Sony Reader PRS-505 - eBook Reader video review



Read the full Sony Reader PRS-505 - eBook Reader review

The eBook revolution won’t be for everyone, but if you’re willing to give digital books a try, the Sony Reader is well worth investing in. The screen on this device is nothing short of staggering, and with 6,800 page turns between battery charges, you won’t have to worry about running out of juice halfway through War and Peace. The Sony Reader is beautiful to look at, a joy to handle and incredibly easy to use. If anything can usher in the digital age of literature, this can.

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September 3, 2008, 4:32 am

Great review, I'm sold and will be getting one as soon as they are on sale. I would have liked to have heard a bit more about the MP3 playing abilities and the battery life whilst playing music since this could really hammer times between charges. Now if it only had wifi and wimax and got my newspapers delivered to it twice a day and had a web cam for skype and maybe a keyboard, oh. Hang on...


September 3, 2008, 6:05 am

I used the Sony Reader in Waterstones today and got a distinct feeling it couldn't keep up with my reading speed (page turning delays). I am also surprised you have scored it so highly.

You are right, the design and paper display technology are fantastic, but the product is by no means perfect. 𧶀 is very expensive when you could buy atleast 20 new books for that.

As a book and .pdf lover I do think this is a fab idea; I will wait another iteration or so before purchasing the technology.


September 3, 2008, 12:26 pm

does anyone know if any libraries offer services where you can borrow ebooks, like they do with real books? if so, i will definatley run out and get one. if not, i'll still get one :D

perfect for university


September 3, 2008, 12:31 pm

I've been a little amused (bemused) at the coverage of the Sony Reader in the media. The ITV news last night had an article about it that pretty much conveyed the impression that the Sony is the first device of its kind. The start of Riyad's review has a similar feel, though not the same misguided message. Surely TR readers know about electronic ink by now? Maybe not, but there is an almost reverential air here suggesting that now Sony are selling a reader the technology is real at last. It is only by the latter stages of the article that a another brand of reader is mentioned.

The Sony does look good externally, but I'm pretty sure that screen-wise it will be of a similar quality to the Bookeen. Really this is all just marketing hype, trying to create the impression that something new is happening. In reality, the device itself it old news and the new thing is that the technology has at last got some marketing clout behind it. It would have been nice, given TR's readership, to see a little more acknowledgement of that in the opening to Riyad's review.

I'm also concerned that there is little mention of compatible formats for the Sony. I could be wrong here, as I haven't the time to check the details, but my understanding is that the Sony has a proprietory format and can also read PDF's. This means that Sony owners in the UK will get caught-up in a Waterstones/Sony centric closed market. This isn't new, with Apple the worst culprit, but it would have been good to see this given some coverage.

On eBooks generally, Riyad is right. I bought the Cybook Gen 3 on the strength of the TR review and have not been dissappointed. I still have paperbacks and hardbacks, but the Cybook comes into its own when travelling. Having a selection of even twenty books, means that you never face that holiday horror of finding you hate the two paperbacks you took with you.

The biggest frustration I have is the US centred market for ebooks themselves. If I see a decent book that is high in the UK market it's sometimes extremely hard to find it on Mobipocket, Fictionwise etc. Also, many ebooks do not surface until the physical book gets a paperback publication. No doubt this is there to protect revenues somehow, but given the price they charge for ebooks is pretty steep they could get them out earlier.

I had real hopes that the Waterstones site might answer the US centred issues. However, it seems likely that they will be selling the ebooks in a Sony format. Maybe I could get around that with some conversion software, but it seems an almighty hassle and what about the DRM?

Obviously Sony will be putting some muscle into the campaign, but I still think that Waterstones missed a trick here. Why not sell ebooks in all the major formats? If they did so and had the UK books available they would surely have more customers than through Sony alone? I know they would have had one at least.

John Dann

September 3, 2008, 12:35 pm

Never having seen/used one of these I'm not acquainted with how flexible it is in terms of document format. Obviously its #1 use AFAICS is for reading paperback format books. But if say I have to spend a lot of time reading A4 PDFs can I do that job with the eBook Reader? Can it read PDFs direct or is there a PDF==>eBook format converter? And how practicable is it to read A4 size documents on what looks more like an A5 size screen?


September 3, 2008, 1:06 pm

The Sony Reader certainly looks like a triumph of design. However, it will be nothing more than an elegant piece of metal gathering dust in the corner unless it is supported by good content, so I shall wait with interest to see what titles become available for it, and how quickly they are released in comparison to their real life counterparts.


September 3, 2008, 2:00 pm

ilovethemonkeyhead hit the nail on the head there...library services is the killer app here. Much like the amazon Kindle build in some wireless connectivity, pay a small monthly subscription and bang unlimited library rentals!

Luan Bach

September 3, 2008, 2:18 pm

About the missing mains adapter, if you've got a PSP the adapter for that should work. It worked on the original reader.

Luan Bach

September 3, 2008, 2:21 pm

@John Dann

I wouldn't use it to read A4 pdf. You can do it up to a point, if you do a bunch of conversion and touching up, but it's painful to read as the fonts will always be too small and the graphics layout is awful.


September 3, 2008, 2:29 pm

Having read the review and the comments above I just had to add a few thoughts that echo what has been said above and maybe clarify a few things as well:

1. Tomasinho hit the nail on the head about the sony ereader and I am surprised that Riyad didn't mention it. The length of time it takes for the eink page to refresh between pages. It is one of the 2 reasons I haven't bought a sony reader before. When one hits the turn page button the screen goes blank and then refreshes with the next page this process can take up to 5 seconds depending on who you listen to. spending 5 seconds staring at a blank screen for EACH page would be mind numbingly tedious. That is why, like tomasinho I will probably wait a generation before buying an e-ink reader

2. The second reason that I wouldn't buy the Sony is ebook formats. This is still a very immature industry with many different formats for different publishers and hardware floating around. Because of the dreaded DRM this can mean you are left with a lot of books that you can't read as the hardware and business evolves. In fairness to Sony they do support other formats as well as their own. In fact, recently they announced that they would with the 505 support the epub format which is one of the more popular and generally available formats for ebooks that publishers use. So Moche is a little off base there when saying you could be trapped to only buying from Sony or waterstones closed market

3. However, Moche is absolutely right to say that ebooks are a US centric market (which really really makes me mad) like un-DRM mp3 music (come on Amazon both for access to mp3s and ebooks in the UK). Why does the rest of the world have to wait years before getting their hands on some of this tech!

4. I am surprised that Moche has trouble finding books. I have purchased over 200 e-books with DRM from a variety of sites ranging from the big ones like fictionwise and mobipocket to actual publisher's websites. Have you tried going direct to the publisher that manages the book you want? Most publishers these days at least acknowledge ebooks on their website if not actively sell them.

5. Moche is also right that ebooks are very very old news. I started reading ebooks on a palm back in the late 90s in the UK! There a host of readers out there now, each with their own niche (Annoyingly, mostly US focussed e.g. Kindle) But I also accept that the vast majority of the ignorant public do need a little educating and that can only be a good thing for increasing the choice of hardware and books available. I respect the reviews I get from trustedreviews but I have always accepted their UK focus as well so I will give Riyad the benefit of the doubt.

6. As often with "bleeding edge tech" (said it with a hint of sarcasm) the best locations to find more info is on forums. This is a good one if anyone is interested

7. In my view, of the current generation of e-ink books the sony is one of the best (I have always been a sucker for pretty things!) with the iliad and bookeen getting honourable mentions (I ignore the Kindle on the principle it ignores me and the rest of the world except the US plus it is really really ugly). But the fact remains that the current generation of ebook readers might look great but all have a bit of a refresh problem and until I can get a continuous reading experience I will continue to get some eye strain but use a phone to read my books...did you know the iphone can make a damn good reader as well with the app store now having various format readers available!


September 3, 2008, 2:32 pm

@Moche, John Dann, Luan Bach - according to this press release Sony is adding more format support as well as PDF-reflow options (allowing you to change font size!) to the Reader:

I agree with Moche, the introduction of this otherwise excellent review could have had a mention of the Bookeen and of the Irex Iliad (both of which were reviewed here at TR before!).

Matt G Baish

September 3, 2008, 2:41 pm

I imported one of these & can honestly say it is the best gadget I have bought in the 21st century. In a word; fantastic.

Yes the `paper` could be whiter and the `ink` blacker; yes it would be nice to have colour (for Manga, comics etc); yes it would be nicer with a slightly bigger screen; yes the page turns could be quicker (up to a second - although speeded up with new firmware update & I have found that I now automatically push the page-turn button a few lines from the end of the current page). All of these complaints I have heard on various blogs/site. Ultimately, however, it does exactly what any avid reader would want; i.e. display eBooks in a readable & convenient format.

Whilst I will probably stick to collecting `real` books for my top 2 or 3 favourite authors - this is absolutely fantastic for the thousands of free eBooks you can get online.

For free eBooks see: (you can download pre-converted lrf versions, among many others, direct from here)

among many others (TOR books for example are currently giving away 24 titles).

Also I have found that Calibre is the best tool for both managing & converting your eBooks to sony's lrf format (most formats are supported). Its free, frequently updated with fixes & new features and a million times better than the (typically & IMO) cr@ppy bit of Sony software bundled with the reader. See:

PDF support has been greatly increased with the recent firmware update (which I presume should already be installed on UK units) - zomming to two levels and, whilst not always suitable for technical or graphics-haeavy documents, is fine for wordy PDFs.

Also note that (as long as the format is supported by the reader and not DRM protected) you can simply drag and drop books direct to its internal memory (or memory card(s)) via Windows Explorer.

Get one & enjoy!


September 3, 2008, 2:45 pm


I thought I could help and clarify some points. Ive had my reader now since December. I bought it in the US. The reading of PDF was problematic and needed some major converting to make readable in the initial release, but on the day of the UK announcement a new firmware was released. This added pdf reflow and in my experience so far it works really well. You have 3 different font sizes available and all are readable unlike the original where it tried to fit a A4 page onto a 6" screen. The new firmware also added support for Adobe epub which hopefully will become the global independent standard which means you can buy books from any vendor without being tied to waterstones or the sony store.

Im just waiting for the day when the uk libraries have digital editions that you can borrow for a month on your reader before they expire. This is available in the US at the moment.

I have to say I am a bit of a fanboy, I’ve been using mine every day for over 9 months with no problems. I find the battery lasts 3-4 weeks. there seems to be a small drain even when not turning pages. Its so popular with my friends that in my last 2 trips to the states I have bought 8 for other people.

The only downside is the actual sony connect software it is incredibly slow.

Matt G Baish

September 3, 2008, 3:19 pm

@tomasinho "𧶀 is very expensive when you could buy atleast 20 new books for that".

The value score I presume is based on the price versus the rest of the market where it is VERY competitive and not absolute price (where of course you have to make your own judgement call). I have had my reader for about 4 months now and must have read at least 30 (free) eBooks already - plus a bunch of short stories and magazines (Interzone/Black Static) so IMHO it has paid for itself already; it's also a massive convenience when you are commuting every day (not by car obvisouly! :))

@trini 1. "...the next page this process can take up to 5 seconds depending on who you listen to."

Apart form the (very) occasional longer wait (when linux must be doing something or other important under the covers?), I have only ever had this sort of delay regularly with a graphic novel (Pedrosa_Cyril - Three Shadows.pdf; note this PDF is designed for a 6 inch screen & works great; great book, free download from TOR books) and to be honest it was worth the wait - each page looked like it had actually been drawn with a pencil on the screen!! (If you don;t look too close too see the pixels admittedly :). I got around this by clicking the page turn button almost immediately I had opened the current page - bit of an art but you get used to it). I agree, however, that readers are not ideal for Manga/Graphic Novels in their current generation.

@trini 2. "The second reason that I wouldn't buy the Sony is ebook formats. This is still a very immature industry with many different formats..."

The reader supports .txt, .rtf and .html files which have been around for ages (Project Gutenburg has been producint .txt eBooks since the 70's!!)


September 3, 2008, 6:09 pm

I am very interested in this device....although I really need to see what books are available and how much they are going to be. If likely to be same price as a regular book, I really don't see the point.

Also, there seems to be no support for those of us with Macs (of which there are plenty of us out there). This is a complete deal breaker Sony - you have never supported Macs, and never understood that those that buy Apple are also likely to buy Sony. Very disappointing.


September 3, 2008, 6:53 pm

Well after reading all your points (many of which were not raised in the review) I have managed to cancel my order. On balance I think that it would be very wise to wait for an open format and a second or third generation device. Shame, I was really looking forward to it being on the money, especially after reading such a favourable review.


September 3, 2008, 10:03 pm

OK, to change my previous statement... 𧶀 is a lot of money when you consider how much computing technology you could get for that price.

With WIFI enabled, RSS & Newspaper subscriptions, access to library archives. It then become a more enticing product.

Does anyone know an approximate cost for the Digital Ink surface? I cant imagine it being more than say 㿀..?


September 3, 2008, 10:28 pm

It's always good to see so much interest in a review :)

First up, yungchin, I did mention the Bookeen Cybook, and even linked through to that original review on the last page.

Secondly, I'm well aware that there has been eBook hardware around for a while, but as with most technologies, it's unlikely that it would have become mainstream without a major manufacturer getting behind it.

Thirdly, I don't see why the Value score is being questioned, when both the iRex Iliad and the Bookeen Cybook are both considerably more expensive than the Sony. Hopefully the Sony Reader will help bring the price of ebook readers in general down, which will be good for the technology.

Fourth, I probably should have gone into more detail about supported formats, but Sony informed me that the 505 would be supporting all the popular formats, as well as .txt .rtf etc. I therefore assumed (obviously wrongly), that by not saying it used a proprietary format, no one would think it did.

Fifth, just like Matt G Baish,I found the page turn times to me very acceptable, which is why I didn't comment about slow page turns. I don't think that it took longer to switch page on the Reader than it would to physically turn the page on a printed book. Others may well have experienced very long page turn times, but I didn't.

On the whole I am very impressed with the Sony Reader, and hopefully it will push the format forward over the next year or so. Considering that prior to this launch we were being charged anything up to 𧹰 for an eBook reader from a potentially unknown brand, I think Sony coming to the market at a 𧵿 price point is a positive step.

Finally, yes integrated Wi-Fi, RSS feeds and Newspaper subscriptions would be nice, and that's why Amazon has done so well with Kindle. But, it has to be said, that I really don't like the Kindle from a design and usability point of view. Not that it matters, since it will probably never make it to the UK anyway!


September 3, 2008, 10:40 pm

To add to the above, I will be trying out the Waterstones eBook store as soon as it opens, since this will be a major part of the user experience.

I'm also going to try the Calibre software that Matt G Baish mentioned, since, a decent Library management app, with format conversion would be a real bonus!

Hans Gruber

September 3, 2008, 11:47 pm

Interesting. Very interesting... Has TR heard of the (supposedly upcoming) Readius from Polymer Vision? It will use a "proprietary rollable active -matrix electrophoretic display", meaning you can fold the screen back up on itself making it more pocketable and portable.

Other key features (which might be of interest) include bluetooth, GSM/GPRS/EDGE (Tri-band) and UMTS/HSDPA (Dual band) for receiving RSS feeds, email as well as e-reading. They also say there's optional DVB-H for tv, and that a colour screen is being developed.

Additionally, asides from all the great (and broad) potential for e-readers and their offspring in general, it looks like Polymer Vision amongst others, are very optimistic about the future of e-book adoption with predictions for rapid advancement in both the supply of new (and localised) content and technology as well as greatly reduced pricing.

Joe/roving reporter for the day

Nice review btw...

Hans Gruber

September 3, 2008, 11:48 pm

Oops! Bad journo for not including a source:



September 4, 2008, 4:29 am

Hmm, I hadn't seen the Readius before, but when a "reader" becomes an e-mail device it encroaches directly on PDA and mini-laptop territory.

Why would someone want to take more than 4 books to the beach..? they are on holiday! Would anyone want access to email through a book? Serious addicts might well have a blackberry for this!

Is the product over-engineered? or are these the features people demands? too early to tell.


September 4, 2008, 12:28 pm

I might be old school here, but I like the physical aspect of a book. I converted from CD to mp3 grudgingly, but still keep a large CD collection, preferring to rip them to mp3 instead.

I don't like the idea of cloud computing - I want MY software on MY PC.

Similarly with books - I like my books. I have shelves of books. I like to look through my collection, and recall the stories, or take one down and read it again. I like the artwork on the covers and the spines.

I don't just want to have to select my next book from an explorer list. One day I probably will, but not yet.

Matt G Baish

September 4, 2008, 3:36 pm

@lifethroughalens this is Sony's 3rd gen eBook Reading device! :) (Sony Libre, and Sony PRS-500 came before this though not sold in UK admittedly)

Shame you cancelled your order - I think the device is, well as I said before, fantastic for what I use it for (reading on train, on holiday, visiting relatives, whatever - I still read 'real' books in bed :)) and you can't get any more open format than a .txt file IMHO and if you want more prettily formatted stuff then Calibre does the conversion trick 9 times out of 10 without any tinkering; unless you're after reading technical manuals/scientific papers etc. which, I would agree, you're best with a real book or a laptop.


September 4, 2008, 5:43 pm

Well purchased one of these 2 hours ago on the strength of this review, just got a refund from waterstones due too the fact the Diagrams/Graphics in PDF docs are not readable, so no good for IT Certification ebooks, otherwise quality piece of kit, if not a tad expensive.

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