There's a large, easy to operate d-pad for navigation and page turns, but no dedicated page turn buttons on the side like the Kindle 2 and PRS-505. Other buttons are the Home button, back button, text size changer button (there are 3 font sizes to choose from, but you can't change typefaces) and a bookmark button. Though stylishly well-integrated and nearly flush with the casing, all buttons are very easy to operate. The power slider and charge indicator are up top and the USB port is at the bottom. There are two mounts, one at the top and one at the bottom near the spine, for optional leather book-style covers that are similar to the ones included standard with the PRS-500 and 505. As with the Sony Reader Touch Edition PRS-600, Sony includes a black neoprene carry case which is protective enough for a bag or purse if you place it with reasonable care (not next to your MacGyver knife or a protruding laptop corner).
Comparison with the Sony Reader PRS-505
To make the PRS-300 the most affordable ebook reader, Sony removed a few features found on the 500 and 505: there are 5 rather than 10 buttons corresponding to the numbers and these buttons are rockers that handle two numbers each. The MP3 player and image viewer are gone as well. There's no SD or Memory Stick expansion slot, so you're limited to the 512 megs of internal storage of which 440 megs are available for your use. That's plenty enough room to carry several hundred books, but it does mean you'll need to use the included USB cable (same cable as other Sony readers) to get books on board rather than a card reader Unless a 20% size reduction really captivates you, there's no reason to upgrade from the PRS-505. The display contrast and clarity of the PRS-300 are significantly better than the original PRS-500 however and that might make a worthy upgrade. And if you're new to ebook readers, the PRS-300 is a great place to start if you just want to read novels and aren't interested in annotations or advanced PDF features like zoom.
Desktop Software, eBook Store, Google Books and Library Books too!
Sony's desktop 3.0 software installer is on the reader itself, so there's no need for a software CD. You can also download it from Sony's website. The desktop software works with both PCs and Mac OS X, and it works much like iTunes. You'll use it to house your digital book collection, arrange books into collections and buy books from Sony's online bookstore that has approximately 100,000 titles. In addition, you can use it to browse and download Google public domain ebooks (approximately a half million titles) and to find local libraries that lend ebooks in compatible formats (Adobe Digital Editions ePUB and PDF). We particularly love this feature-- no need to drive to the library, just check it out online and after the lending period is over (typically 14 days) the book expires (no overdue fees and no need to return it).
Like other Sony Readers and the Kindle 2, the PRS-300 is very thin.
Unlike iTunes, if you accidentally wipe out your library of purchased books, you can download them again. You can authorize up to 5 computers and Sony Readers on your account for book purchases and it's easy to remove one from the authorization list (just be sure to do so before selling the Sony Reader or you'll have to call Sony support to remove it). Sony has lowered their prices a bit and now like Amazon, many current best sellers are $9.99. An ebook reader can only be authorized to one account at a time, so families and spouses who wish to share purchased books should use one Sony account.
Unlike the Kindle models and Sony's upcoming Daily Reader (larger and more expensive than the PRS-300), there's no wireless, so you can't use the reader itself to download or purchase ebooks.
The reader is compatible with non-DRM books in TXT, RTF, PDF, ePUB and Word format (only Word files require conversion through the desktop software). For DRM books, the Reader supports Sony's own BBeB (.lrf) file format. If you buy a book from the Sony storefront, it will be in BBeB format. Sony will be moving to ePUB format and all Sony Readers (except the original Reader PRS-500) can read ePUB books. As mentioned, the reader also supports DRM Adobe Digital Editions books in ePUB and PDF format.
Sony Reader Pocket Edition PRS-300 vs. Touch Edition PRS-600
The $100 additional a Sony Reader PRS-600 costs gets you a lot of features: a larger display, touch screen with a touch-optimized user interface, built-in dictionary, annotations (both scribbles and hilighter), PDF zoom (not just font size changing), both SD and Memory Stick Pro Duo slots and a faster CPU with quicker page load times for more complex formats like PDF and ePUB. We'd wager that some folks will go with the PRS-300 due to its smaller size and those new to ebook readers might opt for the least expensive model just in case they don't like the experience. Those who've grown up with the eInk displays on the Kindle and non-touch Sony models and are in love with the no-glare, high contrast display may pick the PRS-300 vs. the PRS-600 even if they'd like the PRS-600's other features. That's why both products are on the market. We can't tell you which to choose, but the obvious criteria are screen size, price, touch screen vs. extraordinary clarity and portability. Personally, I went with the PRS-600 since I love its features and though it's not quite as high contrast or glare-impervious as the PRS-300, it's plenty good enough for me given the other desirable features it offers. But if this is your first ebook reader and you want to test the waters and prefer something that's small, the PRS-300 makes a lot of sense. If you can't live without wireless and a way to shop for books using the reader itself, get a Kindle or wait for Sony's Daily Edition, due out for the holiday shopping season 2009.
The PRS-600 and PRS-300.
Though some will lament the passing of the Sony PRS-505, both the Sony Reader Pocket Edition PRS-300 and the Sony Reader Touch Edition PRS-600 are excellent ebook readers that are well-made, attractive and have a bookstore with an ample number of commercial titles behind them. Throw in a half million Google public domain works and library books that work natively on the Sony Readers and you'll spend hundreds of hours doing tree-friendly reading. The PRS-300 is a perfect entry level reader and is great for those who value extreme portability. If you just want to read books and not business and academic PDFs formatted for 8.5 x 11 print, the reader does the job handily and the display is top notch. Though Sony's tier 1 reputation and turnkey design are worth a lot, more adventurous readers who don't require a large online bookstore might be tempted by Astak's new EZ Reader Pocket Pro 5" which does offer more features for the price.
Web Site: www.sonystyle.com
PriceGrabber comparison shopping:
Where to Buy
Display: 5”, 8-level grayscale display, Vizplex E-Ink Electronic Paper technology. 800 x 600 resolution.
Unsecured Text: BBeB Book, ePUB, Adobe PDF, TXT, RTF, Adobe Digital Editions, Microsoft Word (Conversion to the Reader-requires Word installed on your PC)
DRM Text: BBeB Book (Marlin), Adobe Digital Editions ePUB and PDF.
Horsepower: 200MHz ARM CPU. 64 megs RAM, 512 megs flash memory with 440 megs available. Linux OS.
Dimensions: 6.25 x 4.25 x 0.3 inches. Weight: 7.76 ounces.
Battery: Rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery, not user replaceable. Up to 7,500 page turns per charge (6,000 for ePUB). Approx. 2 hours to charge via AC and 4 hours via USB from powered PC. Uses the same charger as other Sony Readers and the PSP (charger sold separately).
In the Box: The Sony Reader, USB cable, neoprene carry case, Quick Start Guide.