Artistic Shot of a PRS-505 coutesy of Flickr user danielhermes
(Photo used with permission of Flickr user danielhermes.)

I’ve had my Sony PRS-505 Reader Digital Book for a week now, and feel like I’m qualified to share some thoughts on it.

First, some pros of E Ink devices in general (these go for Sony’s competitors like the Amazon Kindle as well).

  • Minimal Eyestrain – E Ink reflects light just like regular ink, so it generally doesn’t put any more strain on your eyes to read it than a normal paper book would. In fact, an eReader can be even easier on your eyes as you can make any eBook large print with the push of the zoom/font-size button. It can also be read just as easily in bright sunlight, which is something LCD screens can’t match.
  • Long, Long Battery Life – E Ink devices can last weeks on a single charge since they essentially only use electricity when what’s displayed on the screen is changed. Leaving a page displayed for days doesn’t drain the battery.
  • Not Limited by Bookstore or Library Selection – A book not available locally? No need to wait for Amazon to ship it.
  • Classics – Websites like Feedbooks and Manybooks have tens of thousands of public domain and creative commons books available to download for free.
  • Multiple Books in One Device – No more worrying about dwindling bookshelf space. Also, take your whole library with you to the park/bus/vacation/gym/etc.

Now for Sony PRS-505 specifics.

PRS-505 Photo Courtesy of Flickr User regularjen
(Photo used with permission of Flickr user regularjen.)

    PRs-505 Pros:

    • Cheaper than Kindle – Even without any discounts or coupons, the PRS-505 can be bought for $90 less than the Kindle 2
    • More Book Buying Options – When it comes to DRM’d books, Kindle owners must buy from Amazon. With a Sony Reader, eBooks can be bought not just from Sony’s eBook store, but also from any store that offers Adobe’s Secure ePub or Secure PDF formats, such as Books On Board. This doesn’t mean the Sony has a larger selection of books available (Amazon actually has a slightly larger catalog).
    • Smaller Than Kindle 1 or Kindle 2 (yet Same Screen Size) – No keyboard means a smaller device.
      Amazon Kindle 1 and Sony Reader PRS-505sony reader prs-505 vs amazon kindle 2
      (Thanks to Flickr users tevk and symmetricalism for enabling sharing on these photos.)

    PRS-505 Cons:

    • No Search or Notes – Just because it doesn’t have a keyboard or touchscreen doesn’t mean Sony couldn’t have allowed users to enter text for searches or notes. The 0-9 buttons along the side would have functioned fine (using the T9 method seen on mobile phones) for occasional text entry. I wouldn’t want to write a story with them, but it would be better than no search or note functions at all. (People like my wife and I who do some reading on a computer in addition to reading on the Sony can rest easy knowing that search isn’t needed to find your place. As long as you use ePub files, the page numbers are the same regardless of what device you’re reading on.)
    • No Wireless – Amazon comes with free cellular wireless, but says they’ll charge for it in future. The Sony can’t even connect to my home wireless (I really wish it could; don’t care much about the cellular). But the Sony PRS-505 can sync daily news and feeds using programs like Calibre or Feedbooks’ News Stand.
    • eBooks Not as Cheap as Amazon – Amazon’s eBooks are usually $3-5 cheaper than the Sony eBook Store. But Sony’s store is still usually cheaper than paper books and regularly cheaper than other non-Amazon eBook stores. Also, Amazon is currently subsidizing their low prices and may raise them soon.
    • Small Page Turn Buttons – Unlike Kindle’s paddles/flippers, the PRS-505 has smaller buttons that also require a little pressure. I got used to this very quickly, but for a day or two I’d occasionally find myself wishing I didn’t have to think about the button when I turned a page. On the plus side, the left buttons (great for holding the book with one while the cover’s attached) are very easy to hit.
    • Limited Mac and Linux Support – Mac and Linux users can’t buy books from the Sony eBook Store, and while Mac users can use Adobe ePub/PDF for DRM books, Linux users don’t even have that option. Your average Linux user would have no trouble buying an eBook in a Linux supported format and stripping the DRM from it, but it’s still unfortunate to see an established OS shut out like this.

I’m glad that I bought the PRS-505 (especially considering the great deal I got on it). However, regardless of the pros and cons I listed, I’d likely be just as pleased with a Kindle, Sony-700, or one of the other other E Ink devices currently available (seriously, I’m not saying the Sony is best, just that it’s quite good). I was just lucky that I happened to snag a bargain on the device I had a slight preference for.