Mini-comparison to Sony PRS-505

Kindle DX, Kindle 2, Sony PRS-505

Kindle DX, Kindle 2, Sony PRS-505

It so happened that I purchased Sony PRS-505 for my Dad. I chose Sony eReader because my Dad living outside WhisperNet coverage and having very little knowledge of English language (and therefore no interest in any books that are sold on effectively negated all benefits of Amazon Kindle.

On the other hand Sony eBook reader is extensively used by Russian community so on top of Unicode fonts there’s also complete localization of UI available in Russian (and in many other languages). A lot of credit for this should be given to Igor Skochinsky who also made Unicode Font Hack possible by figuring out a way to create custom updates for Amazon Kindle.

Therefore I’ve had a chance to briefly compare the Sony reader with both Kindle 2 and Kindle DX side-by-side. I would like to share my impressions on the subject. It is in no way a complete review – just an opinion. But perhaps someone will find it useful.

Exterior: Although I found Sony PRS-505 more visually pleasing than Kindle, I found pagination buttons of Kindle more comfortable. This is kind of a big deal since flipping pages constitutes 95% of eBook reader usage. It is nice that Sony eReader comes with protective cover included. I also purchased cover with light prism. It looked really cool all the way up to the moment when I turned it on. Then I found that it somewhat reduces text contrast. On the bright side, it leaks much less light than Mighty Bright XtraFlex that I use with Kindle. I also found 10 numerical buttons on PRS-505 handy and highly functional.

Display: Both Kindle 2 and PRS-505 sport 6″ eInk displays of the same resolution of 600×800. They differ in the number of supported colors: 16 for Kindle vs. 8 for Sony and in contrast which I subjectively found to be higher in the Sony reader.

Storage: Kindle 2 sports 1.4Gb of internal flash memory storage usable for books, while Sony device has significantly less (192Mb) but compensates for it by having 2 expansion slots that can potentially add 10Gb of additional storage. Plus you have the ability to swap memory cards that you carry in your pocket making the storage potentially unlimited. Not that it really matters because as I’ve shown in Kindle 2 vs. Kindle DX comparison, you’ll need to spend around $8,500 to completely fill up 1.4Gb of Kindle storage with books. So unless you use your reader for viewing manga as collection of JPEG files or go on solo many times around the world boat trips without a computer you really should not care either way.

Software: Sony seems to resume from sleep mode faster than Kindle. It also offers more in terms of organizing your book collection. Latter is a major pain point and probably the most requested feature by Kindle users. I would very much like Kindle to do a better job at organizing the books I purchased. There really is no reason for this feature to not be there given that Kindles have fully functional keyboard that would make naming collections and tags really easy. On the other hand Kindle sports some features that are not found in its Sony competitor like text-to-speech and web-browser.

PDF Support: While Kindle 2 only supports PDF via conversion, Kindle DX has a native support like the Sony does. While I didn’t have a chance to explore in detail PDF capabilities of Sony PRS-505 like I did with Kindle DX, I did try one PDF file. I have to admit that Sony does a better job at supporting PDF than Kindle because PRS-505 supports internal hyperlinks and table of contents as well as reflowing text to accommodate different font sizes. 9.7″ screen size of Kindle DX that can also work in landscape mode┬áprovides a saving straw because it makes reflowing unnecessary for many PDF files.

PC Software and book buying experience: I didn’t install the Sony software as my Dad would have no use for it (he only plans to read Russian classics that are freely available on the Internet) and I didn’t need to install Amazon software because there isn’t any. Although it may seem unfair (since I haven’t tried the Sony way) I’ll say that comparing book buying experience for Kindle and Sony would be like beating a dead horse. It’s the main selling point of Amazon Kindle and it’s what made it so successful.

Conclusion: Overall I liked the Sony device even tough it’s soon going to be outdated by newer models some of which will have touchscreen (another highly anticipated Kindle feature). Sony seems to have better software and both Amazon and Sony have strong and weak points in ergonomics. If I could have the same book buying experience and selection on Sony as I have with Amazon Kindle, I’d probably go with Sony eReader. However since things are the way they are, I’m staying with Kindle and my dad will use Russian-localized version of PRS-505 to read classics freely available from sites like

P.S.: I’ve alredy finished this comparison review when I discovered a new aspect of these devices I wasn’t aware of. Kindle turned out to be much better for non-English speakers who want to learn the language than Sony PRS-505 due to built-in dictionary and text-to-speech capability. My sister started reading English books with intent of enriching her active vocabulary. Built-in dictionary lookup saved her tons of time each time the ran into an unfamilar word. Text-to-speech gave her a very good idea of how each word sounds as she read along with the device. So Kindle although lacking free Internet connectivity outside the US can still be perfect for some foreign users.

When I get my hands on newer Sony eReader models I’ll see how they stack up against the Kindle and post some reviews as well.

Using text files from etc made easier and more

I’ve published the script that I’ve been using personally for quite some time to make plain text files that were preformatted to specific page width nicely reflowable on Kindle and other eBook readers (I’ve tested it with Sony PRS-505). It can also strip any HTML tags and convert between character encodings.

This should make downloading books from websites like and easier for some for some people. More information about how to use the tool as well as download link can be found here.

I’ve also created a summary page for all Kindle hacks and tools that I currently know of. Feel free to let me know if some information needs to be added to updated.

Unicode on Kindle DX via PDF

With Kindle 2 if you wanted to read books that contain non-English characters like Cyrillic, Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew etc you had several options:

  1. Use Kindle unicode font hack to replace default Kindle fonts with ones that support wider range of Unicode characters.
  2. Convert it to set of JPEGs and read it in the picture viewer.

With Kindle DX option 1 is ruled out for the time being since Unicode font hack doesn’t install on it. (Update: Unicode Fonts Hack now works on Kindle DX as well). However because Kindle DX supports PDF natively there is another way. PDF supports “font embedding”. This means that fonts that are used in PDF file are stored within the file itself or at least a subset of font that describes all the characters that are actually used. So Kindle can display Russian text in PDF files even though there are no Russian fonts on Kindle DX itself.

Luckily creating PDF files is easy as printing documents. There are dozens of PDF “converters”, “creators” or “writers” out there that all work in a similar way. They are installed as virtual printers that instead of printing documents on paper save them on your PC in PDF format. So any file that can be opened in program that supports printing (and 99% of them do) can be converted to PDF. Learn how to open PDF file.

Kindle DX Russian Text

Kindle DX Russian Text

I tested several such programs and all of them produced files that I could read on my Kindle DX. Visually files produced by all of them were identical and of similar size (on disk). The only difference is how particular program behaves itself on PC. In the end I went with PDFCreator because it’s easy to install and use and doesn’t come with junkware.

  • PDFCreator from Easy to install (just a single installer). Runs without problems and only offers to install Yahoo toolbar and default search when it’s installed. You can easily opt-out of it. Uses GhostScript (which is included in installation) for file conversion. User interface looks a bit crude but it is not a hindrance.
  • CutePDF by Acro Software Inc. Requires you to install the printer driver and Ghostscript separately. Printer driver installation is not Vista/Windows 7 friendly as it requires you to disable UAC (user account control) which requires a reboot (and then another one to turn it back on). There is not proper excuse for such sloppy software writing in 2009 when Windows Vista has been around for years. Otherswise the converter works fine.
  • PrimoPDF by by Nitro PDF Inc. Single installer that installs everything you need. Doesn’t have a problem with Vista/Windows 7 UAC. During installation you are subscribed to a mail-list you can later opt-out of. Runs ok except that on my Windows Vista machine Adobe Acrobat Reader would crash if you configure PrimoPDF to launch it to view newly converted file.
  • Pdf995 by Software995. You need to install 2 separate packages in order to software to run. It also shows an ad every time you convert a file unless you purchase ad-free version.

There are many more free and paid PDF converters out there. I’ve reviewed just a few free ones. If you think you know of a better one – drop a comment here and I’ll take a look.

You can see a sample (click to zoom) of Russian text that was downloaded from, copy-pasted into Microsoft Word, font bolded and converted ot PDF using PDFCreator.