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Sony gets its Reader right

Crave went to Las Vegas and fell in love. But not with a beautiful show girl or a tanned male dancer (steady). We fell for the pale, enduring beauty of Sony's new electronic book, the Reader. It's fab

This is the Sony Reader, one of the most exciting gadgets we've seen at this year's CES. These exclusive photos of the new electronic book reader were taken this afternoon in Las Vegas -- we tip this as the most popular gadget of 2006.

Sony has never recovered from the shock of finding its Walkman brand dethroned by the iPod. Though the company may never claw back the portable music player scene from Apple, it looks as if it may become world leader again -- in the land of the electronic book.

Crave had to be dragged away from the Sony stand after ten minutes with the Reader. It uses a special display technology called eInk which looks almost exactly like traditional printed paper. There is very little difference between this and a regular novel -- aside from the fact that the Reader can store hundreds of novels in the space of a thin paperback. The new technology doesn't continually use battery power to display its images; power is only consumed when you're turning a page. It's good for 7,500 page turns, no matter how long that takes.

Dan Brown, author of the indefatigable Da Vinci Code, was wheeled out by Sony to demonstrate his bestselling book in electronic form. He was accompanied by Tom Hanks, star of the new film, who defied the Sony throng by mocking the autocue used by Sony's CEO and repeatedly referring to podcasts (the radio-like service synonymous with Apple's iPod).

"I'd act in anything," he said bleakly at one point. "I'd even do podcasts."

Perhaps the answer for Sony all along was to look to the past rather than grappling for the future. No one who loves literature could take a look at the Reader and not lust after it. Sony told Crave that the Reader will retail at $349 (£200) in the US. The UK price is yet to be revealed.

Visit our CES 2006 Special Report for more coverage, including our exclusive video of the Reader in action. -CS & GC

Update: A preview of the Sony Reader is now live in our Reviews channel.