What Is a Sony Portable Reader, and How Does It Work?

What is a Sony Portable Reader, and how does it work?

Portable Reader is the result of Sony tossing their hat into the eBook reader ring. The full name is the Sony PRS-500 Portable Reader, but most people drop the nerdy “PRS-500” label when discussing the device.

The price of Sony’s reader is equivalent to similar devices from Amazon and Barnes and Noble–around $300, though it must be said that Amazon’s Kindle averages about $40 cheaper. The big knock on Sony’s eBook reader is the slightly higher cost compared to the features offered by the device. You’d think if you’re going to pay an extra $50 that you’d get something that the Kindle doesn’t offer. Well you do–if that “something” is sluggish performance, page-turn delays, difficult controls and interface, and a host of other complaints.

The Bad News

My personal pet peeve with the Portable Reader is the library. For starters, the unit I played with had a lot of difficulty connecting to the online bookstore — when I finally connected I was shocked to find that the selection of titles was extremely limited. Turns out that eBooks downloaded to the Portable Reader aren’t compatible with any other devices, leading me to believe that the overall library selection would be extremely small and I was right.

The Portable Reader uses “E Ink” just like the other devices we’ve reviewed so far. E Ink is meant to make print on an eBook look more, well, print-like, and the Portable Reader’s display does not disappoint. The text is crisp and easy to read. Unfortunately, you don’t have as many text resizing options with the Sony device as you do with the Kindle or even the Nook–just three sizes are available, the ubiquitous “Small, Medium, and Large”.

Worth Buying?

Would I purchase the Portable Reader? If I were a Sony-phile or wanted to stand out in a crowd of other eBook readers (the Kindle and even the Nook are everywhere these days) then maybe I would. The thing that would keep me from buying the Portable Reader is the cost of the books. What’s the point of an eBook reader that charges the same for its eBooks as the bookstore charges for paper books? Another nagging problem–most of the people I know use Macs. The Sony device is simply not compatible with a Mac lifestyle. Also–why no support for Audible.com’s audio books? That seems like a silly oversight.

The Good News

Let’s end this review on a good note. There are some things that Sony did right here. The unit is very slim and easy to carry–I tried to compare the size with the Kindle and found that the Kindle may still be a bit smaller, but still–any device that can hang in with the small size of a new generation Kindle is “small” in my book. The screen is also a success for Sony–requiring no backlight as with other devices, and I’d say the screen is overall one of the best on any eBook reader I’ve used. Another high point for Sony–users can adjust the font size with the push of a single button rather than messing around in a menu.

Sure, the Sony PRS-500 Portable Reader System is a solid platform for reading eBooks and other electronic documents, but I have to wonder if the higher price and lack of availability of compatible books makes this a bit of Sony technology worth passing on.

This is one post in a series of posts we’ve made about various eBook readers. The other posts include: