Alas, poor little E-Reader

I had the silver one.  I’m a MAN!

Ah, my poor little Sony PRS-350 e-reader.  I got it on Christmas of 2010 and it inexplicably died on me just three days ago.  I wish I knew what happened.  It just suddenly wouldn’t “turn on.” The LED indicator responded appropriately when I’d plug it to be charged (a solid red light) but the screen would never activate.  I’d just get a blinking yellow light from the LED.  When plugged into either my Macbook or PC neither computer would acknowledge the device’s presence (aside from the LED indicating the battery was charging.) I searched around online and found several forum threads from people reporting similar problems with brief discussion but no resolutions besides sending it in to Sony for repair (which would be $30 within the warranty period–a generous one year–and exorbitant afterwards.)  I decided the cost wouldn’t be worth getting a possibly effective (meaning indefinitely) repair on a device which now has a track record of questionable quality.

This loss  of course put me on a search for a suitable e-reader replacement.  Sadly, there really wasn’t one.  You see, the reason I wanted this particular device was because it was … perfect. I wanted this particular e-reader for the following reasons:

  1. It wasn’t tied to a particular e-retailer.  Sony does have a Reader store, but the device wasn’t necessarily tied to it, unlike the Kindle or Nook which require you to log in to Amazon or Barnes & Noble to use them. 
  2. It was no frills.  This reader didn’t have wifi, 3G, and since it used a touchscreen there wasn’t a need for some clunky keyboard that would barely have been used.  Due to these things …
  3. It was tiny.  This device had measurements of 4″ x 5.5″.  Both the Kindle Touch and Nook Simple Touch are bigger in either dimension by an inch. This is because they also sport screens that are one inch bigger (measured diagonally.)  The problem is that these screens have the same resolution (600 x 800 dots) as the smaller PRS-350, meaning all you’ve done is sacrificed sharpness.

I really do feel that Sony had a winning design on their hands.  They shot themselves in the foot, however, by selling the damn thing for $180 when it first came out (although there were frequent sales, it was generally going for $150 to $130 for its first year.)  Compared to the competition this was a suicidal price, but then Amazon and Barnes & Noble were in all likelihood selling their readers at a loss with the intent of turning a profit on the sale of books as opposed to Sony, who didn’t have a robust ecosystem to sell books and so had to rely on making money off each device sold.

Still, though, it strikes me as a real shame that none of brand-x manufacturers are able to produce something of similar functionality (frankly, I don’t even think a touch-screen is necessary) and footprint to this device.  Who needs wifi or 3G?  How often will one be out an about and need to access the net?  With a paltry 2GB of storage these things can back thousands of books.  Since they’d still need to be plugged in, why not just plug it into the PC to manage the library (by using such excellent software as Calibre)?  In the year and a half I had this device I never once thought “man I wish I could go online with it.”  Who would try to replace their smartphone or tablet with an e-reader?  Of course, with the limited functionality there should also be vastly improved battery life.  With no wifi these things should last forever.  Unfortunately the Sony device was very lacking in that regard, I could maybe get through a 300 page book in two and half weeks without needing to charge it.  With the low power needs of e-ink and the absence of connectivity, this thing should have had a battery life of months.

Anyway, I settled on a Kindle 4 (no touch functionality.)  It was the cheapest, simplest, lightest option and I already have an Amazon account. There’s an alternate OS available called Duokan, which should keep Amazon from snooping at my collection of books not acquired through them.

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