Sony Reader Model 700 Raises the Bar

Sony recently announced a new touch-screen Reader model PRS-700. Having gotten a little hands-on time with the new Reader, I’m sold! It is by far the most polished eReader product have yet used. Touch-screen works well, and to me is far more appropriate for a reading device than a space-consuming keyboard like the Kindle, and the back-light makes total sense and eliminates the one arena where traditional light-emitting displays have been superior – reading in the dark. CNET published a first look review here. I won’t repeat its points, other than to confirm that, yes, the touch screen does not yield the same instantaneous swoosh as the iPhone (the 700 uses a totally different technology, not to mention being handicapped by the E Ink display’s sluggish refresh rate). Yet, the touch screen is still a vast improvement over buttons, and I quickly got the hang of it.
Both the PRS-505 (with latest firmware) and PRS-700 fully support the PDF and EPUB standards, both open access and protected with Adobe ACS4 DRM, which means commercial eBooks can be purchased from hundreds of retailers and borrowed from thousands of public library systems. To me this is table stakes interoperability for a device worthy of my investment and attention. As a consumer, lock-in sucks. Sony has their own Connect eBook store, which they have been steadily improving, but I am not stuck with it as my only choice.
I’m on record as saying there isn’t going to be an “iPod of eBooks” – that the market will evolve more like digital cameras, with devices from many vendors meeting different sets of requirements. I still think that’s the way things will play out, especially with the desire to read on smartphones and notebooks as well as dedicated reading devices. But, from a pure consumer electronics lust perspective, the Sony Reader PRS-700 comes the closest of any offering yet released to causing me to change my mind. No doubt about it, it is worth the price bump from the PRS-505 model (which is still available) – that would be true just for the faster CPU alone, much less all the other additional features.