sonyreader-505sToday your Sony Reader PRS-505 will be able to read the new ePub format format and PDF, even if the e-books are DRMed—after you do a firmware upgrade.

Until now, the PRS-505 couldn’t display ePub and could read only nonDRMed PDF.

That’s part of what the upgrade, online later this morning, will make possible. I can’t wait to see if the PRS-505 can now read DRMed bestsellers in PDF from local libraries. No endorsement of DRM implied.

A Sony executive broke the news about the upgrade yesterday with the understanding that we withhold it until 12:01 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time today. The official news releases appear after this article.

Go here for actual firmware upgrade, while looking for a documentation link, and here to obtain Adobe Digital Editions 1.5 if it is not on your desktop system already. You can use DE or updated Sony eBook Library software to transfer files to the PRS-505 via USB. Before you download the firmware update, choose the right operating system for your desktop. Remember, the update may not be online quite yet. Latest: As of 8:03 a.m. EDT, I did not see it.

New Sony Readers to include upgrade starting next month

Sony’s PRS-505 update isn’t all, of course. Next month PRS-505s will show up (on Sony’s site and in stores) with the new firmware in place, according to Brennan Mullin, VP of the audio division of Sony. A limited-edition, red-colored Reader, in celebration of the new upgrade, will augment the silver and blue models now available.

The addition of ePub will "give our customers an even wider choice of titles," Mullin said of selections for the 505, which can now read 40,000 titles from the Sony store.

For the first time, an E Ink reader will be able to render the new IDPF standard natively—definite progress toward audio-CD-like compatibility for e-books.

A more open Sony Reader

Without the slightest need for Sony’s involvement, independent e-bookstores will be able to offer non-encrypted ePub to PRS-505 owners without any need for them to convert it. The Kindle can read ePub books by way of conversion through the Mobipocket Desktop program. It cannot read DRMed ePub or DRMed PDF from any vendor. Alas, most major publishers still insist on DRM.

By contrast, the PRS-505 will be able to read DRMed books in both ePub and PDF formats, which is significant for customers wanting to access already-bought books in PDF.

Definite plus despite no ePub in Sony store

Sony’s upgrade does not extend to the earlier PRS-500, and Mullin revealed that the Sony eBook Store would still offer books only in the company’s BBeB format—partly with the 500 in mind, and partly for commercial reasons. Mullin told me that Sony wanted "creative control"—for example, the ability of Sony to link content to its format. I’ll root for Sony to rethink that one.

Just the same, the overall news from Sony is a definite plus. Mullin, moreover, didn’t rule out a 500 upgrade; the issue is the size of the user base.


On other matters, Sony:

–Mentioned the PDF reflowability feature, which presumably means you can change type size without broken lines. I have not yet seen it in action.

–Said it could not reveal when the next major update of the PRS-505 would come.

–Revealed that the company might be open to a wireless version of the Sony Reader if enough customers showed interest. If? I think that means that will see a wireless version.

The boldface issue

I also asked Sony about an issue dear to me from an accessibility viewpoint—the possible addition of a way to turn all text of an e-book into boldface, which would make it easier for many people to read off the E Ink screen, especially in dim light. The word is that the company is still considering the issue.

The screen durabilty issue

Yes, I inquired about screen ruggedness. “We’re pleased with the durability of the product,” said Sony spokesperson Valerie Motis, who says she has toted a 505 in her purse without any hassles.

All in all, yesterday’s teleconf was encouraging despite the Sony store’s lack of ePub, a shortcoming that I hope will go away in time. May Amazon soon follow Sony’s lead and let the Kindle be able to render ePub natively!

The Sony news releases

News releases from Sony provide additional technical details, as well as carry statements of support from major publishers. I’ll reproduce them ahead.



New Format Support Paves the Way for Vast Amounts of New Content

Sony today announced that its Reader Digital Book will be the first eBook reading device to support the EPUB format, the International Digital Publishing Forum’s XML-based standard format for reflowable digital books and publications.

Starting next month, new Readers model PRS-505, will be able to access and accept secure and non-secure ebooks in the EPUB format. EPUB has gained acceptance among major trade book publishers, many of whom have committed to begin publishing forthcoming ebooks in the format.

Additionally, the device will support Adobe eBooks with digital rights management and have the capability to reflow standard text-based Portable Document Format (PDF) eBooks for improved flexibility and readability. These enhancements are now made possible with the support of Adobe Digital Editions 1.5 software, which is available as a free download at

"The Reader is an open device and we will continue to explore formats that will provide the widest variety of content for Reader users," said Steve Haber, senior vice president of consumer product marketing for Sony Electronics. "This upgrade opens the door to a whole host of paid and free content from third-party eBook stores, web sites and even public libraries."

Reader users can transfer these documents to their devices using Adobe Digital Editions software, or via the updated Sony eBook Library software that comes packaged with new Readers. Current owners of the PRS-505 model can upgrade their units now from the Sony support site.

"We are excited about the support of the EPUB format, PDF reflow and Adobe Digital Editions in one of the most popular and advanced eBook reading devices," said Dan Baum, vice president, New Business Initiatives at Adobe. "Adobe Digital Editions is transforming the digital reading experience through its support of open standards and broad content availability from retailers and libraries."

PRS-505 model Readers will continue to support BBeB formatted eBooks offered at the Sony eBook Store. Therefore, users can retain and grow their current collections of eBooks without having to reformat or repurchase them. All files are conveniently managed by the eBook Library software.

In celebration, Sony will introduce a limited edition red PRS-505 model. It will ship with EPUB and enhanced PDF support right out of the box. The red Reader will be available next month at SonyStyle stores and online at

About the Reader

The Reader Digital Book by Sony is a portable reading device for eBooks. Its high-resolution electronic paper display delivers a realistic print look that rivals traditional paper and uses minimal power. A single battery charge provides up to 7,500 pages of continuous reading.

The Reader retails for about $300 and comes complete with a USB cable; eBook Library software; and a color-coordinated, protective soft cover. Users can download the upgrade for current PRS-505 models, starting on today from the Sony support site and Adobe Digital Editions 1.5 software from: More information about the Reader Digital Book is available online at

For additional information about the Reader digital book, your readers can call (888) 315-SONY, or visit Sony’s web site at: For complete specifications and digital images, members of the news media are invited to visit Sony Electronics’ news and information web site at



Publisher Support

“When we became the first major publisher to embrace EPUB as our sole production file we made a commitment to our partners to ramp up our title output to meet growing consumer demand. We’ve done that and are thrilled that Sony is embracing device interoperability. This is terrific news for the eBook industry and consumers alike.”
Neil De Young, director of Digital Media at Hachette Book Group

“Sony’s support of EPUB is an important step forward in the cooperation of publishers and portable digital book manufacturers to create better experiences for readers. We’re thrilled with the upgrade; it provides readers with more opportunities to enjoy Harlequin stories on their Sony Reader.” -Brent Lewis, vice president Digital & Internet, Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.

“This is great news for consumers because it broadens and simplifies the eBook experience. Readers can now get copyright protected eBooks from retailers or libraries and conveniently move them between devices and desktops.” – Ana Maria Allessi, vice president, Publisher of HarperMedia

“We have invested a substantial amount of time and money in delivering our author’s works in electronic formats with our partners at Sony and through other ebook delivery formats and retail channels. We expect EPub will expedite that process, conne
cting readers with the works they want to read, in the way they want to read, faster than ever before.” -John Schline, senior vice president, corporate director of Business Affairs, Penguin Group

“We are pleased that Sony’s Reader will now support the EPUB open format. This new open standard will make eBooks and other documents more accessible and user friendly, and will ultimately be an important factor in the long-term growth of the eBook marketplace.” -Doug Stambaugh, executive director, Business Development & Operations, Simon & Schuster Digital


  1. Keep us posted, Hadrien. For those who don’t know, Feedbooks is probably the biggest source of public domain and Creative Commons ePub books right now. I’m especially happy to be reading ePub books on my iPhone via the Stanza program on theiPhone. And now to do the same with my Sony Reader and DE! David.

  2. This is not a firmware update, but an update to the Connect Library on the PC. I don’t seem to be able to find any firmware update to the 505 itself. I installed the Connect update does not change the 505 firmware. Will there be a second update coming for the machine itself?

  3. Got the firmware and the new reader software and digital editions. I have put a number of epubs on my reader and a drmed pdf from digital editions. The new digital editions version noticed there was a reader plugged in and authorised it. Great!
    Reflowable pdf does seem to have the nasty habit of cutting words in two. Which makes a text very awkward to read.