February 19, 2010, 1:37 PM — "A great read is a few seconds away," proclaims the Sony Reader Daily Edition screen as it tries to connect to the Sony store--or to do anything else involving the unit's wireless Internet access. Unfortunately, in my tests, I had to wait a lot longer than a few seconds.
That's too bad, because the Sony Reader Daily Edition ($400 as of February 3, 2010) has content that I would love to download if doing so were less of a hassle. The Daily Edition is Sony's first e-reader to provide wireless access to content (via AT&T's 3G wireless network), and Sony has sought to capitalize on that feature by offering not just a bookstore but wireless delivery of newspapers, either by subscription or as single copies. Several big names in daily print U.S. journalism--including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal--are for sale in Sony's Reader Store, which you can access from the device.
But 3G wireless service was spotty at best in my home in downtown San Francisco. Whatever I tried to do, I received frequent messages advising me to check whether I'd turned on the wireless switch (you get both a hardware switch on the bottom edge of the device and a software setting for toggling the switch on). I managed to subscribe to the digital New York Times through the Sony store, but at first I couldn't download it: A message reported that the download had been interrupted and needed to be restarted from my account page. (In other locations, though the unit had fewer foibles, it was painfully slow to connect.)
By the way, you can transfer commercial and free content to the Reader after using the included USB cable to attach the device to your PC. In fact, this is the only way to patronize bookstores other than Sony's (you can buy from any e-tailer that supports ePub with Adobe Content Server 4 encryption). Like other Sony Readers, the Daily Edition also supports AAC, BMP, GIF, JPEG, MP3, PDF, PNG, RTF, and TXT file formats, plus Sony's old BBeB e-book format, in case you have older e-books on hand.
Wireless services and a slightly larger (7-inch-diagonal) E-Ink screen that supports 16 shades of gray are the chief distinctions between the Daily Edition and the Touch Edition released last fall: The latter has a 6-inch-diagonal, eight-shade-grayscale display. But the extra real estate mainly extends the height of the Daily Edition, so it seems rather tall and narrow for an e-book reader. It's also a tad fatter (0.6 inch thick) and heavier (12.75 ounces, including the included black cover) than the Touch Edition (0.4 inch thick and 10.1 ounces). Sony offers a cool cover with a built-in reading light for the Daily Edition, as a $60 option.