E-Readers Up Close: Getting to know the Sony Readers, Part 3

By William Stanek
November 15, 2009

William Stanek here, continuing with the in-depth look at e-readers and e-books. The recap: In my earlier blog entries, I've explored the ins and outs of e-ink, electronic paper displays (EPDs) and e-readers. Now, I'm examining individual readers as a case study in how e-readers work. As I stated last time, my hope is that if you are better informed, you can decide whether e-readers are right for you. So here's another installment in the Sony Reader discussion and don't miss the upcoming discussions on "PC Reader Wars" where I delve into Kindle for PC, Sony eBook Library, and Adobe Digital Editions. These three software programs are (or will be) the leaders in the eBook library for PC marketplace.

The discussion: On the top of the Sony Reader, you'll find a Power switch and expansion slots. The PRS-700 has a slot for the stylus on top as well. When you want to transfer media to the reader, you connect the reader to your computer using a USB cable. While the reader is connected via USB to your computer, the reader can charge as well. It takes about four hours to fully charge the reader via a USB connection.

Both the PRS-505 and the PRS-700 can use the optional AC power adapter model AC-S5220E. As the AC power adapter model is the same for both devices, you can use the same power adapter with either device. It takes about two hours to fully charge the reader using the AC power adapter.

Whether you are working with the PRS-505 or the PRS-700, you use the Power switch on the top of the device to turn the reader on or off. If the reader is off, sliding the Power switch to the right powers on the reader. When the reader turns on, the indicator light turns orange momentarily to indicate the device is starting up.


With the PRS-505 and the PRS-700, sleep mode is enabled by default. When sleep mode is enabled, the reader automatically turns off if you don't use it for 60 minutes except when you've connected the reader to the computer, connected the reader to the AC adapter, or are playing audio files. If the reader is on and you slide the Power button to the right, the reader turns off and also enters sleep mode.

When you wake the device from sleep mode using the Power button, the reader will immediately resume and show the previously displayed screen. Fast resume is possible because the reader maintains the state and continues to consume power, albeit at a reduced rate, while in sleep mode.

For the device to stop consuming power, you must shut it down. However, turning on the reader from the shutdown state takes longer than turning on the reader from the sleep state. With the PRS-505 and the PRS-700, Device Shutdown is an option accessible on the Advanced Settings menu. When you select this option and then slide the Power button, the reader shuts down.

With the PRS-700, you can shut down the reader by sliding and holding the Power switch for more than 3 seconds. If the PRS-700 is in sleep mode, it shuts down automatically after 60 minutes of inactivity when the battery is low or after 5 days of inactivity otherwise. For more information about power management, see "Using and Configuring Power Management" in Chapter 2.

On the bottom of the reader, you'll find:

  • A Light switch that switches on or off the built-in light (PRS-700 only).
  • A DC In jack that you use to connect the AC power adapter to the reader.
  • A USB connector that you use to connect a USB cable to the reader.
  • A Headphone jack that you use to connect headphones.
  • A two-way volume button for adjusting the volume up or down when you are playing audio through headphones.


Leaving the device in sleep mode for too long can run down the battery. You'll also use the charge in the battery faster when you play audio files. The amount of power used to play audio can be affected by the playback volume as it takes more power to produce audio at a high volume than at a low volume.

In addition to these core features, you should also know about the Reset button. The Reset button is on the back of the device and can be pressed using a small pin or the tip of a paper clip. With the PRS-700, the tip of the supplied stylus can be twisted off to reveal a second tip that can be used to push the Reset button.

If the reader doesn't function as expected, such as may happen if the device locks up, you can reset the reader by pressing the Reset button. The screen will not change after you press the Reset button. When you reset the device in this way, the content and settings stored on the reader are not affected. After pressing the Reset button, you can turn on the reader by sliding the Power switch.

Digging Deeper An important periodic task that you may need to perform with the reader is a firmware update. If you haven't previously upgraded the firmware of your reader device, don't worry the process is easy and straightforward. On the Settings menu, you can display the current firmware version of the Reader as well as the device's digital identifier by selecting the About option.

The Sony E-Book Library software checks the firmware version when you connect the reader to the computer using a USB cable. As long as you start the software and then connect the reader, the software will prompt you whenever a firmware revision is available with a version number higher than the one currently in use on your reader. You'll be prompted to either upgrade the firmware on the reader or postpone the upgrade. If you elect to upgrade the firmware, do not turn off the computer or the reader until the upgrade is complete and finalized.

Okay, time for me to get back to work. Thank you for reading! Hope you'll take a look at my new book Windows 7: The Definitive Guide.

William R. Stanek
williamstanek at aol dot com

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