Which is awesome.
First off: touch screen, people!
The touch screen leads to quite a bit of trickle-down quality, especially from an aesthetic standpoint because the device is mostly screen. If you want to take notes, it's very simple: a keyboard pops up on the screen and you simply type on it. It's also easy to navigate because you just touch which book you want to read, so there's no scrolling.
The display itself is a wonder: if you haven't seen e-ink you haven't seen... uh, e-ink. The best comparison I can make is that it's like an Etch-a-Sketch. It's not backlit. It's not like reading on a PDA or laptop. Repeat: it's not like reading on a PDA or laptop. It doesn't strain your eyes any more than paper. Repeat: it doesn't strain your eyes any more than paper. And the pages turn noticeably faster with this version of the Reader. It's just a tiny blink.
(And yes, I know that there will still be comments from people worried about eye-strain)
But perhaps my favorite underrated aspect of this device is quite simple: a built-in nightlight.
Because the screen isn't backlit, you can only read it under light. Thus, having a nightlight is basically indispensable for reading at night.
Other cool features:
- you can easily change the font size and layout if you'd like to read bigger or on widescreen.
- multiple ways to change pages, whether pressing a button or "flicking" the touch-screen with your finger
- an approximation of page numbers, unlike Kindle's bewildering "locations"
- the leather case snaps shut easily with a nice magnet
- you only need to charge it, at most, once a week
The Reader does have some drawbacks: the e-book store is not yet Mac compatible, and I do miss the lack of wireless. For an average reader I don't think this would be a problem because you can easily load up a bunch of books on a single plug-in and be good to go for a while. When you're an agent dealing with a thousand partials, however, I miss the wireless.
You can check out the Reader at your friendly neighborhood Target, Borders, and other stores.
I honestly, honestly never thought when I got a Kindle and Sony Reader that I'd become a raving lunatic of a fan of these devices. But what can I say? I really feel like it's an improved reading experience. I like reading with one hand so I can hold onto the bus/train with the other hand. I like the lack of clutter. I like getting books instantaneously. I like being able to easily search a book and have access to a ton of them. I like how they always open up to the last place I left off.
We'll always have paper books, and I'd always want to have some of my favorites. But now that I have e-readers: I can't imagine going back.
UPDATE: In the comments section people have been weighing on the new commenting system (an embedded window) vs. the old one (separate page with icons). Let's put it to a vote, and I'll change it accordingly: