The Sony PRC-600 Reader aims to take on e-book readers such as the Amazon Kindle with its own touchscreen technology. And at first glance, the Sony's excellent build quality makes it a winner.

The Sony PRC-600 Reader Touch Edition replaces the buttons of the older 505 model with a touchscreen interface.

One quick feel of the Sony PRC-600 is enough to remind you why Sony has pretty much cornered the market in the UK. The build quality of the Sony PRS-600 Reader Touch Edition unit is much higher than that of many rival independent book readers on the market - with the exception of one other manufacturer, and it's the big one: Amazon.

With the Amazon Kindle now on the UK market Sony has some real competition at last. In the US the eReader market has been a very different story. Sony reported world-wide sales of 400,000 Readers to date in January 2009; Amazon is reputed to have sold 500,000 Kindles in 2008 and would have sold 750,000 if stock hadn't run dry. In other words: the Kindle pretty much rules the US market.

See also: Barnes & Noble Nook e-book reader launches

So the question facing many new customers really boils down to: "Sony Reader or Kindle?" That's not as simple a question to answer as you'd imagine, because both devices offer radically different approaches to the electronic book reading experience.

For those of you that aren't familiar with book readers, the electronic paper screen is unlike anything you will have used. The screen is monochrome with a grey background and black text. There is no refresh rate, instead the screen flashes black when you move to the next page and the pixels are pushed into the new position.

Because there is no refresh rate they are incredibly easy on the eye, essentially the same as a physical book, and the battery is general measured in page turns (approximately 7,500 in this case).

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Sony PRS-600 Reader Touch Edition: Interaction

At first, touchscreen interaction seems like overkill for a book reader, but it actually brings a new level of interaction to the device. First of all it removes all buttons from the Sony PRS-600 Reader Touch Edition.

Even the previous non-touch edition of the Sony Reader seemed more aesthetically pleasing than the qwerty keyboard crammed Kindle; but now it's just a screen. Rather than press a button to flip the page, with the Sony PRS-600 Reader Touch Edition you swipe your finger left or right across the screen to move between pages.

There's not much between a flick and a button press, but it's the additional features that set the Sony PRS-600 Reader Touch Edition apart. You can double click on a word to bring up the built in dictionary (Oxford English or Oxford American English) and highlight interesting words or passages. You can also scribble notes using your finger or the included stylus.

Anybody who's used one of these devices will be aware that the speed of the display is nowhere near in the same league as something like the iPhone, so don't get too excited by the touchscreen technology. Having said that, the Sony PRS-600 Reader Touch Edition does enable basic interaction with parts of the screen offering a virtual keyboard and the like. It's certainly a better form of interaction than the button offering found on other readers.

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