The Good Slim and relatively lightweight; screen requires no backlight and is easy to read in bright environments; with the addition of optional memory card (SD or Memory Stick Pro), it's capable of storing thousands of electronic books; font size can be adjusted with a single button push; decent battery life; displays PDF and Word files, most image files, and plays MP3 and AAC audio.
The Bad Overall, the unit feels a tad sluggish, with a short but noticeable delay when turning a page; controls aren't as intuitive as they could be; interface could be slightly easier to use; Sony's online Connect bookstore is still a work in progress; proprietary Connect book files aren't compatible with other devices and are often as expensive as paper books; Connect software isn't available for Mac owners; no support for Audible audio books.
The Bottom Line Though the Sony PRS-500 Portable Reader System is an impressive platform for reading e-books and other documents, the price and availability of compatible "books" makes it a tougher sell.
Sony PRS-500 Portable Reader System
Editors' note: As of October 2007, this first-generation product has been replaced by its successor, the Sony Reader Electronic Book PRS-505.
The "electronic" book has been around for a while, but the biggest impediment for books to really move into the digital realm has been the absence of an affordable e-book reader that was any good. While there are plenty of other significant challenges that have to be overcome before big publishers get serious about e-books, a key first step is the hardware itself. The good news is that Sony's gotten a lot right with its PRS-500 Portable Reader System ($300), which most people know as the Sony Reader.
At 6.9 inches tall by 4.9 inches wide by 0.5 inch deep, the Reader is somewhere between the size of a standard DVD case and a short trade paperback novel--it's bound in a leather protective cover--but obviously, it's heavier (8.8 ounces) than a paperback because it houses a thin screen display with a metallic blue border. There are some buttons on the front along with a memory card expansion slot on the side. The 600x800-pixel, four-grayscale screen measures approximately 4.9x3.6 inches, and the first thing you notice about it when you turn on the device (it takes a few seconds to fire up after you slide the power switch) is that it's a high-contrast monochrome display that isn't backlit. Technically, it's an electrophoretic display, which Wikipedia describes as "an information display that forms visible images by rearranging charged pigment particles using an applied electric field."
Sony Reader store closes in Australia and the UK
Following similar moves in the US and Canada earlier this year, ebook retailer Kobo will be taking over management of Sony's Reader Store customers in Australia, the UK, Germany and Austria.
Sony launching 13.3-inch E Ink PDF reader in Japan
On 3 December, Sony Japan will be launching the DPT-S1: a 13.3-inch E Ink reader for PDFs, aimed at the student market.
Sony Reader PRS-T3 coming 9 September
Sony has announced that its newest e-reader will be arriving in Australia for a suggested retail price of AU$149.
New Sony Reader PRS-T3 leaks via the FCC
A new Sony Reader is on the way, according to documents pertaining to compliance testing on the US Federal Communications Commission website.
Amazon unveils new Kindle Paperwhite
Amazon has introduced a new version of its Paperwhite e-reader, now available for pre-order.
Sony announces large-format, flexible e-reader
Sony Japan has announced the biggest E Ink reader to hit the market, with a 13.3-inch flexible display.
Sony Reader store finally opens in Australia
Sony has finally opened its Reader ebook store in Australia, available from the web and Sony e-readers.
JB Hi-Fi launches its own ebook store
JB Hi-Fi has quietly launched its very own ebook store in Australia, along with its own e-reading app for iOS and Android.
Sony finally gets Apple approval for iOS Reader app
After a long delay, a free Sony Reader iOS app makes its debut in Apple's App Store.
Kindle Fire-fighting Nook HD tablets coming to UK, for £159
Barnes and Noble is releasing two new tablets for Brits, the 7 and 9-inch Nook HD and Nook HD+.
Ask us: where to get ebooks
One of the questions we're most commonly asked about e-readers is where in Australia one can obtain ebooks.
New Nook lights it up
As rumors swirl that Amazon is developing a new Kindle with an integrated light, Barnes & Noble's new $139 Simple Touch with GlowLight is already a reality.