Sony PRS-505 Electronic Reader for eBooks

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Ever wanted to go on holiday with your favourite books so you can lounge on a beach and simply relax? No problem, that is until you have to pack them into the new restrictions for aircraft luggage. If you need reference manuals as part of your job, but you don't want to carry the equivalent of an Amazonian Rainforest, then this is also for you.

Sony created the PRS-500 around eighteen months ago and it received a less-than-enthusiastic response from users. The new PRS-505 offers increased memory, faster 'page turning' and more flexibility with its memory card useage (Memory Sticks and SD cards).

So what is an Electronic Reader? Put in a nutshell, it is an electronic 'book' which allows you to store a number of volumes in a single piece of equipment which is about the size of a normal paperback and around 1.5cms thick. The system uses a new display called "electronic ink" which offers massive savings in power use, and is extremely clear to read even in direct sunlight. To use it, you install Sony's eBook Library software and connect the USB cable to your PC. The unit charges through the USB socket whilst you can then browse the eBook Library for new titles. There is an optional AC adaptor if you want to charge it without a PC.

Apart from storing Sony's proprietry BBeB book format, it also can store Adobe PDF files making this a very useful tool for business users. There are other formats that can be stored, but these are the two predominant formats. It plays music, shows 8 grayscale photos and can play back audio books. You need to spend some time to get used to using an eReader for the first time, but once you see how flexible it is, you'll wonder why it wasn't invented sooner.

Using it is a singular joy when you get the right book and the right settings (which are a pain to get right). Sony's eBooks are not quite right in some instances (word spacing can be erratic), and the choice is limited by a number of factors not least of which is the lousy software for the PC that Sony should be embarrassed to even send out. Using Adobe's PDF software, the results were erratic to say the least and will probably take some working out.

GOOD: Size, useability, readability. Ideal for people who need to access many books on the move.

BAD: Sony simply hasn't gotten used to a 'world' economy and the eBook site cannot be used outside the USA making book purchase impossible for the rest of the world. Difficult if you are a US person on secondment to another country. Also, the eBook Library software is complete rubbish. Badly written and clunky is giving it credit. This really lets a  good product down badly. PDF files are barely legible and the manuals offer little practical advice over "trial and error". No backlight - not bad, but irritating.

CONCLUSION: This is great if you live in the US and have access to Sony's limited book store. There are thousands more volumes available at eReader, but these titles do not migrate to the Sony PRS-500/505 platforms. As a business tool this could be great if only Sony stopped their corporate paranoia and actually delivered a worldwide service that actually worked the way we all do! The unit itself is well thought out, easy to read and a joy to work with. It is severely let down by poor software and crass politics that limit it to the USA for book purchase. Something they hide quite well until AFTER you have bought it.

PRICE: £150 to £300 depending on where you go and the exchange rate at the time. (Bought brand new for $240 @ $1.9 to £1).

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