While e-book readers have been getting a lot of press over the last year or so, they've not been selling particularly well. There are plenty of reasons for that - but the main one is a lack of consumer awareness, coupled with high retail prices. Why pay £250 for an e-book reader when you can pay a fiver for a paperback?
With this brand new Sony Reader Touch Edition, Sony has sought to address these issues by retaining the steep retail price, while adding a raft of new functional features.
This new flagship reader is, as you might have guessed from the title, a touchscreen device. But don't expect it to deliver the kind of touchscreen experience you'd find on an iPhone, because it's anything but.
You need to use the supplied stylus, but luckily it's fairly responsive and you can still use your fingers for touch functions that don't require accuracy - like turning a page for example.
The interface is pretty similar to that on existing Sony Reader products, with a main menu offering access to your eBooks and new features which include notes/annotations.
You can now use the stylus to annotate the pages of your eBooks, and you can then print these notes off at a later date. While this is a useful function in theory, in practise we deemed it to be fairly hopeless. The screen just isn't responsive enough - characters you've written only appear about a second after you've written them.
So when we wrote TechRadar on top of a sample of the first HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy eBook, we were already writing the 'c' before the T and the e had appeared on screen. It's not fun, and it needs improving before it'll be of real use to students and the like.
There's also the option to double-tap a word in a book, and the onboard dictionary will pop up to give you a definition. So if you're having a slow moment and you can't remember what a car is, the Sony Reader Touch Edition will duly give you an Oxford Dictionary definition.
The six-inch screen is comfortable to read though and the weight has come down too, so it's not too much of a hassle to carry around.
We've been pretty sceptical about eBook readers for a while, but this one seems to have the size-to-weight ratio down pat and the quick interface doesn't frustrate as much as previous products.
However, the 'notes' annotation features needs work if it's going to be in any way usable. And the lack of a 3G connection - included in the US version of this product - adds to the frustration. Until this is addressed, which Sony has said it will be, it'll be up to you whether you want to spend £249.99 on it.
Stay tuned for a full Sony Reader Touch Edition review on TechRadar.
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