Sony Readers Get Touch Screens, Higher Price Tags

Electronics giant Sony is refusing to join the price-cutting war in the ereader market, which has seen competitors like Amazon and Barnes & Noble eagerly matching and undercutting each other to encourage consumer sales. Instead, Sony is going the other way, betting the consumers are willing to pay a little bit more for a device head-and-shoulders about the competition. And the new Sony Readers have a feature that definitely makes them stand out from the ereader crowd: touch screens.

“The success of our previous line of Readers illustrates book lovers’ demand for feature choices and full touch screens on their digital reading devices,” said Sony Electronics VP of digital reading Phil Lubell, in a statement. “Today, we’re answering their call by providing an entire line of stylish, full touch screen devices with a variety of features and price points.”

sony readers get touch screens higher price tags reader edition  annotations sept 2010

Sony is revamping its entire Reader line, including the Reader Touch Edition and Reader Pocket Edition, as well as the wireless-capable Reader Daily Edition, which will be available in the United States. All of the models feature an optical touchscreen technology that enables users to directly make annotations, look up words, and utilize content directly on screen. The readers also feature E Ink Pearl electronic paper displays with 16 levels of grey and improved contrast.

The Sony Reader Pocket Edition features a 5-inch display plus 2 GB of onboard memory and will be available in a series of colors, including silver and pink, while the Reader Touch Edition sports the same 2 GB of onboard memory and a 6-inch display, but augmented by up to 32 GB of removable Memory Stick or SD storage and the ability to play MP3 and AAC audio files. Stepping up still further, the Reader Daily Edition features a 7-inch display and both Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity (via AT&T); in addition to being able to handle ebooks and documents, the Daily Edition offers basic Web browsing capability—Sony is even bundling in a selection of “practical and reading-based URLs.”

sony readers get touch screens higher price tags reader pocket edition sept 2010

All the readers support ePub, BBeB Book, PDF, text, RTF, and (via conversion) Microsoft Word documents, along with JPEG PNG, GIF, and BMP images. Of course, the devices can also tap into the Reader Store, which offers more than 1.2 million titles in the United States.

sony readers get touch screens higher price tags reader daily edition sept 2010

Where Sony is taking a gamble with the new Readers is on pricing: the Pocket Edition carries a retail price of $179—that’s $20 less than its’s price last year, but still $40 more than Amazon’s least expensive Kindle. The Reader Touch Edition will go for $229 (a $59 price jump), while the Daily Edition will be prices at $299, some $49 more than the current model.

The new Pocket Edition and Touch Edition Readers are available now; the Daily Edition Reader should launch in November.