Will Sony Beat Amazon Where It Counts?

sonyreaderIf you haven’t heard the news… Sony is releas­ing a new e‑book read­er, its answer to Ama­zon’s Kin­dle. Retail­ing at $399, the Sony read­er will fea­ture a touch screen (some­thing the Kin­dle does­n’t have) and the abil­i­ty to down­load books wire­less­ly (some­thing the Kin­dle does have). It will also pro­vide access to thou­sands of free (pub­lic domain) books & doc­u­ments pro­vid­ed by Google Book Search. A nice touch.

But I’m won­der­ing whether the Sony read­er will beat the Kin­dle in the one cat­e­go­ry that real­ly counts? Will it have a tru­ly read­able screen? The Sony and Ama­zon screens each use “e‑ink” tech­nol­o­gy, which does­n’t cut the mus­tard. As Nichol­son Bak­er recent­ly wrote in The New York­er, “The prob­lem was not that the screen was in black-and-white; if it had real­ly been black-and-white, that would have been fine. The prob­lem was that the screen was gray. And it wasn’t just gray; it was a green­ish, sick­ly gray. A post­mortem gray. The resiz­able type­face, Mono­type Cae­cil­ia, appeared as a dark­er gray. Dark gray on paler green­ish gray was the palette of the Ama­zon Kin­dle.”

Hope­ful­ly Sony fig­ures this piece out. If not, Apple may. Accord­ing to The Wall Street Jour­nal, Steve Jobs is back at Apple, just months after his liv­er trans­plant, work­ing hard and rais­ing the blood pres­sure of Apple employ­ees, as they pre­pare to roll out a mul­ti­me­dia tablet that’s rumored to include, yes, an e‑book read­er.

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Comments (4)
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  • We’ll know it when we see it, but this isn’t it. The Kin­dle is an unfor­giv­ably ugly piece of tech­nol­o­gy and these glo­ri­fied PDF read­ers are so lack­ing in func­tion­al­i­ty that 400 bucks is a joke. As much as any­thing, it’s about UI. I recent­ly took out a dig­i­tal sub­scrip­tion to ‘The Wire’ (yep, I paid!). The Exact Edi­tions inter­face is a pret­ty good start. I’ve not seen the elec­tron­ic ver­sion of the Nick Cave nov­el yet but this also sounds like a step in the right direc­tion. Trav­el books need to be loca­tion aware, con­tent needs to re-orga­nize itself accord­ing to con­text… there’s so many ways a book could work today. Just putting a plas­tic frame around it adds noth­ing.

  • Kurt Roithinger says:

    .me rolls eyes at the whole screen col­or thing.

    i thought the piece in the new york­er was a pret­ty bad joke, but if we just got­ta take it seri­ous…

    here’s the thing: the e‑paper tech­nol­o­gy is the thing that makes these devices viable. the abil­i­ty to read an e‑book with­out devel­op­ing eye­strain is sim­ply amaz­ing. this is why i’ve nev­er been able to do much with read­ing ebooks on my win­mo devices — or on my lap­top. or on my desk­top for that mat­ter.

    two hours of con­ti­nous reaid­ng was usu­al­ly enough to make me feel pret­ty darn awful.

    with the kin­dle? i’ve spent 8 hours of near­ly con­tin­u­ous read­ing last week­end and nev­er had a prob­lem with my eyes or any­thing else.

    it also helps (con­sid­er­ably) with bat­tery life (i’ve gone as much as 3 weeks with­out recharg­ing.)

    but yes, the screen is a bit grey in nature. it nev­er­the­less has excel­lent con­trast and read­abil­i­ty. i don’t need any more light to read by than with a reg­u­lar book and unlike a back­lit screen, direct sun­light real­ly isn’t a prob­lem either.

    if peo­ple want to be snob­by about the screens col­or, fine. most books i read are of a slight­ly off-white and some­times down­right yel­low­ish tint. this too must change! all books must be print­ed on vir­gin white paper with a bright­ness of no less than 94!

    the improve­ment to these read­ers real­ly boils down to devel­op­ing col­or screens and not look­ing for brighter back­grounds. i, for one, have no real inter­est in ever using a e‑book read­er with a back­lit screen.

  • Kurt Roithinger says:

    that’s pret­ty amaz­ing. the only light in my read­ing room is a night­stand light with a 40w flu­o­res­cent bulb — it’s more than enough for me. i some­times would have issues with hard­copy books cast­ing shad­ows over the page, but my kin­dle has been noth­ing but win.

    that said, we’re still talk­ing about a first gen device here. i still think crit­i­cal mass on these devices won’t be found until we get the col­or ver­sions of e‑paper.

  • Baxter Wood says:

    I have no prob­lem read­ing my Kin­dle and with siz­able type it’s more read­able than most books and mag­a­zines. There’s noth­ing wrong with the gray back­ground, New York­ers just like to whine.

    The deal break­er is that Kin­dle has the titles; Sony does not. What good is a eread­er with­out the ebooks. Kin­dle has 300,000 books mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers. I can pre­view every book and read reviews before I buy. Most books are about half of the print price.

    Show me some­thing bet­ter and I’ll buy it.

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