Friday, October 3, 2008

Sony Reader PRS-700: Part One

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!

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