Sony versus Kindle: First Impressions

I’ve had my Sony Pocket Edition for a couple or weeks now and I have to say that I like it. It is a handsome unit, very tight and solid. It fits in the palm of your hand and, yes, in the pocket of your pants.

I was drawn to this ereader because of the size. My Kindle DX spends most of its time on and end table in my living room because of its size–the DX is just not that convenient to carry. The DX needs to go inside my bag next to the folders and legal pads (where it fits very nicely), but it’s not the reader I grab in the car waiting at the drive-thru or at the dentist’s office. (Right now, I grab my Kindle 1.) But the Sony Pocket Edition is a great candidate for the quick, easy, have-a-minute read that these devices make possible. In this regard, size matters.

Now, I have read chapters of books on my iPhone using the Kindle app, and that is good in a pinch as well. But the thing that hooked me on ereaders in the first place is the e-ink screen. In this regard, I just don’t get Nicholson Baker and the others who find e-ink screens to be a muddy mess. The Kindle and the Sony both produce a crisp e-ink display that I find pleasurable to read, and the Sony not a bit less than the Kindle.

From a Kindler’s perspective, the greatest limitation of the Sony Pocket Edition is the absence of wireless connectivity to a source, any source, of reading material. This is the Kindle’s gift to the world, and soon to be matched by other devices.

sony_interfaceBut what I found is that the Sony interface through their “eBook Library” software provides an experience very similar to the one that I have happily participated in with my iPod Mini and iTunes. The Sony software, once installed on your computer, looks like a primitive version of iTunes. There is the list of folders and devices on the left, the list of items in the selected folder or device on the right. Plug in the Pocket Edition and it is recognized, just like my iPod with the iTunes software. The Sony software certainly doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles that iTunes does, but it gets the job done. It allows you to access content and transfer it, create collections, and otherwise manage your reading, both on and off the device.

Now the BIG up for Sony is its integration with Google Books, where a treasure trove of Epub-formatted public domain texts await. And the Library+Sony Bookstore make it VERY easy grab and load those books.  More on that wondrous process in the next installment of my look at the Sony Pocket Edition.