Sony eReader PRS-505

Kindle schmindle.  Despite the hype I still like my Sony eReader.

I’ve written before that I had a Sony eReader and for the most part I’ve enjoyed it.  I decided to upgrade and I went from the first generation PRS-500 to the PRS-505.  I seriously thought about getting the PRS-700 since it has a touchscreen interface and is backlit, but it’s also $150 more expensive and the contrast ratio on the E-INK wasn’t a good as 505.

I really like the PRS-505 though.  It’s E-INK contrast is better and much more responsive than the original.  The button placement makes a whole lot more sense and when reading it ‘feels’ like your holding a book.  With the 500 the back/forward buttons were both on the same side of the unit and were in the wrong spot so my thumbs used to get sore.  The 505’s buttons are in a much more natural position and in particular the right side buttons are almost perfect.

I say almost perfect because the next page button is right next to the 7 menu button and I occasionally hit it.  The buttons are raised but they reside on the curved bevel and this makes me wish they were a bit larger and/or raised more.  Thankfully the unit is smart enough to not go to the menu and simply hitting the menu button goes back to where you’re reading.

Also, the 505 puts the power button on the top as well as the SD expansion slots and the volumn buttons are on the bottom of the unit.  On the 500 all of those buttons were on the left side and were just in an awkward spot.  If you happened to have the Cover Light it would seriously interfere with those function.

The Cover Light unit was a good news/bad news scenario for me.  The good news is that I can now read in bed without having my wife ask me when I’m going to go to bed.  The bad news is that I read a LOT later because reading a good story keeps me awake.  The cover light is clear plastic screen the swings around to cover the eReader screen and when lit up, the edges provide the illumination.  It does a decent job of illuminating the text.  It’s not perfect but good enough for darkened rooms.  Durring daylight hours the cover light is a kind of a pain but not horribly so.  The cover light unit is an additional $50 and is pretty pricey for what it does in my opinion.

The eReader software is how you load books on to your eReader.  It is still Windows only and still very simplistic and in my opinion the weakest part of the whole Sony eReader system.  There is no auto syncing of the books and the eReader.  There is no meta data available so there’s no way to distinguish between read and not read books unless you manually sort them yourself (which is a big deal when you start to have several hundred books in your library).  There’s also no additional information like series title, sequence in the series or any of the little things you expect from an online store.

Some could argue (successfully I might add) that the eBook software is also its strength.  You can read any book on the screen and this may or may not be appealing.  A friend of mine whose eReader died on a business trip was still able to read the book he was on because he had it on his laptop.  However, there is no smart syncing between the eReader and the software so if you’ve been reading on one the other device won’t know about it.

The Sony store appears to be a bit more expensive (20 to 30%) than the equivalent book in the Amazon Kindle store.  The Sony store doesn’t have nearly as many titles either so you might want to check out the genre you like to read in both stores.  Since I’m a huge science fiction fan I’ve been discovering some new authors at Baen’s Webscription website with hundreds of books at reasonable prices including some free ones (be forewarned that a lot of the free ones are the first book in a series which I think it a brilliant move to get avid readers hooked!)

A few other thoughts:  The eReader plays music.  Who cares?  I have my iPhone/iPod.  You can put pictures on it.  Really?!  Again, I have a COLOR display on my iPhone/iPod and 16 shades of grey is an awful substitute.  I think the music and picture capabilities are pretty pointless for most folks but I suppose someone might like them.

Windows only?  Puhlease!  Sony, get off your collective butts and make a Macintosh version.  It’s not that hard – really!  Find yourself a good cross-platform developer and just do it.  I happen to know a few *cough* BKeeney Software *cough* that might be able to help.