Sony recently released “Sony Digital Paper” in conjunction with Worldox. The device is “like a giant Kindle you can write on” says Scott Bassett in his extensive road test of the product. The product uses e-ink, so it is is extremely clear and has an amazing battery life (Sony claims 3 weeks if you are not linking to the web all the time). It is almost exactly the size and thickness of a standard yellow pad, with 4GB storage and room for an expansion SD memory card.
I finally broke down and bought one last week (at $1100 plus $120 for the first year of Worldox FileCloud it is fairly pricey). Digital Paper is available only through Worldox and its vendors, but will work with anything.
When you first get some documents loaded into it the results are spectacular. I loaded a PDF version (it only takes PDFs) of my Worldox in One Hour for Lawyers book and started flipping through the pages. Not only was the text extremely sharp, the graphics looked great even though they were in gray scale.
You can save multiple documents in a “workflow.” This means that you can save multiple open documents and just tap on a list to access the desired document instantly.
Stage two was taking handwritten notes. The device comes with a stylus and writing feels very close to paper (partly I suspect because the screen is plastic not glass). Sony Digital Paper stores the notes and you can synch them up with the FileCloud. Want to erase something? Just tap on the eraser icon and “erase” over your notes. The notes disappear but the underlying text does not. You can have up to 10 pages of notes in a single note file.
The Sony legal department claims that according to the terms of the ESIGN Act, signatures on a contract, lease, etc. executed on Digital Paper are as binding as those on a paper copy. So if you are going into, say, a closing, you would check out the closing documents from Worldox to Digital Paper (or copy them using the USB connector), have everyone sign them, synch them back up and check them back in to Worldox . Alternatively, if you want to take all necessary documents to a trial, you can simply copy them to the Digital Paper device and have them instantly available.
That’s the fun stuff. The WOW factor is considerable. But what are the problems? As Bob Ambrogi said in his excellent review, “this is a great device for working with documents and taking handwritten notes...It is hard to beat replacing a stack of documents with something so light, thin and readable. That said, it is a one-trick pony.” But what a trick! The first thing a savvy user will try to do (as I did) is to expand the functionality of the device. But that basically does not work. It is what it is. It would be nice to be able to email documents stored on the Digital Paper, though.
With very large documents, there can be significant pauses when swiping rapidly from page to page (there is also a slider to advance by a large amount). On my book (150 pages, 20MB), if I tapped the hyperlink to go to a particular chapter, there could then be a 4-5 second delay before I could scroll. If you are actually reading, this is not an issue, but if you are flipping rapidly through something it can be annoying. Using my book as an example again, I could swipe quickly through 4-5 pages, then there would be a several-second pause while the memory cache caught up and was ready to go again. Apparently there are tradeoffs between the excellent e-ink display and speed requirements. Similarly, there can be noticeable pauses between when you tap on a feature and the result appears.
There is a web browser, but it is s...l...o...w. You could use it to check something specific, but not open and go through, say a dozen or more emails. It took me 4 seconds to open my gmail account on my office PC and over 30 seconds on Sony Digital Paper. Response time in dealing with emails is analogous. Searches can be similarly slow.
If you are coming from an iPad, the Digital Paper device will seem pretty familiar. If not, there is a significant learning curve (translation: an hour or two of cursing). Like so many things, it is simple once you know how.
OK, it is an awesome toy, but what would you actually USE it for? Three things, I think.
First, taking notes at meetings. There is a lot of evidence that taking notes on a pad produces a lot better reaction on the part of the people that you are meeting with than hiding behind a computer and typing. And the note taking on Digital Paper is vastly superior to using an iPad. Sony also refers to studies showing that people remember handwritten notes better than typed notes. Maybe. On the other hand, if your handwriting is as bad as mine, deciphering your notes can be a challenge and having them in digital format does not change that.
Second, to refer to large numbers of documents at a trial, real estate closing, contract negotiations, etc. Digital Paper really shines here. Although I don’t have those uses, I have loaded all my technical documents, manuals, training documents, price sheets, pro-forma engagement letters, etc. into the Digital Paper. That way, I will have instant answers to even the most obscure question. No more having to say “I’ll have to look that up.”
Third, and to my way of thinking this might be the biggest game changer, the ability to execute documents with legally binding signatures. Think of the current workflow at many law firms:
1. You print out a contract, agreement, lease, etc.
2. The client signs it.
3. You scan the signed document and save it back to your document repository.
With Digital Paper, you print the document to PDF and save it to Digital Paper. The client signs it and you check it back in to Worldox (or whereever). All done.
So check out the 2-minute video on the Worldox web site demonstrating the use of Sony Digital Paper. This is something that needs to be seen to be believed.