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Sony Tosses the Sony Reader On the Scrap Heap 172

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the end-of-line dept.
Nate the greatest (2261802) writes Sony has decided to follow up closing its ebook stores in the U.S. and Europe by getting out of the consumer ebook reader market entirely. (Yes, Sony was still making ereaders.) The current model (the Sony Reader PRS-T3) will be sold until stock runs out, and Sony won't be releasing a new model. This is a sad end for what used to be a pioneering company. This gadget maker might not have made the first ebook reader but it was the first to use the paper-like E-ink screen. Having launched the Sony Librie in 2004, Sony literally invented the modern ebook reader and it then went on to release the only 7" models to grace the market as well as the first ereader to combine a touchscreen and frontlight (the Sony Reader PRS-700). Unfortunately Sony couldn't come up with software or an ebook retail site which matched their hardware genius, so even though Sony released amazing hardware it had been losing ground to Amazon, B&N, and other retailers ever since the Kindle launched in 2007.
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Sony Tosses the Sony Reader On the Scrap Heap

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  • they made really nice ones, at least as far as screen. I'm guessing they can't compete with the heavily subsidized Amazon Kindles though...
    • That kinda sucks (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Sable Drakon (831800) on Monday August 04, 2014 @08:08PM (#47603657)
      No, though Sony could have pulled it out of the fire by partnering with a more respected content vendor, instead of trying to roll their own.
      • by timeOday (582209)
        I think not, because of the bad precedent in the music industry. Sony bought CBS Music for $2BN (a huge acquisition back then!) in 1987 when they were riding high on the Walkman and Discman, thus owning the catalogue of Michael Jackson among many others. Sony was ideally positioned to dominate portable music, forever. Where is it now?

        Likewise I look at my Clie TH55 [amazon.com] and see today's Mobile devices, 10 years ago. And where is Sony now?

        • That fell apart because Sony didn't anticipate what direction things would take, letting Apple overtake them along with just about everyone else.
          • by Hamsterdan (815291) on Monday August 04, 2014 @10:09PM (#47604291)

            No. They did what they always do, and tried to push a proprietary format (Minidisc and ATRAC) instead of embracing an established standard. With their music catalog, they could have *owned* the MP3 player market like they did with the original Walkman. (add to that their movie catalog and they could have killed the iPod touch before it was even born.)

            • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 04, 2014 @10:53PM (#47604453)

              Exactly. I've had friends with Sony readers and I wasted many days over the years trying to get those things to work right. The quality of the hardware was always good. It was the same, tired, mistake that Sony always did. Their software SUCKED to the point where using it was almost pointless.

              The client-side software on the PC barely (if ever) worked right. USB conflicts all over the place. Their DRM-laden eBooks was monstrous to work with. I have zero sympathy for Sony in this area. When they tried to compete with the iPod, their ATRAC-format, and software also seriously sucked back then too.

              Sony had their chance. They deserve to simply die and be buried. Another once-great company put out of its misery.

              • I thought Sony had learned their lesson after losing completely and utterly to VHS. Most would agree Betamax was a superior product, technically speaking, but being the 'better' product is no guarantee of success - pricing and marketing are critical. They priced themselves out of existence.

                Blu-ray was a much better roll-out. They enlisted major studios before the product hit the market. Licensed it to many other companies. And the pricing - while still not making most happy - is keeping them in the

                • by drinkypoo (153816)

                  I had a pair of the Sony eReaders. They were great - insane battery life, excellent controls. And no stupid touch-screen - like any sane person wants fingerprints on their reading surface?

                  A sane person would notice that you can't even see fingerprints on most modern displays in most lighting, especially the matte surface used on competent e-Book readers. Meanwhile, touch support makes the interface vastly better. I'm extra glad I didn't buy a Sony reader now. What crap.

            • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 04, 2014 @11:48PM (#47604621)

              No. They did what they always do, and tried to push a proprietary format (Minidisc and ATRAC) instead of embracing an established standard.

              MiniDisc wasn't the problem. It was a great replacement for cassettes (even if Sony and retailers initially made the mistake of pushing it as a competitor to the CD). Random access track playback, track names, high-fidelity recording on Walkman-sized devices, random access editing without a razor blade: MiniDisc OWNED tape in oh so many ways. The ATRAC format was a logical choice for MiniDisc since the format had to be writable (not just readable) by the sort of portable hardware available back when MiniDisc first came out.

              One of the Sony's big problems was their embrace of copy protection and DRM and the philosophy behind it. And this appears to have started when they bought out the CBS/Columbia record and movie studio operations around the time of the DAT fight. Technology like the Triniton CRT and the Walkman were about adding value for customers, while DRM is always about subtracting it.

              With MiniDisc, Sony did things like bringing out MiniDisc "recorders" that had no microphone or line in jacks, only the ability to "record" over a DRMed USB connection. I guess they thought these were competitors for MP3 players and iPods. It took a long time for high-capacity MiniDiscs to arrive and in the meantime, Sony tried to push low-bitrate recording modes that were not always the greatest for sound quality.

              • This exactly! Minidisc, for the time, was fantastic. But the silly DRM on it made it overly annoying. I remember the PC software had "library" counts, where you'd "check out" tracks to media, and had to check them in before you could move them somewhere else. Making multiple MDs with the same son? Impossible on their software. You had this device that could read, write, store songs with removable storage that sounded good, and packaged in a small fairly indestructable case--then crippled it with DRM to the

              • by Smauler (915644)

                It was a great replacement for cassettes (even if Sony and retailers initially made the mistake of pushing it as a competitor to the CD).

                They were a great replacement for CDs for audiobooks. The CD is diabolical for audiobooks... Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series is 144 hours long, on audiobook, which makes CDs a little impractical.

            • Yeah, because Apple didn't use an uncommon, DRM-enabled format. Nope.

              Oh, wait. I'm being told that's exactly what they did. They sold their music in a format unsupported by any other portable player. And the first ipods only worked with Macs which, at the time, had a tiny percentage of the personal computer market.

              So I'm going to go out on a limb and say Sony's choice of format had nothing to do with their inability to corner the new portable audio market.

              • The first iPods worked with everything that could mount an USB hard disk, because they nothing more than that!

                • by gmhowell (26755)

                  The first iPods worked with everything that could mount an USB hard disk, because they nothing more than that!

                  No. The first ones were Mac only. And FireWire only. (And had less space than a Nomad and no wireless, and were thus 'lame'.)

                  • And still required the proprietary database to be updated before the files would be available to play - you couldn't just dump the files on the disk and have them work.

                    • by pscottdv (676889)

                      Apple adapted. Sony didn't.

                    • by gmhowell (26755)

                      I get what you are saying, entirely, but doesn't slashdot pedantry require I ask if it was really a 'proprietary database'? I thought it was a piece of xml? I'm pretty sure it is on the computer, but no idea what the file is on the iPod.

                    • If its not documented, it doesn't matter what format its in - its proprietary.

                  • True, the very very first one indeed had firewire, was not aware of that (actually, did not know fire wire already existed at that time).

                    • by Carewolf (581105)

                      True, the very very first one indeed had firewire, was not aware of that (actually, did not know fire wire already existed at that time).

                      Don't you mean still around? That was when when it was on its deadbed.

                    • My latest Mac still has fire wire ... I get a new one this week, I believe it has as well.

            • by kamapuaa (555446)

              Minidisc and ATRAC pre-date MP3 as a format (1992 v 1995), so of course they didn't use the MP3 standard. Sony released MP3 players in the 90s, and while the software did indeed suck, it wasn't because of DRM. It didn't allow you to copy from MP3 player to computer, but that's not really a thing people want to do.

              Anyway, the idea that they could leverage their movie holdings counters the idea that using an established standard as a format would have helped them. If they have large holdings, the only way

              • by CRCulver (715279)

                It didn't allow you to copy from MP3 player to computer, but that's not really a thing people want to do.

                Of course people want to do that. During the iPod craze, it was quite common for someone, upon seeing that his friend had a large collection on their portable device, to ask if they could could copy the music from the iPod to their own computer.

            • Re:That kinda sucks (Score:5, Interesting)

              by umafuckit (2980809) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @03:26AM (#47605209)
              Not fair: e-books were the one thing they didn't fuck with. Everything was e-pub, whereas Amazon was pushing their own weird formats. Can easily get content from different sources onto a Sony reader.
              • Huh? The Epub format was released in 2007, while the Mobi format was released in 2000, and the Mobipocket company was purchased by Amazon in 2005.

                Hell, I was reading purchased eBooks in PDB format back in 2002, from ereader.com.

            • Please; doing all that would have required a imagination and foresight (well, at least a little!).
            • by Dogtanian (588974)

              No. They did what they always do, and tried to push a proprietary format (Minidisc and ATRAC) instead of embracing an established standard.

              It's worse than that; the MiniDisc came out long before the MP3 *was* established as the standard. (*) As I commented a while back [slashdot.org], had Sony used the underlying technology of MiniDisc to its full potential and enabled the free exchange of "tracks"- in effect, ATRAC files (**)- when it came out in 1992, those may well have become the preferred format for exchanging music when the file format moved beyond the original devices.

              Instead, Sony not only didn't permit that, but they intentionally hobbled MiniDisc

          • by Chuck Chunder (21021) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @03:29AM (#47605215) Homepage Journal

            That fell apart because Sony didn't anticipate what direction things would take, letting Apple overtake them along with just about everyone else.

            I don't think that's quite right. Sony did anticipate the direction things were going take, they just tried to control it too tightly and had an overinflated idea of their own power to steer things. I think the Sony Network Walkman [wikipedia.org] predates the iPod. I had an NW-MS9 [google.com.au] and I think in many ways it (and the earlier versions) were ahead of their time. Tiny, digital, sleek, even the name "Network" hints and some anticipation of a future of medialess distribution.

            However they utterly ballsed up the execution. Partly on the software side (the associated software was an absolute dog which seemed to go out of it's way to make things painful) but mostly because they were trying to own the future with their MagicGate DRM (which they even seemed to be trying to sell as something exciting for the consumer, though it was responsible for much of the pain in using the software) and codec restrictions.

            Sony saw the future, they just wanted to own it and in trying to do so produced something that served them more than it served the buyer.

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              I don't think that's quite right. Sony did anticipate the direction things were going take, they just tried to control it too tightly and had an overinflated idea of their own power to steer things.

              Wait, what? No. Sony did not anticipate the fact that things would take an uncontrollable direction. End.

        • Sony gotten bitten with Apple Envy. They pretty much invented portable music with the Walkman, re-invented it with the Discman but completely failed to capitalize it with digital music the way the iPod & iTunes did.

          Their downfall was trying to sucker the rest of the world with proprietary formats.

          http://games.slashdot.org/comm... [slashdot.org]

      • by hairyfeet (841228)

        Without even looking at this thing I bet its the exact same fails that Sony always pulls, proprietary formats, making everything go through Sony, overpriced hardware...correct?

        Sony has been throwing away killer tech products going all the way back to the Minidisc, which at the time had several orders of magnitude more storage than any MP3 player could muster but because Sony tried to lock everything down to the 50th power so that all discs would go through or from Sony nobody would support or put out conten

    • by BobNET (119675)

      My PRS-650 was one of the few Sony products I've ever used that didn't suck.

      Then again, I never installed the software that came with it -- only calibre.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The real problem is you cant just make decent hardware and expect it to sell. The same issue exists with the slew of Android tablets out there, sure there is decent hardware and an operating system but theres not much you can do with them beyond web browsing (which historically hasnt been that great, especially the flagship Nexus 7, maybe they fixed that in the 2013 version) as there is very little in the way of useful tablet applications for them so you get the crappy experience of up-scaled phone applicat

    • Unfortunately that is pretty much an apt description of everything Sony has made in the past 2 decades or so, really slick hardware with crap software and frustrating incompatibilities. They either need to just do a clean sweep of their software division or else just become a hardware design consulting company.
      • Re:That kinda sucks (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 04, 2014 @08:37PM (#47603807)

        Sony products fro the early 90s to the late 2000s had two defining qualities:
        - they were loaded with proprietary cr*p. Sony suffered the worst case of NIH ever. They had to have their own everything, from music compression to memory cards. This cost them a bundle in engineering, wasted time reinventing the wheel, and made for subpar products because the customers had to buy expensive gadgets that wouldn't be any use with anything else or had to be transcoded or whatever.
        - they were infected with DRM schemes. From the VHS experience they seem to have got the idea that they _had_ to have the content providers on board, plus for a while they had their own music and films studios. Again this made for subpar customer experience.

        And also, like you said, their software was just bad.

        The result of that is that they missed out on just about every category of electronic gizmo that hit the market in that time period. Phones, mp3 player, organizers, laptops, tablets, you name it.

        With the image and brand recognition they had, they should have been Apple. The rest is history.

        • They had to have their own everything, from music compression to memory cards.

          I believe they even had their own non *HCI compliant USB controller for a very brief while as well. That thing NEVER worked properly on any operating system. Pointless stupid proprietaryness for shits and grins.

          As for DRM it was their fault. They massively hobbled the minidisc with DRM and that inspired them to do all sorts of stupid shit like makeing it pointlessly limited, hobbling the few computer based drives.

          Oh and anyone rem

    • by vistic (556838)

      The hardware seemed like it was pretty solid.
      But their interface on the readers themselves was pretty bad, and their desktop app to load books onto the reader was absolutely the worst.

  • The Sony Reader has been available at my grocery outlet for $50 for ages now. Nobody buys them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 04, 2014 @07:47PM (#47603563)

    They still have the Sony DPT-S1 [sony.com], a large format reader intended for the legal and other professional markets. Costly as heck though.

    It's a pity they're exiting the business. I much preferred the Sony devices to the Kindle both for the build quality and for its flexibility about formats, which is a must if you provide most of your own reading material instead of purchasing it through Amazon or the Sony ebook store. The remaining alternatives to the Kindle (Kobo and various janky Chinese and Russian devices) routinely fall short in one or the other. For example, the Kobo doesn't have PDF reflow.

    • Sad indeed. Sony should have learned something from their console business. It isn't so much the console as the games, it isn't so much the ereader as the ebooks. Now it seems their smartphone business is also going dodo.

      However I'm curious about this part of your post: "The remaining alternatives to the Kindle (Kobo and various janky Chinese and Russian devices) routinely fall short". Does Russia really manufacture anything besides spyware, rockets, and killing machines?

      For reference, here's what Obama sai

      • by PopeRatzo (965947)

        various janky Chinese and Russian devices

        Some of the Chinese ones aren't so "janky". I've seen Chinese-made ebook readers and tablets that were pretty darn nice, especially for the money.

    • by dbIII (701233)
      The Boox is very good with PDFs and can even do CBR format.
    • by rhsanborn (773855)
      The device was great, but no one really buys a Kindle for the device. They buy it for convenience and content. The Sony ebook store had a terrible selection. Worse, you had to buy it on the computer and transfer it to your device. Nirvana is achieved when you can pick up your ereader, decide you want a book, and can complete the selection and sale immediately. That's why Amazon was willing to eat the cost of the cell subscriptions, because it meant people could complete a purchase when they wanted, not when
  • My PRS-505 was great, it was a nice metal case, and it survived in my house where 3 Kindles met a cracked screen fate. Then its battery died and it is $30 for a new one.

    But I could see from day one that the library that Sony was offering was pretty much an irrelevancy. I am not sure that a single book they ever offered (not that I looked more than once or twice) caught my interest. I long thought that Sony should have gone enterprise with a very large screen (close to 8 1/2 x 11 as possible) for reading l
    • I long thought that Sony should have gone enterprise with a very large screen (close to 8 1/2 x 11 as possible) for reading legal documents, documentation, and basically the size that every PDF is aimed at.

      They did [sony.com]

      • by PopeRatzo (965947)

        I always wanted to try one of those for sheet music. The Sony nameplate always put me off, though. I keep hoping someone else makes a large screen PDF reader for the musician market. If it could run Musescore, I'd pre-order.

      • Well in that case, they did a terrible job of marketing it as I would have been recommending this left and right had I known about it.

        Now I want one.
    • very large screen (close to 8 1/2 x 11 as possible) for reading legal documents, documentation, and basically the size that every PDF is aimed at

      8.27 Ã-- 11.7 would be even better!

  • These devices cry out to be made by casino and found in ever gas station for $5.
    The Kindle with the keyboard pretty much perfected the device. It'd be nice if they got color figured out but I don't think anyone wants any more out of these devices. ok ok, put a solar cell on the back or something so you never have to charge it.

    • by Guspaz (556486)

      Having owned both the kindle with the keyboard, and the paperwhite, the keyboard had lots of issues. The keyboard wasted a ton of space despite being virtually never used, and the lighting solutions, while functional, could have looked better, and were not that battery efficient.

      I think my ideal kindle would be the Paperwhite, but with physical page turn buttons.

  • It's a Dang Shame (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Scorch_Mechanic (1879132) on Monday August 04, 2014 @08:25PM (#47603767) Journal

    I'm kind of sad to see these devices fall off the market, though I can't say I didn't see it coming. They closed their "Sony Reader Store" for ebooks on the 20th of March, and sent another email detailing how to switch to Kobo. I've had a PRS-T1 for years now, and I love it. It's got a super nice feature where you could long-press a word you don't know and it would show you its meaning on its internal dictionary, or you could try searching google and wikipedia for it (if you were connected to wifi). It's so handy that when I switch back to regular books after a couple sessions with my ereader, I find myself trying to look up words in regular books by putting my finger on them. With the wifi off (or set to standby), the device supposedly will go for a month of regular (read: three or four hours daily) use. Never tested it, but boy it was nice, especially in an era of charge-nightly smartphones.

    By far the best feature was that my PRS-T1 seems to be perfectly sized for my hand. I can hold it in my left hand and swipe the screen (to change pages) with my thumb, comfortably. Combined with the fact that it only weighs a couple of ounces, and it's actually possible to do extremely comfortable one-handed reading. I should go plug in the thing. And find more books for it. And read more.

    Sigh.

    • by LesFerg (452838)

      I love my PRS-T1 too, but sadly the dictionary app got grundled and if I accidentally activate it the unit freezes and needs to be rebooted.

      It would be great if Sony could unlock these readers to allow us to add different reader apps. There are a few hack instructions on the web but they seem to apply to specific regional versions, so I don't want to brick the thing entirely by taking the risk.

      The main issue with putting a standard Android app on the T1 appears to be getting its display mode modified to re

  • PRS-500 owner (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ecuador (740021) on Monday August 04, 2014 @09:05PM (#47603997) Homepage
    I liked my PRS-500. I thought it was a decent device, with so-so software. I didn't use it much after the first month or so. Then I got a Kindle. It more than doubled my daily reading and I still carry it always with me, several years later. In retrospect, I realized that I liked the PRS-500 just because it had the first good display I had seen for reading, but the software implementation, both on the device and the PC/store part were the bare minimum to make an "ebook reader" type device. I saw that some PRS-500/505 users gave it a little more life with Calibre later on, but that was not thanks to Sony. So I don't know about "hardware genius", was it perhaps before serious competitors started coming with devices which were at least on-par hardware-wise but had some brilliant ideas and software behind them?
  • you get an iPad mini. Even Amazon figured this angle out. So this is not really surprising.
  • I thought minidisc was the bees knees. Then the Clie. Now the Sony E-reader bites the dust. I need to find a different brand :(
    • by lindseyp (988332)

      Minindisc was awesome, it only failed outside Asia because in Europe and America, where generally cheaper products were the norm, people started ripping mp3s to CDR en-masse before MD players were cheap enough for mass market.

      The Clie was good, if a little fiddly. I knew a few people with those. Where *that* failed was sony's protectionis hogging of the Palm OS and getting usurped by Symbian and then Microsoft on smartphones until Apple took over the world.

      The e-reader was behind Amazon by far in terms o

  • by Osgeld (1900440) on Monday August 04, 2014 @10:28PM (#47604353)

    does sony discontinuing a done product line mean the end of a pioneering company?

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      does sony discontinuing a done product line mean the end of a pioneering company?

      Sony hasn't pioneered anything since the CD, which Philips had to help them with. Everything else they've done has been biting someone else's shit. MOs [slashdot.org] were around before Minidisc. (IBM made the Cell, too; that was not produced on spec for Sony.)

  • Sony tries too hard to be completely in charge of every tiny aspect of their products, even when they lack the expertise to actually accomplish it.
    They could have partnered with Amazon or B&N right from the beginning, and they would have been a part of something big. But instead they have a tiny part of nothing, all to themselves.

    This is what happens when you don't share your toys Sony. Everyone eventually decides to get up and go play somewhere else.

  • by WCMI92 (592436) on Monday August 04, 2014 @11:14PM (#47604525) Homepage

    In the 80's Sony was the gold standard for anything electronic. By the 90's they started living off their name and selling poorly made crap at a premium price. By the 2000's that started catching up to them.

    In the 2010's they have become irrelevant.

    Sony is soon to follow Radio Shack into history.

  • I have the Sony PRS-T2 and it was really good for its time. However, Sony really fluffed PRS-T3 by not having a front light.

    However, I think rather than Sony's hardware, it was the software that was better, esp for pdf in this generation. Kobo hardware was better - the aura and aura hd are one step ahead of kindles in hardware but one step behind everyone else.

    Finally Sony was the only one with actual buttons. I was really hoping Sony would bring a new reader with frontlight and page turn buttons.

    The

  • ... put the PS4 designers in charge of all their product lines. And maybe the ones doing the mobile phones, which aren't bad for cheap Androids. And fire all the rest.

  • by pubwvj (1045960) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @06:28AM (#47605601)

    This is the reason not to buy eBooks. Bye-bye library collection. Bother.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hendrips (2722525)

      Sometimes it seems like the people on this site have a reflex hatred of anything digital that simply bypasses rational thought or reading comprehension. Even a small amount of investigation would have shown you that:

      -Sony e-readers already in existence won't stop working or lose access to the books that the owners have already downloaded.
      -It's trivially easy to put books from sources other than Sony on their e-reader. PDF's, epubs, etc. aren't going anywhere.
      -Even if someone did buy books from Sony, their

      • by pubwvj (1045960)

        Sometimes people on this site seem to have an instinctual fan-boy reflex that by-passes rational thought. Even a small amount of thought would point out:

        -The Sony eReaders will die eventually - Bye-bye books for most people who aren't sophisticated enough to transfer to other formats and devices.
        -DRM will prevent a lot of people, the majority of people, from accessing their documents. bye-bye books!

        It would be really nice if fan-boys or stooges and plants for Sony didn't spread misinformation.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @07:44AM (#47605817) Journal
    Perhaps I have the dates wrong, but I was under the impression that Sony launched their first eInk reader in September 2006, two months after the iRex iLiad was launched (July 2006).
  • 1 - will there be cheap sales of Sony e-readers now?

    2 - If so, what can you do with a PRS T-3 without the sony store? Can you root it? Can you side-load content?

    • Had a PRS-505, now have a PRS-T1, never used the Sony store after the original registration. All my content is in epub, pdf, rtf, etc. all acquired from places like baenebooks.com kobo.com and my public library. Get Calibre to use as your ebook library software and it will manage your books on your computer and your Sony PRS-T3. The biggest advantage to the Sony Readers that no one mentions is the ability to sort by more than the title of the books, When you have 500+ books on the Reader, it is nice to be a

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