Sony Portable Reader makes reading on the go easy

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This month I found a way to combine my love of books with my love of gadgets! I have always been intrigued by the concept of not having to carry around a ton of reading material when I travel, etc. But my attempts to eliminate this clutter with an electronic device have so far been unsuccessful. Enter the Sony Portable Reader…

Weighing in at nine ounces and only one-half-inch thick, the Sony Portable Reader is the coolest thing I’ve seen in a while. Sony has developed “E-ink (electronic paper)” technology, which remarkably resembles real paper. The six-inch screen is clear and crisp and unlike most monitors or computer screens, does not hurt your eyes after hours of viewing. The text can be magnified up to two times, and the pages adjust automatically.

It’s easy to see in the daylight (although there is no back light – which helps with eye strain) and has a rechargeable battery which lasts for 7500 page turns. It has 64 MB of internal memory (which will hold about 80 normal sized books) but supports expandable memory [Sony Memory Stick and Secure Digital (SD) cards]. 

Memory cards are cheap and a good investment so you can carry around a whole library if you want.  The navigation is fairly easy to learn and you “turn” the pages of the book via one set of two buttons (whichever you prefer depending on how you hold the reader) located on the front of the device.

OK – here’s the kicker… As with most Sony technology, they have a proprietary “hold” on the Portable Reader. Although the Reader supports PDFs, pictures and music files (and you can download these to the reader without any problem), it’s meant to be used with the Sony CONNECT book store. This is where you can buy book titles in the BBeB (Broadband Electronic Books) format and download them to your computer for use. The titles bought from Sony are optimized to the right resolution and typeset for the Reader. These BBeB files are the files that make the Reader worthwhile. They are secured files (meaning you can’t share them with others) and they are in a proprietary format (meaning Sony developed the format to work with only their devices).

The store is not nearly as advanced as the reader itself, but it works. The book selection is not what it needs to be at this point, but Sony assures me that it will be expanding its selection and including more titles and publishing houses in the near future. I have managed to find plenty of books to download and read but they are mostly mainstream bestsellers. If you’re looking for the most popular gay titles currently available, Sony CONNECT store doesn’t have them yet – I’ve looked.

As for the prices, they are reasonable. They are cheaper than print copies but they are still a little high for a digital file in my opinion. As for the other files the Reader supports – PDF files are often testy to view, pictures are in gray-scale and I’m not sure why you’d load music files onto this. I don’t want to listen to music while I read and if I did, I’d use my iPod. All files are transferred through your PC (sorry – no Mac support) via a supplied cable.

As with most new technology, who knows if this will take off? The eBook market has not been a good seller in the past, but most people thought that Apple was crazy when iTunes first emerged. I LOVE the idea and as a heavy traveler, I have been so thrilled to load 50 or more books on my reader and throw it in my bag for a week-long trip! It was nice to sit on the beach in Florida and read several books without the bulk in my beach bag. I read Anderson Cooper’s Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival. Great book by the way – he isn’t just a handsome face.

Final opinion, the reader is a costly ($350 – but Sony is running different specials every month to promote the Reader) solution that will make your life easier. If Sony promotes this right, brings prices down on the Reader and the book titles, and gets more publishing houses on board with the technology, I could see this taking off.

It’s available via Sony’s Web site (http://www.sonystyle.com) and at your local Borders and Target stores.