We've just arrived home from our Tokyo weekend. I'll write a picture-post thing later, when I'm done with the images. Until then, a few random observations:
* I didn't have real internet access all weekend, and it was wonderful. Well, I did have my smartphone of course, but it doesn't invite you to random surfing for hours on end. I'm bone tired, but I feel way more relaxed than I ever do after a normal weekend.
* We passed a Sony store and I took a quick look at their new e-book reader, the Touch 650. It was, well ... amazing, really. I mean, I almost bought it right there and then, and had Ritsuko - always a voice of reason - not been along I really would have plonked down the money right in the store.
It's an e-ink based reader, like the Kindle from Amazon. Which means it really looks like paper rather than a screen. It's nicely bright and contrasty (black and white photographs look pretty good), and there's a typical "flash" when you change pages. So far, so good.
But it's light. Really light; the weight feels like a thin pocket book, and you could easily hold it for hours on end without getting tired. Could have it in a pocket or in your bag and never know it's there. And it has a touch-screen, so you can navigate by swiping your finger, you can click on icons and type notes right on screen. It even has a simple drawing program that is surprisingly useful; the e-ink screen only has to update a small bit at a time so it doesn't lag. Surprisingly (for Sony), it supports plenty of open formats, so it's easy to get texts on it. No net connection but USB and SD cards are supported. The battery is good for weeks.
I've tried the Kindle 3 too - it has the same screen - and the Sony is just plain better. It's lighter, smaller and the touch screen makes using it much more natural. For reading it handily beats tablets like the Samsung Tab and the iPad; they're heavier (much heavier for the iPad) and don't have the battery life or the paper-like screen.
Why didn't I get it then (apart from Ritsuko reminding me I don't actually need it)? Research papers. A major reason for me to get it would be to read research papers in PDF format. They are notoriously difficult to read well on-screen; I usually resort to printing them. An e-ink screen should render them much better. But I suspect the screen size (15cm - 6 inches) and the PDF reader application just aren't up to the task of showing them properly. I didn't have any example PDF-files with me, and I'm not going to buy a reader until I can test this properly.
* Most places in Japan sell a range of local specialities as travel gifts. "白い恋人" (shiroi koibito) is an extremely popular soft white chocolate cookie from Hokkaido. The name means "white sweetheart" and alludes to the white chocolate and to the wintery climate of the area. Coming back to Osaka tonight we spotted a gift store at the station selling a cookie called "面白い恋人" (omoshiroi koibito). Which means, roughly, "interesting sweetheart" or "amusing sweetheart". That, to me, sums up Osaka pretty well. I'm happy to be back.