back to article How to hack a Sony Reader

Amazon’s Kindle receives plenty of publicity, but it’s only available in the US. Book buffs elsewhere have to content themselves with other e-book readers, of which one of the most popular is the Sony Reader. The PRS-505 is available from High Street stores like John Lewis and Waterstones, making it one of the more visible …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mac compatibility

    Sony is promising Mac compatible software by the end of this month to coincide with the launch of their new readers. But as the article says, if you can persuade a tame Windows user to let you register your machine on their PC just the once, you can use the Reader quite happily on a Mac.

  2. The Indomitable Gall

    Oooh... neat...

    But it's still the best part of £200 and there's no expansion ports. Boo. :-(

  3. Bernie 2
    Thumb Down


    "Book buffs elsewhere have to content themselves with other e-book readers"

    WRONG! Book buffs don't use ebooks. ;)

  4. Gerard Krupa

    Hack FAIL

    Sadly there's no good hack available yet to fix the atrociously bad rendering of PDF books on the reader.

  5. Charles 9

    What about the PRS-700?

    All this is fine and dandy, but will it work with Sony's top-end model, the PRS-700? I'm not so much into hacking the thing, but being able to run some types of apps like sudoku and maybe even a crossword puzzle would definitely pique my interest.

  6. David Haworth

    I really fancy one of these

    but the RRP is a bit high for m to buy a brand new one. My question is though, why are the second hand ones still so expensive? even on ebay, the rpices are in excess of £150 often, even for devices that are a year or two old. cars would love this kind of depreciation!

    If this kind of device gets cheaper and is still fairly flexible in what it will read and not have network access (ie, the kindle) then I'd be quite interested.


  7. Stu


    Thanks El-Reg, this might actually coax me to take my PRS-505 out of my cupboard since January this year!

    Only trouble is, can somebody clarify - my Mum brought me back my PRS-505 from the States? I'm in the UK. I'm presuming all these hacks still work, I'd just need the US firmware file(s)? No changes to 'procedure' or anyfink?


  8. Michael Habel
    Dead Vulture

    It uses Java Script

    What are the chances that someone could write a malicious script and kill your eBook Reader then??

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    @The Indomitable Gall

    I assume you mean something other than memory expansion, as my PRS-505 sports both an SD Card slot and a Memory Stick slot.

  10. E 2
    Thumb Up

    Bernie 2

    Exactly correct.

  11. Richard North
    Thumb Up

    @ Bernie 2

    This book-buff loves his 505 - it's one of the best investments I ever made, however my wife liked it so much we had to buy one for her too a couple of weeks later...

    It's not a replacement for 'paper' books, obviously it lacks their 'feel', but it's a damn sight more portable than several dozen of them would be when I'm travelling, and much more legible than many in poor conditions too, so it saves me from suffering book-withdrawal symptoms.

    The PDF rendering some complain about is a non-issue in practice, I simply render 'oversize' books to plain text before putting them in the reader in the first place... the battery-life is a lot better that way too.

  12. Dapprman

    @ The Indomitable Gsll

    It's been only £150 at for a while now, but I do agree with you, it's still a lot of money.

  13. Nigel Whitfield.

    PDFs, other firmware versions

    The Universal Flasher merges what's on the device with the new XML and image files, so if you put your changes in the appropriate folders (and you'll see there are ones for the US firmware versions), then you can hack it in exactly the same way.

    You should also be able to put the UK firmware on the US model, to the best of my knowledge, but since it has a higher version number you won't be able to go back, using the standard Sony utility.

    As for PDFs, if you try to look at, say, an A4 magazine page it'll not be brilliant, especially if you try to zoom, at which point the Reader will reflow. But the 1.2 firmware does improve PDF performance over the original.

  14. iamapizza

    Kudos to the author

    Just wanted to say that this is a very well written article, well done to the author. Well summarized, good amounts of detail, clear concise language.

    Although I was hoping to hold out for the Kindle if it ever arrives in the UK, this article does make me, perhaps, want to buy a Sony Reader just so I can do all this.

  15. Laurent_Z
    Thumb Up

    PRS-505 - Best ebook reader yet...

    I have the mentioned sony prs-505, and it has been my best friend for travel and commuting, on a par with the ipod and pretty girls.

    There are also some linux scripts allowing you to transform "automagically" any manga in a rar or cbr form to a pdf. You can just add them to your Nautilus scripts folders and have them available on any folder with a right click.

    I'm currently holding almost 1000 titles in the my reader, with lots of mangas and ALL of the Nebula and Hugo awards since their inception.

    Only hack that is still missing is a specific logo for books you aleady read. With close to 1000 titles in it, even if you remember the story you sometime forget that you already read that title...

    Ah, yes. Being GSM/Wifi less, the books I have are there to stay, barring an sd card / reader disfunction....

  16. Geoffrey W

    @Richard North

    Just have to second that - Another book buff here, including book buff wife who also just had to have one too since we spent more time fighting over it than reading.

    Ever since getting one of these fabulous devices I have become an E-Reader bore but I have to admit that until the price of the devices falls a lot, and until the price of the books and their DRMs are both reduced, then I cant see them taking off significantly in the general market, which is a shame because I absolutely adore this thing.

    I'm a bit wary of fiddling with its internals though in case I somehow brick it. It kinda feels like it would feel if I contemplated home surgery on my wife's internals trying to improve her. I would be desolate if I bricked either of em.

  17. peter garner

    Ah, remember the PSP

    This is good news, and I'm sure there'll be some truly useful/interesting/cool stuff written for it, but unless Sony have changd overnight it won't be long before this goes the way of the homebrew PSP..

  18. MarkOne

    PDF Non-issue

    The same old Sony haters google and drag the same old crap out...

    The eBook readers are fantastic, I wouldn't be without mine on the train, or any long--ish trip.

    As for the 2nd hand price, the fact it's not dropping as fast as you hope, that indicates people are buying them and keeping them, a good indicator of a quality product. Unfortunately some one the chavs that hang out here wouldn't know a quality product if it came up and smacked them round the fact. The downside is quality does not come for free, you have to pay a small premium for it.

  19. This post has been deleted by its author

  20. Jelliphiish
    Thumb Up

    @ dima..

    home insurance clain? or some such similar insurance prod to replace rather than repair?

    i wouldn't mind one of these but i'm a habitual late-adopter.. mostly due to financial constraints.. and i might never put the thing down if i had one and that might be a bad thing.

    i liked the article and it's light approach as an intro on how-to etc. well written, more of this please Monsenior El Vulture.. this is much better than the bash-the-government-for-yet-another-software-snafu stuff.. :)

  21. John Ridley 1
    Thumb Up

    @Gerard Krupa: re PDFs

    If your reader isn't rendering PDFs well, make sure you're running the latest firmware. I agree that the firmware that shipped with my 505 was hopeless on PDFs, but since getting the new firmware I read quite a bit in PDFs and it's totally fine.

    Since PDF is a page-description format, it's really not suitable for ebooks, and it's foolish for people to publish ebooks as PDFs, but if that's all you have, then reflowing like the new firmware does is about the best that can be done.

  22. Dr. Vesselin Bontchev
    Black Helicopters


    Auto-executed JavaScript on removable SD cards?! Uh-oh! Here come the viruses...

  23. Geoff Campbell Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    @ Well, pretty much everybody

    I've had a PRS505 ever since they went on sale in the UK, being both a book buff (whatever one of those is) and a lover of gadgetry in all its forms.

    Several points spring to mind:

    1) As has been said, when travelling, one PRS505 is way more portable than even a couple of paperbacks. Compared to the 5 or 6 paperbacks I used to carry, it's no contest, and the electronic version allows even more variety. Battery life is good for 2 week trips without a recharge, even when spending hours every evening in hotel rooms reading.

    2) The price. I paid £200 for mine. However, I have read well over 100 free books on it, there's a huge amount of copyright free classic stuff out there for free download. As these are all out of copyright, they would normally retail at £2-3 in paperback, so the device has paid for itself and more, and has expended my reading as a bonus.

    3) The scope. There's a load of stuff out there for download that is out of print, or never made it into print in the first place. I've found loads of stuff from the golden age of Science Fiction, for example, all out of copyright and freely available. One day I might buy a book for download, but I doubt it will happen any time soon.

    The lack of depreciation despite there being no stock shortage should be the clue. These are deeply gorgeous machines (let down, as ever, by the shite supporting software - pull your finger out, Sony....).


  24. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Yep, temptation won in the end.

    I bought one of the Sony readers recently because it clearly now does a little more than when first released and there is so much material to read. And it seems there are people dedicated to removing the defective-by-design DRM from protected books so many of those can be had free too. But of course if the publishers would make eBooks a little cheaper then buying them would feel less of a rip-off.

    Now, all I need is to find time to live, work and sleep in between reading and I'm all set!

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