Having spent almost a week with my new Sony PRS-505 eBook reader, I am way past infatuated and well into love. For reading books, it just plain works. No fuss; no muss. I have grabbed several books, some old, some new, and am thoroughly enjoying reading them. The first line of the main menu, visible in this picture, is one of my favorite features.
The reader can “Continue Reading” from where I left off, not only in the last book I was reading, but from where I left off in every book in it’s memory. So I can merrily skip around between Arthur C. Clarke’s The City and The Stars (borrowed from the St. Louis County Public Library) to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (downloaded for free from Project Gutenberg) to Dan Reiter and Allan C. Stam’s Democracy at War (borrowed from the St. Charles County Library District) and back again. The reader automatically remembers the last page that I read in each book. Of course, I can also set bookmarks and that is handy for remembering all of those passages that I want to share with Candy while she is crocheting (and unable to escape).
Between the local public libraries and Project Gutenberg, I have found a reasonable pool of books. Unfortunately, the PRS-505 does not grok HTML files. Why Sony chose to omit this format is beyond me. Fortunately, I found directions for downloading, configuring, and using Book Designer at the MobileRead Wiki. This sweet piece of software allows me to easily convert the HTML files from Project Gutenberg into Sony’s proprietary BBeB format. It takes me a few minutes but the end result is an emminently readable ebook which contains a nice table of contents.
The PRS-505 supports three levels of magnification, which is great when my eyes get a little tired late at night. Here is a page from The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin in all three magnifications. (Click on the pictures to see larger images.)
As you can see, all are perfectly readable and it is nice to have the “large-print edition” just a button click away.
The screen snapshots also show a couple of other points. The highlighted “” is actually a link to a footnote. Pressing the center of the wheel in the lower, right corner jumps the reader to the footnote. If you then press the left arrow on the same wheel, the reader jumps back to the page you just came from. You have probably also noticed that the “F” chapter initial is not correctly placed. The reader can properly display these but the freebie Book Designer software seems to have misplaced it during conversion from HTML to BBeB format. It does not keep me from enjoying the book so I have not poked around to see if this is fixable.
So what’s not to like? The PRS-505 does not support HTML files which keeps me from downloading portions of web sites which would make great reference material (e.g., the PHP function reference). There is no way to search for a word within a book, which limits the reader’s usefulness with reference texts. Neither Adobe’s nor Sony’s ebook library software runs on Linux, which means that when I want to check a book out from the library, I have to fire up my Windows virtual machine just to “authorize” the book and transfer it to my reader.
The big bug-a-boo is not with the reader at all; it is with the DRM-locked ebooks. O’Reilly has the right idea; they are beginning to sell ebooks which are completely unlocked. Once I buy them, I own them and can do with them as I like, just as I expect with any other purchase. All of the other publishers that I have checked are selling books which are restricted; after I buy them, I cannot give them away or sell them to a third party. Guess what: I won’t buy a book under those conditions.
I bought the PRS-505 to run Reader Plates when I fly. As a miniature electronic flight bag, containing all of the IFR approach plates for the entire US, the device is well worth the price. Knowing what I know now, would I buy one just to read books? No. It is just too expensive. Would I buy one if I could buy current books without DRM? Absolutely!