What would we want in an ideal e-reader to jam in our students' backpacks? I've talked about it before (there are links to my other e-textbook musings in this particular post, too), but we'd certainly want color and high-resolution images. Touch and note-taking capabilities are obvious choices. And we'd sure as heck want open file formats and a reasonable approach to DRM (if not a whole lot of DRM-free content).
Sony's new e-reader products are definitely getting closer on many of those fronts and are certainly more education-friendly than the Kindle. They've been well-covered on ZDNet and elsewhere, so I won't spend much time extolling their features.
I'm also not heading out and purchasing a bunch of them for our students (although I know what's on my Christmas list this year: the Reader Touch is just what my stacks of books-in-progress ordered). However, aside from the color and resolution issues (which the natural progression of this technology will solve soon enough), Sony seems to be getting this right.
Their partnership with Google and the New York Public library, as well as their switch to the EPUB format means that Sony is getting much closer to putting full library resources into students' hands (literally). As PCWorld notes,
Remember libraries? If you buy a Sony e-reader, you won't have to give them up thanks to the company's partnership with OverDrive -- an e-book providesony readerr that works with a network of public libraries.
Touch capabilities allow direct marginal notes on the two higher-end models of the Reader and Jason Perlow told me yesterday that he didn't think his Shrek hands could break this one (his Kindle didn't stand a chance).
It wasn't long ago that I was not feeling particularly hopeful about electronic textbooks. While I still think we have a long ways to go, particularly with dedicated reader devices and publisher adoption, competition and innovation in this segment have me feeling quite a bit better.