Monday, October 02, 2006

Sony Reader Is a Work in Progress (Wired)

So what's not to like? Well, this isn't a book you'll blithely toss on the couch or the floor at chapter's end. At $350, it's not cheap, particularly when some used tablet PCs or discount laptops -- which provide much more functionality than the Reader -- could come in around that figure. It also has no color, which the manga and the digital photos seem to cry out for. There's no way to input or search data, so it's not going to have any multifunction uses like some PDAs. (There is bookmarking and a History utility to cover some of those functions.) There's no wireless access, so it must be tethered to a computer for file management. There's no backlighting, so real in-the-dark reading isn't possible. No display of video. No touch screen. And I miss the sound of a page turning.

I gave three of my colleagues a sort of Malcolm Gladwell Blink test by handing them the Reader and asking for their instant impression. Two out of three ooohed and aahhhed, and the other was immediately turned off, saying, "I'd never want to read a book on one of those things." My own feelings are an amalgam of theirs: Having used the device for many hours, I found it to be a comfortable, pleasing way to read, after initial hesitance. And it's a sharp-looking, techno-wow device with a durable feel. Its size, its screen, its general "thingness" were all appealing. But I love the feel, heft and smell of books, the tangible touch of the page, seeing their spines on the shelves.