Another e-book comes to market

When it comes to speed-rankings for adopting new technology, my pace would fall into some category slightly below that of a Galápagos Giant Tortoise.

It's only a couple of months ago that I stopped shouting for my husband every time I had to reboot my home laptop. (I probably still wouldn't have one at all if he hadn't bought it for me.)

But there's been one notable exception to my all-round tech-resistance: I couldn't wait to get my hands on an Amazon Kindle.

Why? It's so simple: I'm a reader and I often travel by train, bus, and subway. And I bless my lightweight, use-to-use Kindle every time I do. No more must I try to shove three or four books into an overwhelmed bookpack.

So as unlikely as I would normally be to browse tech news, I have been doing so with interest this weekend. Sony is bringing out its second third generation e-reader next month and I was very curious to discover what improvements it offers.

Here's what I can understand so far:

The Sony PRS-700 Reader e-book (priced at $400, compared with the current Sony Reader, the PRS-500, which sells for $300), offers a few improvements but, according to an early review by Popular Mechanic magazine, the new features are "useful, but hardly revolutionary."

The upgrades it offers include an integrated LED front light (making it easier to read in bright sunlight) that even turns itself on and off depending on need, a touchscreen, and a virtual on-screen keypad that allows readers to take "notes."

It's wrapped in a soft black cover and is also more compact and lighter than either Amazon's Kindle or the earlier Sony Reader, with a design that some are calling "elegant."

But, say some experts, you're still looking at a product aimed at early adopters – and not something yet likely to entice large numbers of recreational-readers.

The new reader does offer more titles, more memory, and, as a blog at the Financial Times explains, it supports a broader range of e-book and document formats, including PDF files. But in the area of titles, despite the improvements in the new Sony, Amazon's Kindle still has the advantage.

"Sony’s online bookstore currently offers about 50,000 titles while the Kindle store offers more than 180,000, including many bestsellers costing $10 each – a tough act to follow," the Financial Times points out.

And here's another big advantage for the Kindle, as reported by the Associated Press: "The PRS-700 does not have an equivalent of the Kindle's signature feature: wireless access to Amazon's e-book store for near-instant book downloads. Instead, books are loaded on to the device by connecting it to a PC."

But in a sense, the Kindle and both Sony Readers are all still in the same place with respect to a mass market: They're expensive and they're just not quite there yet.

A piece posted on about the PRS-700 includes the prediction that e-readers are "still five to 10 years away" from large-scale acceptance.

That may well be true. And so while I can I intend to enjoy my ahead-of-the-curve status. Because there's one thing I'm sure of: It's not going to last.

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