In the world of the future, we'll all ride on the backs of giant robot weasels, eat food that was grown on Mars and freeze-dried into the shape of Peter Falk's head, and read our books from the flicker-free screens of electronic books. "Electronic books?!" I hear your scoff, "are you a mad person with the brains of a no-brained idiot?" No, sir, I'm not - and Sony are here to back me up.
Our man with the imprint of a thousand gadgets on his hands, Vincent Nguyen, got the chance to play around with the new Sony Reader - an e-book which takes advantage of crystal clear electronic ink to mimic the readability of paper while maintaining the capacity, flexibility and personalisation of a computer. The six inch display has a resolution of 160 DPI and is surrounded by a lightweight (9oz without the cover) and thin (1/2") frame. Dedicated buttons can bookmark - complete with a cute folded-corner - skip chapters and control the volume of the on-board mp3 player.
The lithium-ion battery should manage 7,500 page turns, thanks to e-ink only consuming electricity when the screen changes, and can be recharged in four hours when using the wall-wart and six hours via USB.
It's not just e-books, mind; if you've ever wanted to look at your favourite comics in greyscale then you'll be pleased to know that it displays jpgs, bmp, png and gifs, as well as unprotected pdf files. You can read RSS feeds on it, too, though the absence of wifi connectivity means you'll have to load them on in advance via the Sony Connect software.
Ah, yes, software. This being Sony, you'll have to put up with their pesky DRM and oft-crappy programmes. e-books themselves are copyrighted, although given the absence of printing costs the 10,000 available at launch should be cheaper than on the shelves of your local Borders. Expect that number to climb as publishers realise that they'd rather see you buying electronic data than something you can re-sell in a second-hand bookstore. Re-downloading previously purchased titles is allowed, too, which will come as a relief should you accidentally reset the Reader. Storage space on-board (64mb - enough for up to 80 books) can be expanded using either Memory Stick or SD.
Overall, Vincent thought it was deeply cool and easy to use; not sure if he'd spend the $349.99 list price, though. If you reckon you could, then you'll be pleased to hear that Sony are taking pre-orders for delivery in November.
Sony Portable Reader System [SonyStyle.com]