- It’s nicely engineered, and the screen is a comfortable size to hold and read in an armchair or a train, at home, in bed. Leather covers help the look and feel a lot, and 160 books worth of storage in the device is plenty enough for the most avid Barbara Cartland fan. Storage can also be supplemented with data cards. Sony have finally produced a likeable device you really would keep by the bed or take on the train.
- The technology of ePaper is brilliant. Contrast is good enough to make me wonder whether it was backlit (it wasn’t) — all without using substantial amounts of power. The quality of images is very basic, but these are early days. One day, my boy, they’ll have colour, but for novels or other text-intensive extensive reads, I think Sony have got it right. Having checked the Sony experience against laptop eBook reading software PRS-505 is no flicker, low power, and much less tiring to read.
- The potential for contents is incredible, and there’s a lot out there already. As well as 20,000+ offerings from Sony there are even, usually free, classic offerings on sites like Manybooks.net. If this kind of technology catches on, people should be able to get any book they want, and the whole concept of “out of print” could be obsolete. So, to warm the hearts of publishers with the prospect of “Long Tail” profits, could the concept of “remainders.” Sony’s decision this July to open their machine up to Adobe Digital Editions was extremely wise, and if it leads to a standards convergence/opening up all round, use of eBooks really could grow fast...
- Being able to listen to an mp3 on the device whilst you read is sweet, if you’re the kind of person who likes to do that kind of thing (actually I’m not).
- They do a frontlight (Lightwedge style) cover which I was too mean to buy, but this would add another dimension to reading in bed and on night flights. Perhaps one day, notwithstanding power use issues, the whole device could be (ambient light-sensitively) backlit?
- Standards issues are nearly resolved, but not quite. People won’t adopt this as their chosen technology unless Sony makes it easier for them to do so. Having a bespoke PC application rather than a web-based store is probably limiting. You faff about installing and running their proprietorial softare, when you could be shopping. The look and feel of the appplication ain’t quite no iTunes... yet?
- Havng read one popular and one more academic book, Footnotes just don’t really work. When you increase the size of the text the page numberings change, which is good, but makes endnotes even more fiddly to access. More design thnking needs to go into this aspect of the thing before the Broad Masses head over to the Cambridge University Press eBooks site.
- Mac/Linux compatatbility is doable but hopeless. You need to be a bit geeky and remember, when all’s said and done, deep down, it’s only a USB storage device. For Mac users everything with the Sony application works fine but running XP or Vista with Parallels (2 or 3). Soon, hopefully from launch in the UK, firmware shouldn’t need updating, but right now you need to do it to access Adobe Digital Editions. The bulletin boards say dread things about firmware and Parallels, so I chickened out and used Solaris VirtualBox instead for this. There is a great little freeware app called Calibre which OS X / Linux native and nicer than the Sony stuff anyway, but you can’t buy anything at the Sony store with it... Being crappy to Mac users is dumb, because many of them are exactly the kind of people who would be early adopters of Sony hardware if they didn’t feel so dumped on by the company! Come on, Sony, get the act together!
- You can read .rtf documents and non DRM .pdf’s on a PRS-505, but searching and zooming isn’t all it could be. You can also load RSS feeds of blogs and news.
- You don’t get paper in your hand, which is what turns a lot of book people on, though the covers are leather and the feel of the thing surprisingly empathetic for an old bookie like me. Pricing needs to reflect the lack of hard product, which saves the publishers a packet in production and distribution. The Sony Bookstore economic model is better than some but still slightly on the high side...
- Not a lot — it’s got a few design duplications that make PRS-505 slightly less than perfect, but in principle, it’s a classy, reliable, pleasant, usable alternative to paper books. If Sony can just manage to be a bit less proprietorial and snotty about the intreface, and go with the logic of their own device, it could really score for them.
I have posted an additional review here, reflecting on the experience of using the Sony PRS-505 over two months and 30 books of various kinds.