43 Folders

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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

My fling with a Sony Reader

So there I was in Las Vegas, flush with cash and giddy with excitement. Seduced by the sleek lines, thin profile, and promised efficiency of the PRS-505. Call me “Sony Reader,” I imagined it purring, “and together we will travel the world.” It spoke to both the bibliophile and gadget hound that live deep within my soul. How could I resist?

The flight home to Chicago was our first outing. I didn’t have a computer with me to add my own text files, but little PRS-505 was thoughtfully pre-loaded with abridged classics and its manual. The screen; so crisp and readable! I danced from book to book, turning page after page, sampling everything like a starving man at the Bellagio’s buffet. I soaked in every step of every task in the French version of the user’s manual, not caring that I only speak English.

About midway through my flight home, I “accidentally” jostled my armrest-hogging seat mate awake; waving the Reader non-chalantly as I muttered my apology. I wanted him to see my futuristic, productivity-enhancing device. I think my ploy worked—the heavy breathing that soon followed revealed his unspoken envy.

Yes, life was good. The next morning, I connected Miss PRS to my iMac, grinning as its proxy icon popped onto the Desktop. I quickly copied over a half-dozen PDF files and smoothly slipped loose the connection. A moment later, the Reader sprung to life and started cataloging the new additions. I could hardly wait.

Oh how I wish that I had waited. If I had known that those were my final moments of consumer satisfaction and gadget nirvana, I would have savored them. But I didn’t know, and soon there was no turning back.

I eagerly pressed the button that would open the first of my PDFs. I barely recognized it. The page was squished. The text gray and hard to read. I remembered a word from the user’s guide—“paysage.” I held down the “+” button to change the display to landscape mode. Ah, that’s better. A little less distorted.

But. Still. Illegible.


None of my PDF files were remotely close to being readable on this thing. I turned to the ‘net for a solution. Someone reported that using Acrobat to convert the PDF to RTF would help. “I have Acrobat Professional, I’ll try that!” I nervously drummed my fingers, had lunch, and made a phone call while Acrobat launched. Yes, the resulting RTF file did produce readable text on the Sony Reader, but its mangled formatting and oddly-broken lines turned my stomach. Or maybe it was the tuna sandwich. Regardless, I couldn’t live with it.

I read MAKE’s tips on How to Optimize PDFs for Sony’s Reader. Good advice, provided that you have the document source and can create a whole new PDF just for use on the Reader. But what I have is over a thousand scanned documents from my paperless office. I can’t re-format those to the 3.5 x 4.8 inch dimensions that the Reader requires in order to avoid its page mangling scaling algorithm.

There’s a bit more to the story, but does it really matter? I could write about the 100 free classic books (in “BBeB” Reader-optimzed format) that Windows users can download using Sony’s iTunes-on-Meth online store. I could make fun of the way it handles RSS files or complain how the Sony website implies that the Reader can search the contents of books. (It can’t.) But all that sounds like sour grapes. The bottom line is that I decided to take the Reader on one more trip. This time to the ‘burbs where I ditched it at the Sony Style store in Skokie. Leaving behind my shattered dreams and a 15% restocking fee.

So long, little PRS-505. We’ll always have Vegas.

ddoyle777's picture

The problem is with PDF not the Reader

I'm on my 2nd Reader - I used the first edition until I could get my hands on a new silver 2nd edition. I have all my companies send me .doc files that I can convert into .rtf easily. No problems here. Blame the stupidity of PDF, not the Reader IMHO.




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