mac unless you want to buy hideously overpriced and DRMed ebooks from the Sony Store (I say overpriced since there is a lot less distribution cost with ebooks).

    The PRS memory can be accessed directly from the OS but more importantly there is a fantastic multi-platform piece of free software called Calibre that can be used to manage you reader, convert all types of ebooks, pdfs and html, and most awesomely to download RSS feeds and complile them into ebooks from most of the worlds major news sources (NY Times, Economist, WSJ, The Gaurdian, Die Spiegel etc etc). .

    This software has made my PRS the most usefull gadget I own. The beautiful hardware that is the PRS and the functional software that is Calibre have meant I have already back-ordered the new PRS 700BC.

    And in response to the main article, that sounds all well and good but there are many intellegent books readers in the world that refuse to pay money for DRMed content. If pay my money for a good I want to have complete control over how I use it. If I buy a physical book I have it forever and it is mine; if I buy a DRMed book I am locked into a single vendors system and my use of the book in the future is at their whim.

  5. RoweMan Says:


    So I was one of the first to purchase this model for our studio here in Portland, OR. I have some comments about the device:


    Touch screen rocks. Thats great! Feels nice to navigate!
    Big Screen! No buttons means a bigger screen!
    SD Card reader! Mac/PC friendly! (more on that)


    Backlight BLOWS CHUNKS hard. It’s NOT a backlight! It is LED lights on the side that illuminate the sides only, causing a giant dark spot in the middle. GROSS
    The screen flashes every time I turn a page or touch a button. It goes black then white. You can see this on the CNET review as well:

    Overall, its an OK unit but for $400, I would think the backlight would be better and that the screen wouldn’t flash every time I touch the thing. How distracting.

    Mac users: The SD card is great. For me, I just stick the SD card in my Mac, drag documents to the SD disk, eject and walla. Those documents are on the reader! VERY slick! No, you cannot purchase ebooks automagically, but you CAN purchase them from iTunes, download them then copy them to your SD card! I cannot believe how easy it is. Way to go Sony for doing that. Problem is, they are not marketing it like that. Too bad! Many Mac users would benefit from knowing that the SD option is the ONLY option for them!

  6. john hoving Says:

    Pros: 1 pro- the light
    Cons: so many that you have to read my review.

    “I have had every ereader sony has made, both models, and have loved them both.

    This one is just awful, and out and out disaster. Leave it to Sony to take a great product and turn it into a piece of junk.





    YOU WILL END UP BUYING THE 500 and do so before thety stupidly discontinue it in favor of this piece of junk!

    I kid you not, I am soooo disappointed with this product.

    It as though you are looking at a sheet of glass and then the lettering. The only thing that even helps is the built in light but use that the whole time your reading and you’ll have non battery left!

    I don’t know what these morons were thinking but they blew it in a very big way.

    They took away all the very nice navigation buttons there was originally, 2 then they added two more with the 500 and then now they left us with 2 and a one way swipe, that barely works, you’ll go nuts trying to turn the pages on this thing.

    There is not even an option like on the iphone to swipe in different directions! And the 8 grey scales, oone would never know it!

    Great concept, really poor implementation of the technology.

    I suppose those who have never has an ereader before will never know the difference and how perfectly awesome the other models were, how clean and legible the words were in almost any kind of lighting.

    Now you need a light to see the words, and have to angle it in such a way so your not looking right into your own reflection!

    I was extremely excited to learn about this new 700BC, especially with the built in lighting which really would come in handy instead of carrying around another thing, a light to be able to see in bed.

    I received mine today and it is going right back. I read another review here that warned about this terrible reflection and thought how bad could it be, well, its worse than I could possibly have imagined.


  7. mrcomment25 Says:

    You can compare sony and kindle at

  8. Poppy Says:

    I got a prs-505, then because I loved it so much my hubby bought the PRS-700 (one with a back light) I can’t stand reading on it, so I still just use my original which I dearly love. Now my husband owns the kindle, and he has more trouble finding books thank I do because of only having the amazon library vs Sony lets us buy from many places (including renting from public libraries)

    What I can’t seem to find out is sony allows up to six devices with a book, if I had 7 friends with with a sony ereader and I put a book on a sd card and I passed it around could they each read it once then pass it back to me so I can still continue to enjoy the book, or does the sd card somehow keep track of which devices it has been in? I would love to recomend all my friends to buy a sony, but if they can’t share great books (like we do with actual books) I don’t think I could convince them. Does anyone know the answer to this question? I would not be letting them have my ebook it would just be to borrow, and what is the fun if you can’t share your favorite books with your friends anymore?

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  11. Lilia Keathley Says:

    Actually, I have not seen this yet but I have read some good reviews about this product. Well,I must say that I am already satisfied with my Amazon Kindle.

  12. Darcy Clarkin Says:

    Who does not want an Amazon Kindle, anyway? This is one of the greatest inventions man has ever made.

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