Over the past few weeks, I have read a book and a half (and browsed through a few more) on my Sony Reader Touch Edition (PRS-600), and I think it's time I gave it a critical look as an ebook reading device. I have used several different handheld ebook devices over the years, and while this one is better than most of them, it is not the ultimate solution that readers have been seeking. However, there are some key features that set it apart from the crowd.
The PRS-600 comes in three different colors (silver, red, and black), and there are a few cover accessory options if you want to personalize your Reader. I have the silver Reader, and I like the simplicity of the design: rounded edges, clean lines, and buttons that are nearly flush with the case. There are a total of five buttons on the front, and since it is a touch screen, no more than those are needed, which makes this device look a lot like a PADD from Star Trek, adding to the geeky appeal. The touch screen seems to be resistant to picking up finger prints, particularly compared to the glass screens of the iPhone and iPod Touch.
The options on the main menu screen are self-explanatory, and navigating through menus and books is fairly intuitive. One caveat, though: I am fairly tech savvy, so my experience with the intuitive-ness of the device may not be the same as yours. One of the features of the interface that sets the PRS-600 apart from other ebook readers is the touch screen, which allows you to navigate through the menus or books without pushing a button or taking several clicks to get to a selection. Speaking of selections, highlighting or underlining text and making notes using the included stylus is simple, and you can reference your notes later on both the device and through the desktop application. Like most modern ebook readers, the PRS-600 can provide dictionary references for any word, and with the touch screen, it requires only a tap with the stylus.
As a librarian, I cannot neglect to mention the unique capability of the Sony Readers in allowing library patrons to "check out" and download library copies of ebooks to the device if the library provides those books through a service called Overdrive.
The Needs Improvement
Because the PRS-600 uses e-ink, it takes a moment for the screen image to be drawn when you make any changes such as selecting a menu item or turning a page. This can be distracting, but I noticed it less the more I got absorbed in whatever I was reading. If the screen redraw process could be sped up to at least the refresh rate of most computer monitor screens, I think that more people would go for e-ink devices. I do not notice any difference in eye strain between the two, so my preference is for faster response times.