PSP as an eBook Reader for PDF Files

August 9, 2009

I've been following the evolution of ebook readers for quite some time but I'm still convinced they're not ready for prime time yet. While I wait for a decent dedicated device I decided to go for a temporary solution: Sony's PlayStation Portable game console, a.k.a. PSP. It costs half the price of any ebook reader on the market, or even less, and if it does not perform a good job as a reader at least it can be used to play some games.

In this post I'll focus on the PSP as a PDF reader. I'll publish another post covering CHM files in a few days from now.

Since the PSP does not support PDF files by default a PDF reader application is required. This means you also need a custom firmware that supports homebrew applications in order to run it (use google if you don't know what I'm talking about).

As PDF reader I recommend Bookr Mod. Bookr Mod is based on the original Bookr project with some additional features and bug fixes. I never found a PDF file that could not be opened with this application and performance is in general quite good, although some pages with images can take several seconds to display.

During the last few days I tested dozens of PDF files, mostly ebooks. The results vary from good (very few) to almost impossible to read (many of them). Since files can only be read comfortably if the entire line is displayed at once, without the need to scroll horizontally, results depend greatly on the characteristics of the original PDF file: big font and/or small line width => good result; small font and/or large line width => poor result.

Although many PDFs can't be read due to the small text size, my opinion is that the PSP does a decent job and justifies the money I paid for it. Bellow you can see some photos comparing the PSP output to the original book so you can judge by yourself (click on the images for full size).

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  • Image 1: Example of a book in PDF format that can be read quite well on the PSP.
  • Image 2: The same book as in image 1 but with PDF color inversion activated in Bookr. From my experience this is the most comfortable setting for indoor reading.
  • Image 3: Example of a PDF harder to read due to a large line width.

Update (June 2010): Since the original post in August of 2009 I've read five or six full PDF ebooks in my PSP. Bookr Mod is an excellent piece of software with some fine details that make the reading experience fantastic. The problem is that most PDF files cannot be read comfortably in such small screen meaning that reading choice becomes very limited. Therefore, I'll stop using the PSP as my primary reading device and I'm already searching for an alternative. At the moment the strongest candidate is SmartQ V7 from SmartDevices.