Thursday, October 12, 2006

A Momentary Strand of Drool

David Pogue has a review of the new Sony Reader in today's NY Times. This is the latest attempt to make e-books on a standalone machine palatable to the masses.

At the start of the review, it sounds good. The screen is apparently easy on the eyes, the text size is adjustable, and while on a given page, the unit requires no power whatsoever to maintain the display. "Turning" the pages is what costs power, and Sony says that you can do that 7500 times before needing to recharge. The built-in memory will hold about eighty books, and there's a memory card slot for expansion. At $350, it sounds almost tempting.

Unfortunately, reading further makes me think, okay, we're not quite there yet. You can't search the text using this machine, there is a "white-black-white blink that quickly becomes annoying" every time you turn a page, and one of two ways to get new content onto the reader is to use "a somewhat buggy Windows program." (That last bit of Pogue's prose brought to you by a grant from the Dept. of Redundancy Department, no doubt.)

I don't know why this has to be such a hard problem. It doesn't seem like we're asking for Mr. Fusion here, or even a personal Jet Pack. Still, this latest effort gives me the hope that at least a few of the early adopter crowd will buy one, and that will stimulate enough buzz to interest, say, Apple in making a serious effort to come up with a good one.

Well, maybe not Apple. They seem to be focused on convincing us that a 3" TV screen is what we really must have. Unfortunately, most books, unlike most TV shows, are scarcely improved by demagnification.

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