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April 2010
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Sony Reader PRS-505 and Amazon Kindle 2

This is a guest post from my friend sharing his experience using Sony Reader PRS-505 for 2 years.

I recently gave him an Amazon Kindle to test and he agreed to share his thoughts about both of them on Blog Kindle. Even though both devices have been on the market for quite a while lots of people don’t have good idea what are the differences between them from a regular user point of view.

Below are his impressions from both:

Hi folks, this is not going to be an official Kindle vs Sony Reader review so don’t expect professional advice from me – just my impressions.

I purchased Sony Reader PRS-505 couple years ago when it just became available. So there wasn’t much choice during that time. Even Kindle wasn’t available back then. I haven’t upgraded it since then – I guess it was enough for my needs so far.

Right from the beginning I wan’t to post a disclaimer that since I used Sony Reader a lot I know lots of its negative and positive sides and I just had Kindle 2 for several days which was not enough to get complete impression of it. So consider my post as Sony Reader PRS-505 review with side comments about Kindle.

Amazon Kindle 2 and Sony PRS-505 Reader Side by Side

Amazon Kindle 2 and Sony PRS-505 Reader Side by Side

Sony Reader PRS-505 positive sides

2 years already passed and device is still functioning. Our Sony Reader was used for 2 years in quite harsh travel conditions and I still can read on it. I read on Blog Kindle that Kindle devices have a tendency to die during air travel. My Sony Reader survived lots of air trips.

It can read PDF files (I know lots of other readers can do it too but back then it was a unique feature). Since I read lots of old books in russian language PDF was the best way for me to transfer books on Sony Reader (I know that there are some hacks may be available to add language support there but encoding book to PDF is easier for me). Until recently I had to use CutePDF printer installed into Microsoft Word to print documents into PDF and it required some skill to make it print to the right page size for Sony Reader. But now there are several sites on internet which provide PDF files with russian books both in Sony Reader and Kindle formats.

I can read blogs on it too and for free. Even though it doesn’t have 3G connection like Kindle there is a possibility to read blogs and some websites on Sony Reader and do it free. Well not 100% free because you’ll be paying with headache :). But using Calibre software you can transfer 100’s of blogs to your Sony Reader within reasonable time. You just need to connect it to computer once a day and press Start button. For 20 blogs that I follow it takes 30 minutes. So if you have 3-5 blogs you like to read it will take less than 10 minutes. Negative side of it is when Sony Reader has too much complex information in its storage it will start to freeze during boot. And unfreezing it could take days (I’m not exaggerating here). You need to completely discharge it sometimes to get rid of the freeze. But good moment is that I was able to unfreeze it every time it froze.

Before going to negative sides I want to notice that I never upgraded firmware on my Sony Reader PRS-505. So I guess some glitches may have been patched by Sony. But I think 90% of users have no idea what is firmware and how to upgrade it and another 9% know it but have no desire to do it.

Sony Reader PRS-505 negative sides

Dead time while charging: one of the big disappointments with Sony Reader (not sure if it applies to Kindle) is dead time during charging. When it is completely discharged and you want to start reading a book you need to wait for an hour until it actually boots. Before that all you can enjoy is a red light on top of it notifying you that at least something is happening. But it really prevents you from reading when you want – because there is never guarantee that device is charged enough to read.

Faster battery drain: While using Kindle 2 that Andrei borrowed me I also noticed that when Kindle 2 is off it doesn’t drain battery while Sony Reader tends to do it and within a week I usually have to recharge it. Maybe it is just my unit but it is definitely a problem.

You need to check on it when it is charging: and if you don’t do it you will loose the charge. So here is a story. When you plug in Sony Reader to computer USB port it starts charging and when charge is strong enough to turn on the display it does so. The problem is when display is on in Sony Reader it drains the battery and if you turn off the computer to which it is connected it will start discharging unless you turn it off manually. So every time you charge it you really have to watch it. I would say it is one of the most disappointing problems with it.

PDF files problems: Yes it is also a negative side. After 500 page it starts to turn pages very very very slowly… I don’t know what the problem is there but it is better to split large PDF into two files rather than wait for 2-3 seconds for a page to turn.

Freezing on complex stuff: When I tried to upload 30 blogs from Calibre it started to have boot problems from time to time. Couple times I thought that we lost it.

Similar Features:

Weight is about the same. Kindle feels slightly different as it is thinner but wider and longer.

Not much difference in display quality. Both eInk screens look the same to me in size, contrast and readability.

Kindle positive impressions

One of the main reasons why I borrowed Kindle 2 from Andrei was its dictionary support. My wife studies English and she needs a dictionary while reading English books. With Sony Reader I haven’t found any solution to on screen dictionary. I know that Sony has a touch screen version now but I weren’t able to confirm that it has a dictionary. Kindle 2 has a great feature where you can move the cursor to the word on the screen you want to translate and you’ll see a translation within a second. This makes Kindle 2 a clear winner for our next purchase unless some reader could do it cheaper or better.

Amazon Kindle 2 Translation Feature

Amazon Kindle 2 Translation Feature

I also learned that you can send files that you want to read right from your computer to Kindle devices. This is a great feature even though I was a bit disappointed that I need to pay 15 cents for each transfer.

Kindle negative impressions

Wireless charges. I get this negative impression from almost every modern device like iPhone, iPad, Kindle. They all charge me for 3G traffic. It is more or less ok for me to pay $30 for unlimited traffic on iPhone. But I don’t want to pay additional $30 for iPad and then more dollars to read blogs on Kindle. I want a single unlimited data plan that I purchase from wireless provider like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc. that could be used for any 3G device I own. Unless they will figure out how to do it 3G option will be a nice but rarely used feature for me on such devices.

Here is all that I can say about both devices so far. Once I get more time with Kindle I’ll try to write some more.

Kindle app for iPad goes live

Though Amazon Kindle and Apple iPad are touted to be arch rivals in the e-Reader segment, it hasn’t stopped Amazon from building a Kindle app for iPad. Amazon previewed the Kindle iPad app a couple of weeks ago and yesterday, the app made its way to the Apple iTunes Store. The Kindle app for iPhone has been around for a while now and is very popular amongst iPhone users. The iPad Kindle app is a logical extension of the iPhone Kindle app and its release was on the cards after Apple announced the launch of iPad on April 3.¬†However, there’s one major limitation of using Kindle on iPad – Books bought through Kindle app must be read within the app itself. These books will not be viewable in Apple’s iBooks app.

The Kindle app for iPad lets people enjoy the best of both worlds – easy to use Kindle app interface and supreme performance of the iPad. Further, it gives the users a choice to read books from either Amazon or Apple. Customers always want more choices and e-Readers are no exception to this rule. I’ve come across many voracious readers who are addicted to kindle interface and therefore, they are reluctant to try out the iPad. The Kindle app for iPad is welcome news for all such readers.

While a lot of people have been debating the fortune of Amazon Kindle after the launch of Apple iPad, I believe that Amazon will emerge as the major e-Book provider for iPad. Since iBooks is not pre-installed on Apple iPad, many users might prefer to install Kindle app for iPad as compared to iBooks.

I’ll publish a review as soon as 3G-capable version of iPad hits the stores that I intend to get for myself.