Thanks for the advice. I shut off the auto launch and synch setting in the reader library. Also I let the reader charge on the USB cable overnight and then performed a soft rest and then turned it back on. It appears as though the soft reset doesn't do anything - i.e. no reformatting or anything. I also did a hard rest as well (Power off, reset button, power on, and < and Volume+ at the same time. When I did this, all my books, music and pictures that I had on my reader were erased (no problem, still have them on my PC). After all that I connected it to my PC, but no different. The PC still does not recognize what device it is, only that something was attached.
Something ion your note does make me wonder though. I got tired of always using the PC/USB to recharge the reader. Had to take my PC on trips just to charge my reader! So I bought a standard USB wall charger and used that. Is it likely that I have damaged my reader by not using a special Sony wall charger?