Sony (SNE) added another e-reader to its collection today, a pricey touchscreen gadget with a wireless Internet connection, which will go on sale in time for the holiday shopping season.
The new Sony Reader Daily Edition will be available in December for $399, Sony announced today at an event in New York. It operates on AT&T’s 3G network, offering the ability to purchase and download e-books from anywhere in the U.S. — a feature that’s new to Sony, but one that Amazon’s Kindle has offered since the beginning.
The Daily Edition includes a 7-inch touchscreen in a widescreen format, and uses the same “e-ink” screen that Sony’s other readers (and Amazon’s Kindles) use.
Unlike the Kindle, it will not have a rudimentary Web browser, Sony’s Steve Haber told us today. But it does have access to more than one million free, public-domain books, via a partnership with Google, and access to free books from public libraries. (We don’t know much more about it. Sony did not offer any hands-on time, and did not give any software demos.)
How will it do? Touchscreen with wireless is a strong feature set that Amazon hasn’t yet matched, so Sony has an advantage there. But there’s time left for Amazon to unveil a similar device before the holiday season. (We’ve asked Amazon for comment, but don’t expect to hear anything about their plans.)
Either way, the e-reader market is still in its early stages.
While this year’s crop — now including three Readers from Sony, and two Kindles from Amazon — may find a million or more buyers, this is a lot like the first few years of the MP3 player market. There are more features to sort out before mainstream adoption will happen: colour touchscreens, perhaps; e-book formats and DRM “openness”; lower pricing, etc. While Sony and Amazon spar over minor advancements, neither is offering a must-have device today.
And while it seems there will always be a niche market for “e-ink”-powered devices devoted to book reading, we think that the big sellers could be multi-purpose devices that support e-books and also games, apps, Web browsing, and other activities. For instance, Apple’s forthcoming tablet computer — which we envision to be a big iPod touch — could be a strong competitor.
Haber heads up Sony's Digital Reading division, and unveiled the new Sony Reader Daily Edition at the New York Public Library today.
LeClerc talked about the NYPL's involvement in Sony's Reader program
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