Rumors have been circulating that Sony was about to release the second edition of its electronic book reader--and now it's official. Sony's new Reader Digital Book, the PRS-505, will hit stores shortly, and while it doesn't look that different on the surface, it's got some notable improvements.
- Next-generation electronic paper display delivers faster response and a higher contrast ratio, with eight levels of gray scale instead of four.
- Slightly thinner profile.
- More intuitive button layout allows for easier navigation.
- Available in silver and dark blue.
The new Reader costs the same as the old Reader ($300), offers the same amount of built-in storage (room for about 160 "typical" eBooks), and the same amount of battery life (Sony lists it at up to 7,500 page turns). While the original Reader wasn't bad, I saw plenty of room for improvement--and it appears that Sony has addressed some of the downsides that I noted in my review (Sony says it listened to what Reader owners had to say, but we pompous reviewers think we're the real influencers).
Whatever the case, the announcement couldn't have come sooner for Sony. Rumors of an Amazon digital book reader have been percolating for a while and turning the iPhone into an e-book reader doesn't seem all that difficult, considering "illegal" PDF-reader hacks seem to work pretty well. No word on when Apple will create a real e-book reader for both the iPhone and iPod Touch, but when it does, it will only validate this emerging market.
Hopefully, Sony's learned from some of its missteps in the digital music arena and a Sony executive I spoke with says it has. The company wants the Reader to be an open platform, and it helps that you can view Word and PDF files on the device along with the copy-protected books from the online Connect eBooks Store. I'm not sure Sony has the chops to create an iTunes-like store for e-books (Connect still has a little ways to go), but we'll see--at least Sony's out there trying to break new ground instead of watching Apple do it.