Monday, January 09, 2006

Sony Portable Reader System

Thanks to Damon Hickey, Director of Libraries, The College of Wooster
for posting this to the Collib-L list:

If you have trouble getting to the Sony web page (see below) because
of the length of the URL, try the following instead:

For years we've been hearing about a new technology supposedly in the
works to produce an electronic-book handheld reader that would offer
print on a screen without backlighting. The backlighting of a
computer screen is tiring to the human eyes and brain, and is the
major reason why many people say they don't like to read for a long
time on the computer. These new technologies would arrange
microscopic black and white balls on a screen to simulate print.
Ambient (room or sun) light would be reflected off the screen just as
it is off the page of a printed book. Thus, the ebook could be read
more easily in bright than in dim light--just the opposite of current
LCD-type computer screens, which wash out in direct bright light.
Power would be needed only to "turn the page" (i.e., to rearrange the

On January 4, Sony announced that it is putting into production such
a device, with a screen about the size of a paperback book, this
April. The Sony Portable Reader System PRS-500 will cost $349.00.
Most impressive, perhaps, is that Sony (like Apple before it with the
iBook) is lining up major publishers, several of which have already
committed to digitizing their entire print runs, including backlists,
for viewing on the PRS. The price of a recent book in PRS format is
expected to be about the same as that of a paperback book. For more
information, see

Click on "Explore the Portable Reader" for a fascinating tour. The
fact that the reader can display conventional pdf files does not
require frequent charging of the battery, synchronizes with a
computer using a standard USB connection, and takes a standard Sony
Memory Stick of SD (Secure Digital) memory card gives it added

All the elements seem to be in place for this technology to take off
in a way similar to Apple's iPod (adjusting for the fact that reading
may not be as popular as listening to music!). The PRS-500 will
undoubtedly be upgraded quickly, with a corresponding drop in its
cost, and competitors are already poised to enter the market with
their own versions. We may finally have reached the point where
"nothing will ever replace the printed book" will sound as quaint as
"nothing will ever replace the horse and buggy" did a century ago.

For further information, see the recent article in Business Week: