The Sony PRS-505 has been around for a while now. I bought mine from Waterstones on September 3rd, 2008 – the day it was released in the UK after listening to all the hype on various podcasts. I’d fallen out of the habit of reading books, and having a love of gadgetry of all kinds, I thought this might spur me on to read a bit more. There were no huge queues outside the bookshop on the morning of it’s release – I suppose the £195 price tag was keeping a lot of people away but I feel, after using it for the last 2 and a half years, it has easily paid for itself.
The device itself is extremely well made – it feels solid, and has a reassuring weight to it. The leather-like cover gives it a bit of an olde worlde feel like an antique book. The brushed metal of the device itself is smooth and classy, but neutral enough to not distract you while you are reading a book. The buttons for turning from page to page are positioned nicely and you soon find yourself pressing them instinctively. The display is sharp and, being reflective, is a lot like paper which means you can read lots of pages without straining your eyes.
The software feels a bit unfinished, but does the job of arranging your library so books are easy to find. And most of your time is spent actually reading books not navigating the operating system. The numbered buttons used to select from the menu system and to jump directly to a page by page number are small and fiddly and don’t give much feedback when pressed. This is more of a problem since the e-ink technology means that the screen does not refresh immediately. Sometimes you find yourself pressing buttons twice trying to get it to register only to find it registered the first time but the screen was taking a while to update.
The screen refresh time is not an issue when you are reading a book, you will soon find yourself pressing the button when you still have a line of text left to read in the same way that you might slip your finger under the page in preparation to turn it before you finish reading. The page inverts a couple of times as it changes to the next page of text, and I find that this is sometimes distracting when you are reading. Ideally, you want the technology to disappear into the background so you can immerse yourself in the story.
There are thousands of free books available online see Project Gutenberg which has over 33,000 books available or Feedbooks or Manybooks. These books tend to be classics, or old books where the copyright has lapsed and are now Public Domain. More and more new books are also becoming available in ePub format although, disappointingly, they tend to cost as much as a paperback.
The PRS-505 has space for an SD card and a Memory Stick. I have a 2Gb memory stick in mine and this gives me space for around 1500 books, so I can carry my whole library around with me in one hand.
The Sony Reader will also play mp3s while you read, but I do not use that functionality as it drains the battery very quickly. Without playing music, though, the battery lasts about three weeks on a single charge, longer if you turn it off fully when not in use.
One useful tip is that a PSP charger will fit the PRS-505 and charge it much more quickly than the USB charger does.
Overall, I love the PRS-505, but there are some downsides too. Support for PDF files is not fantastic – they are slow to navigate and the formatting is not always correct. The round navigation button in the bottom-left corner can be frustrating to use as it requires a firm push and there is little tactile feedback to let you know it worked.
As I have had the Sony Reader for almost three years, I am considering buying a Kindle to replace it. The build quality of the Sony would be very hard to beat but the Kindle has the advantage of Wi-Fi/3G connectivity, a keyboard and a better screen.
Let me know what your thoughts are on moving to a Kindle.