Lookout engadget, it's my first consumer electronics scoop: at Digital Book 2008 today, Sony reader business development managers Bob Nell and Daniel Albohn, who were not listed on the online or printed programs, made a surprise presentation: they showed that Sony has worked out how to display ebooks in the standard epub format on the PRS-505. Nell started up the Adobe Digital Editions reader and dragged a DRM-free epub book and a PDF version of Suze Orman's book "Woman and Money" to the PRS-505 icon, and then used a digital overhead projector to show us the books on his 505, complete with reflowing and resizing of text.
Why is this cool? Because it lets us move epub and PDF files directly from our PCs to a high-contrast e-ink device. There's a lot of PDFs and documents that I can easily convert to epub that I want to read without printing out a pile of paper, so I'm psyched.
For now, It's not something you can do on just any 505, but because it apparently doesn't involve any specialized hardware, I'm sure that existing 505s will be able to do this after an eventual firmware upgrade. Nell said that Sony's corporate communications department forbid them from discussing such plans.
A few other notes from the one-day conference:
Big publishers are apparently buying Sony ebook readers in bulk and giving them to their staff to use for manuscript review so that they can reduce the printing and shipping costs that they spend on moving all those piles of paper around. Apparently it's pretty successful.
Harlequin's Malle Vallik did not just rehash her colleague Brent Lewis's talk from the O'Reilly Tools of Change conference, which I described in Finding an eBook audience: Housewives reading bodice-rippers? as very inspirational for anyone considering the ebook market; she described several interesting initiatives they've taken in the few months since then. Did you know that there's a literary genre called "Paranormal Romance"? They're all over it (note the "category" of these books), with a blog and, of course, ebook offerings.