Gadget Gary: PRS-505 portable reader system

My biggest issue when I pack for travel is what book(s) to bring. Should it be a hardcover (awfully heavy in my carry-on), or a couple of paperbacks? Sometimes I choose a book based on its size rather than if I think I'll like it. It looks like SONY has solved that problem for me with the PRS-505 portable reader system, a.k.a. the Reader ($300, It's a small, lightweight device that allows you to store up to 160 books in a compact, easy-to-travel-with form. Think of it as an iPod for books. At 9 ounces, and with a highly readable 6-inch screen, it's as easy to carry as. . . a book!

Here's how it works. Plug the Reader into your computer's USB port, and it shows up as a drive. Open the E Book Program, go to the Sony bookstore, buy some books, and download them to the Reader. (Yeah, it's very similar to iPod loading procedures.) You can magnify the text up to three times (which I needed to do), and you can also download photos, MP3s, and Adobe and Microsoft Word files.

I thought that using the Reader might be hard on the eyes -- like looking at my computer screen too long -- but I'm happy to report that it was easy to view. My first tryout came during a 1-hour train ride where I read Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point. I have to admit that while the Reader felt just like a book in my hands, it took a few minutes to get used to the idea that instead of actually turning a page, I was hitting a button. (I got over it quickly, though.)

After reading 75 pages, the battery life was still full. My only complaint is that I wish it had a backlight for reading in darker environments. Even so, the next time I go on a trip, thanks to the Sony Reader, instead of bringing one book, I'll be bringing 160 books!

Gary Dell'Abate is the executive producer of The Howard Stern Show. Recently, he had been re-reading Private Parts and Miss America.