Jun 9, 2008

The Wonders Of Modern Technology

Ever since I learned how to read at the age of 4, books have been a constant companion. I'm one of those people who, after a long day at work, instead of turning on the TV, find comfort in reading. I read while eating, I read in the toilet, before going to sleep, at work during my breaks... If there are no books to be found, I'll settle for a magazine or a newspaper. If I can't find those either, well... I'm reluctant to admit – I'll read product labels (I remember the sheer nerdy pleasure of identifying with a similar description of the Philip Swallow character in David Lodge's brilliant novel Changing Places).
So it's no surprise that I've been yearning for an E-book reader from the moment I heard such a gadget existed. At first I was put off by the price, but, I waited patiently for about a year since my discovery, and now, finally I can declare myself to be a proud owner of Sony's lovely Reader Digital Book PRS 505!

Let's start with the design. In a word: it's great! It comes in two colors – black and silver. Being a girlie girl, I chose silver. I was pleasantly surprised to find out it comes in its own leatherette cover, so you needn't worry about accidentally scratching the screen when not using it. The buttons are functional, strategically placed and easy to use. The only thing it lacks is a keyboard, so there's obviously no search function, but that hasn't bothered me yet.
There's nothing I can say to prepare you for what you'll see when you turn this beauty on! There is no backlight, and it uses the so-called electronic paper screen. Electronic paper screen...? Well, it pretty much looks like a real book. The closest description would be that it looks like the words are printed on the actual plastic of the screen! It truly is incredible... I know I might sound like a complete dork, but what with the realistic look of the E ink, and the case, a few times I forgot it wasn't a real book so much that I tried to turn the page!
The software is quite intuitive: you can sort the books by author, title, or date of upload; you can create bookmarks, change the page orientation and choose between three font sizes. I've read a few complaints about the speed of the software, but I found it to be very satisfactory. The types of files it supports are PDF, RTF, TXT, BBeB (Sony's proprietary format) and RSS feeds. It can also play MP3 and AAC audio files (the quality of the sound is – much to my amazement – superb!), and display JPG, GIF, PNG and BMP picture files (the pictures are displayed as black and white and look like framed photos!).
Files are transferred to the device via USB, and that is also how you recharge. The great thing is that it doesn't use any energy once you've turned it on, except when you turn the page.
So, all in all, this is a brilliant device, and it's difficult for me to find fault with it. The only negative experience I had was with the Sony E-book Store, as it took me two whole days to claim the 100 free classics that you get when purchasing the reader, what with a million errors and complications that occurred during what was supposed to have been a very simple process. Admittedly, their tech support is very agile, but still, one prefers not to encounter any problems in the first place.... Luckily, with all the free books all over the internet (think anything published before 1923!), you really don't have to deal with them if you don't want to...
So, if you have some 200 euros (around $300) to spare, I cannot recommend the Sony PRS-505 reader warmly enough... Having a humble library with me at all times... My nerdiest dream has finally come true!

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Anonymous said...

The only thing that I found annoying about this great device is the way it displays PDFs. Actually the problem is not in the device itself but it the fact that most of PDFs are made in A4 or Letter format. The reader is less than A5 which means that pages need to be sized down to fit the screen. This often makes PDF unreadable because the letter are too small. Changing page orientation (the pages are displayed top/bottom half then) helps sometimes...
I understand that they didn't want to make it bigger because it would be to hard to carry it around but maybe foldable displays can answer this problem.
Something like this http://www.polymervision.com/

Anonymous said...

There's a solution for pdf files. It's called pdf2lrf and it works pretty nice. I used it on linux only so I'm not sure how it works on windows but I guess it's ok.
There's also free tool called Calibre that does a lot more than just conversion.

Anonymous said...

There's a firmware upgrade at http://esupport.sony.com/US/perl/swu-list.pl?mdl=PRS505 which allows PDF documents to be reflowed like other formats and also brings in support for epub format - the open ebook format supported by major publishing companies. The device also feels to perform faster after the upgrade.