I saw the Reader back at CES this year and despite my own skepticism, really liked it. The screen was incredible, highly legible and much easier on the eyes than LCD. The technology the Reader is based on, e-ink, has been around for a few years, but there have been no consumer applications until now.
If you’re inclined, here’s a bit from the Times explaining how e-ink works:
Sandwiched between layers of plastic film are millions of transparent, nearly microscopic liquid-filled spheres. White and black particles float inside them, as though inside the world’s tiniest snow globes. Depending on how the electrical charge is applied to the plastic film, either the black or white particles rise to the top of the little spheres, forming crisp patterns of black and white.
In any case, the screen looked great and the device had a lot of promise. Sadly, many of the features (which aren’t core ebook features to most) are either poorly implemented or require Sony’s PC only software. The device, besides reading books from Sony’s store, will also read RSS feeds, pdf and Word files.
And unfortunately, there is the rub. The Reader will only read RSS feeds that Sony has pre-selected and the Reader will only update those feeds once a day.
Pdf files must be re-formated for the Reader to render them properly. From Walt Mossberg’s review:
But the Reader’s claim to display PDF documents proved hollow. In every PDF document I tried, the text was nearly unreadable and the text resizing feature of the Reader didn’t help. Sony concedes that PDF documents work well on the Reader only if they are created for the Reader’s screen size and resolution. But it includes no conversion software to make them fit.
Maybe I’m being too nit-picky. The Reader will fit exactly one of my needs – I read a lot of books, but I never know what I’ll be in the mood to read. The Reader will reduce a stack of books to the size of a paperback and works almost as well as the paper it replaces.
I think I’m still waiting until version 2.