After an abortive launch earlier this year—and an earlier product marketed not-so-successfully in Asia as the Sony LIBRIé—Sony Electronics has announced that its Sony Reader will hit retail shelves in October 2006, accompanies by more than 10,000 ebook titles from major publishers via its Sony Connect eBook Store.
“Today, we’re writing a new chapter in digital technology for reading,” said Ron Hawkins, Sony Electronics’ vice president of Portable Reader Systems marketing, in a statement. “Easy and enjoyable to use, the Reader fulfills the promise of electronic reading in a way that no other device has been able to do. Not intended to replace traditional books, but to supplement them, the Sony Reader allows people to take a library of books and other reading material with them wherever they go.”
The Sony Reader is a lightweight, portable electronic device which uses an 800 by 600 “electronic paper” display with four levels of grey developed by E Ink) which offers the look of printed paper. Text is crisp, easy on the eyes, and readable even in the brightest sunlight. The Reader itself measures 6.9 inches by 4.9 inches and weighs nine ounces, making it lighter and smaller than most paperbacks but, with 64 MB of built-in memory plus options for removable cards, can serve up a lot more content. The built-in rechargeable battery supports about 7,500 page turns per charge, The Reader can display content purchased in Sony’s BBeB Book format, along with PDF documents and JPG images—heck, it’ll even play your MP3 and AAC files, and (via the Connect store and data transfer via a USB connection) can serve up your favorite RSS-enabled blogs and news sites free of charge.
The Sony Reader will run about $350 and will be available through Sony, authorized dealers, and retailers like Borders. And the ebooks? Sony says its Sony Connect eBook store will offer titles from Hyperion, McGraw-Hill Professional, Cambridge University Press, Harlequin Enterprises Limited, National Geographic, Kensington Publishing and Regnery Publishing, and others—these publishers are in addition to Penguin-Putnam, Simon and Schuster, Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group USA, and Holtzbrinck Publishers, along with TOKYOPOP, all of whom previously announced support for the Sony Reader earlier this year. Titles can be purchased and downloaded online using PC-based software—sorry, no Mac support. Sony says eBook prices are about 25 percent less than physical book prices. (We’re wondering: hardcover or trade paperback?)
Sony’s LIBRIé product ran into criticism for digital rights management in the BBeB format which interfered with customer’s use of purchased books. Reportedly, books purchased from Sony Connect for the Sony Reader will be usable on up to 6 devices (one of which must be a PC); the Reader reportedly does not support HTML, digital books from eReader (which offers almost 20,000 titles), nor does it resize PDFs, so unless a PDF document displays appropriately right off the bat, it may not be useful. The Reader also doesn’t have any sort of display lighting, meaning users will need a nightstand light to read in bed…just like the old days.