Sony Readers Come Out Fighting

BlogHer Original Post

The fight is on! Sony Readers remain less expensive than the Amazon Kindle. Sony Readers are available in more countries the than Amazon Kindle. Recent moves from Sony and the additional promise of big announcements on August 25 are adding to the question of whether Sony Reader is going to be able to conquer the Amazon Kindle after all.

Last week Sony announced two things. Both of them potentially game changing. There are several new models at competitive prices. This story at SlashGear, Sony Reader ebook team press conference Aug 25th: wireless model coming? describes the new PRS-300 Pocket ($199) and PRS-600 Touch ($299).

Sony Reader Touch
image: Sony Reader Touch

Sony's other big announcement was that they are switching the format for ebooks on the Sony Reader to the ePub open source format. This opens up the Sony Reader to many more titles and removes restrictions about what format of ebook will work on the device. Here's one of many stories about the new format, Sony to open up e-reader format in direct challenge to Amazon from the San Francisco Business Times. Here's the Sony Blog post about ePub format.

If those two things aren't enough to get Amazon's attention, Sony is still planning something big for August 25. It will be big news (and big competition for the Kindle) if the announcement is about a wireless Reader as the rumor mill is speculating.

A Reader's Words gives the case for e-readers in Why I may switch to an e-reader.

Since then the prices for the ebook readers have declined. Kindle has already reduced it from $350 to $299 in the face of competition from the Sony reader. The cost of an ebook- generally around $10, is also less than the paper version. The availability of over 700, 000 out of copyright books on the Sony reader is an added bonus. Of course, there will be a downside in that one can no longer purchase used books. I have bought good quality used books for as low as 1 cent. With a 3.99 dollar shipping charge, they have cost me about $4, or rupees 200, by all means an excellent price.

WriteBlack, in By one metric, Sony’s Reader>Amazon’s Kindle quotes search data.

The Kindle may get all the buzz, but Amazon’s infuriating policy (or poor planning, or deliberate attempt to manage hype) of limiting access to it could ultimately backfire.

Joe Wikert has a great post with data (mmm, graphics!) over at Teleread, noting that Google Trends show interest in the Reader is consistently higher than that for the Kindle. Kindle interest spiked when the product was released and when the marketing juggernaut that is Oprah Winfrey talked about it on her show.

Combined with Sony’s plan to demonstrate the Reader to millions of Americans in person — not to mention the headstart it already has in parts of the world where the Kindle isn’t sold — this may mean bad news for the Kindle.

It’s too early to make the call, but I’d hate to see the Kindle become the new Betamax. Amazon, what are you doing?

However, SlingWords points out in New Sony e-Readers that even the lower priced Sony is still a challenge for some.

Electronic readers will never become massively popular until the masses can afford to buy them.

The Sony Reader is popular with Canadians because Amazon isn't selling the Kindle there. Ms. Bookish points out in Reading E-books: Sony Reader or iPhone? that while the Kindle is not available in Canada, but there may be hope for an iPhone app that is.

So, until recently, I’ve been thinking of asking for the Sony Reader for my birthday. But my husband got the latest iPhone recently, and I’ve been having a lot of fun playing around with it when he’s not looking.

I’d read that Amazon offers a Kindle app for iPhone, but again, there’s that geographical restriction. I can’t access the app through my iTunes store because I’m in Canada.

Recently, though, I read about Barnes & Noble’s new iPhone app; intrigued, I got my husband to load it onto his iPhone so I could see what reading on the iPhone would be like. Even though you don’t get the “like-paper” feel you get with the Sony Reader or the Kindle, I found I enjoyed reading on the iPhone (the B&N app comes with a number of free books, including Pride & Prejudice, so it was easy to test without buying anything).

The iPhone app for e-reading is free. That seems like a no-brainer for anyone with an iPhone that would preclude the purchase of any type of e-reader for hundreds of dollars.

Old fashioned books still have their fans, including Pauline at Webgrrls, who says she's Passing on E-book Readers.

The bottom line is that many of us are already reading and viewing way too much on our computers, laptops, and mobile phones. I think we need to step away from our screens to rest our eyes and just take a break from technology from time to time.

Maybe something cranked out by Gutenberg lacks the beauty of an illuminated manuscript hand-copied by monks. Maybe a backlit e-book lacks the touchy, feeling rewards of a well-worn paperback. But the times they are a-changing and Sony is trying to make them change even faster.

Virginia DeBolt
BlogHer Technology Contributing Editor
Web Teacher
First 50 Words


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