One of the reasons I went to the conference was that 3M was finally showing off their new ereader for the 3M Cloud Library. This is something they've been talking about ever since the 3M Cloud Library was announced last year. For the longest time it was just an idea, not a device, but back in early January I got a hint from one librarian's blog that 3M had finally picked the device.
Now, I had to come see it in person not just because it was a gadget but because 3M Library Systems has shown a marked refusal to communicate with me by email (if you sign with 3M, keep this in mind). But I'm glad I came because it gave me a chance to hear the latest spiel from OverDrive.
I have been admiring 3M because they were going to offer an integrated ereader. But what I didn't realize until this week was that OverDrive beat them to it and that OverDrive is also offering a better piece of hardware that costs less.
The 3M eReader (the one I was told was the shipping model) is not a new device. I recognized it immediately as the Pocketbook 602, a device which came out in 2010. It lacks a touchscreen and Wifi, and the model I saw was actually running the stock Pocketbook firmware. Compared to the latest ereaders from B&N, Kobo, Amazon, and Sony, I would rate it as "eh".
3M plans to sell that device for $150, and in terms of the hardware it is not a good deal (unless you've already committed to 3M, in which case you're stuck).
OverDrive's ereader, on the other hand, does have a touchscreen and it does Wifi. It's widely available here in the US with a retail of $130. You've probably seen reviews, and I even have one (I love it). If at this point you're thinking I am referring to the Kindles, nope. The Kindle works with OverDrive but they are not the device I am thinking of.
OverDrive's library ereader is the Sony Reader Wifi (aka PRS-T1)
When the Sony Reader Wifi launched last fall, there was a detail which I didn't pay much attention too. It is integrated with OverDrive, and that means you can use it to checkout and download library ebooks (no PC required). It's the only ereader on the market with the feature, and OverDrive even beat 3M to the market with the idea (they just couldn't do the PR right).
Now, I'm not one to just take OverDrive's word on this (at least I try not to), but luckily that is not a concern here. During one of the sessions on Friday. I happened upon a librarian who owned several units. She has been checking out the Sony Reader Wifi to patrons for some time now, and she reported that it was not difficult.
I like the Sony Reader Wifi as an ereader, but for librarians the killer feature might be the Wifi. That is what makes the Sony Reader Wifi better than the 3M eReader, which has to be plugged in to a library terminal so you can transfer the ebooks. In comparison, I was told by the librarian that it was not difficult to transfer the ebooks to Sony Reader over Wifi.
P.S. I will be posting a summary of the 3M Cloud Library in another post.