Almer S. Tigelaar

A Little Bit of Everything

Sony Reader WiFi (PRS-T1)

Being an avid reader, I find it inconvenient to carry around heaps of books. Luckily, there is a solution for this: an e-reader. These devices have both improved in quality and steadily dropped in price over the last couple of years. I decided to bite the bullet and buy one.

There are plenty of options, some major product lines are: Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Sony’s Reader. After some careful deliberation I choose Sony’s newest offering: the PRS-T1, known by the friendlier name “Sony Reader WiFi”.

Sony had a plethora of different Readers before, but decided to consolidate everything into this one new model, which is the first in the Reader line to offer WiFi. The PRS-T1 uses a six inch e-ink Pearl screen which offers excellent contrast and makes for easy reading in both natural and artificial light. The device is extremely light and conveniently sized for easy holding. Although, the cover with built-in light makes it quite a bit heavier. Nevertheless, there’s also a cover without light, and of course: if you want a cover you’d have to buy it separately: it’s not included in the package. The stylus can not be placed in the device, so it’s nice to have a cover to clip it on.

My main gripe with the device is the glossy border of the front panel which is somewhat annoying when reading under a bright light source. Additionally, the Sony Reader WiFi has a tendency to do full screen refreshes, which makes the e-ink screen flicker quite often. When reading books or navigating through the interface this is not really a problem. However, when browsing the web the screen often flickers two to four times when loading a page, which is distracting. On the bright side, the screen itself looks extremely crisp, the infrared touch screen is fairly responsive, and the pinch & zoom is a welcome feature especially when reading PDF files.

The Reader uses a stripped down version of Android under the hood, which is noticeable when navigating menus. The interface is well thought out: putting books on the device, or downloading them via Sony’s Reader store, is quick and effortless. Some of the options that are offered are quite nice, such as a choice between built-in dictionaries, quick search and hand-written note taking capabilities. The 2GB of built-in memory can be expanded with a micro-SD card, which is probably only useful if you want to use the device’s MP3 playback capabilities or if you store huge collections of books on there.

If it isn’t obvious yet, I am quite sold on this gadget. It’s affordable, quick, light and perfect for a polyreader like me. The Sony Reader is already widely available in the United States and will be available in the Netherlands in the coming week. This will likely become a popular holiday season gadget, and rightly so. Nevertheless, when I walked through a Barnes & Noble store yesterday, I felt both preemptive nostalgia and despair: am I walking through what will one day be a museum? There’s definitely value in holding a real book. Hence, I am feeling ambivalent towards the replacement of my beloved physical books with electronic “equivalents”.

2011-10-16-Barnes-Noble
The Graphic Novels section in Barnes & Noble

A quick final note on Amazon:
Amazon’s e-readers are quite popular in the United States. They come with free worldwide 3G, good quality screens and are very affordable. Until recently these models lacked touch screens. However, that has changed with the Kindle Touch. Amazon also recently launched the Kindle Fire which lacks 3G support. The Fire looks to me more like a tablet, not an e-reader. Amazon cites its broad selection of content as the Fire’s unique selling point. However, I have my doubts about whether that will convince anyone outside of the US. Amazon’s lack of support for the open ePub standard, dubious history with remote book deletions, and the recent controversy with their Silk web browsing acceleration, have convinced me not to buy their products.

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