The Sony Daily Reader (PRS 900), released in December is their first model with wireless 3G internet capability to compete with the Kindle, but we fear it will have the same legibility and glare issues as their other touchscreen models. It's about time Sony launched an eReader which had 3G capabilities, which Amazon's Kindle has had since launch in 2007, and we can't wait to get our hands on one for testing. As we haven't seen one up close, this is more of a preview based on press releases and industry leaks rather than a review, but rest assured we'll add more detail once we take one for a spin.
As mentioned, we believe the major problem with the Daily Reader will be the same which plagued Sony's other two touchscreen models, the PRS 700 and PRS 600--adding a touchscreen layer over the crisp e-ink display loses some clarity while increasing glare (see glare picture of the similar PRS 600 below from Channel 5's "Gadget Show"). Their reviewer claimed reading on it was "most unpleasurable ... the problem is it's so reflective."
The screen will be comparatively large at just over seven inches, compared to six inches for most eReaders like the Kindle 2 and Sony Touch Edition (see comparison picture above). The extra tall screen can be oriented horizontally, in landscape mode, and adds a new mode displaying two portrait-mode pages side-by-side (just as you'd view a physical book). It is also Sony's first model with a full 16 greyscales vice 8, finally getting up to the Kindle standards in graphics display. Unlike Sony's other models which came in various colors, the Daily Reader will only come in an aluminum finish.
Internal usable memory is 2GB (1.6 user accessible, same as the Kindle 2), and with additional memory cards you can store even more. This is the first eReader we've seen on the market with an advertised battery life of 12,000 page turns (7,500 being the norm), which should last around 2.5 weeks, though this with wireless turned off. With wireless on, you'll get up to a week.
Connecting: The Daily Reader will be Sony's first wireless device, utilizing a 3G connection through AT&T's mobile broadband network claiming to work from just about anywhere in the US. Like the Kindle, there will be no monthly fees or transaction charges, and users will be able to purchase and download books as well as select newspapers and magazines. There is no basic web browser, which the Kindle has (far from perfect, but a useful feature). Lack of basic web browsing is a major disadvantage compared to the Kindle 2, especially as Amazon's product is much cheaper.
The unit will likely use Sony’s eBook Library software 3.0 to coordinate ebook transfers from computer to reader, which works for both PC and Mac computers and will enable you to read PDF, Word, BBeB, and other text files on the device. Bringing over personal files and ebooks should be easy--a simple drag and drop maneuver.
You can get your ebooks from many sources of course, but Sony's eBook Store in August dropped the price of its New York Times Bestsellers from $11.99 to $9.99, the same as Amazon's Kindle. There is no support for Audible.com audiobooks, which is disappointing (but not surprising as it is owned by rival Amazon).
However, as a plus over the Kindle 2, Sony does make it much easier to get access to many open source or free ebooks. You can even go to other sites that have DRM free eBooks. That said, if you want a copyrighted book, Sony's eBook Library, trails Amazon dramatically in terms of book titles available for download , with some 100,000 when we checked. Sony has an incentive where you do get 100 free eBook Classics--older books which normally cost $1.99 each.
Accessories: We've yet to hear what accessories the Daily Reader will have, but it will probably be able to use the family of accessories common to the other Sony Readers.
Price: The Sony Daily Reader is priced at $399. It is available in the US only at present. Pre-orders are shipping December 19 through January 8, and actual delivery dates cannot be confirmed, so presumably if you order now you're unlikely to get a PRS 900 until mid-January at the earliest.