Friday, November 06, 2009

Me and My Antique Sony E-book Reader

I normally only use the Sony reader when I'm on a trip during which it is impractical to carry several books with me and, since I don't travel at nearly the pace I used to, my PRS-500 has been stashed out of sight for the last several months.

But this afternoon I decided to take a look at it through today's eyes rather than through the eyes of a 2005 purchaser of the technology. And, you know, this is not a bad little gizmo. Admittedly, it doesn't offer the ability to wirelessly purchase e-books from the Sony bookstore or to download any of the "million" books made available by Google. (I have been expecting to hear that Sony has upgraded the PRS-500 software to make the Google books compatible with the reader but I'm now starting to doubt that will ever happen.)

This Sony e-book reader (Sony's original version) is relatively lightweight and it has room for well over 100 books on its hard drive plus an SD card slot that makes the reader's capacity almost limitless. So this antique reader (almost three years old now) still has its uses.

What does irk me is the poor job the reader does on PDF documents and e-books not "published" by Sony explicitly for the PRS-500. The resolution on those books is very poor, so light a shade of gray on white that it is almost impossible to read them. Couple that problem with the small font displayed by the reader - and the reader's inability to adjust the font of these particular books - and the third-party books are just about worthless to owners of this Sony device. I have noticed, though, that books saved as text files are legible when displayed on the reader - just very ugly because of the limited formatting offered by text files.

This was my first visit to the Sony e-book store in a long while and I was happy to see that some very much needed cosmetic changes have been made to the store's appearance. Unfortunately, the electronic bookstore still has a clunky feel to it and it is not all that easy to move around the site with any degree of confidence. I always feel lost there. I did notice that book downloads are quicker than I remembered them to be - and, since I had to download again all 57 of the Sony e-books I own, that was nice to see. Prices are competitive with those of Amazon and Sony offers special prices on several books, even to offering about ten of them free and several others for only a buck.

I understand why Sony is spending all its time and money on the new readers. The future of the company depends on getting new products from the pipeline into the stores. I get it. But why can't Sony throw me and the other thousands of early-adapters a bone by upgrading the primitive software of the PRS-500? I buy a lot of Sony products as it is, but they could really lock my business in by showing me that they care enough about me as a past customer to keep my $300 investment working as long as possible.

Come on, Mr. Sony, give a guy a break.


  1. Hey Sam...I have this same Sony reader and I too was an early adopter. When Sony released it's newer version that has the updated software they did in fact offer $100 rebates to those of us that bought their first model as a thank you for latching on early. The $100 rebate was to upgrade to the newer model. IE: You got the $100 cashback if you sent in your existing model to them. They would allow you to upload the old books you purchased already onto your new model as well. So they did in fact consider us early adopters. At the time I didn't bother with it. They are releasing a model that allows you to purchase from their store very soon. I have a contact there that I've been talking to since prior to its release back in 2005.

    I have no complaints about my ebook reader, I use it occasionally. I'm just a hardcore book lover and just love the tactile experience of reading a real book, turning real pages, etc. I've read dozens of books on my ebook reader and one thing I truly love about it is the immediacy of purchasing something on a rainy day and avoiding a trip out to the bookstore.

    I think I need to just start taking my ebook reader along with me to work etc. I have avoided that in the past due to the cost of the device..but why not just use it I say.

    Thanks for this brought back some fond memories. I really do love the product...even in it's first version...its still better than Kindle and Nook. Although I really kinda dig the minimalistic look of the clunky buttons at all. And something in me likes those book covers showing up along the bottom too.

  2. p.s. you can find me at :-)

  3. Kristy, I became aware of the $100 rebate offer in time to take advantage of it, barely, but I decided against doing it. It seemed crazy to turn in my old reader and sink another $200 into a newer one that didn't seem all that much better. Now, from the looks of things and what Sony is marketing in readers, I think I was right not to jump at the offer.

    I'm reading a book on the e-reader now and finding it to be a pretty good experience. It's a novel and I think that's my best bet for e-books because I like to mark up my nonfiction reading with notes and stickers and the "bookmarking" option on the Sony Reader doesn't quite do it for me.

    I did receive 50 more classic books from the Sony e-book library when I questioned them about not upgrading my reader's firmware, though. That was a nice gesture and I appreciated that.

  4. hey Sam! I just got another new email from Sony must upgrade by mailing back your 500 or take a 50 rebate or 75 rebate on another new model. Email me at if you didn't get this email today.


  5. Kristy, thanks for the heads-up about the email. It had gone to my spam folder and I would have missed it if you hadn't said something. I'll be going to the Sony Store this morning to decide what I want to do.