A taste of the Sony e-reader

We’ve had a Sony e-Reader around the office for a few months now and we’ve used it from time to time to read a few heavyweight pdf documents on long train journeys. But it is only in the last few days that I’ve really got my teeth into it and used it to read an entire book.

Firstly, on the positive side, there is no doubt that it has saved me lugging around seriously heavy chunks of paper on a number of trips. The e-ink screen is good and after years of squinting at laptop screens when I inadvertently end up in a sunny window seat on the train, this is a real joy to read in bright light. It’s also pretty readable in low light. The ability to be able to zoom in on a particular page is also excellent.

Less positively, the page refresh is on the slow side, maybe a second, and this has a noticeable affect on your reading. I also found that the inability to thumb through a book or flick easily from one chapter to another became annoying after a while. You can do these things with the device’s various buttons, but it’s just not as intuitive. I’d also like to be able to scribble notes on pages which is a feature that’s only just been added to the new version of Sony’s device. As a Mac user I was also a bit annoyed that it took several months before Sony had a Mac OS version of their eBook library software.

Sony, of course, are not alone. Indeed, the launch this month of an international version of the Amazon Kindle has generated a lot of newspaper reviews (including an unusually excoriating one by Lynne Truss in the Sunday Times). Some even think these devices will be this year’s Christmas hit. Booksellers Barnes and Noble have got in on the act with an exclusive device called The Nook, which has just launched in America.

More interestingly, Spring Design have announced a dual screen device that has an 6″ e-ink screen area for book reading and another, smaller, LCD screen for Web surfing. The idea is that as you come across hyperlinked items in the book or report you are reading you can click and be taken (on the second screen) to the item in question. This points towards making e-books a different, more interactive experience to the traditional book (which has been much discussed in publishing circles).

Looking at these devices though, I have to say, I think there’s a huge, crisp, perfectly formed piece of fruit about to drop on this market. At the moment it doesn’t officially exist. It’s the Apple tablet and I suspect that will be the Christmas hit. In 2010, that is.


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