Kindle vs Sony continued

Please check out the Kindle 3 vs Sony 350 review for photos and a more formal comparison. This particular Kindle vs Sony comparison is just going to look at how the Kindle 3 stacks up against the Sony 350 (and by association the Sony 650) in a few specific areas.

PDF support on Kindle 3 and Sony 350

After checking PDF support in detail on Sony 350 and Kindle 3 it’s clear that Sony 350’s PDF support is better. It would have been a lot better since Sony 350 supports reflow – However, the reflow doesn’t work properly.

Here’s what happened with the first PDF -

  1. Changing the Font setting to ‘XL’ did a PDF reflow and everything was great.  
  2. Navigated to a Page with a Table and the PDF defaulted back to its tiny, unreadable size because the 350 couldn’t handle re-flowing the table.
  3. Couldn’t get re-flow to work on that page.
  4. Next Page had a table and re-flow was broken again. 
  5. Moved to the next page which didn’t have a table and reflow was working again.
  6. Moved to a page further on which had images and it reflowed but images stayed the same size (as in the original PDF).

Basically, PDFs reflow but they sometimes won’t reflow if a page has tables or images. That makes it a half-complete feature in my book.

On the other hand, the highlighting always work. Highlighting doesn’t always work on Kindle 3 so Sony 350 wins.

PDF support is better on Sony 350 but it isn’t a huge difference. Tables and Images are very common in PDFs and if your reflow breaks down a lot when there are tables and/or images that lowers the usefulness drastically.   

A Kindle 3 advantage is that PDFs are cropped by default. In Sony 350 you can go to a cropped page view but if you want to go into Notes Mode that view disappears. We’ll discuss the super-painful Notes Mode later.

We won’t talk about the 6″ screen vs 5″ screen but keep that in mind if you’re thinking of getting the 350. The difference between a 5″ and a 6″ screen is noticeable – 650 would be much better than 350.

The final caveat is that 6″ screens are way too small for PDFs. Anything smaller than 9.7″ and it’s not a very practical PDF reader.

First Use Experience

If you subscribe to the theory that wireless downloads and the ease and convenience aren’t a bonus – that’s fine. We can agree to disagree.

However, if your eReader can’t get books wirelessly you better make it super easy to move files to your eReader. There are a few problems with what Sony does -

  1. You have to download Sony Reader software to your PC or Mac and install it.  
  2. Your Reader software has to ‘authorize’ your Sony 350 for books.
  3. You have to transfer books through this software. Was able to find a way to move PDFs without using the software but couldn’t find a way to move books themselves – not sure if it’s possible. 
  4. To make things worse the software is terrible. It doesn’t work a lot of the time – Took 5-6 attempts to get books on to my 350.
  5. The Reader software has an in-built store. The only problem is you can’t open multiple book pages at the same time. It’s remedied by using the browser to navigate to Sony’s Reader Store website. The store in general is not very good and there are hardly any reviews.

In summary – It’s not just that you can’t get books to Sony 350 wirelessly in 60 seconds. You can’t get books to it in 60 seconds period.

Sony proves that it’s a hardware company and not a software company. Also, Sony probably doesn’t have anyone tasked with making things easy and convenient for users.

Ease of Use – Sony 350’s Notes Mode

It’s as if Sony asked its design team -

We have this awesome touch-screen.

Now, in theory, it should make it easier and faster to add notes and highlights. However, we would like you to completely mess it up and make it super awkward to add notes.

If you could do something like add a separate mode for each function that would be even better.

If you don’t do it, we’ll fire you.

Can’t think of any other reason a reasonable human being would design what Sony 350 uses as its ‘Notes Mode’.

Sony 350 has two different modes -

  1. There is a normal mode. The things you can do using the touchscreen in normal mode are –  turn pages, double tap a word to see its meaning, double tap and highlight a word, double tap a word and search for it in the book.
  2. There is a separate Notes Mode for adding notes and highlights. In this Notes Mode you have to tap a special button for each function. Tap the ‘highlight’ button and then you can add highlights. If you’ve tapped ‘highlight’ you can’t add notes and you can’t turn pages using the touchscreen. Tap the ‘Notes’ button and then you can scribble notes. If you’ve tapped ‘Notes’ you can’t turn pages using the touchscreen and you can’t add highlights. Basically, there is a special mode for highlights, another one for notes, and a third for deleting notes. It’s the worst user interface ever – You would be hard pressed to find anything more awkward.

Sony has a working full-screen touch screen and it chose to not use that and instead use a separate mode for each function. In comparison on Kindle 3 you can use the cursor and keyboard to add notes or add highlights or delete either or check a word’s meaning – All without going into special modes.

Sony could have used single tap, double tap, pinch, vertical swipe, and various other gestures to make everything quick and simple. Instead, it totally messed it up.

Places Sony does well on usability

There are a few places where Sony does well -

  1. You can tap any word twice to get the word meaning or to search for it or to highlight it. You don’t have to go into Notes Mode for this and it’s faster than using the Kindle 3’s 5-way. 
  2. You can add scribbles and write in the margins or on the words themselves. A nice feature. Note: Only available in Notes Mode.
  3. While reading books there is a zoom option that has a sliding scale. You can lock-in a particular zoom level. This is in addition to the different font sizes so Sony 350 basically offers 6 font sizes plus zooming and panning for books.
  4. The new user interface is touch based and quite nice. Sony should have put more thought into the home page – It would have been much better to show the last 10 books read or the last 5 books read and the 5 collections last accessed.
  5. It’s nice to have the Handwriting/free style drawing feature and the Memos feature. The memos feature is something Amazon should consider adding.

So Sony does improve the usability on some fronts but it sticks with its very faulty ‘separate mode for every function’ book interface design – a design that severely limits the benefit of having a touch-screen.

Compactness and Weight and Handling

Sony 350 is super light at 5.47 ounces while Kindle 3 is pretty light at 8.7 ounces. The weight of both is very low and unless you need a super low weight eReader the weight difference shouldn’t be a concern. Holding either for hours and hours, even in one hand, feels fine.  

Compactness is more of an advantage for the Sony 350 since it can fit into pant pockets and into tiny purses. Sony 350 is 5.75″ by 4.125″ by 0.343″. Kindle 3 is 7.5″ by 4.8″ by 0.335″.

Kindle 3 has a texturized rubber back that is easy to hold and provides a good grip. Sony 350 has an aluminium back that provides a decent grip. Both feel very good in your hand and handle well.

Page Turns

Page Turns take about the same time on Kindle 3 and Sony 350.

In terms of location of page turn buttons and ease of use and amount of effort required we have -

  1. Kindle 3 has page turn buttons on the left side and on the right side. You can hold it such that, regardless of whether you are left-handed or right-handed, your thumb rests right on the page turn button (you’ll have to make sure the pressure is not downward). Then all you have to do is press down. So Kindle 3 has really, really optimized page turns.  
  2. Sony 350 lets you use the touchscreen to do page turns and also has page turn buttons on the lower left. For the touchscreen based page turns you have to put in a tiny bit of effort since you move your finger off the edge/bezel and swipe the screen. The page turn buttons on the lower left are useless if you want to hold it in your right hand. You can use your left hand and then your finger would be resting on the page turn buttons and you could turn pages more easily.

Kindle 3 handles page turns better – There’s just more thought put into making page turns easy and reducing the amount of effort required.

One Handed Reading

Both devices are very good for one-handed reading due to their low weights and compact sizes. Kindle 3 is a little better at page turns (less effort) so it starts with a slight advantage. 

If you want to do more than just page turns the Sony 350 starts losing points quickly – 

  1. One handed highlights are almost impossible on Sony 350 since you have to click a button at the top left of the screen to go into highlight mode. You could switch to using your left hand but then you run into a different problem – the bookmark button and the button to exit ‘notes and highlights mode’ are on the top right.
  2. Since the menus are touchscreen based you have to be able to move your finger all over the page. That makes it really difficult to handle things with one hand.
  3. The Page Turn buttons and the Options (Menu) button are on the lower left and lower right respectively – So you have to move your hand around (and/or readjust your grip) quite a bit if you’re doing anything beyond turning pages. With Kindle 3 the 5-way and Menu button are quite close to the right side page turn buttons so everything’s easier.

Adding notes on either Kindle 3 or Sony 350 generally requires using both hands. However, you can do most other things easily on the Kindle 3 and, with a little more effort, on Sony 350.

Kindle vs Sony – Closing Thoughts

We end up with two significant advantages for Sony 350 – better PDF support, very compact size. If 5.4 ounces vs 8.7 ounces is significant for you weight is an advantage too.

We also end up with a significant advantage for Kindle 3 – a much better experience when it comes to buying books and getting them on the eReader. This is, in my opinion, the second most important eReader feature after the quality of the reading experience. Part of its importance stems from the fact that it’s a huge (and perhaps only) source of recurring revenue.

Kindle 3 is slightly better at page turns and is clearly better for one-handed reading.

Perhaps the most surprising realization is that despite having a touch-screen Sony 350 has slightly worse usability than Kindle 3. Sony’s lack of focus on making things easy and convenient for users shows up in a lot of places – it’s difficult to get books on to the 350, the notes and highlights mode user interface is a joke, Sony didn’t factor in that page turn buttons should be where the hand would naturally rest. Sony hasn’t put much thought into how readers would actually use the Sony 350.

The Kindle 3 is a better choice than the Sony 350 – do factor in your own needs along with the things discussed here and definitely wait to see what Nook 2 is like.

Kindle 3 vs Sony Reader 650 – Thoughts

We know what the Kindle 3 is like and we have a basic idea of what the new Sony Reader 650 might be like so Kindle 3 vs Sony Reader 650 is worth looking at.

This post will cover some quick thoughts on Kindle 3 and Sony 650. Note that all information about the Sony 650 is based on rumors. Will update when actual information is out.

Kindle 3 vs Sony Reader 650 – How do they match up?

It seems that the Kindle 3 and the Sony PRS 650 will be very close in lots of areas -

  1. Screen – The rumors about the Sony Readers talk about better screen contrast and other things that strongly suggest the eInk Pearl screen is involved. 
  2. Thinness and Compactness – The Touch Edition was the most compact second generation eReader and the new rumors suggest the 650 will be less than 10 mm thick – that’s .394 inches and close to the Kindle 3’s .335 inches. It’s quite possible it is more compact than Kindle 3 as it won’t have a keyboard or a 2nd LCD screen.
  3. WiFi – Both the 650 and Kindle 3 have WiFi.

They’ll also both be focused on reading. A pretty important distinction since it increasingly looks like the Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader will be the only 3 eReaders left standing once the eReader wars are over.     

Kindle 3 vs Sony 650 – Areas that each wins

Sony Reader 650 advantages -

  1. Touchscreen – supposedly with note taking abilities. Sony had pretty decent touch with free-hand drawing on the Touch Edition and hopefully they’ve improved on that.  
  2. ePub Support.
  3. Support for Library Books.  
  4. Choice of colors for the Sony Reader – Silver, Red, and Black. Kindle 3 is just white or graphite.

Kindle 3 advantages -

  1. Free 3G and free Internet.
  2. Text to Speech. When it is enabled by Publishers. 
  3. Better selection of ebooks. Lower prices for non-Agency Model books.  
  4. Longer battery life. Sony 650 is supposed to have 2 weeks and Kindle has battery life of up to a month.
  5. Higher storage capacity – 4 GB vs Sony 650’s 2 GB.

There are lots of Kindle 3 positives we can’t really list until we know more about the Sony 650.

Things that are unknown -

  1. Sony’s new user interface. How much better will it be? Will it use the touch screen effectively?  
  2. Price. If the Sony isn’t under $200 then this discussion is moot.  
  3. There are rumors of Sony 650 being on Android.
  4. It’s not out of the question that Google Editions is integrated into the new Sony Readers and will be co-launched with them.
  5. Any additional killer features Sony Reader might have.

At this point all we have are rumors – However, the site that broke the news (Sony Insider) claims to have high confidence in its sources and the details do sound a lot like what you’d expect from the next generation of Sony Readers.

Kindle 3 vs Sony Reader 650 – Additional Thoughts

The first thought that comes to mind is that there’s nothing ground-breaking with the Sony Reader 650. Hopefully we’re mistaken and Sony is just hiding some really cool feature. The second thought is that perhaps Sony is doing exactly what Amazon has done with the Kindle 3 – make lots of small improvements and enough solid improvements to create a killer Sony Reader 650.

Don’t like Sony’s convoluted naming scheme – We’ve had 500, 505, 600, and now 650. They’re running out of options – How long before we get the Sony 666 in flaming red?

Not sure why Sony and Nook aren’t announcing their new eReaders. It would probably help slow down Kindle 3 sales if users knew more about the forthcoming competing options. It suggests that both B&N and Sony are adding last-minute features to match up favorably against Kindle 3.

Will any eReader other than Kindle 3 support accessibility and text to speech? They seem such obvious features to add with such a huge potential market and so much value for owners.

An early September release of both Nook 2 and Sony Reader 650 seems a virtual certainty. It’ll result in a lot of coverage of eReaders in September. In a way Amazon has made a good move by announcing Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi early, wrapping up preorders, and figuring out what rate to produce Kindle 3s at.

On the other hand Sony and B&N know exactly what the target is and they might surprise us by exceeding the Kindle 3. The ePub advantage isn’t really a significant one until the support for library books and support for other stores comes into play. At that point it becomes, perhaps, the Kindle 3’s biggest weakness.

September is going to be the month of Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 vs Sony 650 and it’s going to be very exciting. Perhaps we’ll even see some price-cuts.

Kindle vs new Sony Reader? Sony PRS 350, PRS 650

The new Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi might soon get some solid competition.

There are rumors that the Sony PRS 350 (follow-on to the Pocket Edition) and Sony PRS 650 (follow-on to the Touch Edition) are set to arrive soon.

Kindle vs new Sony Reader – Sony PRS 350 to take on Kindle WiFi

Sony Insider is a site that focuses on Sony products and they claim an exclusive scoop on the new Sony Reader releases -

According to one of our most trusted sources, there is word that two new touchscreen Sony Reader devices (PRS-350 and PRS-650) with E-Ink technology are coming to the market soon.

The details they unveil for the Sony PRS 350 are -

  1. 5″ eInk touch screen.  
  2. Possible increase in storage capacity to 2 GB.
  3. No wireless.
  4. Note-taking software from PRS 600 added.
  5. 2 weeks battery life.
  6. Word, PDF, ePub, BBeB book, and Adobe Digital Edition compatibility.
  7. Same color choices as before. This was Silver, Rose and Navy Blue for the Pocket Edition.

The touchscreen and note-taking software are good additions. The decision to not have WiFi is puzzling. How much does a WiFi card cost?

There’s no mention of the screen – don’t see how it could be anything other than the new eInk pearl screen. The configuration suggests the Sony PRS 350 might be at $100 to $125.  Hard to see this affecting the Kindle WiFi much.

Kindle vs new Sony Reader – PRS 650 to take on Kindle 3

Here’s what Sony Insider hints at for the Sony PRS 650 -

  1. 6″ eInk screen. No mention whether it’s eInk pearl though it’s very likely. 
  2. 2 GB storage. 
  3. WiFi support. 
  4. Touchscreen.
  5. New UI.
  6. 2 weeks battery life.
  7. Support for PDF, ePub, Word, and Adobe Digital Editions.
  8. Same colors – which would be Silver, Red, and Black.

The combination of touch screen with eInk Pearl (if it is indeed eInk Pearl) and WiFi makes this a more interesting device. If it comes in at below $200 then it will steal a small part of Kindle 3 sales since there’s ePub support and support for Library Books.

However, it doesn’t sound like there are any new killer features added – unless Sony is saving those up for the formal announcement.

new Sony Readers sound pretty boring

Hopefully there’s something in there – some killer feature in addition to the touchscreen. Anything that makes the Sony Readers worthy competitors to Kindle and Nook.

With the Kindle 3 setting a very high bar the last thing Sony can afford is a nonchalant release that doesn’t keep up. Nook 2 might be as impressive as Kindle 3 (or close). The Sony 350 and Sony 650 sound rather drab – Let’s hope Sony surprises us with some killer features that the rumors have missed.

Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader

Now that the Kindle 3 is out it’s worth comparing it with the Nook and the Sony Reader.

This isn’t a fair comparison because we ought to wait for Nook 2 and the new Sony Readers and then do Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 and Kindle vs new Sony Reader comparisons. It’s still being written because people have to choose between pre-ordering a Kindle 3 (part of the new generation of eReaders) and buying a Nook or a Sony Reader (part of the 2nd generation of eReaders).

Please note that this is based on just one hour spent with the Kindle 3 and actually owning both Nook and Sony Reader (as well as nearly every Kindle and Nook WiFi). This Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader comparison will be updated after the Kindle 3 actually arrives.

Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader – Context

We now have -

  1. Kindle 3 for $189. 
  2. Kindle WiFi for $139. 
  3. Nook for $199.
  4. Nook WiFi for $149. 
  5. Sony Reader Touch Edition for $169. You also get a free $25 ebook gift card.
  6. Sony Reader Pocket Edition for $149. You again get a free $25 gift card.  

Until recently Kindle vs Nook, Sony Reader was mostly a two-horse race between Kindle and Nook due to Sony being allergic to wireless downloads. Now, with the Kindle 3, Amazon has changed the game as Kindle 3 has the new eInk Pearl screen with 50% better contrast.

Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader – Screen

Nook used to have the best screen contrast amongst 6″ eReaders until the Kindle 2.5 upgrade arrived and probably even after that.

With the eInk Pearl Screen Kindle 3 blows away Nook and Sony Reader. It’s an obvious and significant difference – check out my Kindle DX 2 video page for a DX 2 vs Nook video (DX 2 has the eInk Pearl screen). Kindle 3’s Pearl eInk screen looks even better due to software tweaks.

You basically get three improvements with the new Kindle 3 – the new eInk Pearl screen with 50% better screen contrast, the graphite casing on the graphite Kindle 3 (recommended over the white one), Amazon’s software tweaks to display shaper fonts and darker darks.  

If screen contrast and readability is a top 2 criteria for you get the Kindle 3.

Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader – Importance of not getting an older model

If, after reading this post, you decide on a Nook or Sony Reader – please keep in mind that Nook 2 and the new generation of Sony Readers are around the corner. They might arrive in August itself. So please don’t buy a Nook or Sony Reader now – they’re likely to become dated in a few weeks.

Have spent the last few weeks recommending that people wait for a rumored August Kindle 3 and it turned out well. The same applies now – If you decide on a non-Kindle purchase or aren’t 100% sure then wait and see what the Nook 2 is like and what Sony has to offer.

Each eReader’s advantages – Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader

Here’s how I’d describe each eReader’s 10 best qualities and 10 weaknesses -

  1. Kindle 3 strengths – latest eInk technology and best screen, free 3G Internet + WiFi, Kindle Store has most and cheapest books, Text to Speech (when not disabled), very light, very compact, always improving, very fast page turns, Voice activated menus, Kindle App Store that might arrive this year, Kindle Apps for PC, Mac, etc.  
  2. Kindle 3 weaknesses – No ePub, no touch, no color, no library books, no books from other stores that have DRM, keyboard doesn’t have number keys, not flashy, might be too small.
  3. Nook strengths – good screen, WiFi+3G, free book store browsing at B&N for up to 1 hour, ePub, library books, quite pretty, Sudoku and Chess built-in, some good font options, very good browser, SD card slot, replaceable battery.  
  4. Nook weaknesses – older generation of screen technology, heavy and slightly awkward, terrible user interface – LCD helper screen is a pain, still has bugs, not as many improvements as Kindle, no Collections.
  5. Sony Reader strengths – compact, pretty, very light, fast page turns, touchscreen. free-hand drawing, collections, good zooming options for fonts. It hasn’t improved much since launch so can’t find 10 big strengths.  
  6. Sony Reader weaknesses – glare and reflection due to touchscreen, old generation screen, awkward and contrived user interface, no wireless, Sony Reader software to transfer books is not simple and is a pain, no add-on services like WhisperNet, no apps for other platforms.

For Kindle WiFi and Nook WiFi just remove 3G and add-in cheap/good value for money to the Kindle 3 and Nook’s qualities.

In my opinion Kindle 3 is significantly better than Nook and Nook is significantly better than Sony Reader.

If you’re limited to sub $150 eReaders then Kindle WiFi or Nook WiFi are both decent. The Kindle WiFi does have the new generation screen – don’t see why you would want to get screen technology from February 2009 when screen technology from July 2010 is available.

Kindle 3 Vs Nook, Sony Reader – Value for Money

Amazon’s price points for the Kindle 3 ($189) and Kindle WiFi ($139) clearly undercut the Nook and the Nook WiFi.

Add-on that Amazon offers Whispernet and Free Internet browsing with the Kindle 3 and the fact that both Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi have the newer eInk Pearl screens and the Kindles clearly offer better value for money.

The next two points (ePub, Library Books) will discuss cases where this might not be true – However, for most readers, Kindle 3 does offer better value.

Sony Reader Touch Edition is very cheap and has a touchscreen – However, it isn’t good value for money because its screen is terrible compared to Nook and even worse compared to the Kindle 3. The touchscreen layer adds glare and reflects objects and detracts from your reading experience.

Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader – ePub and Openness

Perhaps the biggest criticism against the Kindle 3 will be its ‘lack of openness’ and ‘lack of support for ePub’.  Let’s dig into exactly what it means in terms of books and reading -

  1. Kindle does not support ePub. This means no library books (next section discusses this in detail). This also means that any book in ePub format is not supported.  
  2. The lack of ePub support is important because nearly every non-Amazon ebook store sells books in DRMed ePub format and Kindle 3 will not read these. In fact, Kindle 3 will not read DRMed books other than those sold at the Kindle Store. It does support password protected PDFs. Since Big Publishers don’t really sell their ebooks without DRM it means the Kindle Store is your only source for books which have DRM.  
  3. Kindle Store has more new books than anyone else (630,000) and there are 1.8 million public domain books available free in Kindle format (at free book sites). Which means that not being able to get books from other stores isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be. It is, however, a drawback.

There are lots of ways of looking at it.

The best way to think of it is – If the Kindle Store stops being the best ebook store with the lowest prices and the most books you’ll feel the lack of ePub support is a significant negative.

At the moment it’s mostly a made-up disadvantage. The real negative is not being able to read library books.

Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader – Library eBooks

Sony Reader and Nook support DRMed ePub books and thus support books lent out by Libraries that use OverDrive (a particular software for lending ebooks).

It’s a significant Kindle disadvantage and it’s also overhyped – Most libraries don’t have a lot of ebooks and ebooks work just like physical books i.e. you have to wait to get your turn.

This is definitely a big Kindle disadvantage if library ebooks are important to you.

Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader – Lending

Nook has this feature which is cool and useful but limited – If Publishers have enabled ‘LendMe’ on their books (a decent number do enable it – perhaps 40%) then you can lend your ebook to one friend one time for 14 days.

It’s not much but it’s better than not being able to lend.

What Kindle and Nook (and perhaps Sony too) do allow is family sharing – Multiple Kindles can link to one account and read the same book at the same time. There is a limit on the number of devices that can download and read the same book (usually 5 or 6).

Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader – Wireless Capabilities

Sony Reader has neither WiFi nor 3G and is out of the conversation.

Nook used to be the only eReader with WiFi and it’s a good feature to have – You may not get 3G coverage, WiFi is faster, 3G modems are more expensive. B&N also introduced the Nook WiFi that had only WiFi and no 3G and retailed at a lower price point of $149.

Now Kindle 3 has both 3G and WiFi and Kindle WiFi, not surprisingly, has WiFi.

When it comes to wireless related features Amazon offers a lot more as it gives you free Internet access over 3G and has 3G access in 100+ countries. If your home country is the US you get free Internet Access in all these countries.

Within the US Amazon’s only advantage is the free Internet. Both Kindle and Nook use AT&T’s network and both offer free access to AT&T hotspots for browsing books and downloading books (not for Internet browsing).

Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader – Looks

This is straightforward – Sony Readers look pretty and are available in lots of colors, the Nook looks quite nice, and the Kindle is a matter of personal choice. The Kindle 3 looks quite good but it’s designed to fade into the background so it’s not got the Sony Reader’s prettiness or the Nook’s flashy LCD helper screen.

Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader Conclusion – Get the Kindle 3 or Wait

My recommendation would be to compare Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader on the features important to you and if the Kindle 3 or the Kindle WiFi is the winner – Get it Now. The new Kindles have a lot of improvements and the new eInk Pearl screen and it’s pretty unlikely you’ll find a better option anytime soon.

If you’re tending towards a Nook please wait for Nook 2 and if the Sony Reader has caught your eye definitely wait for the new Sony Readers that might arrive as soon as this month.

At the moment Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader is a pretty unfair comparison and hopefully Nook 2 and the new Sony Readers show up in August and we can do a proper, fair comparison.

Is Touch Worth It? Sony Vs Kindle

This is a really difficult question and this post doesn’t really answer it. There’s a ton of evidence though and you can make up your own mind.

First, the video of Sony’s implementation of the touch feature –

Reasons Touch is a good feature

The areas where the Sony Touch’s touch feature really shines -

  1. Hitting a spot or an item is quicker. You don’t have to move the cursor to a spot or an item.
  2. Home Page, Book List Pages and Menus are easier to use.  
  3. You can add freehand notes and scribbles in the margins and in the book itself (although can’t seem to figure out how to enter longer notes).
  4. There’s a notes view where you can add notes, highlight text, erase notes and highlights, set bookmarks and look at all the existing notes. 
  5. In Notes mode highlighting is really easy.
  6. The Freehand drawing (in the Handwriting app) is useful as it lets you do freehand scribbling, notes and drawings.   
  7. On screen keyboard is easy to use (in the Memo app).

Reasons Touch is a bad feature.

The Touch feature has some disadvantages too -

  1. The biggest by far is loss of readability. The touch layer is reflective and reduces readability and its worse when there are bright lights.
  2. Touching the screen leads to finger prints and smudges.
  3. Writing on the touchscreen is awkward (especially as you can’t rest your hand on it).  
  4. You need to use the stylus a lot of the time so its two handed reading.
  5. eInk means that you have to move the stylus a bit slower.

Disadvantages due to Sony’s implementation of touch –  

  1. The bad placement of the page turn buttons and the drag gesture (instead of a tap page turn) makes page turning awkward. 
  2. No handwriting recognition.
  3. The Notes Mode eats up a lot of screen real estate.
  4. There aren’t enough shortcuts. There are two-step actions instead of shortcuts or one step actions.

An example of the last is that to highlight you have to do Options > Notes > Select Highlight Button > Do the Actual Highlight.  

Even if you read in Notes Mode it’s Choose Highlight Button > Do Highlight.

Closing Thoughts

The current state of eInk technology causes a few of the main disadvantages i.e. loss of readability and having to wait a tiny bit to see the result of your ‘touches’.

The loss in readability is not trivial and a big downside.

Sony’s implementation of Touch adds a lot of disadvantages including the rather inelegant way page turns are handled. 

Which leads us to a rather interesting question –   

Would touch be a good feature for Kindle 3? Well,

  1. Amazon would have to work in a better implementation of Touch.
  2. We would need eInk advances so that the effect of a touch layer on readability was minimal.

That’s two big IFs. It’s hard to say whether the current benefits of touch outweight the downside.

Kindle 3 is unlikely to add touch, unless of course there is a big advance in eInk technology.


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