It must have been CES 2007 that I first played with the Sony eBook reader. I remember spending far too much time fondling and playing with the device on the Sony stand, when I really should have been traipsing the show floor looking for scoops. But even more vividly do I remember coming back home and requesting a sample from Sony, only to be told that there were no plans to launch the device in the UK. I was therefore surprised, but very pleased in July when Sony announced that it would be launching its latest eBook reader this side of the pond.
One thing's instantly apparent when you take the Sony Reader from its box - the Japanese giant has hit the bull's eye when it comes to design. The Sony Reader looks fantastic, with the kind of minimalist style that wouldn't be out of place in a Terence Conran design studio. The Reader itself is finished in matte silver, with contrasting darker silver buttons and controls. At first glance, it looks like there are far too many buttons squeezed into the reader, but once you start using it, you'll realise that the controls are just about perfect.
With dimensions of 175 x 122 x 7.6mm (HxWxD), the Reader is very slim, and even when shrouded in its protective case it's only the size of a slim notepad. Although the case, which resembles a book sleeve, isn't made from genuine leather, it has a quality feel to it. Sony has also thought hard about the usability of the Reader while in its sleeve, making sure that the device can be easily read when placed on a desk or table, without having to remove it from its sheath.
Of course the highlight of the Reader is the 6in screen, which you'll be spending a great deal of time looking at. At this point I should probably point out that anyone who prefers reading ink on paper, to reading text on a screen should not just dismiss the Sony Reader; in fact you're in for something of a revelation. You see the screen on the Reader isn't a standard LCD, like you'd find on most mobile devices. No, what you've got here is the Holy Grail of electronic literature - digital ink on digital paper. If you think that I'm just spouting Sony's marketing line, believe me when I say that this device has to be seen to be believed.