Why I still love using my Sony Reader for ebooks

With a slew of recent releases of gadgets that serve as ebook readers (Barnes and Noble Nook, iPad, and all the ones announced at the Consumer Electronics Show), I thought I would take some time to look back on the experience I’ve had with my Sony PRS-505 Reader and why I love it and e-ink technology. (Mine is dark blue, not like the one shown here!)

First of all, I got the Reader a little over 2 years ago in Fall of 2007. I bought it somewhat as an impulse buy, but I justified it as a long term investment. Since then, I read at least 4x more books than I would have otherwise. This is the biggest reason why I’m thankful that I decided to buy the Reader.

Here are the other main reasons why I bought it:

  1. I don’t have space at home for all the books that I want to read, and I don’t do well with library books (see #3)
  2. I don’t have the money to buy all the books I want to read (ebooks are usually cheaper, and many you might be able to find for free)
  3. I’m allergic to old books and dust (I get itchy all over), so I won’t be able to enjoy re-reading any of the physical books, bringing their value down over time

Here are the reasons why I love my reader now:

  1. It is way lighter and smaller to carry around than a book
  2. I like being able to immediately start reading another book once I’ve finished one
  3. The e-ink screen is nice on my eyes, as compared to a lit LCD screen (I get enough of that from staring at my laptop!)

I’m also happy that I chose the Sony Reader over the Amazon Kindle because any of the content that I buy from the Sony store is not locked to my device (i.e. anything bought for the Kindle only works on the Kindle, there are tons of stories if you Google “Kindle DRM”).

I don’t buy books very often, but when I do it is in a format that is more useful and open (usually ePub). The Kindle uses its own proprietary format. Also, I’m not so interested in the wireless download function of the Kindle so that does not bother me.

There was also that incident where Amazon deleted George Orwell books from all Kindles. That type of control is not something I am a fan of. Even though it was for valid reasons and they said they were changing their practices so it wouldn’t happen again, the fact that they have the ability to go into each device and perform that function irks me.

So, while I did have to shell out $280 for my Sony PRS-505, I’ve read enough books to make it worth it and I’m sure that I will be using my Reader for at least 4-5 more years.

Do you have a reader? Would you consider buying a reading device like this? I hope my comments have been helpful!

Image credit: Flickr user cloudsoup


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11 thoughts on “Why I still love using my Sony Reader for ebooks

  1. I haven’t yet leapt into an ereader yet.

    Kindle is not an option down here in Oz because they don’t support their own format down here.

    ipad won’t be an option either for the same kind of reason.

    This pretty much leaves the Sony as the only option so it is definitely good to find you’re happy with it.


    Publish or Perish

  2. As I’ve told you before, I have a lot of respect for the Sony Reader because they supported Unicode out-of-the-box, while Amazon didn’t, and I had to install a custom firmware and font to make non-ASCII text readable on my Kindle. That’s inexcusable, if you ask me. That being said, I haven’t had any format issues with my Kindle–though they use their proprietary .azw format for all of the purchases you make through the Amazon Kindle store, the Kindle natively supports Mobipocket (.prc) format, so I just convert anything I want to read into that format and put it on my Kindle via the USB connection.

    What I’m really looking forward to is color e-ink with fast rewrite rates and full-screen touchscreens. All of these things are technically possible and apparently already exist in prototypes, but it’ll be a while before the price comes down. But full-screen touchscreens allow for better UIs, which will make eReaders far more useful for harder reading tasks such as reference book usage and casual browsing. I predict that Apple’s creativity in terms of UI might manifest itself in some e-reading optimizations in the iPad, which could in turn be copied/improved upon for e-ink displays.

    I didn’t know you were allergic to dust from old books! That’s really crappy. 🙁 But it’s a good thing you have an alternative!

  3. I’m glad that you have been able to format things for your Kindle with no issues, but I think the average user won’t find that as easy to do. I’m afraid that many users won’t even understand the implications of only having the books in proprietary format. (There was also a case I linked to where a user exceeded the number of times he could download a book he bought for his Kindle. The whole DRM debate is really complex sometimes, I’m still not sure where I stand on that.)

    I think color e-ink would be cool too, but for me I don’t think it would be something I need. If I read more textbooks and reference books on an ereader, that might change my mind though. I’ve heard that adding the touchscreen makes some screens less clear or contrast-y. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes from now on though. One of the newer Sony Reader models has touchscreen, but I haven’t seen one or tried one and I think it is limited in functionality as compared with say the Nook or iPad.

    Yeah, I’m sad that I can’t read my old books without feeling itchy and stuff. I’m not sure if I’m officially allergic to the dust (I haven’t asked a doctor or anyone about it), but it sure feels like it. But with my reader, I can read and re-read to my heart’s content!

  4. If you’re considering the average consumer, I think they won’t really care so much about getting PDFs or other text documents for free onto their reader, but will believe that an e-reader is a paid delivery channel for content (books, magazines, and newspapers) and nothing more. I think the average consumer will look at things like the user interface more than the technical details. And for the average user, the Sony Reader’s buttons look more arcane and intimidating than the QWERTY keyboard and five-or-so buttons sported by Kindle models… which is why I think the Kindle is getting so much attention. (Not that I don’t think the Sony Reader is pretty awesome!)

    High-end touchscreens don’t really affect the clarity of the image at all, in my experience. I don’t think that’s really a concern, as evidenced by smaller displays on a few toys I’ve played with (iPhones, G1s, and DSes).

  5. Great points, Nat! I didn’t think about it that way, but I see what you mean. I haven’t had the chance to really use a Kindle for very long, so I can’t say much more about it.

    I am only able to say that I’ve read reviews comparing Sony’s touchscreen reader to their non-touchscreen reader, and the differences may not have been very significant. But that was a while ago, so it might be much better now than it was. I think the experience from e-ink touchscreen technology (by comparing it to other e-ink displays) is different from what you’ve experienced in other gadgets, but I might be wrong.

  6. E-ink is a display technology, and touchscreens are generally overlaid on top of a display, rather than integrated directly into it, so I’m fairly certain that the touchscreen on an e-reader would be independent from the display technology to the extent that so long as the touch technology was high-resolution and multi-touch (like iPhone’s PCT screens) it could be just as interactive as an iPhone with an e-ink display.

    I haven’t done any actual research into this, so this is pure speculation on my part, but I think the major factor limiting the public’s interest in the Sony Reader Touch was response speed. A touchscreen isn’t really an improvement if the display doesn’t update immediately and you don’t feel like you’re actually interacting with the page; it’s more like you’re just repositioning the buttons from the outside of the screen onto the middle of it.

    However, imagine an e-reader with instant response time; with the ability to redraw fast enough that you could feel like you were turning the pages with your fingers. And where you could use multi-touch to zoom or scroll down. And where you could do certain gestures to perform certain actions (say, highlighting a phrase by simultaneously tapping the beginning of the word with one finger and the end of the word with another finger to Google/dictionary search the phrase or save it to a clipboard). And then pull up a notepad by dragging a bar up from the bottom of the screen to expand the notepad window. And then double-tapping in the empty notepad to paste what you’d just copied. Then you drag the notepad window back down and get back to reading, and can go back to your notepad easily and instantly whenever you want to.

    This would be a vast improvement on any of the “bookmark” or “note” tools I’ve seen built into the UI of e-readers I’ve played with. It just takes split-second e-ink redraw (which we’ll have soon!) and UI designers clever enough to make it simple.

  7. Thanks for your speculation. I suspect you are probably right. Regarding e-ink, the clarity/crispness differences were probably from that fact that the touchscreen is overlaid on top of the display. One of the big boasting points for e-ink is that it displays the text so close to the surface that is seems like paper.

    I think you are right about responsiveness too. The refresh time on ereaders have also been a big point of comparison as far as I know (people do extensive side by side tests).

    I like your idea of being able to copy into a notepad seamlessly. That, along with dictionary lookup and multitouch gestures, would really enhance the reading experience. I hope that this does eventually become possible!

  8. Great review!

    I’ve been wondering about e-book readers for a while, the LCD monitors are too shiny for me too!

    Don’t like being tied to one format only either, and since this is Slovenia, we might not get everything here either.
    Can you get books from Amazon okay too?

    I found I’ve bought a lot of books recently and am running out of space a bit (while still finding new and new awesome books ‘out there’!) so it’s a thing I’ve considered. I’d need to test a few first, to see if the glare wouldn’t be too much.. I’d also love to have the ability to copy and add notes/bookmarks etc.
    I love the feel of a book though, so will probably never switch completely. I’m very visual and love physical bookmarks to interesting sections too..
    I’m sort-of allergic to some inks and papers or combos too (they ‘smell’ bad – even or especially new books!), some are okay…

  9. I can’t get Amazon books, but I usually look in Sony’s ebookstore or Fictionwise.

    I think I can’t give up physical books completely either. That’s mainly because some books aren’t available electronically or the format is not conducive to the reader, like reference books and textbooks. I ran out of space a long time ago though because I share space with my sisters!

    I think you might like the e-ink screens. They aren’t shiny and the words look nice and crisp. Plus, when you get older, you can easily increase the font size that is displayed for easy reading! I hope you get to try one out sometime. Maybe there is a Sony store near you?

    ps. I have a friend who is Slovenian!

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