I’ve been following the progress of electronic book readers, because they have the potential to revolutionize the efficiency of the book industry. If electronic books were used on a large scale, they would greatly reduce the world’s consumption of paper, and eliminate the energy resources involved in printing, transporting and selling books. I do enjoy the act of reading a paper-based book, but there many cases where I would buy an ebook, such as when the materials goes out of date quickly like magazines, text books or travel books.
I’ve been testing the Sony PR-505 Reader, which is the second version of this portable book reader. The Reader is about the size of a large paperback, and it weighs about 9 ounces, including the leather cover that closes over it like conventional book cover. The Sony Reader’s 6 inch display uses “E Ink” technology, which renders text in crisp black on grey. The display is easy on the eyes, and you can view text from many angles. Overall, it was easy to read text even in bright light. One feature that I wished for was some kind of backlight for reading at night.
The Reader uses memory cards for storage — it comes with 8 gigabytes of memory, which is good enough to hold over a hundred books. You can also upgrade it by adding either a Memory Stick Pro Duo or Secure Digital memory card.
To transfer books via the included USB cable, the Reader comes with the “eBook Library” software for the PC. I only own a Mac and a Linux machine, so I thought I was out of luck until I found some freeware called Calibre which runs on Linux, Mac OS X and Windows. Calibre works well – it converts and transfers ebooks via USB. The Reader will display BBeB, RTF, Word, TXT and PDF documents. It will also display images and play MP3 files, but adding these files tends to fill up your 8 gigabytes of memory pretty quickly.
One note — you should be careful storing the Reader– the screen is a bit delicate. You can buy titanium slip cases to protect the Reader from damage.
Available from Amazon for about $270.