Now that the changes have appeared (a few days later than expected), and I've taken some time to explore the new Google Reader, I'm doubting that original position. In a few ways, mostly aesthetic, Google Reader does seem better: it's cleaner, brighter, and has an easy-to-use one-click subscribe button. For people who solely use the service to read RSS feeds, the redesign seems like a net-gain, the only real problem being that it is running very slowly (a common complaint), but that is something Google will presumably (hopefully) fix in the coming days.
If you take some time to read reactions to the upgrade on Google+, Twitter, and Google Reader help boards, you will see lots of people who do not like the new look. It's too bright, the bar at the top is too big, hyperlinks are hard to see. I think many of these people will soon adjust to what are more or less cosmetic changes.
But for people who used Google Reader's sharing features, the upgrade is a big loss, for all intents and purposes ruining that aspect of Reader. The old sharing methods have been totally supplanted with Google+ tools, which, quality aside, are too different to satisfy the same needs. I'm going to dive into the nitty-gritty here, so consider yourself warned.
Let's begin with the problems of how to share, before moving on to the larger problems of how you read and discuss.
In place of the old sharing buttons are two Google+ tie-ins, both of which are poorly designed. The first, which appears at the bottom of each post, is the now-familiar +1 button. Clicking on this does not send the article to your stream. Rather the article will now appear on the +1 page of your profile, kind of like the Favorites page of a Twitter profile. That's fine. If you want to share this piece and +1 it, you'll have to go click share on the box that pops up. That's also fine, but it's not intuitive to have to first click on +1, which does something different but it's unclear what that is (unless, like me, you call someone to do an experiment to ask them to tell you whether they can see anything on your profile or in Google Reader after you click that button). This should not be so hard.
Now, say you want to share something but you don't want to +1 it. At first this doesn't seem possible, but it is, it's just not obvious. To do so, you have to click not on the item that you want to share, but on the share button that lives in the Google tool bar at the top of every Google app page. That button doesn't share Reader, as it might seem were it to apply to the entire page you're looking at, but only to the item you have open. Why did Google not put a share button in each post's display?
If that were all that was wrong with the redesign, I could get over it. The location of buttons, while annoying, does not ruin Google Reader's sharing utility.