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Christmas Gift Guide

Where better to test out the new Sony Reader Touch Edition and Pocket Edition ebook readers than the august seat of academe that is the British Library? That's exactly what we did today, while hoping no-one said anything about the copy of Kevin Keegan's Football -- It's a Funny Old Game we've had out of Birkenhead library since 1992.

We got our hands on the new models that were announced yesterday. On first glance at the press shots, it looked as if the Touch featured a touchscreen strip, but in fact the whole 127mm (5-inch) display is ready to have fingerprints smeared all over it.

The refresh rate of the e-ink screen was the first thing we tested. When you turn each page, the e-ink has to wipe itself out and reform the new words -- like a possessed Etch A Sketch -- and as that's the task the reader will perform most often, it has to be fast or it'll become annoying very quickly. We're happy to report the Touch's page-turning motion is very slick indeed.

It's no Daily Edition wireless wonder, but it's certainly the slickest ebook reader we've seen. Sadly there's no plans for the Daily to arrive in Blighty any time soon, which may be because content deals with newspaper, magazine and other publishers have yet to be worked out.

Click through our gallery to see the Touch Edition and Pocket Edition Readers in action. Bonus geek points if you spot the book we used to test them out...

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The Touch supports both Sony's own Memory Stick Pro Duo, and SD and SDHC cards.
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The Touch includes a stylus.
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The bottom of the Touch includes a reset button and headphone socket. It plays MP3s, so you can listen to music while reading.
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Here's the back, complete with Reader logo. We can't decide if it's shrewd or daft to adopt such a generic name for the range.
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Aaaand here's the touchscreen in action. A sideways swipe of the finger turns the page. You can choose which direction to swipe -- the default is left to right, which felt backwards to us -- and the refresh rate is pleasingly quick.
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The Touch's killer feature is the ability to highlight and annotate text. Here we're highlighting text with the stylus: you can use your finger but it isn't as precise. The turned-down page corner icon at the top right also allows you to bookmark a page.
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To annotate, simply write on the page. Highlighted passages and annotations are stored in a separate menu for easy review. You can also write and save memos from the home screen. If you haven't guessed the book yet, you need to get yourself to a library quick-sharp because you've got a trilogy in four parts to read.
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This is the Pocket edition. The book is, of course, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
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The Pocket has loads of buttons, but includes the clever row of numbered buttons down the side that cut down on menu-scrolling. While reading, the number buttons can skip you to a specific page.
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No headphones and no music, sadly.
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Here's the Pocket Edition in its surprisingly subtle pink guise. The Pocket will set you back £180, but frankly we'd stretch to the extra for the Touch. You get music and the touchscreen experience is streets ahead, while the Pocket's buttons mean the screen is way smaller but the overall shell isn't that much less than the Touch. Happy reading, and don't panic.
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