With all the posts I do about Amazon’s Kindle (of which my new one should arrive today) and Barnes and Nobel’s Nook I often forget to even mention Sony’s lineup of e-book readers. This is mostly because Sony’s line has had a major drawback, it requires syncing with a desktop computer using their software that only works on Windows. The only time I run Windows is via a virtual machine. Some time ago Sony introduced the Reader Daily Edition that included 3G capabilities allowing you to untether from your desktop but by that time the Kindle already had a solid foot in the door.
Today Sony announced some impressive updates to their Reader lineup. Namely all three models now have touch screens, E Ink Pearl (the same screen used in the new Kindles), and the Daily Edition now supports Wi-Fi (because everybody else was doing it). But one major speed bump lies between Sony and relevance, price. The Reader Pocket Edition, their cheapest device, comes in at $179.00. At this price it includes no connectivity options except tethering it to a computer. For $189.00 you can get the Kindle with both 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity and for $199.00 you can get the Barnes and Nobel Nook with the same. The only Sony Reader with connectivity options (both Wi-Fi and 3G) is the Daily Edition which comes in at $299.00.
Of course Sony can point to their touch screen but that really doesn’t enhance the experience enough to justify the massive increase in price. E Ink displays are slow meaning you aren’t going to get instant feedback when you do something that requires the screen to change. Even with a touch screen you’re not going to be able to scroll down through a book on the Sony Reader as you can with your web browser on a smart phone. If you try to flick the page down the entire screen will take a noticeable fraction of a second to refresh. It’s not that big of a deal really but it means the addition of touch screen controls really isn’t going to add anything over the hard button controls the Kindle uses. The Nook has the second LCD touch screen that avoids the Sony Reader’s problem as LCD’s refresh faster than the human brain can notice making it appear instant.
Still the addition of a touch screen E Ink display is pretty cool and I have to had Sony some credit on that.