While eBook readers are very much the in thing right now, it's still a segment of gadgetry reserved mainly for well-heeled early adopters. Sony has been preparing the ground for some time, the PRS-600 Reader Touch Edition being its third effort, and Amazon continues its attempt to “do an Apple” with its Kindle and accompanying proprietary online store, but ask regular folk whether they'd pay upward of £200 for something to read books on and they'd probably laugh in your face. That's fine, eBooks aren't for everyone, but for those that are interested the choice of readers continues to grow: the iRiver Story being the latest.
Cracking open the smart, if slightly over engineered, gift box packaging reveals a device not dissimilar in appearance to the Kindle. Clad entirely in smooth, matt white plastic, there's a QWERTY keyboard beneath a six-inch, 800 x 600 e-Ink display. Flanking both are two sets of forward and back buttons, the presence of which make it possible to use the Story in both portrait and landscape modes.
A glance at the bottom edge reveals a headphone jack, power/lock switch and (behind a flap) a mini-USB port and an SD card reader. We particularly like the latter addition, not least in light of the presence of 2GB of integrated storage as well. At the back of the Story, meanwhile, is a thin slit inside which sits an integrated speaker for listening to audio books and potentially recorded memos created using the integrated microphone.
Recording memos is one of a number of almost useful extra features, such as a calendar and a written memo application. We're not against such additions per se, but since there's no way to synchronise these with any other service (Outlook, Google etc) or device, it's hard to see anyone using them seriously.
Music playback, however, is a very worthwhile feature. While the Story itself is a little too large to replace a portable media player/MP3 Player and its music player a little too basic, lacking a library system and meta tag support, it's perfect for listening to audio books. And, since there's an integrated speaker, you can listen to books aloud before you go to bed or anywhere private. It's just a shame there's no bookmark feature for audio files, or the ability to queue a single chapter lest you fall asleep and leave the player running through the night!
Another small concern is the build quality. It might look similar to the Kindle, but the Story isn't similarly well-made. Flexing the plastic shell a little reveals it's exactly that, a plastic shell. It creaks disconcertingly and generally feels a little hollow and flimsy. If you treat it well you're unlikely to have any problems, but it's a far cry from the metal Sony readers and iRiver doesn't include a carry case in the box, instead selling it separately.