Ebooks have been around for a long time, but they’ve never really captured the public’s imagination. One way to get over that hurdle is with well designed, easy to use, cool-looking kit. Sony’s Reader PRS-505 is an example of this. It is available in the UK via Waterstones.
The Reader is smaller than the average paperback book at 122mm wide, 175mm tall and 7.6mm thick. It weighs 260g. It comes with a brown, leather-look, book-cover-like case which adds a little to these dimensions but protects the Reader during transportation.
The screen is smaller than a page of a standard paperback novel at six inches across diagonal corners. It is not touch-sensitive. You use buttons to get around within and between ebooks, and there are plenty of these.
A column of ten small buttons sits on the right edge of the screen. These let you choose between on-screen menus. Outside them is a pair of forward and back buttons for paging through text. Beneath the screen two circles offer yet more buttons. Some of these double the backwards and forwards functions, others let you zoom and bookmark a page, represented on screen by the digital equivalent of a turned corner.
The Reader has 192MB of internal memory and separate slots for Memory Stick and SD cards. It can cope with files in various formats including EPUB eBook, BBeB Book, RTF, Microsoft Word, .TXT and PDF.
It can also display graphics in JPEG, GIF, PNG and BMP formats and it will play music in MP3 and AAC formats. There is no external speaker but a 3.5mm headset slot on the bottom edge lets you immerse yourself in sounds while reading, and a volume rocker is there too.
The screen is an 8-level greyscale E-Ink display. This is the technology used in the Reader’s competitor devices. It does not look at all like a standard computer screen. There is no glaring light to tire the eyes, making reading for long periods easy. On the other hand there is no backlight, so you’ll need good ambient light around you.
The screen does not refresh instantaneously so when you ‘turn’ pages there is a very short wait. We found this a little irritating, but in reality it is no more significant than the time taken to turn the page of a physical book.
The screen has low power consumption, only requiring energy when the display is changed but not while it is static. Sony says the reader is good for 6,800 page turns per charge. The battery charges over USB but you’ll need to buy, or already have, a mains adaptor to get faster charging; two hours as opposed to four hours.
If you aren’t sure where to start with your ebook reading, the Reader comes with a CD of 100 copyright free books. The Reader can’t read files simply copied to an SD card, though. Instead you have to use a PC link and some software to put files onto the internal memory or an SD card. Sony’s own software is not too hot at this job and we found the excellent, free, Calibre software a whole lot better to use.