We first mentioned the Sony Reader for eBooks back in January because the E Ink paper-like display was incredibly slick and might actually make reading books on an electronic device a reality. At the time it was supposed to come out in April, but April came and went and then we heard that the launch had been pushed off until fall.
Well, fall is here and so finally is the Sony Portable Reader System PRS-500 which is available at a rather pricey $349.99 (although there is currently a $50 promotional credit towards eBook purchases). Nothing seems to have changed – it has a 6 inch diagonal screen and is only 0.5 inches thick and weighs 9 ounces. The rechargeable internal battery is good for 7500 page turns (turns are all that count for E Ink displays) and you have to load content from a PC via USB. It has 64MB of internal memory plus it can take Sony Memory Sticks or SD memory cards to hold more.
As far as content goes, the eBook Connect store is also open and the titles all seem to be 1-2MB in size while the prices seem fairly reasonable given the outrageous prices of new hardcovers and paperbacks these days. Clicking on a title (e.g. Angels and Demons by Dan Brown) conveniently shows you the discount off the print retail price which was 20% on all titles I checked. Of course, as I mentioned in my original review, most printed best sellers get discounts of that order at the big chain stores so the discount isn’t overly compelling. Besides the premium content, you can also use the Reader for files in BBeB Book, Adobe PDF, TXT, RTF, and Microsoft Word formats although the latter requires Word installed on your PC to do a conversion. The Reader also has a feature for downloading RSS content so you can read news, blogs, or whatever at your leisure.
I still think there’s a place for something like the Sony Reader, but I’m afraid that the price (Reader plus eBooks) is going to scare off a lot of folks. What may save it is the ability to read free content – think of it like an iPod, only for text.