Can Sony close chapter on Amazon’s Kindle 2 in battle of the readers?

26 Aug 2009

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Sony has unveiled a new wireless eBook reader with 3G connectivity – the Reader Daily Edition – which it appears is calculated to trounce Amazon.com’s Kindle 2 in the run up to the vital Christmas sales season.

Sony has brought out three versions of its new Reader family which come with the electronics giant’s E Ink Vizplex electronic paper that emulates the look of ink on paper.

Sony’s eBook Library software 3.0, which now includes support for many Apple Macintosh computers as well as PCs, makes it easy to transfer and read any Adobe PDF (with reflow capability), EPUB, Microsoft Word, BBeB files, or other text file formats on the Reader.

The Reader Pocket Edition sports a five-inch electronic paper display packaged in a stylish chassis and is available in a variety of colours, including navy blue, rose and silver and will cost US$199.

The Reader Touch Edition features a responsive, menu-driven six-inch touch screen panel that enables quick, intuitive navigation, page turning, highlighting and note taking with the swipe of a finger or by using the included stylus pen. It comes in red, black or silver and retails for about US$299.

The Reader Daily Edition gives consumers wireless access via AT&T’s 3G mobile broadband network to Sony’s eBook store. Book lovers will be able to browse, purchase and download books as well as select newspapers and magazines when and where they want. There are no monthly fees or transaction charges for the basic wireless connectivity and users still have the option to side load personal documents or content from other compatible sites via USB.

The seven-inch wide, touch screen display provides for intuitive navigation and comfortable layout of content, including newspapers and magazines, whether you’re reading in portrait or landscape orientation. In portrait mode, about 30-35 lines of text are visible, making the experience very similar to that of a printed paperback book.

A high contrast ratio with 16 levels of grayscale ensures that text and images are crisp and easy to read. The Daily Edition also boasts an attractive aluminum body with an integrated cover for durability. It has enough internal memory to hold more than one thousand standard eBooks and expansion slots for memory cards to hold even more. It will sell for about $399.

Sony’s launch of the new Reader family coincides with research from Displaysearch which claims the market for colour e-reader devices will proliferate in 2011 and by 2018 could be worth US$9.6bn.

Displaysearch points out that there are around 20 e-book models in the world today and last year more than 1m units were shipped. By 2018 it forecasts more than 77m units will be shipped.

By John Kennedy

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com