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Sony eBook reader at Borders

November 6th, 2006 (04:27 pm)
current mood: geekery
current song: geekery

On Friday, I spotted the Sony eBook Reader at the Borders in Cambridge. I've been interested in these things for a while, but, at one point, I picked up the meme that the Sony model couldn't display anything except its own format—to read, say, a PDF, you had to use their Windows software to convert it.

Still, I fiddled with it a bit, and looked at the brochure—and found that, no, it said it could handle PDF (and text, RTF, JPEG, and MP3) without conversion. So this morning I stuck a handful of files onto a flash card (RS-MMC—the only empty card I had on hand) and brought it in. Here's what I found:

  • The PDF files I tried were fine, but there was a very noticeable delay in turning pages. One file, which was larger and had more complex pages, took 2-3 seconds to flip; the other was more like 1 second. By comparison, the native files bundled with the unit took less than one second.
  • Text files were fine. However, it doesn't do any paragraph flowing; if you want to view a text file, you'll want to convert it so that newlines come only at the end of paragraphs.
  • The MP3 playback is kind of UI-impaired. There doesn't seem to be anything resembling a playlist; you get a flat list of the files on the device, you pick a file, and it starts playing from that point on. The page buttons move you to the next/previous files; the joystick lets you skip within the file. It keeps playing while you read--I couldn't figure out how to make it stop. Clearly, it's an afterthought feature, meant to provide background music while you read.
  • JPEG viewing is similar: a flat list of files; use the page buttons to move among them. Looked pretty good, for monochrome.
  • The big one: it kept dropping the memory card. That is, the files on the card would spontaneously disappear from the list of available files; in one case, it happened while a JPEG was open, and the display showed a sort of blotchy version of the image, as if it had read a thumbnail and then stopped. I don't know why this was happening; all I can think of is that maybe my RS-MMC was too slow, and the device saw it timing out and decided the card was defective. In each case, I removed and reinserted the card, and was able to proceed. I should try it sometime with an actual SD card. I wouldn't be surprised if SD had the same problems—this is Sony we're talking about; they probably tested it only, or almost only, with their own Memory Stick format.

Not bad, all in all. Possibly not worth $350—if it weren't a Sony, it'd probably be more like $250 (and not have MP3 playback). Still, think about it: you can buy a 4GB Memory Stick for $100, and fill it up with the Project Gutenberg DVD. (Probably. The DVD download is 2GB; the files are compressed, but 50% compression is probably a good guess.) (Edit: the download is actually about 4.3GB; I guess the interface I was looking at maxed out at 2GB...geeks will understand why; non-geeks don't need to ask.) That's 17,000 8,000 books in your hand, for $450.


Posted by: C. Virtue (cvirtue)
Posted at: November 6th, 2006 09:29 pm (UTC)
Pedant mode: ON
circuit seablatt

That's not a meme, it's just an idea.

I've got to get to a Borders to see this thing.

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: November 6th, 2006 09:35 pm (UTC)
Re: Pedant mode: ON

Any idea is a meme...especially ideas which have characteristics which lead people to spread them uncritically. That's clearly what was happening here.

Posted by: C. Virtue (cvirtue)
Posted at: November 6th, 2006 09:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Pedant mode: ON

But, but... it's not anywhere in the class of memes like "writing" or "women are people too," or "let's do some agriculture." It's just a wrong idea. It didn't infect your life and change your behavior in a significant way, did it?

Posted by: Alexx Kay (alexx_kay)
Posted at: November 6th, 2006 11:34 pm (UTC)
Re: Pedant mode: ON

If you want to get technical, those are "meme complexes". Memes are smaller units. The exact boundaries are fuzzy, but this is in fact analagous to the usage of the source-word "gene", which refers to an arbitrary (but not *too* long) sequence of genetic bases.

Single memes rarely have huge effects; it's when they join together in mutually reinforcing complexes that they are most often noticed.

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