Sony Reader PRS-700: Part One

October 3, 2008

As everyone probably knows by now, last night Sony held a press event at the Library Hotel in New York City for a third model of its successful Sony Reader.

I was there.

Before I arrived, I made a point to stop at DataVision to see the Sony Reader Revolution promotion in full-tilt action. This is speed-reading memory expert Dave Farrow, sitting in DataVision’s window:

Because one rotten blurry picture isn’t enough, here’s a second of that:

Another angle:

I wouldn’t use this next one at all except it provides an interesting statistic:

If you squint and lift up your monitor to the correct angle, you’ll find out the bottom right says: Page 2,829 of Day 2. He’ll be in that window for thirty days. He’s sleeping in that window too! There’s a shelf bed!

From time to time, he takes a break. Sometimes, a member of the general public is invited to take his place in the window to do some reading. See Sony Reader: The Revolution Is Televised. The book titles and pages that are read are scrupulously logged by a Reader Revolutionary.

I was glad to see some concurrent promotion at DataVision:

With pictures of the Sony Reader!

I moved on to the press event. Before it began, I was met by security for a full body cavity search pointed out by name by one of the Sony PR experts to Jim Malcolm, Director of Corporate Marketing for Mobile Lifestyle Products.

The Reader Revolution is his idea.

And he had read some of my blog posts. Particularly this one: Sony Reader Revolution: FAIL! He admitted to me he investigated that and it was a FAIL. Such things happen.

What I saw in front of DataVision was the excitement I’d expected — to a lesser degree — at Borders. There were eager Reader Revolutionaries outside introducing people to the Sony Reader and getting them to actually try it for themselves. It’s the kind of hands-on that’s not possible at the Borders vertically locked-down kiosks.

Malcolm told me that they’d done print ads. (Look on Flickr and you’ll see a ton of Sony Reader ads photographed.) Now he wanted to do something new that would really generate excitement and get people to try the Sony Reader in ways not possible with store displays. Hence the Reader Revolution.

Sony has hired a thousand people to fan out at various locations at various times to be Reader Revolutionaries. The goal made my jaw drop: they want to have two million people try the Sony Reader.

What’s particularly exciting about the DataVision location is that jillions of tourists pass by there. Many of them might have already heard of the Sony Reader but have never seen one in person, because it’s not yet in their country. With the Sony Reader launching in The Netherlands and Germany next year, some of those tourists will already be miniature experts on it and generate word-of-mouth. The impact of the Reader Revolution program will be international.

Malcolm regaled me with tales of the Sony Reader being used by his family. One had his son bringing it to school, only to have his teacher confiscate it, telling him “no electronics” were allowed. He finally persuaded her to let him demonstrate it and she was shocked to find out it was a book.

Then someone entered our proximity and was told it was Me. And that person was none other than Steve Haber, He Who Is Now eBooks At Sony:

(I warned you it would be blurry!)

Haber made it a point to tell me he had read the post in which I called for his firing(!). I stood my ground. He stood his. Malcolm summoned Security to eject me.

He explained that he took over the Sony Reader about a year ago. Since then, he’s consolidated all of its parts under one roof. Hardware, software, and the eBook Store were all separate (and I know firsthand just how separate that eBook Store was!). Now they’re all together under his leadership. He explained that only now would we begin to see the results of the work he’s been doing, such as the Reader Revolution and tonight’s event.

I foamed at the mouth explained how I thought it was terrible that the abominable Kindle had stolen the eBook attention from the Sony Reader. He has a longer view of things (and, of course, he also knew what he was about to unveil! Don’t ever play poker against him.). He also has plans. He is very serious about the Sony Reader. Sony is now very serious about the Sony Reader too. So things will be happening.

I really pressed the issue of how I wanted to see the eBook Store opened to writers who want to do direct publishing and how tools are needed for them to create ePub (or even BBeB) files. He said all that is in the works.

I came away thinking, He Has A Vision.

Jeff Bezos, hear that knock on the door? It’s Sony and Steve Haber delivering your doom!

Then it was time for the event.

Prior rumors pointed to WiFi and a Mac OS X version of their eLibrary software.

Sad to say, neither rumor panned out.

A half hour before the announcement, I already knew it was the PRS-700. Because someone was carrying a cardboard shipping box with that designation on it!

Too bad I didn’t have a way to broadcast that leak!

The announcement was made by Steve Haber, accompanied by a slideshow on a large flat widescreen monitor.

First he gave some context:

– Present with Sony tonight were five dying dinosaur print publishers (I will always refer to them as that!): Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Harlequin, and Penguin

– As I mentioned before, all Sony Reader operations are now under one roof

– Sony’s man from Japan has also relocated San Diego

– The Sony Reader will shortly be in three thousand sales outlets in the U.S., in time for this holiday season

-The Reader Revolution campaign was mentioned, with its staggering goal of two million hands-on demonstrations

– The eBook Store is getting a makeover to debut later this month

– Wireless was mentioned, but I’ll get to that later

And then the new Sony Reader itself was unveiled.

I have to say at this point I felt like I had slipped into an alternate universe. When the first image of the new PRS-700 was shown on-screen, my immediate reaction was, Where are the buttons?!

And then Haber mentioned the touchscreen. What?! Touchscreen?! Where did that come from?! And a Sony representative demonstrated paging through an ebook by swiping her finger on the screen itself!

And then Haber mentioned Search and Notes, and those were demonstrated. Search?! Notes?! Where did those come from?! (Flashback to the early days of the Sony Reader. I am in SonyStyle molesting it. A member of the general public mentions that it lacks Search and Notes. I say, “That’s why it’s called the Sony Reader and not the Sony Scholar.”)

And to top it all off, he mentioned the sidelighting and that was demonstrated!

I still couldn’t believe what I was seeing. None of it was what I had expected — none of it was what I’d ever imagined.

And things were going to get even weirder once I had my own hands on the new Sony Reader!

Come back tomorrow for Part Two

Other Sony Reader posts today:

To Steve Haber Of Sony, Memo #1
Live Sony Reader Video Embed Doesn’t Work!
Sony Reader Twitter FAIL!
Pictures: Sony Reader PRS-700
Sony Reader Revolution Cam #1
Sony Reader Revolution: The Press Release
New Sony Reader PRS-700: The Press Release
Sony Reader: The Revolution Is Televised
Sony eBook Store: A $2.38 eBook!

Pictures: Sony Reader PRS-700

October 3, 2008

I’m just dropping an official Sony press release photo in here to whet your appetite for later today.

I want to highlight the front buttons. These are all of them now:

Click = big

Remember, there’s a touchscreen(!) now.

I finally got the press link from Sony. More later.

Live Sony Reader Video Embed Doesn’t Work!

October 3, 2008

Sony has a live video feed of the Dave Farrow 30-days-of-reading window over at DataVision here in New York City.

Static screen capture of Farrow stand-in. Click = big

There’s embed code. Which doesn’t work!

I tried it with WordPress via vodpod. I tried it with direct code paste into Blogger.

Both = FAIL!

That’s a shame, too. At one point I would have made it a sticky post at the top of this (the WordPress) blog.

While I’m giving Sony a headache here, I might as well pour it on.

There’s no promotion for this on the DataVision website main page:

Click = big

Nor is there any promotion in The Sony Store section of the site! But at least the Sony Reader gets a top-level spotlight:

Click = big

But at this point, I wonder if that’s just accidental!

Free eBooks: Spotbit

October 3, 2008

From Twitter via top_book:

Spotbit: Paperless Publishing Free

This is an odd beast. All the free ebooks are downloadable .exe files (which I guess = PC only). If I understand this correctly, it turns a PDF into a computer program and the PDF file becomes a page-flipping eBook. There’s a big variety of free eBooks there. Yet I wonder if all of them are legal.

For instance, is this one legal?

To Steve Haber Of Sony, Memo #1

October 3, 2008

I intend to keep hurting you with Memos like these.

Until You Make It Stop.

I hope your pain threshold is low.

My advice: Print out. Stick on your monitor. Act before you can no longer see your screen!

New Sony Reader: PRS-700

October 3, 2008

I’m at the Apple mothership store on 57th Street freeloading on a MacBook (white).

Just got here from the Sony Reader announcement tonight.

I don’t have any tech details, so these are just brief notes until tomorrow when I recall all I heard and do a brain dump.

New Sony Reader. The PRS-700.

Let’s get one rumor out of the way: No wireless. No, not even WiFi.

Also — and dammit, I forgot to ask about this, despite making a note — no Mac OS X eLibrary software.

So what do we have?

1) A $100 price increase, from $299 to $399

2) Fewer buttons (!)

3) Touchscreen! Yes, touchscreen! Can use your finger or — get this — a built-in stylus (the best stylus Sony has ever made!)

4) Sidelighting for the eInk screen (four stagelights on both right and left)

5) Seriously-revised Reader software that adds many features, among which are Search(!) and — here it is for you addicts — the ability to make Notes!

6) Like the Model T — one color: Black (break my heart for no red!)

7) An ounce heavier

8) Requires its own covers (that is, existing color covers will not work)

9) The leather-like cover now has SONY embossed on it (finally!)

That’s all I’ve got off the top of my head, risking backstrain bent over a MacBook.

But this is perhaps the most important thing: A serious commitment from Sony to the Sony Reader. I mean, they are really, really serious. The two years of me screaming for them to Do Something seems to be coming to an end.

For those who have been waiting to buy an eBook reader: wait another month. That’s when the PRS-700 will be out. Leaving aside wireless, the new PRS-700 kicks the abominable Kindle’s ass.

Me, I’m crying inside because I had my heart set on Red — but now it looks like it will be Model T black. Well, maybe they’ll release a custom cover in red at some point!

I don’t even have a press kit! They’re doing this all e and I’ll get mine tomorrow in email.

I might have crapcam pictures. The crapcam really acted up, so I might not have anything. I’ll know tomorrow. I don’t want to risk sleep by checking the crapcam and then staying up all night cursing at it! One Sony rep took a few pics for me Just In case.

OK, more tomorrow!

— originally published last night at the WordPress blog