Launched last year, the Iriver Story e-book reader was generally praised for its Kindle-like features, but it lacked any form of network connectivity. The new Iriver WiFi Story, launched in partnership with high-street stationer WH Smith, remedies this by adding an 802.11b/g Wi-Fi connection that allows e-books to be downloaded from the retailer's dedicated online store.
WH Smith sells a range of Sony e-book readers as well as the original Story, but this is its first model to support direct online fulfilment. The link to WH Smith’s store is hard-coded into the device, so on-device purchases can't be made from other stores, although e-books from other sources can be transferred from a PC via the standard USB link.
There are no cosmetic changes from the original Story, but the 600-by-800-pixel E-Ink display now supports 16 grey levels as opposed to eight, which should improve rendering of images. It runs Iriver's Iflow interface on top of the Linux operating system (kernel version 2.6.28), and the 1,800mAh battery offers a claimed autonomy of 9,000 page turns.
There's 2GB of internal NAND Flash storage, plus an SD card slot that accepts SDHC cards up to 32GB. Unlike most competing readers, the WiFi Story has a full QWERTY keyboard below the screen, allowing easy searching and annotating of documents. Most popular e-book formats are supported, including EPUB, PDF, TXT, FB2 and DJVU files. An integrated office file viewer supports Microsoft Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint files; this has been improved since the Story's original launch to include 2007/2010 formats, giving it a minor but handy business slant.
Built-in speakers and headphone jack allow the playback of audiobooks or MP3, WMA and OGG music tracks, while the microphone gives it voice recorder functionality too. Host OS support has also been broadened to include OS X. The WiFi Story weighs 291g and measures 127mm wide by 203.5mm tall by 9.4mm thick and is only available in white.
At £250 (inc. VAT), it will be interesting to see how this relatively expensive new model fares, given that you can get Amazon's 6in. wireless Kindle for around £100 less, or the 9.7in. 3G-enabled DX for well under £300.