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So I bought myself an e-reader

I did not decide to look for an electronic book reader solely after perusing information about iPad. An e-reader was on my to-buy list for quite some time. But the iPad announcement gave me a push and I finally spent money on a gadget that I long wanted.

My procrastination was partially explained by indecision. There are quite a few of interesting devices out there and I spent a long time figuring out which one to choose.

I already stated in that iPad article that I wanted the benefits of an eInk screen for my electronic reading. iPad, with an LCD screen, was not seriously in contention, to be honest.

I have absolutely no need to “buy the book and start reading it in 60 seconds”. My only impulse buys when it comes to books are in the segment of gorgeous travel and/or architecture photo-books. Not exactly something you’d buy for reading on a smallish monochrome device. And, anyway, I read a lot of public-domain books, and the rest only on someone’s recommendation. Surely, upon hearing a most effusive of endorsements for a specific work, I can wait until I get home, download the book onto my PC and then transfer it to my reader.

As an aside, I don’t really know how book publishing economics work, but if I can get a 1000-page mass market paperback for $7.99 at Barnes & Noble, I cannot think of a case for a digital file – no physical materials, nil physical storage space, nothing-can-be-simpler no-expense on-demand reissue – to cost $9.99. Especially, when you consider that a member of my family cannot pick up that same file when I’m finished with it just as they would a traditional tome.

So, the main advantages of a Kindle or a Nook are not really that important to me. I know a couple of people who own Kindles, and they are happy with them. But their reading habits differ from mine. I heard of only one person I know who’s getting a Nook so far and it’s too soon to judge how he likes it, but regardless, it is too new a device for me (remember, late adopter).

Considerations of storage are not of big import to me. Books are not songs – you can’t go through several dozen in a day. Having your entire library constantly with you is a completely unnecessary luxury, IMHO. I’m sure I’d be fine with having just a few books that are next in my reading queue. In any case, the e-readers with the least internal memory on the market can still carry around 160 books. I don’t think I’d ever buy a flash card specifically for the reader.

When I first considered buying an e-reader, I was concerned with formats. Seeing as there are at least three dozen different ones out there, I’d rather not be tied to a specific one. All of the major players are now not as proprietary-minded about formats as they were in the past, or they provide conversion services, but I was for a while seriously considering Astak ezReader as a possibility, on the strength of it being the only e-reader on the market that seemingly handles practically every format directly. Then, I discovered Calibre, which does an excellent job converting practically anything into anything.

Finally, russification. I read quite a lot of Russian literature, and for any non-English work, I am not sure I’d prefer an English translation to a Russian one.

That more or less sealed Sony as the only serious choice. I knew for a fact that Sony readers can be updated to properly display Cyrillic, and I was not sure that any other readers had similar patches available. And regardless, I’d have to look “outside” for Russian-language books, which was another point against investing into Amazon or B&N service.

Several people I know highly recommended Sony in either PRS-505 or PRS-300 incarnation. The latter I deemed a little bit too small for my taste (5″ screen). The former has been discontinued for a while in favor of touch-screen PRS-600. But I heard a lot of complaints about the screen glare on the new model. I even went to the local Best Buy and performed a very simple test with the available display models: Sticking my finger in front of the screen of PRS-300 resulted only in some shadows on the surface; doing the same for PRS-600 resulted in a clear reflection of my finger. I don’t want to see my face reflecting back at me when I read. I am not so keen on touch-screen capability as to compromise on the reading experience.

Various online stores are offering PRS-505 at $300 and above, so I decided to try eBay first. There were quite a few listings for “brand-new, factory-sealed” items, and it did not take me long to win one of them, for a very reasonable sum of $227.50. I received the package within a few days; it was as advertized in pristine never-opened condition. I spent some time on russification, which went quite easily, and then loaded the tiny total of 47 books onto the new toy. Should last me at least a couple of months.

I’ll let you know how I like it some other time.


  1. Eric

    I look forward to your review, Ilya. I’m happy reading e-books on my smartphone and laptop, but haven’t ruled out an e-book after looking at the ones B&N offers over Christmas. I’m skeptical of the Kindle, however, feeling that Amazon gets enough of my real-book business without me being beholden to their platform.

  2. Shawn Powers

    I had the PRS-505 (lost in the fire), and it was nice to read by. Charging is a bit weird with it. I’d suggest getting a PSP charger, as they’re fairly cheap, and are identical to the more expensive PRS-505 charger. It comes with a usb charger thing, but doesn’t work that well.

  3. Kisintin

    I actually got the 300 a week ago. I was thinking about the 505 but I actually like the portability of 300. I have pockets and I like to use them. 300 fits into jeans perfectly. And the scren size doesn’t actually bother me that much.

  4. Brian Greenberg

    I’ve read the “beholden to their platform” complaint many times now, but I don’t understand it.

    As per Amazon, Kindle supports the following formats natively: .AZW, .AZW1 (the proprietary formats), .TXT, .MOBI, .PRC, and .PDF. It can also import the following formats: .DOC/.DOCX, .HTM/.HTML, .RTF, .JPEG/.JPG, .GIF, .PNG, .BMP.

    If you were to buy a book for the Sony Reader, what format does it come in? A proprietary Sony format? (in which case, you’re beholden to *THAT* platform, right?) Some format other than the ones listed above?

    If not, I don’t think the inter-compatability issue is as big as everyone’s making it.

  5. Ilya

    The native format for Sony Reader is also a proprietary one, .LRF, but where it does come ahead of other major players is in its support of EPUB format, which is emerging as a possible standard in a very fractured field.

    I can venture a guess that “beholden to platform” comments normally are not limited to just the formats, but rather take into account the service that you comes as part of the deal, and all potential headaches that may come with it (such as stories of Amazon disabling somebody’s Kindle accounts for negligible infractions or what-not). I don’t suspect many people think of getting Kindle to use as a stand-alone, no-service device which can operate as an external drive for purposes of transferring books…

  6. Svetlana

    Ilya, how did you do russification? I’d like to buy Sony Touch Edition, but I’m not sure about russian books. I have another choice – jetbook, but i don’t really want it, because sony is sony…..

  7. Ilya

    Svetlana, I followed instructions at, which worked for me without a hitch. They are for PRS-505, though, not for Sony Touch (which is PRS-600). For that, the same forum has, which you might want to try.

    If you use Calibre to convert books into ePub format (the conversion currently does not embed fonts), you can use instructions at to manually modify ePub files after the conversion. If you do that, you will be able to read Cyrillic on Sony Reader even without russification hacks.

    Hope this helps.

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