My biased thoughts on the PRS-300, PRS-600, Kindle, and how I ended up with a 505
I'm a lurker around here. I've been wanting an e-reader for a while, and with the recent drop in prices decided time was ripe to get one. These forums helped me quite a lot, and I hope my experience will help other potential ereaders.
The Kindle 1 was something I had on my wish list for a long time. The biggest showstopper for me was the DRM. I hoped that amazon would negotiate more flexible terms with publishers, but it did not happen. My ill-founded hope was based on amazon's great drm-free mp3 albums. I lost all hope after the ironic news that Amazon had silently removed copies of 1984 from people's Kindles due to a publisher dispute. So a kindle became a non-option for me after that.
My interest in Sony e-readers was piqued after a friend of mine got one. He had a massive selection of free domain books he was reading, and this seemed very cool.
See, I like crisp, legible fonts. My favorite books are big hardcovers, with beautiful, luxurious fonts that are wonderful on the eyes. Reading a text file on my computer screen just never cut it for me - and so I ended up resorting to grudgingly spending 10-20 bucks at the bookstore for a print version of a public domain work I could have downloaded for free.
I'm similarly annoyed by mass market paperbacks, with their annoyingly tiny fonts, bad print quality, faded pages, and all the other crap that somehow passes for quality in the publishing industry.
Crap, somehow this turned into a rant. Back on topic.
Anyways, I had the notion of buying an ebook reader in the back of my mind for quite some time. Recently I saw the new PRS-300/600 models from Sony - 200 bucks for a brand new ereader!
After convincing my wife about the money I would save on ebooks, I headed down to Best Buy and checked out the two models. Next to the 300, the 600 screen looked washed out - as if I was reading through a slightly opaque piece of plastic (which indeed I was, this is the touchscreen). The 300 by comparison looked damned good. I was extremely impressed by its readability.
So I spent about 10 minutes in the store reading an exerpt from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which is preloaded on the 300. Although it looks great, I became frustrated with how little text fits on the screen. Using the largest font (which is slightly smaller than most hardcover books, I think), results in about 3 words per line, and only a few sentences per page (this is from memory, so I may be inaccurate here).
I really felt like I was reading a book on an index card, and it was uncomfortable. Perhaps it is a personal thing, but it just felt too small. I switched to reading for a bit on the 600's screen, despite its defects. Now, the 600's screen size felt perfect. I think that 6" is the sweet spot here, and probably why designers picked it in the first place for the kindle.
Despite the size, I still couldn't stand the 600's screen. So I resigned myself to getting the 300 - it didn't seem there was a better option on the market, and I didn't want to spend more than 200 bucks on an ereader. I figured I would spend a month trying it, and return it if the size really was unbearable.
On my trip back to Best Buy, I stopped at Walmart to see if they had any 300s in stock - better return policy and all. I asked the guy at the counter, he said they had 1 left, and came back with a dust covered 505 box.
Now I didn't know much about the 505, other than it was a 6" screen with similar characteristics to the 300. I also knew from looking online the retail for it was still around $300 (more than I wanted to spend...). I asked him to check the price - 219$. For a brand new 505... so I went for it.
I've been using my 505 for a week now on the train and at home, and I have to say I'm extremely happy with it. Even at large font, plenty of text fits on the screen. It's easy to read, the leather cover looks and feels very nice, and I'm more than happy with the control placement. I find myself holding it in the middle with my right hand a lot, using my thumb on the left control. Of course this varies depending on my position, but it feels good regardless. It would be perfect if the buttons didn't require as much force to press - perhaps this will improve over time.
So that's my story. Sony has gained another happy 505 user. :-)