The top edge of the Reader is populated by the sliding power switch and both MemoryStick and SD Card slots. It’s good to see that Sony has accepted that consumers won’t be forced into adopting MemoryStick, and now offers options for other formats like SD. Of course you don’t need a memory card in order to use the reader, since it has 192MB of memory built in, and although that may seem like a woefully small amount of storage by today’s standards, that’s enough to accommodate around 160 books! With that in mind, you could slap a 16GB MemoryStick or SD Card in and basically carry an entire library around with you.
Along the bottom edge is a mini-USB port for hooking the Reader up to your computer and charging the device. There’s also a 5.2V DC input, in case you want to charge direct from the mains, although there’s no mains charger in the box. Finally along the bottom you’ll find a headphone socket and volume control, which gives away the fact that the Reader can also be used as a music player. Obviously as portable music players go, it’s pretty big, but if you like having some background music while you read, it’s a nice feature to have.
In the box is a disc with Sony’s eBook Library software on it. This operates in a very similar manner to music management software like iTunes – in the far left column you’ll find links to your Reader, your Library and the eBook store. For the latter Sony has partnered with Waterstones, which is probably the most recognised high street book shop in the UK. Unfortunately, since the Sony Reader hasn’t actually gone on sale yet, Waterstones hasn’t launched its eBook store yet, which means that I couldn’t test the service out.
Luckily Sony also throws in a CD with 100 books on it. Of course these books are old and therefore out of copyright, but if you haven’t taken time to read some of the classics, this is the perfect opportunity, and it won’t cost you a penny (apart from the cost of the Reader of course). There is some truly cracking stuff on the CD, from the likes of Jules Vern, Alexandre Dumas, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, to name but a few. In fact, during the process of testing, I’ve found myself engrossed in both Great Expectations (my favourite Dickens) and Emma – yes, I have a soft spot for Jane Austen’s storytelling, it’s not a crime.