Hands-on with the Sony Wifi and Overdrive

Ok, kids! I promised you a hands-on report on how the Sony Wifi works with library books and Overdrive, and here’s the scoop:

Overall: The Wifi is a very light reader with a smallish touch screen (6 inches). The touch screen is very responsive and the on-screen keyboard is easier to use than on my antiquated HTC Eris smart phone. The browser, as expected, is slow and has a god-awful flicker rate, which makes it a little painful when browsing for books. However, the ease of use is a big bonus with this device, especially at the $129.00 price point.

How it works for getting library books from Overdrive: There is an actual button on the second home screen of the Wifi that is labeled “Public Library” (along with a “Google Books” button). When you click on the library button you are taken to a web page in the browser that lets you search your local library. You select your library and you are directed to your library’s mobile site, where you can login and begin browsing or searching for books. As noted, the flickering of the screen while browsing is pretty awful and I’d be careful if you have photosensitive epilepsy, but you may be able to tolerate that if you don’t want to shell out the money for a Kindle Fire. Once you find a book, you check it out and download it to the ereader. There is a notification bar at the top of the screen just like on any Android phone that will alert you when your download has finished (aprox. 30 seconds). You pull down the notification screen, select your file and start reading.

The screen is the same e-ink, low glare, non-backlit, battery saver as all the other Sony readers, which I happen to like (less icky fingerprints, readable in bright light/sunlight, saves battery). There are also features similar to the old Kindle readers: the ability to change the font many more sizes than older Sony readers allowed, and also the ability to define words, search words on Google or in Wikipedia, make highlights and notes. The battery lasts at least two weeks if not three with the wi-fi on and while reading.

Overall, I give it an 8 out of 10 as a good, basic ereader. Kudos on the Public Library button and the ease of use with clunky Overdrive, and the battery life is especially better than the Kindle Fire. If you don’t need a tablet but still want to be able to download your library books directly through the device, the Wifi is terrific and definitely worth the  $129.00 price tag.

Final Word: Until Overdrive brings the Overdrive Android app into the Amazon App Store, the Sony Wifi is WAY less clunky to use for shopping for library books on Overdrive. Not only is there currently no Overdrive app available for the Fire, the Overdrive mobile site does NOT work on the Fire, forcing the user to use the regular site, which is very, very ugly on such a small screen. So if all you want is an ereader and not a media device, the Sony Wifi is a very good bet.

–contributed by staffer Shannon Baker

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