We are hearing many of the same complaints (from the early adopters) that we heard about the iPod before it was introduced. On paper it looked no better than other products of the era (Creative Nomad?), and according to some was going to fail because it was missing some "critical" features like wireless.
I feel like the Sony Reader is a good compromise (compared to the Illiad which is its only real competitor at the moment), much like the iPod was. Certain early adopters have a picture of what the perfect reader is (Web browser, wireless, backlight, etc) that in reality does not make a difference to the book buying market at large.
They are looking for something that allows them to read books, and generally just has to be better than a book in order to beat expectations. Books obviously do not have backlights, they take several seconds to turn a page (which makes noise, and can wake up a sleeping significant other), and can be big and bulky and thus annoying to take on long trips and read in bed. Of course they don't need batteries, are generally way cheaper than $350, and can be resold. But the reality is that the price will come way down, so that will be solved (for the hardware at least). And Sony really seems to have "solved" the battery issue already. Even if it's only half as good as they say (7500 page flips) I might not charge for weeks. This to me (besides the DRM issue) is the biggest problem with the Illiad. Having to charge every 8 or so hours is just not going to work for something that's supposed to replace a book.
Will the Sony Reader be the new iPod or Nomad for the eBook world? Or will it be another Newton, to far ahead of it's time to catch on?
I was lucky enough to order one the second I saw they were available (well right after I read Bob's review!), and one is currently on it's way to me, so hopefully by next week some time I will have a much better idea of how good this device actually is.