Affinity Consulting Blog


I previously posted my initial impressions of the Sony Digital Paper e-ink document reading and management device. That was before I made my first road trips with the device and used it to prepare for and make appeal oral arguments. Since then, I've taken it on two trips from Florida to Michigan for that purpose.

It was a simple matter to sync my document folders for each appeal from my PC to the Sony Digital Paper. Nearly all of the documents in the folders are searchable PDFs. There are a few Word files, and although they were sync'd as well, the Sony Digital Paper cannot read them.

I sync'd the folders for one appeal using the Worldox File Cloud web-based service. Folders for the other appeal were transferred using a direct USB cable connection between my PC and the device. Both methods worked fine. Obviously, direct USB transfer is faster. In either case, it was simply a matter of using the right-click context menu from WIndoes Explorer on my PC. The Sony device and the File CLoud service are both configured as right-click options on my PC.

Just for fun, I added a spare 8 GB micro SD card to the Sony's rear-mounted card slot and transfered all of my active case folders via USB to the micro SD card in the event I needed to look at the research or briefs in any of my other cases while on the road. My folder/directory structure was preserved in the process, so it was easy to browse to anything I wanted to read.

The Sony device allows you to simultaneously open several documents and save them as a "Workspace." Multiple workspaces can be saved and then opened as needed, making those documents immediately available through a tabbed interface at the top of the screen. This is similar to using the excellent iAnnotate app on my iPad. For each appeal, I opened all of the briefs, the trial court decision being appealed, and key case and statutory law along with my oral argument notes. I also created a blank note page where I could write notes on the screen during argument. All of these were saved as a workspace. An e-ink display doesn't refresh as quickly as an LCD display in a traditional tablet or laptop, but I was able to switch from document to document quickly enough to avoid any problems.

The experience of using the Sony Digital Paper device during argument was similar to using my iPad, as I have done for the last three years. However, the Sony's larger screen gives me a full-sized view of my documents, making reading text a bit easier. The Sony device, despite its larger screen, is considerably lighter than my 4th generation iPad (and also lighter than the newer iPad Air). That made it more comfortable to use during oral argument than the iPad.

Taking notes on the Sony is a better experience than doing the same task on the iPad. There is more room due to the larger screen. Also, the included stylus writing on the Sony's matte finished screen feels more like a pen on paper. I tried to replicate that feel on the iPad. It can be approximated by applying a anti-glare matte finished screen protector to the iPad and using one of the new generation of active styli. I used the Tech Armor Anti-Glare/Anti-Fingerprint Combo Screen Protector and the Lynktec Rechargeable Apex Fine Point Active Stylus on my iPad. Although the combination isn't exactly like writing on paper, it is a huge improvement over writing with a rubber-tipped stylus on a bare glossy screen. If you are not going to buy the Sony device, but want to write notes on your iPad, these two products will make the task more pleasant at a total cost of about $80.

On my flight back to Florida from Michigan, I was seated next to a litigation partner at a small/medium-sized firm. We talked tech and I showed him the Sony Digital Paper. When I described how I used it to read and annotated transcripts and other trial court documents when working on appeals and also during oral argument, he was intrigued. He thought the combination of light weight, e-ink screen, and large screen size would make it ideal for his type of litigation work. This is clearly a niche device, particular with a cost of over $1,000, but the niche may be larger than I originally thought.

Comparisons between the Sony Digital Paper and the iPad are inevitable. The iPad is a more versatile device. The Sony Digital Paper is a limited purpose device. It is like a giant Kindle you can write on. For the purpose of reading and annotating PDF documents and having them available during courtroom proceedings, the Sony Digital Paper has some clear advantages. While I wish the price was lower, I don't find it to be unreasonable given how well it performs its limited range of tasks and the way it saves my eyes during hours-long sessions reading and annotating trial transcripts and documents.

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