October 3, 2007 Many bibliophiles feel that paper is an irreplaceable medium, but the inexorable march of the digital age is bringing new products into the marketplace that bridge the gap between the traditional book and the sheer convenience of electronic storage. Sony has just released the upgraded second version of its Reader digital book - a compact, comfortable and lightweight viewing platform that allows you to carry up to 160 full novels around at any time.
At a mere 9oz, the Sony Reader is lighter than most books. Its screen is a comfortable 6” “electronic paper” display, different to an LCD in that it’s not backlit – rather, each page “prints” onto the screen as it’s displayed. Effectively this means it’s easy to read without squinting, and it can be viewed from any angle or in bright sunshine, unlike an LCD. A resolution of 170 pixels per inch is more than twice the resolution you read an HTML webpage at on your PC, so it’s sharp and clear to the eye.
The screen, from E Ink, is somewhat fragile and expensive to replace (roughly the cost of the whole unit) so buyers are advised to treat it with care.
Upgrades over the original Sony Reader include a faster E-Ink refresh rate, brighter white state and 8-tone greyscale rather than the 4-tone of the earlier model.
The new Sony Reader charges in about 4 hours from go to whoa through a USB port, which also handles the synchronisation process. A single charge provides up to 7,500 page turns of continuous reading, so battery life seems sorted enough to last you a whole week’s holiday reading if you’re not too voracious. Standard internal memory is 64mb – enough for plenty of text – but this is expandable through memory sticks up to 4GB or SD cards up to 2GB.
As well as doing its best to render 8-tone grayscale versions of your JPGs, GIFs, PNGs and BMPs, and providing a cursory MP3 and AAC music playing facility, the Reader will happily display TXT, RTF, PDF and Word documents, as well as the BBeB Book format, which is a DRM-enabled format that’s used, for example, at Sony’s Connect online bookstore.
The Connect store sells a range of fairly recent bestsellers in the BBeB Book format, with some publishers now releasing digitally on the same date as the printed release. However despite the fact that you’re not paying for printing, binding, materials or delivery, Connect’s prices are only about 20% less than the same books delivered in paperback from Amazon.
The combined wealth of human knowledge is slowly being brought into the digital age thanks to ambitious projects like Google Book Search and of course, there’s a huge amount of free and fantastic literature available all around the Web that’ll slot straight into the Reader without costing you a dime, so perhaps there’s an economy in it if you’re into classic rather than contemporary.
The Reader unit will be available this month through www.sonystyle.com for about $300, complete with cables, software and a soft, protective cover.
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