Sony on Wednesday will update its e-reader line with touch-screen navigation across all three devices---Reader Pocket, Touch and Daily Edition. The catch is that Sony's line carries higher price points relative to rivals Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
The Pocket will run you $179; the Touch will go for $229; and the Daily Edition will be $299. Only the Daily Edition has Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity.
In comparison, Amazon's 3G/Wi-Fi Kindle goes for $189 with a Wi-Fi-only edition priced at $139. The Barnes & Noble Nook is $189 for the 3G/Wi-Fi version with a $149 Wi-Fi edition. Borders has cut select e-readers to the $99 mark.
In an interview, Steve Haber, president of Sony’s digital reading unit, said it's far too early in the e-reader market to play the commodity pricing game. Meanwhile, Haber added that Sony's research shows that Wi-Fi/3G connectivity isn't that big of a deal. If Sony's e-readers make their mark, it will be because of the touch screen navigation.
On the touch screen front, Sony has found a way to remove a lot of the latency with E-Ink and touch navigation. Toss in aluminum designs, lighter weight and touch screen navigation and Sony can find some traction with these devices. At the very least, the new Kindles and Sony Readers up the stakes for Barnes & Noble, which has to come up with a new Nook before the holiday shopping season.
After playing with these devices for a few minutes, I'd say they are solid contenders. The big question revolves around whether you value wireless connectivity over touch navigation. If you value connectivity over touch, tethering Sony's lower models may be a tougher sell. For wireless connectivity, Sony's Daily Edition (right) will cost you $299, more than $100 above Amazon's Kindle.
Sony does have 2GB of on-board memory with expansion slots to go to 32GB. Sony will integrate is Reader store with Goodreads and mobile applications will be available later this year.
The ultimate buying decision for Sony's Reader will revolve around touch. If you value a full-screen touch navigation that works relatively well Sony has your only e-reader choice. If wireless connectivity is your key feature, Sony isn't likely to win you over.