The folks at Sony were kind enough to loan me one of their e-book Reader devices for a review. I've been skeptical about this product since I first saw it in person at CES last year. I figured I needed to give it a shot before making a final decision though.
Now that I've had it for awhile I have to say the results are mixed and that the cons still outweigh the pros. Nevertheless, it's important to note that this is really a version 1.0 product and I'm optimistic about the future of portable reading devices.
First, the negatives... It's too expensive. $350 is way too much for the resulting portability and convenience. It's monochrome. I'm trying to give Sony the benefit of the doubt with a first-generation product; given that this version is intended for books, monochrome isn't horrible, but full color will be required for magazines and other more interesting content. It has no wireless capability. Again, down the road this will be a critical component for fast and easy content updates/access. You can only buy content through Sony. Sony can't seem to get past this whole, closed, proprietary model of the world -- it seems they only become more closed as the rest of the world continues to open up.
Those are some pretty serious shortcomings, no doubt. How about the positives? It delivers on the promise of being a handy, portable device that can hold a load of content and rarely needs a charge. But the device's single most important attribute is its readability. I can't say enough about how great a job Sony did on the display design. I've been reading a book on it for the past several days, using it inside, outside and even in direct sunlight -- the readability is nothing short of spectacular. In fact, I'd prefer reading a book from this device over a printed book any day.
To be successful, however, Sony needs to figure out how to add functionality while decreasing the price. That's a tough proposition but it's the only way an e-reader will be a hit. As I've said before, if they can make one that's full color, offers WiFi access, expands beyond books to include newspapers, magazines and other dynamic content (including full web access) and has the same high-quality readability of this first-generation device, all for less than $200, I'll be first in line to buy one.
P.S. -- I hate to have to send this loaner back later this week -- I'm only a couple of chapters into the book I downloaded!