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Hello, cutie! New Sony e-reader scores on style

August 5, 2009 |  3:02 pm

Sonyereaders_aug09
Yesterday Sony announced a new bargain e-reader: Just $199, it'll be among the cheapest e-book readers around when it hits stores later this month. But it doesn't look cheap -- in fact, it's really cute!

Called the Sony Reader Pocket Edition, it's got a 5-inch display and comes in three colors -- traditional silver, cool blue and, yes, super-cute pink. There's a click wheel, like an old-style iPhone, and control buttons up the right edge.

Did I mention that it comes in pink?

Perhaps the kind of case you're holding when looking at the screen of an e-reader shouldn't matter. After all, a true reader gets lost in the words, whether on a screen or a page. Who notices the boundaries of the page? Does the case holding the screen make that much difference?

But to me, the tactile experience of reading is relevant. So much so that I haven't invested in an e-reader yet -- I like the look and feel of classic paper books. And if the physical experience of holding and reading a book is relevant, the design of an e-reader makes a difference.

OK, style isn't everything. Unlike the Kindle, the Sony device needs to be physically connected to a computer to download, and people used to the Kindle's massive capacity may be dismayed by the Pocket Edition's 350-book limit. To address the later problem, Sony will offer an updated, higher-capacity touchscreen reader with slots for memory sticks or SD cards. But you'll still need that cable.

Yet there are a few upsides. Sony has dropped its e-book prices to $9.99-$11.99, and its devices can read 1 million free public domain books available through the Google Books Project.

Plus, I have to let you know: The new touch-screen comes in two colors -- black and red.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photos: Sony

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