Sony Digital Book Reader Touch Edition – Is There a Place For it in the Digital EBook Reader Market

Back in August, when Sony Corp made the announcement they were to release three next generation digital eBook reader models, questions were asked about their rational in including the mid range Sony digital book reader touch edition in that line up. Few industry analysts, if any, thought there would be any takers for a model that pitch itself, right there, up against the very popular Amazon Kindle, which was also the market leading device at that time.

In the short time since the release, it is now crystal clear that the prs600 has caught the imagination of the buying public, in a way Sony must have only dreamed of, fully justifying their brave (some may even say risky) decision to include the model in their impressive product range.

I have always maintained the need for more affordable models, cut down on some of the needless hi-spec and give the public affordability so more people can join the reading revolution. Sony, in my eyes, have given us that with their entry level model, the Prs300. In December their new wireless model, the Daily Edition, will hit the stores and slot straight in to the high end of the market, retailing at an expected $399 US. What the Prs 600 Touch Edition does is compromises and gives buyers a real choice. It sells at $299, the same price as the wireless Kindle 2, but offers potential purchasers the obvious differences between the two models.

Although this is not the first Sony touch screen model, it has to be said, it is unrecognizable from the Prs 700 that included a backlight. Done to improve readability in strong sunlight, it’s inclusion only resulted in poor contrast and higher than necessary battery load, due to having to keep the light on even in normal reading conditions. Things move on and eInk have made massive improvements in their e-paper technology, since the release of the Prs700 back in early 2008. Gone has the back light, draining the battery every couple of days, you can now buy a cover for your digital eBook reader that includes a light, but this will set you back another $50 or more. The touch edition does not have the elegant case of past models, but does however come with a neoprene cover giving the devices display protection, unlike either the DX or 2 from Kindle that don’t include a case of any description.

Let’s take a closer inspection of the main reason to opt to buy the Touch Edition over the Kindle2, the touch screen.

No button to turn the page with this Sony digital book reader, a simple swipe of the finger, customizable to the left or right, results in the page being turned backwards or forwards. Not exactly how you would turn a real page but as close as dam it and a step closer in my mind to that missing link between user and machine.

By double tapping a word on screen you can discover the words meaning from an in built Dictionary. The book marking facility can be accessed through the touch screen too, just double tap in the corner of the display to add or remove bookmarks. Options is also accessed through the screen, making this probably the most intuitive digital eBook reader in the price range, bringing up the menu on screen so you can operate the digital drawing tool or highlighter. Any drawing or highlighting you make is then saved to be downloaded at a later date, with support for PC or Mac.

Another handy feature, one I can see myself using regularly, accessed through the touch screen is Text memo, where you are able to store any notes such as contact names and numbers, shopping lists, in fact most anything you need to remember. In place of a keyboard like the one used on the Kindle, which is visible on the device at all times, the Sony Digital Book Reader displays one on screen. This small point makes the Prs600 more elegant and pleasing to the eye than other digital eBook reader devices, notably the Kindle. You can also use the handwriting option from the screen, which lets you use the supplied stylus or even your finger to make notes, transfer them to word and then edit and export them.

As I said at the top of this article, the Touch Edition does not use wireless connectivity, to connect to the online book-store, but by using your computer and the USB 2.0 supplied you are able to download straight from the Sony eBook Store. Here you can access free ebooks from the 1 million plus titles in Google’s library and the library finder can direct you to libraries in you locality that give you a three week, free rental service on digital books, for use on your digital eBook reader. Handy feature Sony. The Sony Digital Book Reader is available in red, black and a silver livery, and the touch screen, wireless PRS600 will fill a niche in the market that, in contrast to what the industry experts predicted, will make it an important component in the Sony Digital Book Reader family.