So I decided to pull out my old Sony PRS-505 today, and have another look at it.

The PRS-505 was my very first ebook reader. I got it in 2008 IRC from Micro Center in the US. I purchased for $299 (plus tax!), and was by far my most expensive purchase for that trip. These were the days where FictionWise and BooksOnBoard were THE place to purchase ebooks—assuming the books you wanted were even available in electronic form. Selection was rather slim back then, especially from the traditional publishers. (anyone else remember FictionWise BuyWise club, and 100% rebates and…?)

Over the next few years, I moved from the PRS-505 to the Barnes & Noble Nook (my next US trip, two years later), and then I got the Sony PRS-650. Finally, we arrive at my current reader, the Kobo Glo.

First Impressions
All metal. Beautiful metal. It still looks almost as good today, as when I got it out of the box all those years ago.

The reader was accompanied by a very nice minimalistic faux leather case, which was held closed by “just strong enough” magnets.

Yes, the case was included. None of this $39.99 extra to encase your reader thank you very much.

All up, the PRS-505 exuded premium qualities, and IMO, still does.
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The Software/Firmware
Rock solid. Not the most feature packed of devices, but you had to work pretty hard to crash that device. THE main gripe I had with it at the time was the lack of true italic support. Sony didn’t seem to want to pay to license a proper italics variant, so they cheated by slanting the standard font instead.

There were certainly no such thing as a choice of fonts. There were three sizes of font available: too small, slightly too big, and needlessly large.

At the beginning, the main format of ebook for the PRS-505 was Sony’s proprietary BBeB format (otherwise known as LRF). I will give Sony credit though, they were one of the first device manufacturers to add support for an upstart ebook format called epub (MS LIT, and Mobipocket were the ebook formats of the day). From that point, Sony started to phase out BBeB in favour of using epub.

Later on in its life, some rather clever developers managed to extend the PRS firmware quite drastically, and added features like games, a clock, rudimentary dictionary support, filesystem browser and my personal favourite, the Adobe UserStyle.css hack. This CSS hack enabled the use of custom fonts and font sizes, as well as margins, line heights etc.

While it seemed perfectly acceptable to me at the time, coming back to this reader has shown how slow it was, especially when turning pages. It also took a long time to process books if you had over 100 books on the device. This, along with the screen, is probably the greatest weakness with the device now.

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The Screen
Probably one of the biggest weakness now. 8 shades of grey. Contrast pretty ordinary, and a fairly slow refresh rate by today’s standard. The resolution of 800 X 600 is looking rather low as well.

Surprisingly, the background is not as dark as I thought it would be compared to my Kobo Glo, although the “ink” is definitely much lighter.

I have also become rather spoiled with the frontlight on my current reader, which is a feature that the PRS-505 did not have of course.

So would I start using it again?
Probably not.

Coming from more modern readers, it is too slow, the screen resolution and contrast too low, and the epub rendering engine is too primitive.

However, the device itself is still a beautiful piece of design, and I don’t know if I have any other consumer electronics device that has held up so well for so long. I hadn’t turned it on for a couple of years, and all it needed was a charge to start working again.