Sony announced the Reader Wi-Fi, aka the PRS-T1. The new model features a 6-inch E ink Pearl touchscreen on a plastic body that weighs less than 6 ounces and is 0.35 inches thick. Networking is, as you'd expect, Wi-Fi-only. Sony estimates that the device should last for a full five weeks of reading on a single charge, three weeks with the Wi-Fi radio on. It comes with 2GB of on-board storage with a microSD card slot to expand that. Sony will offer three colors: black, white, and red. What Sony won't offer is multiple screen sizes, instead simplifying its ereader lineup to just this single model.
Along with the new model, Sony is also expanding support for borrowing books from public libraries in the US and Canada. After getting set up at their local library, users can borrow books directly on the Reader Wi-Fi instead of tethering to a computer. As compelling as the hardware may be, the ability to finally borrow ebooks wirelessly may be the headline feature here.
More images and some notes on the (Android-based) software after the break!
We had a chance to briefly handle the Reader Wi-Fi and found it light and well-built. Although we're not entirely fond of the glossy bezel, the E ink pearl V220 screen didn't disappoint. Most interaction is handled via the touchscreen, which registered taps and gestures without issue, though was naturally not able to respond as quickly as an LCD display. When viewing photos, the pinch-to-zoom feature worked, but it took about a second to refresh each image. Page turning was significantly faster, however, as was loading up a book to read. There was a browser on the pre-release device we tried, but we weren't able to test it due to (ironically) unavailable Wi-Fi. It will be available when the ereader ships.
The Reader Wi-Fi is pretty clearly running on top of Android, though Sony has managed to bury nearly all of that under its custom ereader software. Support for taking notes, looking words up in one of the twelve included dictionaries, bookmarking, and audio playback are on board. It supports EPUB, PDF, and text files, readable in seven different fonts at eight font sizes. Users can choose a book cover or photo to be displayed when in sleep mode, too.
Sony is also making a special edition of Reader Wi-Fi that comes with a voucher for the first Harry Potter book when it gets released by Pottermore. That's a nice bonus for some, but there's no getting around the fact that Sony isn't matching Amazon's current $139 price point for the Kindle (not to mention the even-lower ad-support pricing). Comparatively, $149 for the Sony Reader Wi-Fi feels a little steep. The ability to wirelessly borrow books right on the device could offset that ten dollar difference very quickly, but it's worth noting that Amazon has promised wireless book borrowing functionality for the Kindle later this year. Sony is releasing the Reader Wi-Fi in October, so you have until then to make up your mind.
Sean Hollister contributed to this report