Sony's new Reader lineup assaults Amazon biz plan

Sony's new Reader lineup assaults Amazon biz plan

Summary: Sony released a 7-inch, $399, touchscreen, 3G and Wi-Fi e-book reader this morning, and it's never more obvious that Amazon is up against a wall in the market segment it helped create.With this morning's announcement, Sony is attacking Amazon on all fronts: a $199 Reader that undercuts the cheapest Kindle by $100, a more fully-featured touchscreen model at $299, and a $399 Wi-Fi, 3G touchscreen model that is smaller than the Kindle DX but two inches but also cheaper by $90.

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Sony released a 7-inch, $399, touchscreen, 3G and Wi-Fi e-book reader this morning, and it's never more obvious that Amazon is up against a wall in the market segment it helped create.

With this morning's announcement, Sony is attacking Amazon on all fronts: a $199 Reader that undercuts the cheapest Kindle by $100, a more fully-featured touchscreen model at $299, and a $399 Wi-Fi, 3G touchscreen model that is smaller than the Kindle DX but two inches but also cheaper by $90.

It's an assault across the entire product line, top to bottom: give students something affordable, give the affluent early-adopters more bang for their buck, and bring the features we've gotten used to -- Wi-Fi, 3G, touchscreen -- to the Reader as aspirational features.

In a move that echoes Apple, Sony's trio of Readers covers different audiences: the "Pocket Edition" is its iPod shuffle, the "Touch Edition" is its iPod nano and the "Daily Edition" is its iPod touch.

What's more, Sony's playing the "open and free" game, switching to the EPUB standard and linking up with brick-and-mortar libraries, as well as Google, to cover as many bases as it can. We've been waiting for an e-reader device to actually partner with a library, rather than a bookstore, and today marked the building of that bridge.

Make no mistake: the name of the e-reader game is now leverage: of brand, of distribution chains, of price, of excitement.

Sony's aim? To get as many devices in people's hands.

Top that off with Sony's arguably better build quality -- ask ZDNet Tech Broilermaster Jason Perlow about that -- and Sony is undoubtedly making aggressive moves against Amazon.

There are flaws in this plan, of course. I overheard one reporter asking why one would need a 7-inch reader for all those "cinematic novels," and color is still a missing crucial feature. Another question is whether our nation's many library systems will get moving and open their collections to digital availability.

Worse, Amazon's still a huge threat. That company has an easily identifiable brand (Kindle) that's nearly synonymous with the "e-reader." That position shouldn't be discounted, and it's entirely possible that Amazon's already got an answer in the pipeline.

Will Sony get more Readers in people's hands? In my experience riding New York's subway system, non-Americans (mostly Europeans) tend to own Sony's Readers, while Americans gravitate toward the more identifiable Kindle. So there's some ground to make up in consumers' minds -- an even tougher challenge in a down economy for a device that is, no matter how you slice it, a luxury.

Nevertheless, there's a lot of excitement about the segment, which is still in its "Wild Wild West"-esque infancy. This competition is no doubt beneficial to consumers, and the race to cheaper (but not necessarily cheaply made) devices.

Still,  e-readers are prohibitively expensive for most people, and according to a study in 2008, the majority of Americans haven't read a book in the last year. Will e-readers change reading habits, or will reading habits limit the e-reader industry?

Topics: Amazon, Hardware, Mobility, Networking, Wi-Fi

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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19 comments
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  • All good developments for the consumer

    More competition equals more innovation and better pricing. I like their move towards a more open standard and it'll be interesting to see how Amazon responds to that. Yep, it's gonna be a heck of a battle with three competent players (Sony, Amazon and B&N) and counting.
    oncall
  • Amazon Kindle Clawbacks

    Amazon has shot themselves in the foot, for Amazon can delete any e-book from any Kindle at any time they choose. Indeed, they have already done so. (Refunds given.)

    I appreciate the need for copywrite protection. That is all well and good. I understand why Amazon acts they way it does. They feel that end users will tolerate clawbacks, and so they have compromised the traditional expectations of the end user for the sake of big-brother expediency.

    The advantage Sony has is that they, as with traditional publishers and brick and mortar book stores, deal with copywrite issues away from the end user where those issues should properly be settled.

    If I shell out hard dollars for any book, taking due care to protect that book, than I expect that, as the end user, the book will be there for my use any time I reach for it. The idea that I might reach for a text book, reference book, or novel at a moment of need and find that Amazon has snapped their fingers and made it vanish into the aether, leaving me screwed, is simply and absolutely unacceptable. (How about providing a weeks notice before clawing back a book, if clawback you must?)

    Wake up! Amazon. This issue is a Kindle killer.
    Give 'em hell, Sony!
    Science_1
  • What do you get for $199?

    you mention the price then talk about the $399 model.
    Randalllind
    • Of course, all blogs/magazines/etc do this

      They assume all of us are willing to pay for the most expensive model and neglect the entry level. It's like they are the ones trying to sell this stuff.
      T1Oracle
    • Please read the appropriate article.

      I explain the differences between the models in a previous post, which is linked in the first sentence of this post:

      http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=23187
      andrew.nusca
      • Thanks sorry I missed that link before

        I may buy one down the road. I like the openness of it. The fact I can download a million books from Google and at the same time buy books from Sony.

        Being untied sounds good to me. I love Amazon but being tied to them only makes the Kindle not a good bargain to me.
        Randalllind
  • Kindle is name that unknown by most.

    It is not synonymous with anything. Until an e-reader device becomes a smashing success the idea of an e-reader will still be alien to average non-techie joe. By releasing a product in the $200 price range Sony has a chance at some market penetration. They just have to make sure the user experience is flawless and the satisfaction ratings are high.

    If Sony can pull that off, they will put e-readers on the map and the Kindle will fade away.
    T1Oracle
  • And Will It Be A Proprietary Mess Like All Of Sony's Products?

    Betamax...Laserdisc...Minidisc...Blu-Ray....

    Let me count the failures.....and yes, Blu-Ray is listed..it's already being predicted to tank and HD-DVD is supposed to make a comeback.
    itanalyst2@...
    • HD-DVD is gone forever, sorry.

      If BluRay tanks, it'll be because of downloads, not HD-DVD.

      HD-DVD is gone forever, sorry.

      Consumers have made it 100% crystal clear they hated waiting for one format to win over the other, and there's no way they want the format war to start again.
      CobraA1
      • I'm not a big fan of Blu-ray

        But I agree, you would have to be an A-1 sucker to buy an HD-DVD player now. I can understand holding out against hope for it's return after you already dropped money on it. But come-on, it's dead as a "going concern", move-on. I can't imagine how much money big distributors, like Fry's, might have lost on that one when they were forced to unload their remaining HD-DVD disks in "clearance bins", I am sure they are still smarting.

        HD-DVD RIP
        oncall
  • RE: Sony's new Reader lineup assaults Amazon biz plan

    I already carry a laptop, blackberry, and an iPod. I
    don't need one more thing to carry. Seriously, I may be
    able to listen to a few hundred songs on a plane/train,
    but I can't read a few hundred books. Why can't someone
    create a service that will allow me to download a color
    PDF of any book/periodical for a fee that I could read
    on my laptop? Instead of iTunes how about iBook? I'd pay
    $10 for a download...

    www.astmanagedservices.com
    trevorhults
  • Tech isn't there yet

    "and color is still a missing crucial feature."

    While it's under development - truth is, color e-ink is still not ready yet. I'm confident we will get there, but it will take time.
    CobraA1
  • RE: Sony's new Reader lineup assaults Amazon biz plan

    I agree with Sony's approach entirely. (They are obviously doing this because they are the underdog, unlike Blu-ray)...

    The reason I hesitate to get a Kindle is due to the closed eco-system of the Kindle system, which makes Amazon the gatekeeper in that case and lock me into Amazon completely. Don't give me wrong, as a consumer, I love buying stuff, books and other things, at Amazon.

    An irony is that Amazon has an awesome MP3 store that is DRM-free with a large selection and often good prices. Yet that is a completely open format, which is preferrable. While not completely analogous, ePub would be much open about where I can get my ebook content, which is more comforting and promotes competition.

    On the note about Amazon, I recently came across an interesting table that details the discounts on Amazon.

    It is at <a href="http://www.uberi.com">http://www.uberi.com</a>

    Maybe someone will find it useful too. While you are there, I would suggest checking out the "Amazon Filler Item" among other things there when you get a chance. It's quite amusing.
    denise485
  • Will public libraries move on digital content?

    QUOTE:
    Another question is whether our nation?s many library systems will get moving and open their collections to digital availability.

    REPLY:
    Already there are thousands of libraries out there with digital collections available. Some have been offering eBooks for 5+ years already. The question isn't so much about library adoption but patron adoption. Are people willing to purchase expensive readers from Amazon and purchase all their books there, or are they more likely to purchase (slightly less) expensive readers from Sony and borrow eBooks from the libraries for free.

    I already own a Sony 505 Reader, so I guess I've weighed in on that question.
    rickp@...
  • RE: Sony's new Reader lineup assaults Amazon biz plan

    You write: "In my experience riding New York?s subway system, non-Americans (mostly Europeans) tend to own Sony?s Readers, while Americans gravitate toward the more identifiable Kindle".

    In the UK the Kindle is not on offer on the Amazon UK web site. It can only be ordered off of Amazon if you have a US Credit Card and US shipping address - which might explain it! The Sony is on offer in the UK.
    chris@...
    • Same is true of Amazon France

      Same is true of Amazon France. Can buy a Sony, but not a Kindle.
      chris@...
  • RE: Sony's new Reader lineup assaults Amazon biz plan

    What a load of pathetic rubbish! $xxx and not even in colour?

    See www.martin-woodhouse.co.uk if you want to know what e-reading is really all about.

    And then come back and tell us when there are
    e-books in colour, running on a $20 machine and using only solar power.

    Eh? I can do it tomorrow if some enterprising outfit will provide some funding . . .

    Cheers, Martin
    hokusai@...
  • RE: Sony's new Reader lineup assaults Amazon biz plan

    Thats because the kindles whispernet (wireless) functionality only works in the us.
    sorry this post was ment to be a reply to why you can only buy the kindle in the us
    kent.damgaard@...
  • RE: Sony's new Reader lineup assaults Amazon biz plan

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