Unlike an LCD screen, the display on the Reader is designed only to display a static image, much like a piece of paper. Also unlike an LCD, the screen isn’t constantly drawing power in order to keep an image in place, instead power is used to draw the page, then it remains on the screen passively. But it’s not just the power efficiency that makes this screen great, it’s the quality of it. What you have is a screen that displays text like ink on paper – it’s perfectly readable no matter how acute the viewing angle, and the brighter the ambient light, the easier it is to read. So, if you like reading in the park with the sun shining down (unusual in the UK I know), the Sony Reader will be a good companion.
So, there’s no denying that Sony has got the important screen quality part of the equation right, but how does the rest of the package measure up? Very well actually – in fact I’d be very surprised if the Sony Reader doesn’t make it onto the short list for the Best Design of 2008 in our end of year awards. Running down the right hand side of the screen are ten buttons numbered from 0-9. Not only are these buttons used for selecting options on corresponding lines in the Reader menus, but when reading a book, you can use them to jump to specific pages in the volume. To the right of the number buttons, located on the bevelled edge of the device are two buttons which will turn the pages in a book forwards or backwards.
There are more controls below the screen. On the left is another set of page turning buttons mounted on a circular rocker. There’s also a bookmark page, which actually turns down the corner of the page – although being digital, it doesn’t ruin the paper! Here you’ll also find a Zoom button, which will increase the font size of the text and consequently the number of pages in your book. On the right is a Menu button that, unsurprisingly brings up menu options, and will also jump back menu levels if pressed multiple times. Finally there’s a four-way rocker, with a central selector button – this can be used to navigate through menus if you don’t want to use the number buttons down the right of the screen.