Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Will Sony Stiff PRS-500 Owners?

Those who follow technology news, particularly as it regards the various ebook readers on the market, will recall Sony's recent announcement of a partnership with Google that will provide free access to 500,000 copyright-free books on the Sony Reader. I was happy to see the announcement and anticipated downloading lots of classic or out-of-print books to my Sony Reader.

Silly me - that service is only available on Sony's newer readers. Owners of Sony's PRS-500 (I'm guessing there are at least 200,000 of us out there), the first Sony Reader, cannot take advantage of the new service because the PRS-500 software is not compatible with the Google-provided ebooks. Admittedly, I am not a software engineer and have absolutely no programming skills - but how difficult can it be to make updated software available for download from the Sony website that will let Sony's loyal early-adaptors participate in this new bonanza?

I wish I had an answer to that question, and I would certainly share it if I did, but I cannot get Sony to give me the courtesy of a response to my email asking them what their plans might be to add a little value and usefulness to my PRS-500. That's despite their email thanking me for my interest...blah, blah, blah...

Honestly, I love the little gadget and use it on those occasions when a book is too bulky to carry with me. I own dozens of ebooks and have traveled all over the world with my Sony Reader. Despite all the travel I've done with the reader, it still looks new and works as well today as it did several years ago when I first purchased it. It does not need replacing right now, but one day it will. Whether or not I go with Sony again over the Kindle II (or whatever the latest gadget happens to be at the time) will at least partially depend on what Sony does to share this book bounty with all of its customers - not just the latest ones to jump on the ebook bandwagon.

A word to the wise, Sony Corporation: loyalty is a two-way street.


  1. I understand your feelings as an early adopter. I had two 500s. They are still great devices even without the new functionality.

    Did you see the trade-in program that Sony offered when the 505 was released? I think it ended last month. Essentially, after the $100 rebate, it allowed you to trade up from the 500 to the 505 for about $149. Yes, its additional cash but the new functions of the 505 model are great. I traded in one of my 500s and have not had any regrets. The expensive optional cover with booklight is also very cool (but over-priced). I credit Sony with at least making an offer but Sony has always seen itself as a premium brand and it does cost.

  2. Wow. Not cool at all. I wonder if it's a format issue? All the Google Books are drm-free so they are epub files. The prs-500 pre-dates epub adoption, so it won't read those.

    Calibre is a very cool simple free converter application. It will convert epub to lrf (the Sony format).

    Maybe you can download the epub and run it through Calibre.

  3. Interesting, fugubot, but I mentioned the trade-in program - never even heard about it. I don't know if I would have taken advantage of it, probably not, but it would have been nice to have had the option.

    I'm still hopeful that a software download will solve my problem but it's looking more and more unlikely as time goes on with no reply to my email inquiry...

  4. Thanks for the tip, Trav. I'll take a look at that program to see if it might work - I'm afraid, though, that the problem might be earlier on when I try to download the file itself. Thanks again.

  5. Sony is having serious trouble not stiffing us early adopters...
    Many PRS-500 owners (including me) live abroad, but you can only buy books via the Sony store.
    Add to that the complete lack of Vista drivers for ages, and then the mysterious omission of x64 drivers when they did come out, and I'm feeling like Sony just isn't interested.
    Sadly, my PRS-500 still beats the kindle hands-down (Amazon wastes too much real estate on buttons) and I think Irex is too expensive...
    Maybe some of the smaller brands will be keener to get my money when I upgrade...

  6. Edwin, I totally agree with you about the design differences in the Kindle and the Sony reader. I much prefer the Sony design because of its more efficient use of space.

    Sony responded to me with some hope that their original software would be changed to make it possible for early adapters to take advantage of the deal with Google. I'm not holding my breath.

  7. Sam, if the problem you when you "download the file itself" is referring to getting the books onto the Reader, I believe you are referring to the lack of 64-bit drivers for the PRS-500. This can be worked around by copying the books onto an SD card and putting the SD card into the PRS-500. This works for non-DRM content, but I have not tried it with DRM content.

  8. Thanks for the tip. I'm going to give it a try to see if I can make it work for me.