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The Sony Reader’s clay feet: the PC software is junk

It looks like Sony are about to announce a new Sony Reader in the next few weeks, so it’s time to start bugging them again about the horrible Sony Reader Library software (for Windows & OSX).

A little over a month ago I came across a blog post by one ebook enthusiast who was giving up his Sony reader and switching to a Kindle. He didn’t switch because of the features, design or price; he abandoned his Sony Reader because the PC software kept losing his annotations.

Sony wrote a PC/Mac app that you can use to support your Sony Reader. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work too well.

There’s a checkbox you can select in the settings that will menu have the PC app sync your reading location and annotations from the Sony Reader to the PC. But if you click that box you had better not ever unclick it; the app will take it as a sign that you don’t want the ebooks any more.

They will be deleted, but not just from your computer. The app will also delete the ebooks from your Sony Reader the next time it’s attached, and the annotations will go with them.

If you’re wondering why he unchecked the box, it’s pretty simple. The app took too long to sync with his Sony Reader (he took a lot of notes.). He thought (and I would have thought) that unchecking the box wouldn’t do anything beyond not syncing the notes.

That was the last straw. Without a reasonably intuitive and easy to use back up system for one’s notes and highlighted passages, I don’t see how the Sony Reader can be reliable for anyone who is reading with any purpose slightly more serious than beach reading.

I reluctantly sold the Reader through Craigslist and picked up a Kindle. The Kindle feels plasticky and cheap, and I have yet to get comfortable pushing buttons to turn pages. The thumb-dot-keyboard is awkward and feels superfluous after the touchscreen keyboard I was getting used to. But in the end, the Kindle backs up my notes wirelessly and keeps my books in sync between the Kindle, my laptop, and my iPhone.

He’s not the only one to have trouble with Sony’s PC app. When i got my hands on the new Sony Readers last fall, I tried using the app just to see how well it worked. The experience was so painful that I must have blocked it out of my memory. But I did find my notes from that period: "I loath the Sony Reader Library. Every time I use it I have to resist the urge to hit something." I’m pretty sure that’s not an exaggeration.

P.S. There’s an alternative to Sony’s app which provides much of the same functions and is much less user-unfriendly: calibre. I’ve talked about this open-source ebook library tool before, so i won’t repeat myself here.


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Void August 2, 2011 um 11:22 am

I have not ever installed the Sony app, even when I first got my reader. I already had Calibre from when I used a kindle, and I had heard all about how the sony software sucked, so I never bothered. Neither has anyone else that I know.

Robert August 2, 2011 um 11:47 am

Here’s a question for you…would you rather use the Sony app or ADE? Pick your poison.

I agree, Calibre is a little on the ugly side in that Win95 sort of way but I use it for most of my PRS-350 communications.

Nate Hoffelder August 2, 2011 um 11:52 am

Neither. NookStudy can do everything that ADE can do.

And besides, ADE was updated a few weeks back.

Ric Day August 2, 2011 um 1:16 pm

I ditched my PRS-700 after about a year. A year of more misery than pleasure, all related to Sony’s appalling software and hopeless customer service.

The hardware was solid, with the solid feel of an iPad rather than the "what will fall off first?" feel of the Kindle and Kobo. But the tethering and the unreliable, unpredictable desktop application eventually made it not worth the effort to use.

I would not even consider another Sony. Life is too short.

Name (required) August 2, 2011 um 4:45 pm

When I purchased the PRS-500 I HAD to use Sony software to load up the books. PRS-500 wasn’t recognised as an UMASS device. I hated the software with a passion. They managed to break so many rules in their user interface. When I discovered LibPRS500 – the Calibre predecessor I was ecstatic! It took me a long time (and lots of software updates) to start appreciating Calibre user interface, but it was nothing when comparing with the frustration I felt when using Sony Library Software.

Chris August 2, 2011 um 5:03 pm

Seems a silly thing to switch hardware over a software issue that can be bypassed with a different program, namely Calibre.

Bernadette August 2, 2011 um 7:51 pm

I wholeheartedly concur – I like my Sony 650 but I haven’t recommended it to anyone and have personally been responsbile for at least 4 purchases of a kindle when friends have asked if they should buy what I’ve got instead of a kindle. The software is awful and the sales people at the supposedly specialist Sony store down the road from my office couldn’t have been less helful if they were dead.

I know that Calibre is supposed to be the solution but on a quick look I didn’t find it particularly intuititive. I meant to go back to it but never did and frankly I don’t think I should have to use a third party software on a $220 device (Australian pricing). I have a clunky workaround to the disaster combination that is the Sony software with Adobe Digital Editions. But I’ve stopped buying books for the device and when I’ve read the 30 or so I still have unread I’m going to buy a kindle instead. I’m with Ric (above) life is too short for this kind of crap.

And Chris I think it’s even sillier to stick with a device even though the interface to using it is badly designed. For me the software or usability is as important as the device itself. I’ll chalk it up to experience and happily move on with my life. I deliberately bought the Sony because I don’t like the idea of amazon owning all book-related business in the universe but there’s a limit to how noble I feel like being for the cause.

fjtorres August 2, 2011 um 8:31 pm

The odds of amazon owning everything is zero.
No need to sacrifice because of anti-amazon FUD. 😉

Jessica August 3, 2011 um 1:59 pm

I already knew Sony software sucks (I had one of their mp3 players before caving and getting an iPod) so I didn’t even install it, went straight to Calibre. Calibre is no harder to use than iTunes, so if you’re struggling with it then yes, you probably do need a device that downloads books directly rather than transferring them from the pc.

Mario August 3, 2011 um 1:11 am

Hmmm, I never used annotation nor the software. I can’t even understand why is there any need for it? Is it that hard to just copy book from computer to memory card or main memory of reader?

Do you really do annotations on paper books? Why anyone buys e-reader? Do you buy it because it is cool and say, look, it can annotate, you can surf web on it or play minesweeper? Do you need annotations to read and enjoy good book? Sturdy device that is fast and has good display, good font changing options and wide format support is everything that you need from e-reader.

Bernadette August 3, 2011 um 2:38 am

As a hobby book reviewer I use highlighting and annotations on both paper and ebooks all the time

Void August 3, 2011 um 1:29 pm

I have never annotated or highlighted any book I have had, even text books. I hate making permanent changes that I might regret later. I grew up on library books, so being constantly annoyed by others' notes is probably the cause. I prefer to use sidetags. But on the ereader, it doesn’t matter because I can tun the notes off.

Mikaela August 3, 2011 um 2:03 pm

I have the software installed, but I don’t use it. The only reason it’s installed is that without it ADE doesn’t recognize my reader, and I do use ADE. ( No, I don’t understand that logic either…)

Shel August 3, 2011 um 5:15 pm

I have and love my Sony 950, and I have the Sony Reader software installed on my desktop computer. Having heard horror stories at Mobile Read about the Sony software on the Sony device, however, I’ve never installed it, just use Calibre. I find it neither unintuitive nor difficult, and only limited ugly, LOL. Anyway – LOVE my Sony, would not trade it for anything, including a Kindle, and am praying that by the time it dies, which all electronics do, that there will be something comparable to replace it.
All that being said though, I’ve never annotated or highlighted anything in a fiction book in my life, so that particular lack of feature doesn’t affect me at all. I’m sure it’s very annoying for those who do use it.

maureen kidd August 12, 2011 um 3:57 am

I hate, hate, hate my Sony reader, and that disgusting software. I downloaded ADE and bought some books on BOB, now it’s caused endless problems – I don’t know if I’m coming or going. Who wants to buy a prs600

jerry November 14, 2011 um 11:40 am

Love my Sony PRS 300, love calibre. Both are easy to use. Resisted the Sony 350, becasue the "touch" stuff isn’t a deal maker for me. Resisting the SOny T1 until I’m sure the wi-fi will allow me to d/l and open "off-license" books like the iPad does.

Wagner April 19, 2012 um 8:18 am

I loved the hardware (PRS-T1) but hated the software (Reader for PC). Sony should be ashamed of distributing such a crap. The worse ever is their support: even the support e-mail form doesn’t work.

Frederik May 2, 2012 um 3:32 pm

How can a company be this stupid? And we are even talking Sony here. They were that company that always beat every other company because of high quality.

I know that hardware is there thing, not software. But by now they should know that you win because of Total User Experience.

And that is sadly lacking here. Sure I use Calibre, but I should be using Reader, shouldn’t I? Have they not ever looked at Apple and their Itunes software?


Noni Mausa October 6, 2012 um 9:09 am

I was given a Sony reader PRS-300 this summer. (After their rootkit fiasco and then struggling with a Sony MiniDisc recorder, purchased for $350 for professional audio recording and abandoned* soon for a Olympus WS-100, I would have never BOUGHT a Sony device.)

The Reader for PC sync doesn’t sync. Oh, I suppose it must, for someone who has the knowing of it, but it goes away to sync and never comes back. I have to CTRL-ALT-DEL and forcibly end the program to make it stop. I am exploring Calibre now.


* What idiot sets up an audio recorder so that the only way to get the recordings into your computer is to play them into it in real time?

Slowness January 16, 2013 um 12:49 am

The Sony Reader for PC software is absurdly slow. Takes forever to open books, and when it does it sits there chewing up most of the CPU (70%) just showing a static page display! And this is 18 months after your original post.

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