Back in June I picked up a Sony e-book reader when Borders had a sale too good to pass up. It ended up being about half the price of a Kindle (at the time – the Kindle is a bit cheaper now). I don’t regret the purchase one bit! I’ve had a bunch of hands-on experience with a Kindle 2 at work lately, and in many ways I think the PRS-505 outdoes the Kindle.
Screen contrast is comparable to the Kindle, if not slightly better. The 505 supports many more formats than the Kindle, including the one most popular to me – epub. Epub has been growing in popularity lately for authors who like to give away their work (or samples of their work) online. So there’s plenty of free content out there for me to read! It’s an open standard too, which is a nice bonus. The Kindle 2 can read epub files after a conversion, but in my experience that conversion is imperfect and introduces a number of formatting errors to the text. The 505 also reads PDFs without any conversion, which is a MAJOR boon for any researcher who finds themself awash in a pile of journal articles from library databases.
Of course, the 505 lacks one major feature of the Kindle: wireless web and book store access. The 505 requires a USB connection to a computer or memory card to add new books. I don’t miss the wireless connection though – if anything the lack of distraction helps me focus on actually reading! And considering that I saved so much money over a Kindle, I don’t mind the absence one bit.
The 505 is missing one feature that I dearly wish it had – built-in search. I can’t search through the text of a book on the 505 for some reason, which to me is a primary advantage of having text in electronic format to begin with. I can search in a book via Sony’s desktop software, then bookmark a location to load up on the reader, but that doesn’t help me when I don’t have access to a desktop PC. However, this lack bugs me less than I thought it would. In 6 weeks of frequent use, only once have I wished I could search for something. I guess the lack of this feature is because the 505 lacks the keyboard of the Kindle 2. But I still think some sort of text entry via a toggle button would have been better than none at all. Incidently Sony’s newer model, the PRS-700, adds search via a touch-screen keyboard. But I saw a 700 in a store recently, and wasn’t impressed at all. Adding a touchscreen overlay to the display makes it appear muddled and blurry.
And both readers are hobbled by official book stores which only sell books locked down with DRM. I say this a lot, but: I won’t buy any books from Amazon or Sony’s stores until I know that I can at the very least loan them to friends or donate them to a good cause when I’m done reading. Both stores’ prices are currently far too high, often equivalent to or nonsensically more than the print version, to justify the tradeoff of losing those ‘features’ of a book.
And there’s one final, less concrete reason I prefer the 505 over a Kindle 2 – the 505 doesn’t feel like it’ll fall apart in my hands. It’s made of metal, and feels much more solidly built than the plasticy Kindle. I actually dropped the 505 once, pretty severely. I had to snap the power button back on, but otherwise there was absolutely no sign of injury. I’m very confident that a similar fall would have killed off a Kindle 2.
Incidentally, check out Calibre! It’s a great piece of software designed to manage eBook collections on a reader. http://calibre.kovidgoyal.net/