A new ebook reader has landed to challenge the Sony Readers, and we actually don't hate it, which is really saying something -- we generally don't like ebook readers at all. It's from the company that makes those MP3 players we like: iriver.
It's called the Story, and it borrows some of the best elements of Amazon's Kindle and some of the best elements of Sony's Readers. You get the Kindle's 152mm (6-inch) e-ink screen and keyboard, plus the Sony Readers' compatibility with loads of file types, SD-card memory expansion and audio player.
What you don't get is the Kindle's wireless bookstore, or compatibility with Audible's audiobooks -- a big bonus on competing readers. But, for around £230, you do get a great screen, up to 34GB of storage (2GB built-in, plus an SD card) for ebooks, comics and graphic novels, a pointless but cute calendar/organiser, and compatibility with ePub (including protected ePub files from Waterstone's and so on), PDF, TXT, Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files.
Text and images look better on the Kindle, which offers 16 shades of grey, as opposed to the Story's eight. But text is still clear and comfortable to read. Transferring content is just a matter of dragging and dropping from a PC or Mac, and purchased ePub-format downloads can be used with Adobe's Digital Editions software.
There are three glaring problems, however. Firstly, it's an ebook reader. We've got a very popular article about why you shouldn't buy one at all. Secondly, the device can be very sluggish compared to a Sony Reader. Sometimes it will hang for 20 to 30 seconds when you turn a page.
We could forgive that last problem if it weren't for problem three: the price. A Sony Reader Pocket Edition PRS-300 -- the best ebook reader in our opinion -- can be bought for around £170. You can buy an Amazon Kindle for around £180, depending on the exchange rate. The Story, however, costs £230.
While it offers the appearance and feel that we love in the Kindle, and the compatibility and expandability of Sony's products, it comes at a price, and the price makes its problems less palatable. If it were £70 cheaper, it would be not only our favourite ebook reader, but the first we'd actually suggest you buy. But it isn't, so be warned.
If you're convinced an ebook reader is for you, and the Story fits your bill, it's available now from Advanced MP3 Players, among other vendors.
Click through our photo gallery to see more of the Story's charms.