Sony assaults Kindle with new touchscreen 3G reader

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Sony’s recently-announced new lineup of Readers was launched this morning in New York. The top item: a “Daily Edition,” offering similar 3G wireless capabilities to the Kindle alongside a 7-inch touchscreen display. It’ll be out in December, for $400–cheaper than Amazon’s own large-format model, the DX.

Two other models will also hit 8,500 stores nationwide in the coming weeks: a basic $200 pocket-sized reader, and a $300 touchscreen edition that lacks the built-in wireless connection and giant display of the flagship model.

A touchscreen, useful for scribbling notes or turning “pages” by hand, isn’t offered on the latest Kindles. Moreover, Sony plans to differentiate itself by embracing open formats, in contrast to Amazon’s aggressive and much-criticized DRM scheme. Sony earlier responded to Amazon’s missteps by cuddling up with Project Gutenberg, the online repository of public domain texts. An always-on internet connection to Sony’s online library gives these moves sharper teeth.

The new models will be fully compatible with Apple’s OSX as well as Windows, unlike previous editions that offered only basic file transfers on the Mac unless customers got additional third-party software.

It also announced a social networking site for readers, WordsMoveMe; a partnership with the New York Public Library; and a range of pointless accessories.

Sony has achieved something remarkable: it’s delivered exactly what was wanted of it, in timely fashion, at a competitive price, without losing its way on the design front. This Christmas is going to be a good one for electronic Reader gadgets.

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28 Responses to Sony assaults Kindle with new touchscreen 3G reader

  1. dculberson says:

    I was seriously going to buy a Kindle DX as a birthday present for my wife.. but then the whole “remotely deleted a file” thing happened. So I put it off for now. If the Sony as a good as the Kindle, without the baggage, I may buy it instead.

  2. Rodney says:

    I’m actually in the market for a reader of some sort. I use Ubuntu, though, so it looks like Sony won’t be getting my money.

  3. Matt Katz says:

    This is huge.
    Publicizing the library connection is a very very big deal for them.

    It’s a bit of a shame that it can’t function as just a USB connection for linux and such.
    Also odd that they support “RSS Feeds”, but there is no way to choose beyond a pre-selected group of feeds. That’s broken.

    This might be close enough to decent that I buy it, but it’s still so closed. Just charge me what the hardware costs, then offer me an integrated store that is competitive. Don’t use the hardware as a loss leader for the store, because then you’ll end up making a crappy reader and a crappy store.

    More competition would be so good for these technologies…

  4. Oddball says:

    For Linux users I’d also recommend Calebre. It works out of the box with my Sony PRS-505. Didn’t even have to configure anything on my Ubuntu box.

    Oh, and as for Sony embracing open formats. Their readers support ePub, which seems to be the standard open format these days. Heck, the 505 even has an SD card slot next to the silly Sony MemoryCard slot.

  5. dculberson says:

    YES!!! Rob, you have got to get a review unit and test the PDF speed and rendering like you did with the Kindle DX. Pretty please with sugar on top?

  6. tp1024 says:

    Where are the $30 cheap-ass Chinese knock-offs when you need them? In this case, simply substitute the ultra-expensive eink with a 5 inch b/w LCD display.

    People looked at those for hours without much of a complaint when they were part of a Game Boy …

    Or (and I guess this is the case) I should simply go to China where they are already all over Shenzhen …

  7. David Bruce Murray says:

    From Sony’s description of the Touch Edition:
    “Take freehand notes and highlight sections of text you want to revisit later, just as you would in a real book, using the included stylus. If you prefer, a virtual keyboard is also available for entering quick notes or searching your eBooks. If you want, you can even export your notes to your computer using the eBook Library software.”

  8. Rob Beschizza says:

    Will do!

  9. astarok says:

    There is a lot of confusion here about formats. “Open format” != non-encrypted and non-DRMed. AFAIK, the books Sony sells in their store are just as locked down as those in the Amazon Kindle store. On the other hand I am not aware of any unencrypted format that cannot be easily converted for use on just about any platform including the Kindle. I have seen nothing yet to indicate that Sony is planning to change this situation in any fundamental way. Too bad.

  10. Rob Beschizza says:

    “simply substitute the ultra-expensive eink with a 5 inch b/w LCD display.”

    True! Also, what is it with MacBooks? Simply substitute the ultra-expensive magnesium alloy for a plastic chassis, like Acer and Dell do.

  11. jaysonlorenzen says:

    @Rodney post #12

    for Linux, check out these two, both run Linux and as their os and work fine with a Linux desktop. Both accept all the standard book formats, including PDF (though the cooler handles PDF a bit poorly).

    cooler (coolreaders.com)
    cyBook (bookeen.com)

  12. Mack says:

    An LCD display would mean way shorter battery life — the advantage of e-ink is that it consumes power only when changing.

  13. milovoo says:

    “Sony plans to differentiate itself by embracing open formats”

    Really? Seriously?

    I honestly can’t believe that anyone at Sony could even say the words “Open Format” without experiencing intense physical pain.

    Maybe Open-Formatsâ„¢ is their name for a new on-line store.

  14. HeatherB says:

    When are they going to have one that smells like a book? That’s what I want to know.

  15. Rob Beschizza says:

    Milovoo, watch moar Stringer keynotes.

  16. Chris Schmidt says:

    @astarok

    The exciting thing is that the device supports lots of open and standard formats on top of the DRM’d books Sony sells through their store. Very similar to the iPod/iTunes situation before they went DRM free. On top of that, it uses a standard mini usb plug and standard mass storage device drivers for drag-and-drop capability.

  17. cardinale says:

    It really does seem to good to be true. And really, Sony and Open formats in the same sentence…I don’t believe it, but if it is true, I certainly will consider it before a Kindle…too many unknown as of this second.

  18. tp1024 says:

    Rob: if this was supposed to be ironic (text and irony just don’t go together very well), then please note that there are plenty of companies selling usable laptops that are much cheaper than MacBooks, but no companies that sell cheap usable ebook readers.

    If it wasn’t ironic then just ignore my comment.

  19. mathew says:

    The Sony Reader may support open formats, but all the books in the Sony bookstore are closed up with proprietary DRM, just like the Kindle. (Which also supports open formats.)

  20. AirPillo says:

    Wow, those features have me actually considering this thing, when I can spare the expense.

    I never thought I’d wind up buying a reader, but at $400 for 3G access, and open format support… that’s tempting.

    Screw you, Amazon, Sony just kicked your arse.

  21. Clay says:

    The thing is, there’s space for someone in this market to try and do to Amazon over ebook DRM what Amazon did to Apple over music DRM. We may say the publishers would never go for DRM-free books, but we used to say the music industry would never go for DRM-free albums.

  22. Traveler says:

    Finally, a eReader with wireless and touch capability.

    I am 99% sure I am buying this, but I still have to see how fast and how well it displays PDFs. Also there has yet to be a eReader that can display MS Office PowerPoint. Even my 3 year old Palm pda can display PowerPoint (albeit, without the multimedia content).

    Anyone out there willing to make a eReader that can display?
    1 – Web pages (basic iphone like capabilities will do).
    2 – MS OFfice (Word/Excel/PowerPoint).
    3 – PDF
    4 – text
    5 – pictures

    And with a fairly response zoom capability.
    WiFi and 3G, not just 3G, because 3G service is unreliable in New York City and other major cities where millions of people compete for connection.

  23. overunger says:

    Wow, this makes me actually want one of these.

    I always thought the Kindle was ridiculously over priced and way too much bad press and shady stuff going on.

    The Sony looks and sounds great and way better priced. (A $100 cheaper would still be nice- but hey.) I like the long screen.

  24. Benjamin Ptok says:

    Speaking of ebook readers, this one might might well
    be worth watching. (It’ll be released at the Frankfurt book fair in october)
    http://www.txtr.com

  25. SamSam says:

    You say that touchscreens are “useful for scribbling notes” as an aside, but it’s not clear to me whether the Reader will actually have this capability: will you be able to scribble notes in the margin of a page, and have them visible when you return to that page?

    If so, that would be beyond awesome, and would also mean that they should start aggressively marketing textbooks, where this feature would be super-useful (especially if the “margin” could be an ever-expandable space for notes).

    The reason I don’t know if it can do this is because I can’t find any link in your write-up to the announcement or any details, nor could I find anything about it on Sony’s site.

  26. doctorbadwolf says:

    Until someone truly supports the concept of “open” in their ebook reader, with no DRM, a hefty privacy policy that doesn’t keep data on users any longer than, say, a month, and some other key features others have mentioned, no ebook reader(at least no reader device) will be worth taking a look at.

    Having said that, go sony. At least they seem to be pushing the functionality and features forward for ebook readers.

  27. Jessica says:

    Kindle Rules? With no backlight and which requires an external reading light? Nah. I’ll stick with my iPod Touch until the perfect reader (for access, cross platform, downloadability, ease of reading, etc.) comes out.

  28. Rob Beschizza says:

    I’m just assuming. They’d damn well better.

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