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Reader in its natural habitat

It can read the Da Vinci Code!

Image source: Sony Electronics Inc.
Sony's eBook reader slated to launch on Halloween for $350

Sony today released its PRS-500 Reader Portable Reader System pre-orders at, which will hit retail stores by the end of October.  The device has been delayed several times, with the last volley of delays occuring just this past July.


The PRS-500 tablet-like shape features a high-resolution display designed to mimic traditional paper and is readable even in bright sunlight. With battery life equivalent to roughly 7,500 continuous page turns, readers can store and display personal documents in Adobe PDF format, RTF, text, JPEG photos and selected RSS feeds from blogs and news sites.


Sony today also announced its CONNECT eBook store with more than 10,000 eBook titles available. And for a limited time, when a Reader is registered on the CONNECT site, people will receive a $50 credit towards the purchase eBooks online.


“Today, we’re writing a new chapter in digital technology for reading,” said Ron Hawkins, Sony Electronics’ vice president of Portable Reader Systems marketing. “Easy and enjoyable to use, the Reader fulfills the promise of electronic reading in a way that no other device has been able to do.  Not intended to replace traditional books, but to supplement them, the Sony Reader allows people to take a library of books and other reading material with them wherever they go.”


The Sony Reader will retail for about $350 at SonyStyle and Borders stores and comes complete with USB cable, a wall charger, the CONNECT Reader software and a protective soft cover.  More information about Sony Reader is available at its official site.

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school books?
By BillyBatson on 9/27/2006 12:12:01 AM , Rating: 2
I thought this was the dumbest idea for years now until today. However i have a few questions. How many books does thr 64mb memory hold? Would text books for school be offered as a download eventually? and if so would it be cheaper (along with regular books) than their paper versions? Last question is dooes the reader allow you to alter the text in any way? such as delete, add, or more important HIGHLIGHT (like you would with a marker) and have it save or even clip paragraphs, sentences, etc, and have it save them seperatly?

RE: school books?
By darkfoon on 9/27/2006 3:23:59 AM , Rating: 2
Considering that 5 Shakespearian plays (I believe they are: Hamlet, Othello, King Lear ... I forget the rest) take up only 700kB as txt files, I would imagine that one might be able to put 1 or 2 textbooks, complete with formatting (but maybe not pictures) onto 64 mB easily.

RE: school books?
By thecoolnessrune on 9/27/2006 10:15:55 PM , Rating: 2
How big really is the original Macbeth? Im reading it now and its a small book size and is only 137 pages.... Id rather like to know how many Encyclopedias it could hold. XD

RE: school books?
By mushi799 on 9/27/2006 3:42:01 AM , Rating: 2
This is actually a great idea, amazon can make a killing off of this. Sell books electronically to a device, no need to ship real books. Kinda like Steam.

Thought of this idea a few years ago, glad to see that it's seeing daylight.

RE: school books?
By Misty Dingos on 9/27/2006 7:39:11 AM , Rating: 2
I may be old but I am not stupid. If you want to use these toys for text books there has to be support for full color. Vanishingly few text books are only in black and white. This is yet again another niche market item that Sony hopes and prays will drag them out of the hole they have dug for themselves. How many people do any of you know that are just wishing on a star to get one of these? If they are, do them a favor and buy them a cheap PDA (before they aren't made anymore). Companies produce products for markets. The bigger the market the more they sell and they make more money. This is not going to fix Sonys issues and it isn't going to replace text books at any schools and it certainly will not be selling in any great numbers. If you think so, please prove me wrong and save Sony's butt. This isn't the Sony that came up with the Walkman. This is the Sony that refuses to innovate instead they regurgitate.

RE: school books?
By Gantrioch on 9/29/2006 2:24:44 AM , Rating: 2
Please do some research before commenting. The reason that the PRS-500 is not in color is because it uses E-Ink ( electronic ink technology, which is vastly superior to traditional LCD screens in terms of reading quality.

Also, pre-orders on the SonyStyle.Com website have pushed the shipping dates back an additional two weeks. That certainly seems to indicate some demand.

Yes, I bought one.

RE: school books?
By Arkham1 on 9/27/2006 9:20:46 AM , Rating: 2
Actually the idea is as old as the internet. But, it's going to be interesting to see how quickly Amazon gets its book-burning device out now.

Weak on Memory?
By dreddly on 9/26/2006 10:49:56 PM , Rating: 2
64 MB of internal memory seems a little on the small side for the price. I know it has a memory card reader, but a couple of decent sized pdf's and it would be full.

Nice to finally see a shipment date though.

RE: Weak on Memory?
By sadffffff on 9/27/2006 3:42:04 AM , Rating: 2
yep. bit pricy for what it does, especially with 64mb of ram... you can get 1gb sd cards for a few bucks now.. they can do better than 64megs...

RE: Weak on Memory?
By sadffffff on 9/27/2006 3:47:19 AM , Rating: 2
i guess it has a few features.. looks like it plays mp3s?

but still, its not even in color. the price must be be because of the e-paper display stuff? reletivly new isnt it?

RE: Weak on Memory?
By Gantrioch on 9/29/2006 2:31:09 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, electronic paper is quite expensive now.

I've been drooling after this electronic paper watch, haha

RE: Weak on Memory?
By EclipsedAurora on 9/27/2006 2:39:50 PM , Rating: 2
Have u read the Sony website carefully?

The Sony eBook device has standard size memory stick pro media support for memory extension upto 32GB!

By QueBert on 9/27/2006 5:02:21 AM , Rating: 2
With Sony behind it, I wonder what type of crappy file format this thing will use? I can only imagine it won't be something useful or standardize. the Epaper thing is interesting, and I'd be willing to check it out in person before I totally write it off. But Sony always plays by their own rules. I just hope they don't create a NEW Memory Stick format that's only for this.

Memory Stick Pro Duo Plus!

RE: great
By PrinceGaz on 9/27/2006 9:18:23 AM , Rating: 2
According to the official site, you can view PDFs and RTFs on it (among other formats) but it does also mention in a footnote about using the supplied software to convert them to a proprietary format. So maybe the device only natively supports its own format and all other documents have to be converted to that format before transferring. I'm not entirely certain though. Since most books I've downloaded are in either PDF, RTF or Word format (and Word can be saved as RTF), an automatic conversion while transferring isn't really an issue.

If it were Memory Stick only then I'd not be interested, but in a welcome departure for Sony, it also has an SD card slot so you can use them instead. Given the price of SD cards compared with Memory Stick, I think most people will opt for SD.

The device looks quite promising to me; it's thinner and probably no heavier than the current paperback novel I'm reading. If that display is as high a resolution as the pictures suggest, it could be the first viable electronic alternative to a real book.

RE: great
By Gantrioch on 9/29/2006 2:26:10 AM , Rating: 2
PDFs, text files, etc. do NOT have to be converted to BBeB format. The Reader can read them natively.

By Bremen7000 on 9/27/2006 12:18:30 AM , Rating: 1
The PRS-500 tablet-like shape features a high-resolution display designed to mimic traditional paper is readable even in bright sunlight.

RE: Grammar?
By quiksilv3r on 9/27/2006 12:23:41 AM , Rating: 2
he forgot an "and"
give him a break

RE: Grammar?
By lemonadesoda on 9/27/2006 5:14:37 AM , Rating: 2
no "and", but "features" to "featuring". Very small issue. Probably an error due to copying draft marketing materials.

Talk about people not getting it!
By BZDTemp on 9/27/2006 6:49:06 AM , Rating: 2
The deal with this gizmo is that it can be used to read stuff and it has a display which is like paper so it can be read even outside in the sun!

The 64 MB is not an issue since it's like the RAM in a PC. There is plenty of storage on memory cards and even the MemoryStick type has become really cheap.

And then there is battery life. Nothing comes even close. Basicly you can take this thing on a trip round the world and don't even have to bring the charger.

Think of it as a book that light and compact even with it holding thousands upon thousands of pages so compare it to books not PDA's.

By fantastique on 9/27/2006 9:42:01 AM , Rating: 2
Honestly, without the ability to put say a semester's worth of textbooks on this thing, and the ability to highlight and jot notes on the page and have that save electronically, this device doesn't interest me. For a little more money, you can get a cheap slim laptop that could easily fit in a small bag and do this and much more.

It seems like the first logical step really is to create a software that would allow students to easily study textbooks (highlight text, put corresponding figures near the relevant text without page flips etc.). Something with a nicer interface and runs more smoothly than Adobe at least. Then you could put this on a tablet. This would be revolutionary because then students wouldn't have to pay ~ $1000 a year for textbooks that weigh 20 lbs a piece.

Wouldn't it be cool to have those textbook things like in FFviii or in Xenosaga?

a lot better than a pda
By Gooberslot on 9/28/2006 11:35:35 PM , Rating: 2
I noticed a lot of people comparing this to a PDA but to me this is much better because the screen doesn't glow. I hate reading off a glowing screen. Reflected light is much easier on the eyes.

RE: a lot better than a pda
By Gantrioch on 9/29/2006 2:32:48 AM , Rating: 2
Ditto :-).

Small steps...
By guste on 9/26/2006 11:23:37 PM , Rating: 1
I'm quite pleased to see this model finally come out. No matter what you think about this particular unit, this is just another, in a series of small first steps along the road to critical mass.

I think we can all agree that this is a technology that is much better than the status quo of paper-based books.

RE: Small steps...
By klingon on 9/27/2006 5:19:17 AM , Rating: 2
This device should have been a bit more innovative (lets say arnd 2 mm thickness and it should be flexible) so during the examinations we can jus slip it under our paper.

PS: This is jus a comment

Smaller than expected
By lemonadesoda on 9/27/2006 5:27:14 AM , Rating: 2
This thing is much smaller than I expected. Look at the headphone socket and the mini-USB. The thing is about the same size as an external USB Floppy drive.

I agree with other posters, the memory could easily be larger... and for the price, one would expect to be able to store a whole catalogue of TECHNICAL documents (with graphics) in PDF format.

Not sure how much better this thing is than a VGA screened PDA, other than battery performance due to e-paper and no backlight.

I'd be interested to hear how legible this thing is under low light conditions, or when using a reading light, e.g. on an airplane. If it has the same reflection problem as the SONY "ultra black" (read very shiney reflective TFT screens) then I'm not interested.

*** CRITICISM 1 ***

There are WAY TOO MANY buttons on this device. Just compare it to, say, an HP x2490 PDA. If you can have PDA functionality with just a few buttons and touch sensitive screen, then SONY should have implemented something equally "neat". In the 21st century, consumers expect iPOD style simplicity, not millions of micro-buttons from hell.

*** CRITICISM 2 ***

All the "sharp" connectors are at the bottom of the device... so likely to catch against your clothes (sweaters, ties, etc). They should been side or top mounted.


I like that SONY is trying to innovate. I still think, that on paper, the price/performance ratio of a good PDA is far better. And a spare battery for the PDA gives you approx equal life if just reading PDFs.

However, e-paper will take some years to get right (just like TFT screens) and progress isn't made without starting somewhere.

I like the idea of a new e-book format containing pictures and MP3. Great for kids. Reading a book becomes reading, listening and looking at pictures. Might encourage them away from videos and the games consoles for 5 minutes.

Love the choice of text
By JNo on 9/27/2006 9:48:40 AM , Rating: 2
"Pain is good"

Different Models?
By XtremeM3 on 9/29/2006 5:15:35 PM , Rating: 2
One picture has "Prev & Next" buttons and the other has "Page" with "< & >" signs. I noticed it and figured that it's probably just a pre-production change but I was just wondering. Also the dial at the bottom left is different as well between pictures, both with the text near it as well as the color shape(atleast that's how it appears to me).


"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad
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