Sony's Reader: Sexier than a Librarian?

by Team Sony 10/05/2007

We’ve received a lot of attention on one element of a marketing campaign for our snazzy electronic book reading device.  Basically, it is a poster appearing on the walls of busy construction sites and mass transit locations in some of the country’s largest cities.  It’s an ad implying that the Reader is “sexier than a librarian.”

Please be assured that this was a tongue and cheek effort on our part, playing off a certain stereotype or a fantasy, depending on how you look at it. With a little humor in mind, our aim was to draw attention to the style and the appeal of this unique device. The ad was never meant to be taken literally. In fact, I have a cousin who spent several years as a librarian, and I certainly would not want to make such an implication about her one way or the other.

To me, suggesting that a piece of hardware is “sexy” implies that it is something that emotionally attracts you. It is something that stands out as much for its breathtaking design – a design you just can’t take your eyes away from — as it does for its incredibly smooth functionality and performance.  In my view, the latest Reader model introduced on Oct. 2 is one such example.

Check out the digital images and the video blog of the new PRS-505 model on this post and let me know what you think, particularly if you are a librarian.





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  1. guest_user wrote: October 6, 2007 11:04am

    Great idea, I want one BUT it is only compatible with Windows !! What are you thinking about? Don’t you care about Apple users.

  2. guest_user wrote: October 6, 2007 4:53pm

    Sorry Sony — you just proved our point. You have conceded that what you meant by “sexier” than a librarian, is — and I quote YOU — “breathtaking,” “incredibly smooth,” “just can’t take your eyes away from,” and “something that emotionally attracts you.” In other words, by “sexy” you meant “sexy.” And you think librarians would be the appropriate contrast, the “before” example to your
    “after.” Inappropriate, offensive, boycott-worthy.

  3. guest_user wrote: October 6, 2007 8:36pm

    You know — librarians are compatible with both Macs and PCs

  4. guest_user wrote: October 8, 2007 1:10pm

    What a shame. You have a blog, which is the perfect place for an open and candid discussion about Sony issues. You rightly acknowledge the controversy over this ad (which is incredibly offensive, IMHO). And then you make it WORSE by explaining that it’s okay because the Reader really *is* sexy.

    That’s not the point! The point is you unncessarily offended a group who could could have been your best friends but are now sure to be your worst enemies. The post should have been an apology, nothing more and nothing less.

  5. guest_user wrote: October 8, 2007 2:42pm

    Hi Jane,

    I got a chuckle out of your comment this morning. Thanks.

    And Mike,

    We are thinking about Mac users. For now, you can use the drag and frop functionality of the Reader to get personal documents and other DRM-free content onto the device. Mac users can also do this with a Memory Stick or an SD card. That said, please stay tuned at should there be any further news on the Apple front.

  6. guest_user wrote: October 9, 2007 11:19am

    I am a high school librarian, and my functionality is very smooth. Some days I am breathtaking, especially when I point an inquiring student in a meaningful direction, find an obscure item by using my state’s interlibrary loan network, or collaborate with teachers in planning a research skills lesson. I’m not sure the comparison between librarians and The Reader is even a valid one, since your product seems more appropriately compared to a book. I can see why you stayed away from the book comparison, though, because books are so sexy with their sleek covers, diverse sizes, turnable pages…You need a gecko like Geico, or a dropped caller likecingular, or a catchy tune like Heineken. There it is! The Reader – don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me? Go back to the drawing board, brainstorm, get creative!

  7. guest_user wrote: October 13, 2007 8:10am

    Jeesh! Do you Americans always have to take offence to EVERYTHING? To me, I am astonished that Sony made an electronic book device in the first place, because I cannot imagine that the book-reading community is exactly a profitable marketplace.

    The fact that Sony made such a product indicates that they are trying to be considerate and helpful, rather than just profiteering.

    Yet – I hear people saying they are going to boycott them – not because their product is faulty or substandard – but – because of a silly pun.

    Get a grip, people!

  8. guest_user wrote: October 18, 2007 8:23am

    I thought it was a good slogan. Ugly librarians may take offense, but regardless… it’s an OPINION. You’re not going to take mine away.

    Advert aside… WHERE’S THE BUILT IN WACOM TABLET!? We all want a star-trek style A5 notebook… come on Sony, build us one!!!

  9. guest_user wrote: October 27, 2007 9:53am

    I sent you an email about a way to sell 50,000 of the PRS-505 readers.

    I’m a partner in an advertising agency. So I know how hard it is to get the attention of people when they’re flooded with over 2500 advertising messages a day. It requires high impact creativity which is, by its very nature, offensive to some and appealing to others. The trick is to make sure it is appealing to the right audience.

    So, if your research shows that most potential buyers are male, the ad is right on strategy. And if female librarians are unlikely to purchase the PRS-505, their offense will not adversely affect sales. And, while I know you don’t want to offend anyone for brand reasons, I really don’t think most librarians will take this literally and be offended.

    John Sawyer

  10. guest_user wrote: October 29, 2007 5:14pm

    I agree with Chris, “the point is you unnecessarily offended a group who could could have been your best friends but are now sure to be your worst enemies.”

    Librarians are usually keep up with the cutting edge of technology–and if you piss them off, they might not want to bring your little ebook into their libraries. Believe me, there -was- talk of using e-readers in some libraries. Why bother pissing off librarians? Besides, I know quite a few super sexy librarians!

  11. guest_user wrote: November 6, 2007 12:37am

    Well, I’m a 45 year old female librarian and I LOVE the ad! In fact, I sent copies to several friends, as well as my husband. Librarians have more of a sense of humor than you’d think, (see or

  12. guest_user wrote: November 6, 2007 12:23pm

    Thanks for speaking up Lesley,

    I’m with you on this one. I’d like to see some of the others lighten up a bit.

    Life is too short.

  13. guest_user wrote: November 15, 2007 2:32pm

    Hello Rick,

    May I suggest the following article by Princeton’s Professor Fleming?

    Now this is a man who understands what libraries and librarians are all about!

  14. guest_user wrote: November 15, 2007 5:05pm

    I am also a librarian. I love the ad. It draws attention to us, something that is rarely done!

  15. guest_user wrote: November 19, 2007 11:26am

    Will a Sony Reader purchased in America work in England?

  16. guest_user wrote: November 19, 2007 9:30pm

    Yes, Michael, a Sony Reader purchased in the U.S. will work in the U.K. and all around the world for that matter. However, at present, e-book titles from the Sony store have to be purchased with a credit card registered in the States. That said, I gather my colleagues in the U.K. are giving consideration to the possibility of launching the device there at some point in the future.

  17. guest_user wrote: December 9, 2007 8:48am

    Most of these messages are probably fake. Using the line “Sexier than a libarian” is offensive!

  18. guest_user wrote: December 11, 2007 5:32pm

    My dad’s a librarian. I think that this reader’s sexier than a librarian. I am not fake, and I am offended by the suggestion that I am!

    Opps, sorry Tony!

  19. guest_user wrote: December 11, 2007 5:38pm

    This blog entry totally misses the point.*

    “Sexier than a librarian” can be understood in _Two ways. The intended way is “sexier than a ‘sexy librarian’ “. ‘Sexy librarian’ is a common phrase used to describe an attractive girl who wears glasses, is modest, and has a clean-cut look. This is something positive and wholesome that appeals to a lot of guys. The other way to understand the phrase is, “sexier than an old woman.” Of course, “sexier than an old woman” would offend many people and doesn’t even make sense.

    *”With a little humor in mind, our aim was to draw attention to the style and the appeal of this unique device. The ad was never meant to be taken literally.”
    could just as well be understood as a poor defence of “sexier than an old woman,”

    **ps, to really nitpick: “tongue _in cheek,” not and

  20. guest_user wrote: December 12, 2007 9:36pm

    I’m a young, hipster guy-brarian who works in at a university library. Seriously, sex up my profession any day. In fact, we’ll definitely try to out-sex your product with glee. Let the sex off begin!

    Cheers! – Frank Librarian in D.C.

  21. guest_user wrote: December 14, 2007 7:49pm

    I’ve enjoyed the recent comments to this post from Stuart, Alex D. and Frank.

    And aside from the librarian debate, I also believe the Sony Reader has a much sexier design than the recently introduced Amazon Kindle, although I welcome some of the innovations it has brought to the category.

    Now, with two viable options for e-book devices, I think things are going to start getting more and more interesting. I’m certainly noticing a lot of comparisons between the two.

  22. guest_user wrote: December 23, 2007 10:42am

    These ads recently popped-up in the Metro system in Washington, DC, and I loved the disclaimer that is also on them “Your librarian may vary.” Any idea where I can get a copy of that to save for a background on my computer?

  23. guest_user wrote: January 2, 2008 8:45pm

    I also am a DC commuter and think these ads are great! And really like the librarian one! I was a librarian for years and take no offense whatsoever to these ads! Would love to get a copy of the ad, has anyone found where to get one yet?

  24. guest_user wrote: January 7, 2008 3:08pm

    haha! great marketing job guys! Target a group of individuals (librarians and others in the category that would take notice of the signs) and make a comment about them so they will notice! and possibly help promote your product by getting their attention. Because it all comes down in the end what the libraries do regarding technology sort of flows into the public….because in the end its down to the librarians to test out things (efficency, ease of use) before they put it “on the shelves in a sense” The wider spread these readers are the more books available online and etc. What the public doesnt know alot of the time is information isnt free….(govt./libraries) pay for the information you search for and obtain online….someone has to maintain the info. and wouldn’t it be more cost effective if you got the libraries in on it and more profitable for sony. I don’t think this is offensive in the least and have worked in a library for 6+ years, I think its a well thought out marketing tactic. kudos guys.

  25. guest_user wrote: January 9, 2008 10:42am

    My wife is a sexy librarian; I love the ad

  26. guest_user wrote: January 24, 2008 12:55pm

    I’m a librarian by trade and frankly, and i think the ad is too stupid — or maybe just too weird — to be offensive. It wouldn’t cause me to buy the device, but
    that’s because i prefer the smell and feel of real paper; try taking this e-device thing into the bathtub, or reading when the battery or power goes out! Plus,
    reading lots of text (as in a full length book) on an electronic screen is bad for the eyes. And who has time to read books these days, much less scan the entire thing into an e-reader? What about if the book you want to read is not available electronically? Or is Sony going to load the contents of the Library of Congress into this little tablet?

    Besides, if the worst thing about your day is this ad then you’ve really got nothing to complain about.

    1. Anonymous wrote: November 3, 2010 4:35pm

      I first saw this ad at the International Arrivals Terminal at JFK Airport in New York. As a librarian whose library participates in the Sony e-reader program, I was angered by the ad. Friends with us noticed the ad and I was embarrassed by it. I was not amused by your play of an old fashioned stereotype to promote your product. The libraries have supported you, but with you line of advertisement, I’m not sure that will continue.

  27. guest_user wrote: January 24, 2008 3:21pm

    Me ->

    The Reader does not have a conventional display like those on most computers, so many of your concerns are unfounded. It uses a lot less power, requiring power only to change between pages. It does not flicker whilst showing a page, and reading a page does not cause any more eye strain than reading from high quality paper.

    These days books are written on computers rather than on type-writers, so it is actually much easier to produce e-books for the Reader than it does to produce paper-bound books.

    Not every book in the history of humanity will initially available electronically, yet the advantages are so great that I would not be surprised if a few publishers were not already producing e-books for all of their publications. Like everything else electronic, this device is one step forward rather than an answer to everything.

    The Reader could be used for newspapers – you could just tap your reader onto the news stand and the latest issue would be instantly transferred. Since the Reader is much smaller than any newspaper, that would make a welcome change for any inner city commuters!

    There is no reason why a waterproof cover could not be made for the reader, which would mean it would make it a lot better for reading in the bath than a paper book (which can get a little soggy).

    With the Reader, there is no need to fell more trees in order to produce each individual e-book, even if you keep all of your e-books for as long as you
    want. Some paper books are made from recycled paper but overall there is more paper produced from trees than is being recycled, especially in the US.

    However; I can completely see why you would prefer the feel and smell of a paper book. Personally; I prefer to read rather than eat my books. :op

  28. guest_user wrote: January 4, 2009 3:10pm

    Am I the only person that, even after reading the hard copies provided
    & “studying” how to even download my Reader I am still completely ignorant of
    how to use this computer?

    I finally contacted Co. Service (the tech was unable to speak English clearly
    enough to understand his instructions) to receive assitance in getting the
    screen rotated so that I no longer had to turn the computer on its side to read
    the book that took me several hours to download. By the way, I am still
    searching for this info. listed somewhere so that I can finally begin to enjoy my
    $400 toy.

    Sony, if you want me to purchase the next Reader, either make the
    instructions easy to locate, much more concise & clear, or include a “Sony
    Reader for Dummies” so we no longer have to spend hours researching each
    step in the process! It’s a grat idea BUT it’s not a good idea if no one can
    successfully utilize the idea.


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