Sony Portable Reader is Wasted Potential

SONY recently released its Portable Reader device, which is intended to be to books what the iPod is to music. CAMT had the opportunity to play with the device a few weeks ago, so I thought I'd post my impressions, as well as my thoughts on the usefulness of the Reader for arts organizations.

First, the Reader's "digital paper" screen technology is pretty amazing. The digital text truly looks like it's printed on paper, and eye fatigue is greatly reduced in comparison to reading on a standard monitor. Unfortunately, that's SONY's only real win with this device.

My biggest complaints:

1) There is no note-taking function. The one thing I love about paper is the ability to circle things and make marginal notes.

2) The page turn function is slow. If I'm reading 'Pride and Prejudice,' the lag time doesn't bother me much, but if I'm trying to quickly skim through a document, it's a pain.

3) You can't feasibly read a PDF. Measured diagonally, the Reader's screen size is about six inches, and that's the biggest we could make an uploaded PDF document. Obviously, it's not very comfortable - no matter how much the screen looks like paper - to read an 8.5" x 11" document on a six inch screen. Also, even if there is some magical, unintuitive zoom function, who wants to constantly be zooming and scrolling to read a document?

I suppose the Reader was designed simply for enjoying novels, and for that it might work just fine, but I'm always disappointed when new technology fails to live up to its potential. The SONY Reader is like that really smart kid in high school who could have grown up to cure cancer if only he hadn't fallen in with the wrong crowd.

Oh, SONY Reader, why did you fall in with the paperback novel crowd, when you could have become a new way of reviewing documents on the go?

The organization with which we were consulting was hoping their constituents could use the SONY Reader to review manuscripts, but there is no way a human could comfortably read multiple pages of multiple documents on the Reader without succumbing to head-bursting migraines.

Recently, I discovered the iLiad reading device by iRex Technologies, and I'm very intrigued. Once we get a demo model, I will post a review, but the iLiad seems to have both the note-taking and enlarged screen we were seeking from the SONY Reader.