By Michael Evans
THINGS are hotting up in the eBook reader market. This week, Sony announced three new models in the UK, including a fully featured 6-in touchscreen model with the capability to annotate books. This appears to be a significant improvement on the original model I've been using for the past twelve months. No sign, however, of a 3G-equipped version similar to the one that has just been heralded in the USA.
All this activity shows that the eBook market is maturing. Only two weeks ago Sony announced it would be supporting an open standard and portability of books, something that is denied to Amazon Kindl users. I fully expect more developments in the market during the winter and I believe that 2010 will be year that the eBook market really takes off.
Twelve months ago I bought my first Sony from Waterstones, a major British retail book chain, and I have been absolutely delighted with it. In one small unit, no heavier and no bigger (in surface area) than a small paperback, the reader is much thinner and easier to carry than any real book. In consequence I haven't read a "proper" book since last September. True, the selection of books from the Waterstones on-line store is somewhat limited, but I have taken a pragmatic view and regarded the choice as my library. I have never wanted for something interesting to read and, frankly, those publishers that refuse to partake are missing out. They will all have to join the party sooner or later.
The one major problem with the original Sony was the lack of Mac connectivity. I've been using the Parallels Windows emulator to manage my electronic book library. So I am heartened to see that the new Sony models all feature Mac and Windows connectivity.
Strongly tempted as I am to upgrade to the new Sony (at £249), I am still wondering about Apple's intentions. The rumours of an Apple tablet are churning faster than ever and it does look as though there is an announcement imminent. I can quite imagine a tablet, say with a 10in screen, doubling as a super book reader. However, I have my doubts that any backlit reader, with consequential limited battery life, can challenge the current crop of non-backlit e-Ink models. Maybe I will sit on the fence a little longer before deciding to change my original Sony. Meantime, I continue to enjoy the experience of having only one small book to pack; and the convenience of being able to chop and change between several books at the same time. I'm never short of something interesting to read.