When we found out a couple of weeks ago that Sony was going have a Reader event in New York on October 2, we assumed--but weren't entirely sure--that the company would be announcing a new electronic book reader. Well, Sony has introduced a new Reader, the PRS-700, and I got to play around with it at the event.
Before I get into impressions, let's start with the highlights: As rumored, the PRS-700 has a built-in LED "reading" light (though it's not a backlight). There are no wireless capabilities, but Sony's moved to a 6-inch touch-screen display. Also, the new Reader has expanded built-in memory (up to 350 books) while retaining its Memory Stick Duo slot.
It's zippier, too--when you turn a page, the e-ink on the screen refreshes faster (we were told the PRS-700 has a faster processor than the earlier PRS-505, but we're waiting to confirm what the processor is). All of these upgrades add up to a higher price tag: the new Reader will retail for $400 when it comes out in November. That's over $100 more than what you can get the PRS-505 for today.
If you can ignore the high price for a second, the PRS700 is definitely a step forward for Sony in the digital-reader arena. If ever there was device that would benefit from the switch to touch-screen navigation, it's an e-book reader (Irex was the first with an e-ink touch-screen display, but that device was prohibitively expensive).
Like the iPhone and other next-gen touch-screen phones that have been appearing lately, the Reader incorporates some gesture-based commands. You can swipe your finger across the display to page forward or back (you can choose between a left or right swipe to advance pages in the settings menu). Swiping and holding your finger down at the end of the swipe allows you to advance or rewind through pages at a fast clip.
With the included stylus or your finger you can highlight words and add annotations via a virtual keyboard. The Amazon Kindle offers this feature via a Blackberry-style keyboard. However, the Kindle doesn't have a touch screen.
It's also worth noting that Sony is continuing with its effort to brand its Readers as "open" devices that are capable of reading multiple file formats. The press release says: "With the included eBook Library 2.5 PC software, you can easily transfer Adobe PDF documents with reflow capability, Microsoft Word documents, BBeB files and other text file formats to the Reader. The device can store and display EPUB files and work with Adobe Digital Editions software, opening it up to almost a limitless quantity of content." … Read more