Back in the way, way, WAY back world of 2006 — which was only 8 years ago, but that’s a LONG time in terms of technology — Sony was about to make a strong attempt into the electronic reader market with its Sony Reader PRS-500. The PRS-500 was a slim, lightweight 6-inch tablet-like device with an E ink display, boasted a battery-life of the equivalent of 7,500 page-turns, an optional memory card port for SD cards or Memory Stick Pro — by Sony; or course — and came with a dock and USB connector that allowed for transferring purchased from PC to device. With the PRS-500, customers had the chance to purchase and download any e-book of the then-10,000 titles available at launch from the Sony online store. Plus, if you wanted to, you could read your PDF and Word files, look at most image files, and play some MP3 and AAC audio files.
At the time, Sony wasn’t alone in the early years of the e-reader wars in 2006, as the iRex’s iLiad and the STAReBOOK were launching in stores around that time, and there were rumors that Apple would throw their hat in the e-reader ring as well. So you ask “what happened to the PRS-500? Well, the first problem was that Sony’s initial release date for the device was pushed back by several months, which irked many potential early adopters. The second — and probably biggest — problem was that during the PRS-500’s delay, this other e-reader device from Amazon was released that I don’t think anyone has ever heard of. The Kindle. Which launched on time. Unlike the PRS-500. And sold put in only five and a half hours. Plus, the Kindle Store had access to approximately 88,000 e-books via the Sprint wireless network, far more than the sparse 10,000 from Sony’s store.
When the SRS-500 finally did launch, if was fairly well received. CNET’s loved the expansion storage options, media features and battery life, and their review noted other pros like:
Slim and relatively lightweight; screen requires no backlight and is easy to read in bright environments…font size can be adjusted with a single button push.
However, CNET also noted some cons with the device:
…feels a tad sluggish, with a short but noticeable delay when turning a page; controls aren’t as intuitive as they could be; interface could be slightly easier to use; Sony’s online Connect bookstore is still a work in progress; proprietary Connect book files aren’t compatible with other devices and are often as expensive as paper books; Connect software isn’t available for Mac owners; no support for Audible audio books.
At then end of the day, Amazon essentially won the e-reader war, but that didn’t stop Sony from developing its own e-reader hardware line over the years with over 10 iterations and a loyal diehard fan base. However since then, Sony has closed its Reader store — which redirects consumers to the Koko e-book store run by Rakuten — , which is likely a concession to Amazon’s Kindle Store.