Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sony Makes Good on eBook Reader Falsely Marketed to Sight-Impaired Readers

In November 2007, after much research for eBook readers, I finally settled on the new Sony PRS-505 Reader. What closed the sale for me was information I read on the Sony Style web site. Under the heading "Impressive, paper-like display," Sony made the following claim: "The text can also be magnified for sight-impaired readers."

As a loyal Sony customer (speakers, headphones, you name it), I relied on their marketing when I made my purchase. I even had the eBook reader engraved for free by Sony with "Crusader Rocks!" and my telephone number, because I figured the Reader would be a keeper.

Overall, I was content with my purchase. The device is light, thin, classy looking, easy to operate, and provides a nice feature of being able to create folders for organizing hundreds of books to easily locate when needed.

Within a few days of purchase, I downloaded my free 100 classic books and had no problem reading text for most of them, so long as I used the Large Font selection in Landscape Mode. Anything short of that was too small for me to comfortably read.

As weeks went by, I noticed there was no consistency with the font and line spacing with the books Sony sold in their proprietary online store. Several eBooks (from various publishers) had much smaller fonts and different line spacing than previous books I read on my Sony device with ease. Upon further investigation, I even found several classic books that Sony formatted themselves to be in smaller fonts than the ones I had previously read.

To confirm that the Sony PRS-505 Reader is actually capable of handling better formatting of eBooks, I went to MobileRead.com (a must for anyone into eBooks), and downloaded some of the free public domain books their members upload to the site on a regular basis. Those books were formatted in such a way that made use of Sony's entire screen, thus having fonts in bold and much easier to read than ANYTHING available from Sony's bookstore. I had similar results (but not as good as MobileRead) with with free books from Manybooks.net and paid books from Fictionwise.com.

This "test" of sorts proved that it is simple to have the books properly formatted for the sight-impaired reader, but Sony just didn't make an effort to do that prior to marketing their device for those who want or need better formatting of their eBooks.

After shelling out $300 (plus tax) for the device, $30 (plus tax) for an adapter - - which Sony does NOT include with the device - - plus about $120 for eBooks from Sony, I expected their product to work as advertised.

I e-mailed Sony Customer Service a very strongly worded demand that they remedy the situation with their fonts or refund all my monies for purchased materials that are not in the proper format, or permit me to return my Reader to them for a full refund. I advised them that if they did not resolve the matter, I would be filing a complaint with the California Attorney General (since that is where I live and the product shipped from a California location) for false advertising.

Two weeks later, on January 11, a Sony rep contacted me and provided me with RMA numbers for both the Sony Reader device and AC Adapter. They also provided a prepaid FedEx Ground label to return the products to them for a full refund. Between January 11 and 22, Sony provided a full refund for the Reader, adapter, and eBooks purchased.

After I sent my e-mail complaint to Sony, I stumbled upon a December 2007 Consumer Reports review of the PRS-505. The review clearly stated, "There's no size that corresponds to large-print books, so the Reader isn't a good choice for anyone who's visually impaired."

Sony should immediately stop marketing their device for the sight-impaired, but that is a decision for them to make. I will be more than happy to volunteer my assistance for other sight-impaired Reader customers who are not happy with the device and want a refund for either the books and/or device(s) from Sony.

On a related note, consumers should note that Sony customer service via e-mail for the Reader is VERY slow. Relating to their eBookstore, there are often numerous bugs, including incorrect links for purchases, incorrect book titles, nonfunctioning favourite author notification, and very outdated RSS feeds, to name but a few.