Technology

Warning: Reading with the Sony PRS-500 is habit forming

An old expression, "Don't judge a book by its cover," rings true, even in the digital realm. At first glance, the appearance of the slim Sony PRS-500 Portable Reader System is disappointing, but curling up with this smart device turns out to be a smart choice.

For starters, E-ink technology offers just enough light for easy-on-the-eyes reading; and if it matters to you, font settings range from small to medium to large.

A pleasant surprise is the Sony Reader's soft, protective cover - very nice, but much too flimsy for damage control. Operational buttons, although conveniently placed, are small and cumbersome.

The best function of the digital reader is the "mark" button that performs as an electronic bookmark. Awesome!

I'm now eager to begin reading one of 16 book samples, so I choose Emma's Darcy's "The Italian's Stolen Bride." Yes one of those steamy Harlequin romance novels is my first electronic reading experience. It requires little effort for me to appear studious, while absorbing words describing windblown hair and torrid kisses, the main reason why toting this lightweight device is such a great idea.

And, if you're searching for more storage space for misplaced photos, overflowing paperwork and magazine clips, you've found it with the all-in-one Sony Reader. The screen displays Adobe PDFs, JPEGs, blogs, newsfeeds, online magazines and personal documents. GIF and PNG files are also viewable, but what I find most impressive is its ability to play MP3 and AAC files.

My final user-friendly test poses one question: Are the enclosed instructions easy to follow? If you're like most bookworms, a technically challenged bibliophile, don't count on it. After reading Sony's enclosed pamphlet more than once, I finally connected with Sony's online content store, Connect eBookstore. Initial setup took about 35 minutes.

The Sony Reader allows users to search, browse and discover thousands of electronic book titles from the Connect eBooks online store. Next, just purchase, download and transfer titles to the Sony Reader.

"The 24-Hour Pharmacist" by Suzy Cohen, R.P.H., is my first online book purchase and next on my digital reading list. This literature is not just informative, it's smart and super impressive, just in case someone's looking over my shoulder.

The launch date for the Sony PRS-500 Portable Reader System is on or before October 31, 2007. For additional information, go to http://www.sony.com/reader.

Key featuresCost: $299.99 - $399Size: 6 in (15.5 cm)Weight: 9 ouncesResolution: 166 dpi, four-level gray scalePortrait: 4.54 x 3.47 in.Landscape: 6.09 x 4.41 inViewable in direct sunlightMinimum font size: 6 pt legible, 7 pt recommendedInternal memory: 64 MB standard Memory card and SD card for expanded memory (extra)Rechargeable lithium-ion battery, up to 7500 continuous "page turns" per chargePC interface: USB portPlays unencrypted MP3 files (headphones not included) and AAC audio filesDisplays Adobe PDFs, personal documents, blogs, newsfeeds and JPEGsWarranty limited Sony online content store "Connect eBookstoreAccess to additional content: Blogs, newsfeeds, online magazinesProtective coverService Plan available (extra cost)

Sources: sony.com/reader and ebooks.connect.com

Digital versus Print Sony Reader- Great for travel- Light, portable, has capacity for 80 titles- $11.95 Ebook price: "The 24-Hour Pharmacist" by Suzy Cohen, R.P.H.- $10.95 Ebook price: "Hunger" by Erica Simone Turnipseed- Font size can be adjusted- Digital library easy to store: No clutter - Lifespan: Extended warranty availableBook in Print- Limitations when traveling- Cumbersome when carrying several books- $14.95 Paperback Price: "The 24-Hour Pharmacist" by Suzy Cohen, R.P.H.- $13.95 Paperback Price: "Hunger" by Erica Simone Turnipseed- Font size adjusted with magnifying glass- Personal library: Clutter potential- Lifespan: Forever

The OthersSTAReBOOK $400 www.stareread.com/en/reader.htmliRex iLiad $699 www.irextechnologies.com

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