Sony's Reader: The road ahead

Sony's Reader: The road ahead

Summary: Sony launched two new e-readers, including one that hits the $199 price point and could bring e-books to the masses. Yet Sony is facing stiff competition from Amazon's Kindle, Plastic Logic (in 2010) and a rapidly expanding field of competitors.

TOPICS: Mobility, Hardware, Wi-Fi

Sony launched two new e-readers, including one that hits the $199 price point and could bring e-books to the masses. Yet Sony is facing stiff competition from Amazon's Kindle, Plastic Logic (in 2010) and a rapidly expanding field of competitors.

Also see: Sony launches two new readers including a pocket-sized $199 device and Gallery: Sony's new e-readers.

We spoke to Brennan Mullin, vice president of Sony Electronics’ audio and digital imaging division, about the road ahead for the company on the e-reader front.

On the $199 price point, I noted that it was interesting that Sony is going smaller screen with its Pocket as Amazon is going larger with the Kindle DX. Mullin noted that Sony is looking to expand the market to the masses with an inexpensive device that will fit in your pocket:

"Our themes are that we want to make readers and content the most open, available and affordable. Now there's a device for someone on a budget---$199 is an important price point that makes digital reading available to a wider audience. Until now (the market) has been for early adopters."

On Sony's retail distribution heft, Mullin said the strategy is to get people to try its e-reader in the aisles of Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy (among other stores). Mullin said:

"We want to make them available wherever consumers shop. We want them to put the books in their hands and try it. Some people are dubious and putting the devices in their hands allows for trial."

On the need for improvement, Mullin said that Sony is making tweaks based on user feedback. One complaint about the 700 model of Sony's Reader was that the screen had too much glare and ambient light. The new Touch fixes that problem.

Speaking of improvements where's the Wi-Fi? Sony's latest e-readers, like the ones before them, need to be tethered to a PC for downloading. Compared to the ease of the Kindle, Sony will need a wireless answer. Mullin said:

The wireless products are developing. It is coming separately. It's an important feature.

Mullin didn't disclose whether Sony's future e-readers would have 3G and/or Wi-Fi support.  He'd only say that wireless technology is coming.

Does Sony need a partnership with other e-book stores? Mullin said Sony's plan is to support multiple stores and be wherever consumers buy and use books. Sony sees beyond its stores to libraries and other outlets. However, Sony's store supports its own format while Google features PDFs and e-books on the ePub standard. Mullin said Sony will support them all. "Sony Reader supports ePub and plenty of stores support that format," said Mullin. "We're agnostic and encourage the bookstores in the market to provide content in an open format."

On bigger screens and the B2B opportunity, Mullin said Sony had "no plans bigger screens today." He was more upbeat on the vertical industry potential. Mullin said that education is a market that Sony is exploring and there's a lot of potential in the medical industry.

Where are the color screens? Mullin said that color will be very important for B2B applications, but "it's also important that it's done well." In a nutshell, there's a tradeoff between color and readability.

Mullin said:

"When color is brought to market it has to be brought in a way that meets consumer expectations. There's a tradeoff between readability and color. It's also a tradeoff we're not willing to make at this point."

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Wi-Fi

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  • DRM

    DRM and more DRM. Paper books are so much better. Sony's record on
    DRM is worst than terrible. How will I trade e books with my sister? How
    many e books will ever be sold in flea markets or secondhand book
    stores? How do we get the out of print e books to read.

    This e book stuff is a solution looking for a mark, not a customer.
    • Much more open than Kindle!

      I have the Sony PRS-505. 197 books on it at present! Only DRMed books on it are the "FREE" Public Domain ones I got for signing up at the Sony Store! First and only time I will it!! Webscriptions and Fictionwise both are less expensive and offer a wider selection of multi-format ebooks!
      DRM-free Text: BBeB Book (LRF), PDF, TXT, RTF, ePub
      DRM Text: BBeB Book (LRX); Secure PDF and ePub
      DRM-free Audio: MP3 and AAC
      Image: JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP (Loading an animated GIF will freeze the Reader)
    • P.R.M. !

      If you buy a paper book you can only give it to one other person - that's a pretty effective 'Printed Rights Management'!!!

      Most of the books that I have purchased use Adobe Digital Editions to restrict where the book can be read. You can register up to 5 devices with ADE which means that up to 5 people can read the same book at the same time.

      Try reading your paperback with your sister at the same time - let alone with your sister, brother, mother & father at the same time!

      If a book is 'out-of-print' - how do you get hold of it in any media?
      If there is a specific book your after try the Project Gutenberg web site. They have 30,000 ebooks, in many formats, available to read for free. You may find what your looking for there without spending any bucks!
  • Now which firm was it that put a root kit onto their music CD's ?

    Oh.........I forgot.......It was Sony wasn't it ? DRM, DRM, DRM......and if you are stupid enough to go into the eBook situation, then you will enjoy having your files deleted without your permission when DRM strikes back. Sony knows that game only too well.....just doesn't want you to know that it is using it.

    Give me a paper book any day. It is mine to use, love, repair, resell, and it really IS my property, not a licenced item. I wouldn't touch an eBook ever, and as for Sony's product: only when a very hot afterlife freezes over.
    • Sony does not delete files, Kindle does.

      We have Sony specifically because you control the content
      I can put anything I want on my Sony no problems and no DRM concerns. Kindle was a freaking nightmare. So if you want a DRM friendly reader the Sony is the best game in Town. Not sure about the Music CD DRM thing but I think they learned their lesson.
      • Yes, it was Kindle, however the same DRM principle applies

        You are quite right "sbass", it was the Kindle that deleted files without user permission, however that particular sentence in my first post was meant as a generality not a specific. My fault.

        The point I was attempting to make was that once one of these eBook manufacturers has done that particularly nasty deed, the precedent has been set. Sony was caught redhanded when it was found that Sony had been installing secret DRM root kits on CD's and thence into computers without user permission - and was severely chastised for what I perceive to be illegal activities. So, given that betrayal of the consumer in the desire to achieve DRM, would I trust Sony to be fully open about this device and its files ? Ummmmm......No ? There is no way I would trust Sony in any situation involving intellectual property in digital form.
  • RE: Sony's Reader: The road ahead

    I'm surprised that Adobe hasn't come out with an ebook reader yet. You would think that would sell in the high numbers given that it would support PDF and Adobe's fonts. They are the one of the most well known companies in the digital documents game.
    Loverock Davidson
  • RE: Sony's Reader: The road ahead

    Amazing, Sony is always one step ahead of the rest!

    • Sony's Foot!!

      Too bad a lot of the time they shoot themselves in that foot also!!
  • RE: Sony's Reader: The road ahead

    Let me know when someone has a small reader for $50.
  • RE: Sony's Reader: The road ahead

    I have a 505 and it works just fine for fiction. Higher resolution and color are needed if you want to put textbooks on it. And it's easy enough to convert your own pdf or rtf documents for the 505. The 505 is so much easier to carry around than a couple hundred paperback books! If I couldn't put my own ebooks on the 505, I could never have justified the $300 purchase price if I had to buy all my ebooks.

    I guess for younger readers (ie, better vision) the $199 Sony model will be readable. I've tried reading ebooks on a palm pilot, but that's too tedious. I'd like to see Sony come out with a larger color model (textbook size) so I can read my textbooks.
  • No cellular coverage w/Sony!

    Does the Sony beat the ease of the cellular download capability of the Kindle? Come on.
  • RE: Sony's Reader: The road ahead

    I firmly believe that e-readers are the future for the
    publishing industry and I believe also that this may
    be the next revolution for lending libraries.

    I would like to handle the Kindle DX but since I'm in
    Europe it looks as though I have a long wait. My
    question is do we need a reader that duplicates the
    appearance of a book or will the literate public take
    to something different. Please Amazon and Kindle let
    us try out the reader in the same way that software
    companies test their new programmes with approved
    Paul Reitman
  • RE: Sony's Reader: The road ahead

    just a quick comment here. I have never used an E book other than asking a person next to me on a plane if I could see how there Kindle was.

    This last weekend I went to my daughters for dinner and she pulled out this little red colored reader from Sony saying she had been given one to write a review of and to check out a book on it. She is an author and publicity person for the book industry. It was the little unit we are speaking of here.
    I tried it and found it very useable ...easy to use and it had the ability to change the font size to anything for us "older" guys. Had no problem reading it and found it was small and very light ..less than a paperback... Also liked its "bookmark key ... it "folded" over the corner of the page andc automatically went to sleep. My daughter said she has had the unit for over a month and read a few bboks on it and it still had not needed recharging for the battery.
  • Why spend 200 when you can spend 150 and get more.

    Buy a Netbook for 150 and read PDF's, pretty straightforward and you can do your email etc while drinking your coffee between books.

    The kindle and this reader are just for people with more money than sense.
    Reality Bites
    • More money than sense?

      If you are a serious reader then you have a collection of books scattered all over the house. Problem is they either get lent out or thrown out because of the clutter. If you ever want to reread the book it?s gone. With an e-raeder you can have your entire library on your reader and backup to DVD in case you drop the reader in water or crash your pc. The point is you never lose your books and you can read several books at once with bookmarks set for each. I agree they are expensive but they are getting better and better all the time and the price is dropping. If you don?t read you may not be interested but if you do this is a true gift. The kindle is a complete joke for the price it should do your laundry too.
  • RE: Sony's Reader: The road ahead

    I have a small device that gives me access to much, much
    more than the Kindle or Sony Reader and doesn't tie me to
    a PC or wireless network. It's a library card. No
    worries about screen size, resolution, software updates,

    Wonder if it's outside the realm of possibility...that e-
    book makers/vendors would lobby Congress to reduce
    funding for libraries in order, they wouldn't
    do...they couldn't...
    Hockey Hall of Fame
  • RE: Sony's Reader: The road ahead

    The PDF converters do a terrible job on some books. For technical work you need PDF.
  • Astak Pocket PRO, far stronger 5 inch not stripped down!!

    Dear ZD Net:

    Yes, the Sony Pocket Edition is a stripped won eBook Reader with s sealed-in battery for $199.

    Astak makes a 5 inch Pocket PRO that has a user-replacebale, rechargeable battery that offers SO much more it leaves this in the dust! WHERE is ZD Net??

    The Pocket PRO has an Epson controller and 400MHz processor for blazing page turns, 8 level grey scale, Text-To-Speech, Adobe Digital Editions, displays 12 formats and 20 languages, includes a LEATHER case and earbids, and comes in SIX colors for $229.

    Why is a stripped-down 5 inch news when a great one is ignored?? Do a review on the Pocket PRO!!
    • Can I have one?

      You know, send me one without the $229 price tag.
      Loverock Davidson