I think of the three Sony readers with the updated touch screens as the Lexus, the Mercedes, and the Hummer. The Lexus, or the Sony Pocket, is slender, trim, comes in pink and is luscious. The Hummer is the Daily and my gosh golly it’s huge. Built like a Zagat’s guide on steroids, with wireless and a touch screen interface and did I mention it’s huge? It’s like a reading sky scraper.
The middle one, the Touch, I think of as the Mercedes. And I want to be clear here, the high-end car analogy, which I will absolutely beat into the ground because that’s what we do with analogies around here, is pretty apt and I don’t mean it as an insult. The new Sonys are expensive. The Touch is $229 US, the Pocket is $179, and the Daily is not on sale yet but one presumes higher than $230. Compare that to the Kindle, which is $189 for Wifi and 3G, and $139 for Wifi-only. The Nook is $149 for WiFi-only access. In other words, for $10-20 more, you can get a device that has Wifi-connectivity for loading and buying books from the unit itself, vs. the Pocket which does not have any connectivity aside from a USB cable. This is a big issue for me as a reader and is the biggest difference, I think, between the Nook & Kindle and the Sony suite of devices.
Let’s get to the good part of the new Sony Touch. Oh my gosh almighty the screen is gorgeous. The touch screen film that was present on prior models from Sony is gone, and the text is now crisp and clear. The contrast has been improved and the screen itself is freaking awesome. The device is very light weight, despite being made of metal (vs. mostly plastic like the Kindle or Nook) and the red one I have here as a demo model is really quite spiffy looking. It is slightly thicker than the Kindle, and smaller in height, but they are about the same width.
Here are some pictures comparing the Touch to the Kindle 3 (I do not have a Nook and can’t photograph for comparison – I’m sorry about that).
The touch screen on the Sony is incredibly easy to use. It has a quick response time, and I could both bookmark or, using the stylus, scribble a note on the page I was reading. Ultimately, I found myself using the buttons to turn pages, though, because if I accidentally rested my finger too long on the screen – while picking up the device while I was reading a book or moving it out of the way while I was reading, for example – the pages would jump so far ahead or behind that I’d have trouble finding my place. There isn’t a “back” button to return me to the last place I stopped reading so I would have to swipe swipe swipe to return to where I left off before I accidentally jumped a few dozen pages.
I would love it if I could customize the zone where the touch screen would turn a page, and allow some of the screen real estate to be non-responsive. Ultimately I had the same problem with the Touch as I did with the original Kindle. It was hard to find places to handle the device while reading that didn’t immediately cause the device to do something, like turn 10 or more pages.
I have been thinking a lot about why Sony went with all touch screen devices. Given the touch interface of the iPod, the iPad, the iPhone, the Android phones, and everything else, is the touch the standard method of device interaction now? I like a touch screen, yes. I have an iPad and a Droid and between them and other devices, there’s a ton of things I touch to get them to Do Stuff… but I really don’t mind pushing a button to turn a page. In fact, I prefer it. If I want to touch the screen to read something closely, I prefer it not turn pages without my meaning to. There’s a lot of room for inadvertent touching (ha ha) with a touch screen, whereas with a clicking button, that’s it’s only function and it’s a lot easier to avoid messing up your place in the book. However, this could be because I’m a bit klutzy with my fingers. I know many people who love reading with a touch screen and have no problems turning pages using a finger swipe.
That said, there is one thing Sony has that the other don’t. No, two things. Organization capabilities, and format friendliness.
Me, I love the organization. I love the ability to tag books in Calibre and have a lovely selection of collections organized by whatever crazy method I want. I missed that with the Kindle 2 and Kindle 3. The on-board organization of K2 and K3 is ridiculously poor, and can only be managed ON the device. With the Sony plugged in, I can categorize and tag my books in all manner of different ways, and tag several at once using Calibre, and on the device I know which books are coming out which month, which belong to what subgenre, which are for review and which are for reading without review, and which were recommended by which friend. I’m dizzy just thinking about the joy of that organization. I also love that the Sony has memory card slots on the top of the device, meaning there are even MORE ways to organize my content, whereas the Kindle, picture beneath the Sony Touch, has… none.
Look at the nice organization on the right, compared with WTF is that on the left:
Plus, there’s the ability to buy a book at more than one store. Sony accepts .ePub, .html, .PDF, .rtf, .doc, .txt, and probably several more I am not thinking of. There are more places to shop if you have a Sony, and more places to price compare, especially since most stores carry .epub format books. In addition, you can borrow ebooks from a library that has a digital lending option and read those books on a Sony. Presently, it is not an option on the Kindle to read library books, while you can read library books on the Nook.
So with the spiffy screen and the light weight device design and the fantastic organization, what’s the downside to the Sonys, aside from price? Ease of Loading and Buying a Book Wirelessly.
With the Sony Touch and the Sony Pocket, you cannot buy a book without purchasing it on a computer, hooking up the device, and loading it on. If I want to load a file onto the Sony, I have to download the file from my inbox or buy it from the store, authenticate the purchase by whichever means that store/file prefers, then upload into Calibre, then tag and make sure the metadata is correct (IF I can even edit the metadata, which I usually can since I strip the DRM), THEN connect the Sony and move the file.
With the volume of books I’m moving around on a given day, that’s too much, and far too many steps. If I elect to use a Kindle, I will have to be more vigilant with my on-board collections management on the device, but that’s do-able. Nothing is going to make the Sony book loading process easier so long as there isn’t a wireless connection on board each device. And that’s a serious shame. I am not someone who has the time to download, then upload then move a book file every time I interact with a new book – for me personally, that’s several times a week.
Plus, and this is something that folks brought up in yesterday’s discussion of the Nook, the corners of the Sony are somewhat pointy and not rounded, and after holding it in one hand for an hour, I totally had a sore indentation on my palm from the corner poking my skin. Plus, as you can see in the picture above, the text size options are more limited than in other devices, such as the Kindle, and the more ways to customize the appearance, the better.
So the positives of the Sony: the screen is wonderful. You can organize your books easily, especially with free software like Calibre, you can shop in more locations, and you can buy more formats.
But it is more expensive, it does not have wireless, and those two factors mean that for me, it is not the right device. I have to return the demo model I have, but I kept asking myself, do I want to own one? Do I want to buy one and keep it as my main reading device?
For me: No, not right now. I will miss being able to look at the screen and see at a glance which books are October, which are November, which are paranormal and which are for review by request, etc. But the other factors that make the device more difficult for me to load are more of a negative than the slight positive of organizing my content once it is on board.
So, for whom does the Sony make the flirtatious come-hither expressions? If you are the type of person who:
- has saved up the good cash for a digital reader
– wants to borrow digital books from the library
– prefers to comparison shop for the best book price at online stores
– must have file organization with categories for your digital books
– loves a touch screen
The Sony Readers may work very well for you.
Do you have one? Do you adore it to no end? Share your preferences – or reason for not choosing the Sony. I’d love to hear your perspective.