A couple of months ago I let my innate love of gadgets get the better of me and I picked up a Sony Reader. I’m going to gloss over all but the most interesting bits, you can find all the technical details on Sony’s site.

  1. The Screen: The crowning jewel of the Reader is the screen. The eInk display is a whopping 150dpi, has fantastic contrast, and has a 180 degree viewing angle. It doesn’t have a backlight, so you do have to have a light source to read by, but that also means that it is extremely thrifty as far as battery consumption is concerned. It really does seem like you’re reading from a printed page. It’s that good.

  2. Battery Life: Sony advertises 7,500 page turns. I’m not sure that I believe them, but I know that I can get at least 4,000. I typically recharge every 3 or 4 books, at around 1,000 pages per book, and my reader hasn’t come close to running out of power yet.

  3. Format Support: It supports Sony’s proprietary BBeB format as well as RTF, PDF, and JPEG for display. It also has a rudimentary MP3 player, but I haven’t bothered with it since I already have an iPod. The PDF support has a few gotchas, and it’s really only good for all text material, so if you have PDFs that have a lot of figures, the Reader is not a good choice for viewing them.

  4. Content: Sony’s Connect store has a fairly limited selection of books, but it seems to be growing at a reasonable rate. There is quite a bit of text content available online from sites like Project Gutenberg, and Baen offers all of its books in a number of DRM-free formats. I haven’t had a problem finding things to read, but it is definitely a limitation right now, particularly if you have a specific book that you’re interested in reading and aren’t willing to limit your selections to what is available.

  5. Navigation: The biggest weakness of the Reader is its navigation. The eInk display refreshes slowly, around 3 seconds per page turn, so Sony had to get creative with the UI. They added ten buttons across the bottom of the Reader as well as a 4 way thumb stick. You can navigate menu items either with the thumb stick or by pressing the corresponding number directly. The page refresh speed isn’t really an issue when reading, but is definitely an annoyance for navigating the UI for selecting books. Fortunately, when reading the only two buttons you’ll care about are the next and previous page buttons, and they work just fine.

All in all, it’s a great device. It keeps me from adding to the mountain of books that I struggle to find places to store and ensures that I’ll always have something new to read when I finish whatever it is that I’m reading at the time. Highly recommended.