Sony Reader WiFi PRS-T1

For reading novels, my first choice for eReaders still remains the Sony Reader. Don’t get me wrong, there is still nothing quite like the look, feel, and smell of a real live book. But for on the go reading my Sony Reader is a permanent pack list item when I travel. Yes, the iPad, Kindle, and Nook color offerings are pretty, but you try reading a novel or two with backlighting and tell me if your eyes thank you for it.

Eventually, digital magazines will figure out how to take full advantage of creating a richer experience with digital media, but for now they are not ready for prime time. Honestly though, at what point would it stop being a magazine and just a web page? I still cannot deny the visceral experience of buying a magazine off the rack and being able to dog-ear, flip back-and-forth, and, fold a magazine in hand.

Sony’s WiFi model was just released and I’m happy to report that I am still a big fan. Grateful to finally break the tether between my computer and my Reader, the WiFi addition is a welcome one to Sony’s Reader line.

Words are bright and sharp on Sony’s unmatched display. The controls are responsive and reliable, detracting nothing from the reading experience. The touch screen is improved from prior versions without sacrificing the sharpness and clarity of the displayed text (a problem I had with touch screen offerings from other manufacturers).

I applaud Sony for continuing to drive interesting features like integrating Google Books and allowing you to check-out digital books from your local library. I just tried doing so from a nearby library and the experience was easy and convenient. Thank you to Sony for trying to help keep our libraries open and relevant. Thankfully, Sony was wise to adopt the EPUB format early on and I am glad that books I buy at Sony’s eBookstore can be read on a range of non-Sony devices (not so for Kindle).

I don’t really have much use for the included stylus as I’m not convinced this form factor is conducive to activities that I’d want a stylus for (studying, highlighting text, research, etc.).

I do have a few nitpicks about the Reader and they aren’t unique to this model. More a disappointment that Sony still hasn’t addressed them. Firstly, Sony still hasn’t fixed their integration with Adobe ID and still continues to be a single point of failure for my Reader experience. If your Sony and Adobe ID accounts are out of sync (and you’ve purchased Adobe-protected content), then you get stuck with no way to proceed forward. This happens on the WiFi reader, all prior Sony Readers I’ve had, the Sony Reader software for PC and Mac, and Sony’s online bookstore. Seriously, Sony, please fix this. You are letting a third party hijack your customer experience and worse yet, completely prevent us from doing anything.

Secondly, with the introduction of the WiFi model I was hoping that Sony would finally do a better implementation of RSS feeds. In the past, you were severely limited to a handful of offerings. I had been so disappointed with past attempts that I didn’t even realize they had removed RSS feeds from the Sony bookstore offering. In the end, this isn’t so tragic for me as I don’t imagine using my Sony Reader for a lot of RSS reading (my iPhone/iPad does just fine), it just seems a shame given great services like Instapaper and Yahoo! Pipes that would make a great addition to the reader. Incidentally, none of the other readers do this well either, so no biggie.

One final concern I have is that Sony is pricing itself at a disadvantage. Again, I pick the Sony Reader over any and all other readers when it comes to reading novels. And I’ve tried pretty much all of them, Nook, Kindle, iPad, WISEreader, Iliad, Kobo, and so on. Shoot, I still even have my old Cybook. Now that’s hardcore. For those who look purely at the device for the purposes of reading a novel $149 is still a value. The problem is that this pricing will invite unflattering comparisons to devices like Kindle Fire which can do so much more for just an additional $50. This keeps the Sony firmly in the niche with dedicated novel readers like me.

ASIDE: I’ve long been a critic–and continue to be–of the Kindle line as it pertains to reading novels. However, I think there are some exciting opportunities coming up for the Kindle Fire that I’ll write a bit more on soon.