The Sony Reader was the first to get touch screen technology. It set off a big touch screen craze that included all of the major e-readers: Kindle, Nook, and Kobo. The Kindle Touch in turn became Amazon’s bestselling e-ink Kindle.
So, Sony has a some good ideas going as far as e-readers go. I happened upon an article about a foldable tablet that the company is currently preparing for release next week.
The new tablet, called the Tablet P, will have dual screens, one on each side of the foldable hinges. My biggest question in regards to the screens is how they will mesh together for the display. Will they show separate content? Do they somehow come together to create a larger display?
The odd thing is that the Tablet P will feature last year’s Android operating system, Honeycomb. That will be a big drawback right there.
By making this table foldable, it is protecting the screen from scratches and dings, so that is a big plus. Although Apple was onto something when it created a smart cover to protect the iPad’s screen . Sony’s new tablet also includes a camera, which is not currently available on the Kindle Fire.
Obviously, there are some real winners in the e-reader and tablet market, most notably, the Kindle and iPad, but is still fun to explore the other ideas are floating around. Despite the Tablet P’s lack of computing power and poor sales outlook, it sparks an idea that can be developed further to grab the attention of consumers.
I would really like to see the major players in the tablet and e-reader world become powerful enough to handle heavier computing. It would be nice to have the benefits of both in one device. The foldable tablet could emerge as a hybrid laptop/tablet device. The tablet would be hinged to a keyboard, but also removable.
So, we’ll see what happens. It is always fun to speculate on the future of technology.
Fans of the Sony Reader line, the earliest and at one time best eReaders brought to market in the US, may be somewhat disappointed to head that the current generation of Readers has been cut in its entirety. While they have not been replaced at the Sony online store, all are listed as out of stock and there is a clearance sale going on for the few remaining accessories they have around. Admittedly this most recent Sony eReaders have failed to keep up with more functional competition like the Kindle and Nook, but an abrupt withdrawal from the market like this was unexpected.
The last few Sony eReaders have been comparatively basic models for the asking price. The PRS-350, otherwise known as the Reader Pocket Edition, boasted a smaller screen (just 5″), shorter battery life, no wireless functionality, and a price $65 higher than the current least expensive Kindle model. The more impressive Reader, the Daily Edition, actually managed to improve on the Kindle in a few small ways, but still suffered from shorter battery life and a price nearly three times as much as the basic Kindle. Tie this together with an unimpressive associated store and little in the way of media promotion for the eBooks themselves and it isn’t hard to see why popularity has seemed to taper off. Still, in large part due to the ability of the Sony Reader line to participate in library eBook lending thanks to its EPUB support, there have been occasional resurgences in interest in these as valid Kindle competition.
What we can look forward to now, hopefully, is a more current and modestly priced Sony Reader. While there has not been any official word on the future of the product lines, unofficial comments from Sony executives have indicated that a new set of eReaders is in the works, with equivalents intended for the old PRS-350 and PRS-650 models. Aside from the fact that they will finally have 802.11n WiFi capability and will continue to have touchscreen interfaces, nothing is known. There is a good chance that we will at least hear announcements by the end of this year.
It would be great to see a Sony Reader able to directly compete with Amazon’s Kindle after all these years. Their older models went a long way toward setting expectations for customers new to the field. Sony clearly has at least a pretty good idea how to make a really useful eReading product, so anything that can come in under $150 without sacrificing functionality would gain them some traction. The same would be true of a higher priced option with color E INK. If they can come up with an improved store, or make a deal with an alternate eBook vendor, so much the better.
As tight-lipped as the company has been about their plans, we have only speculation, “leaks”, and an FCC filing to go off of for the moment. With luck, they won’t wait too long to get something back in the stores.
If you are a Sony fan, you can still find the PRS-350 refurbished in stock at the Sony online store for just $152.99 as of the writing of this article.
Long before the Kindle had a firm grasp on the eBook market, and even before the term eReader had much meaning in the minds of the public, Sony had started up their line of Sony Readers. They were the first company that not only did the job, but did it well. In time, unfortunately, they seemed to fall behind. Too many other consumer choices and an ongoing failure to present competitive prices have led to the whole product line struggling to expand its business.
Recent information reveals, however, that Sony is definitely not at the point of giving up just yet. A Bloomberg report provided indications that Sony will be upgrading its current line with both hardware and software improvements, probably before the end of August. There are no indications at this time to indicate that price drops will be accompanying the upgrades, but it can be assumed that if there are any, they will be small. The upcoming release of the new Sony S1 and S2 Tablet PCs will be intended to target “a more status-minded customer”, according to a recent CNN report, and it is likely that they will similarly weigh the prestige of owning a Sony Reader as a more important factor than matching the price of the increasingly inexpensive Amazon Kindle.
Both eReader and Tablet ownership continue to rise and are expected to continue doing so through the immediate future, but it remains to be seem whether or not Sony can grab a piece of this momentum. There will likely be two major factors contributing to their success or failure.
The biggest thing that they have working against them, aside from unit price, is their eBook store. Unlike the Kindle and Nook, each of which is coupled with a truly impressive selection of titles available for purchase, the Sony Reader Store has not developed an impressive following. The selection has gotten better over the years and, thanks to the Agency Model of eBook pricing, nobody has a significant advantage over them when it comes to prices. Nothing has made their store particularly unique, however, and without some sort of reason for it to stand out, the Reader Store is just another random eBook store among many in the eyes of the potential customer.
On the other hand, the hardware will likely be a major advantage. Say what you will about the Reader line, Sony has proven willing to experiment and innovate. They not only essentially started the eReader business as we know it, they made many of the mistakes and some of the successes that have made eReaders into what we know and love today. The first touchscreen eReader was a Sony, I believe, even if they didn’t pull it off quite right. Their early PRS-505 model was impressive enough that a reasonably cheap copy of it with a more modern display would immediately be a step up from many of the recent options we’ve seen, even years after it became officially obsolete.
It will be interesting to see if there are any really significant updates in the latest batch. The Kindle Competition has been great lately and it’s nice to see some truly superior options make their way to the top. I’ve always loved my Sony Readers. A comeback at this point is more than welcome.
Stephen Peters, a longtime popular culture writer, has a book called Kindle Culture that I think is worth reading. It is a quick read, and has a lighthearted, easygoing writing style. It is interesting to read how the Kindle has changed lives. I was particularly intrigued with the story about how one woman was able to read for the first time in 10 years. The Kindle has done wonders for people with print disabilities, and is much more cost effective than standard assistive technology. I can attest that as a visually impaired Kindle user, the font size adjustments have been a lifesaver.
The Kindle has impacted many aspects of peoples’ lives from increased portability to profitable business ventures. Many individuals and companies have created covers, accessories, and now applications for the Kindle. You will also find a number of forums and blogs that united Kindle lovers from various backgrounds around the world.
I like this reviewer’s point about how it is neat to see the concrete effects that the Kindle has had on people.
“Kindle Culture explores the boards, merch, and groups that have sprung up to worship and to profit from The Kindle. There’s a certain charm in reading about boards you frequent and people you “know.” It’s touching to read how the device has helped disabled people who’ve lost the ability to read traditional books. As a fan of the device, much of this is a vindication, because it’s hard not to be touched when you see concrete proof that your e-reader has the power to change lives.”
I admit that this book is kind of dated. It was published in 2009, but I think it is still relevant because it shows the impact that the e-reader has made in just two short years since release. One of the “questions” that the Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) description of Kindle Culture brings up is the effect that the “kindle killers” will have on the e-reading device. Two years since this book’s release, the Kindle is still the best selling e-reader. So it has definitely held its own among all of the Nooks, iPads, Kobo, Sony e-readers, and other e-readers that are out there.
In theory, Peters could rewrite Kindle Culture about every couple of years due to the rapid changing pace of e-reader technology and competition. The “Kindle Culture” has grown exponentially since this book was written through the price drops, e-reader market competition, upcoming Library Lending program, Kindle applications and many more.
During the 2010 Black Friday sales I was able to purchase Sony PRS-350 Pocket Edition (NYSE:SNE) from Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) for $130 which is $20 less than what it usually goes for. After playing around with the device for a while I decided to put together this review. While I mostly use Amazon Kindle (NASDAQ:AMZN) personally, I’ve also interacted with Nook, previous Sony eBook readers, namely PRS-505 and PRS-600 Touch as well as Apple iPad/iPhone, Android apps. I’ve been quite unhappy with several features of Sony eReaders and it was very interesting for me to see if these features were fixed.
First of these shortcomings was the fact that you couldn’t do anything with the reader while it was charging via USB cable. You could read if you purchased optional AC power adapter but not otherwise. Sony PRS-350 doesn’t have a dedicated charging port. In fact the only connector it has is micro-USB that can be used for transferring books from your PC and charging. Unlike Kindle you still can’t read while charging from your computer. You can read when charging via PRSA-AC1 wall AC adapter. However this adapter costs an outrageous (some something this simple) sum of $30 and is quite bulky compared to similar AC-to-USB adapters for iPhone or Kindle.
Not wanting to add to the army of such adapters I already have at home (especially for $30 a piece) I tried first several power adapters that I could dig up – namely from Apple iPhone 3G and Amazon Kindle 3. Sony reader treated the Apple adapter just a computer – it went into “USB Charging” screen that I couldn’t get out of. But it responded much better to Amazon Kindle adapter – the red charging light lit up and the battery began charging. Conclusion: To keep reading while charging the battery on Sony PRS-350 you either to buy a power adapter from Sony or find a compatible one since it seems that not all USB charging adapters are created equal.
As far as ergonomics go, Sony PRS-350 is much smaller and ligher than Kindle 3 due to smaller screen and lack of keyboard. It will easily fit into most shirt pockets where Kindle would not. PRS-350 is comfortable to hold in hand and paging buttons are easy to use. So ergonomically it wins over Kindle.
PRS-350/650/950 are Sony’s second attempt at building a touchscreen eReader, PRS-600 being the first one in 2009. In PRS-600 resistive touchscreen layer was overlaid over eInk display. While this approach works well with backlit LCD screens, with reflective eInk it produced a display with very poor contrast ratio (see comparison with Kindle 3 and 2). This was reported the most significant weakness of the device by both consumers and reviewers. In PRS-350, Sony used infrared touchscreen technology that doesn’t require anything being put on top of the screen. As a result, Sony PRS350 features latest generation high-contrast Pearl eInk screen in it’s full excellence same as Kindle 3.
Screen in the Sony device has the same number of pixels as its Amazon counterpart, but one inch smaller diagonal. This results in slightly crisper but smaller images and text.
Bottom line comparison
So of the things that were covered in todays review:
- Sony and Kindle are tied in the screen department
- Sony definitely has better ergonomics. It should be noted that Kindle ergonomics are very good too and would be “good enough” for most users.
- Sony has improved their device charging and power management story. Kindle still has a significant lead in this department with better battery life and ability to read while charging from computer USB port (a common scenario on an airplane). It should be noted that for most users it would make little difference.
All-in-all, devices are tied right now so unless you intend to carry your eReader in ultra small purse where Kindle just would not fit.
To fully evaluate the device I’m going to read Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs on it and report on how it goes. I’ll also do some in-depth PDF support testing.
Sony(NYSE:SNE) has recently announced price cuts on all their eReader devices. The Pocket Edition, their 5″ compact display, is now $150, the Touch Edition has come down to $169, and the Daily Edition, with its 7″ touchscreen display, is now at $299. With all this competition how are Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) and Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) going to cope? Really well.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Sony Reader line. My first eReader was a PRS-500 and I still have it and my PRS-505. Up until the Kindle 2 came out, they were by far the best product on the market in my opinion. Lately, however, they’ve just failed to stand out. I still love the interface and the menu system, but it isn’t significantly better than anybody else’s. I still find the Sony devices to be the most durable-feeling of the bunch as well. The reading experience in the recent offerings, however, has suffered. The touch-screen on the two higher-end models blurs the text, drains the battery, and has a tendency to smudge with frequent use. The screen on the Pocket Edition is great, but the screen is smaller than anything else on the market at the same price. The only one of the bunch to have any sort of wireless connectivity is the Daily Edition with its 3G coverage, but that’s not really worthy of a $300 investment anymore on its own.
Basically, I’d be really surprised if these cuts have any significant bearing on their market share at this point. They’re going to either have to dig deeper in terms of discounts or come up with some stunning hardware improvements to impress, these days.
Today(Mar27th) brought about the announcement of Sony’s(NYSE:SNE) plans to make a large international push in eReader device sales, bringing their products to nearly twice as many countries as currently enjoy them. The current list of the US, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland will be expanded to include Japan, China, Australia, Italy, Spain, and probably others. While in recent years we haven’t seen anything groundbreaking from Sony in terms of eReaders, they are really the ones that started the craze in the US with their PRS series. The current hardware offerings are easily as functional and easy to read as anything from their competition, they just lack a lot of the bells and whistles that more famous lines like the Kindle bring to the table.
What Sony really has going for them in this initiative is the localization angle. Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) may have recently begun bringing international authors to the english-speaking arena, but Sony will be bringing countries around the world works in their native languages from local authors through partnerships with affiliated bookstores. This should have a strong appeal for potential buyers, given the overwhelming weight, at present, on the availability of books in the English language above all others. Maybe this will be what brings the Sony Reader back into more equal footing with the Kindle and nook?
Unlike most companies, Sony is sounding positively chirpy about Apple’s foray into the world of eBooks with their iPad, the iBooks app and the iBook Store. They welcomed Apple’s move into the eBooks domain and also predicted the imminent death of paper printed books as we know it. Steve Haber, president of Sony’s Digital Reading division told tech site Pocket-lint that a new device that has eBook reading built into as a feature is a good thing for the digital book market. He emphasized the fact that mobile devices that have this feature built in will play a key role in the paradigm shift from the analog to the digital media. So looks like Sony is actually happy that is has such great competition as the Kindle because frankly this is the device that put eBooks on the map. Even Steve Jobs acknowledged that.
Sony also mentioned that the conventional form of a book — ink printed on paper and bound together — is really on its way out. According to them, it has about 5 years of life left before everything goes digital. While that sounds really nice with so many people wanting it to go digital, I would like to remind people that similar things were said about the CD about a decade ago from this date. Yes it is dying but physical storage mediums for audio content have not gone out just yet.
So even though it is plausible that paper books will completely fade out in the near future, there is still at least a decade left for it to even start fading out. That is because the adoption curve globally on new technology is really low and it would be silly to focus only on the US.
But one thing’s for sure — eBooks are only going to become bigger and better as time goes by. The same for all other print media content. We have officially stepped into the decade that saves the print industry by, Ironically, stopping all physical printing!
Amazon may face tough competition from Google in the year to come but now they seem to be on top of things as Kindle eBook Reader sales skyrocketed in November.
Amazon.com said on Monday that its Kindle electronic book reader posted its best sales yet in the month of November, as rivals struggle with fulfilling their customer orders.
The online retailer said shoppers were buying several Kindles at once as holiday gifts, while businesses and organizations were buying the device “in large quantities” for employees or clients. Amazon does not provide precise data on Kindle sales.
Kindle’s main competitors, Sony and Barnes&Noble on the other hand reported their new products sold out and shipments delayed even before the holiday season actually started. While this indicates high demand for their products, it would give them little comfort as some of “could-have-been-their” customers are going to instant gratification here and now with Amazon as they have no other option for wireless-enabled eReaders.
B&N is new to eReader market and it’s understandable how they could mess up on their first entry attempt. Sony on the other hand has been in the exact same situation before when they released PRS-500 in 2006. The device was immediately sold out on US market and unanavailable internationally for months to come. A friend of mine who back then lived in Europe via community forums tracked down a US store that had a whooping 5 units in stock of which I bought all to be sent to my friend and his coworkers. Back then scalpers were making a killing on eBay as Sony PRS-500 sold for 150%+ of retail price.
This time around though there is Amazon that is more than willing to sell Kindles to anyone who is not willing to wait for Sony eReader or a Nook.
My Sony Reader Touch Edition just came in by UPS. I’ve already unpacked it and currently wait for the device to charge. I’ll post the comparison review soon…
Sony Reader PRS-600 Touch Edition
Here’s some bad news for Amazon and the Kindle. Best Buy is planning on selling the iRex and Sony Reader in their stores. Now not only will customers be able to see the eReaders physically on display, but many people will just come upon them out of happenstance.
This blog has made the point before that Amazon should sell the Kindle in more places. Best Buy is the perfect kind of place to sell eReaders to people who would normally not even think about them. Best Buy, after all, is not generally thought of as a destination for tech-savvy people. Their bread and butter customer is someone who comes in wanting a computer/tv/etc, but doesn’t know a lot about it. Now with the iRex and Sony Reader, people who would never normally be early adopters will hold the devices and have a sales rep walk them through the features. I wouldn’t be surprised if eReaders become a big holiday gift this year, even among those with no interest in gadgets.
According to the article, the iRex’s wireless will also be entirely paid for in the cost of the device. But, in a followup to Andry’s comments, it turns out that the iRex will not include web browsing functionality. So when they say the cost of wireless is included, they really mean the cost of downloading books that you are already paying for.
If you are new to eBook industry and would like to catch up on all of the relationships between different Amazon Kindle and other different devices and companies in the e-Book universe. This picture created by techflash.com is just the right thing for you. There is also PDF version available that has every arrow linking a related story on techflash.com. You can download it by clicking on the picture below. It will really be worth your time.
eBook Universe by techflash.com
I guess this picture really is worth a thousand words… Great work, TechFlash!
Sony Reader Touch
Sony’s latest competition against the Kindle are the Sony Reader Touch and Sony Reader Pocket. Here’s a quick roundup of various reviews of these new products from around the net.
- Gizmodo – Glare ruins the Reader Touch, Pocket is short on features but cheap price.
- ZDNet – The Reader Touch works great, glare isn’t much of an issue.
- CNET – Reader Touch get 3 out of 5. Better to get Kindle at this price.
- CNET – Reader Pocket gets 3.5 out of 5. Good deal for the price.
- Financial Times – Touch screen more natural to use than Kindle controls, but misses wireless. Reviewer likes free Kindle iPhone app over Reader Pocket.
- Mobile Tech Review – Reader Touch has caught up with Amazon and may even get some Kindle defectors.
- iReaderReview – Reader Touch gets 7.75 out of 10. Doesn’t quite beat the Kindle but Sony is getting really close.
- iReaderReview – Reader Pocket vs. similarly priced Kindle 2 refurb. Pocket is better for basic reading, but Kindle 2 has better additional features.
One of the recent major developments in the eReader market is Sony’s announcement that they will be fully adopting the ePub standard. Sony plans to completely abandon their own, proprietary format in what seems to be a concerted effort to dethrone the Kindle. Selling books in ePub won’t necessarily help the Sony Reader, but it will open the store to owners of, say, the COOL-ER Reader. Likewise, Sony Reader owners would realize that other ePub stores, such as Google Books, would be just as compatible with their device.
Some analysts think that this is the best way to pull Amazon from the top of the eReader market. If the market is filled with similar devices that all buy materials from the same, varied selection of online stores, Amazon stands out as the only company with such tight restrictions. There won’t necessarily be another device that leads the market in the way the Kindle has, but other companies will be free to compete without automatically riding Amazon’s coattails. Past controversies surrounding the Kindle would make it seem even more unfavorable compared to the less restrictive ePub readers.
If widespread adaption of ePub does kill the Kindle, it would lead to an interesting eBook market. Consumers would all pick a device based off of personal preference/budget. After that, shopping for a book would be like the digital equivalent of today’s brick and mortar stores. If you want a specific book, you would shop around between various large and independent bookstores.
Of course, the Kindle wouldn’t really be killed. Amazon would simply make it another ePub reader. It could be killed, however, in the sense that it would no longer have the distinction that sets it apart from other readers.
Let’s have a small poll about Kindle DRM restrictions. Feel free to respond in the comments as well.
Sony is releasing two new Sony Readers this month. Both are essentially variations on Sony’s present eReader: the Reader Pocket Edition and the Reader Touch Edition.
For the most part the new devices are what you expect from the Sony Reader. There’s no wireless and the storage is small, but you can use an SD Card or Memory Stick. The devices are meant for use with the Sony bookstore (now lowering prices to match Amazon), but they are more open than the Kindle and support the ePub format.
The Reader Touch is the same size and price as a Kindle 2, but trades in the wireless capabilities for a touchscreen. Touch gestures are used for turning pages, writing on a virtual keyboard, and navigation. For a customer choosing between the Reader Touch and a Kindle, it would basically amount to how much they wanted the touch screen.
The Reader Pocket has, I think, a much higher potential to steal away Kindle customers. The screen is only 5 inches, but Sony has priced the device at a competitive $199. Filling the niche of a budget, entry-level reader, the Reader Pocket could definitely reach at to those who haven’t yet considered buying an eReader.
Here are how the devices stack up to the Kindle:
The Sony Reader is a worthy opponent to the Kindle, however Sony has made some fundamental mistakes which will ultimately mean it will lose the battle for the e-book.
Sony’s chief executive, Sir Howard Stringer, noticed how Apple integrated is software and hardware to create a better customer experience, he added that Sony wants to make it as easy as possible to download or stream music, films and electronic data to all Sony electronic devices, from the PlayStation 3 to the Bravia Televisions. Sir Howard Stringer wants 90% of Sony devices to by wirelessly networked within 2 years.
However, Sir Howard Stringer vision seems to have fallen on deaf ears in the Sony Reader division. The Sony PRS-500 Reader had a commanding lead in the e-reader industry, but last November the Kindle was unveiled by Amazon. Amazon had done exactly what Sir Howard Stringer wanted to do with the Sony Reader, the Kindle was wirelessly networked to the Amazon book store, the hardware and software acting as one. Most importantly however, it made it easy for the consumer to buy books, something the Sony Reader never really achieved with its reader.
Back in 2006 when the Sony Reader was launched, Sir Howard wanted to let world know that this is sort of device that the new Sony wanted to make: both innovative and well-connected, but it was Amazon that showed them how it was really done.
Book selling is at the core of Amazon’s business, this is another advantage that Amazon has over Sony, it can leverage publishers to release books on its platform before any other, that’s something Sony would find very difficult to do. There are currently over 145,000 titles in the Kindle bookstore, the Sony bookstore has 45,000, that’s another area where Sony falls short.
The Kindle also offers so much more than the Sony Reader, daily newspapers, blogs, RSS subscriptions all without the need for a PC, with hacks you can even turn the Kindle into an email reader, an instant messenger and a web browser. You can buy a book any time and anywhere as long as you have a wireless connection, you cant do that on the Sony Reader.
Sony has consistently declined to release sales figures, which just might tell you something. Whilst Amazon hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with sales figures wither, we have learned that in its first 10 months the Kindle has sold over 240,000 devices, which isn’t a figure to be ashamed of, in-fact it blew most analyst estimates out of the water. To put it in context, the iPod first-year sales came to 360,000 devices, the Kindle is on course to match that figure.
Sony is now playing catchup, Sony’s Steve Haber has said that Sony is “open” to the idea of making the Reader a wireless device, but if you ask me, it may already be too late for them. Unless Sony’s next e-book reader is radically different to the current model and offers the same functionallity of the Kindle, im afriad its goodbye Sony Reader.
Photo by benackerman.
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