eBook Shoot-out: The Amazon Kindle 2 Leapfrogs Sony's Reader

Small design changes can take a product from just okay to great

3 min read

While the eBook world is focused on the new Kindle 2 from Amazon, last fall Sony quietly issued the third edition of its Reader. For me, each new generation has made reading easier and increased the number of books I’ve read. And I say that as a person who, on the bell curve of People Who Read, used to roam the flat plains on the far side of Mt. One Novel a Year.

Even the first-generation Reader’s interface was, on the whole, excellent—good enough to make up for the bad desktop software needed to load electronic books onto it. The Reader’s best feature was its electronic ink from E Ink, which unlike backlit computer screens, is reflective, easy on the eyes, and can be read in full sunlight. As a happy Sony Reader reader, I had to laugh when Amazon’s Kindle 1 came out: Though also based on E Ink’s screen technology, the Kindle had all the visual flair of a flattened pizza box, and it supported fewer document formats than the Sony did.

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Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford

Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

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