05 August 2009

Sony Sony Sony

Well, it's in cyberspace. Sony has two new e-readers ready to launch in the US market. The PRS 300 ebook reader will sell for $199. That undercuts Amazon by $100. The larger PRS 600 will have the touchscreen and will sell for $299. I still think it's hysterical that documents relating to the manufacturing of the e-readers were available on the internet prior to the announcement! It was a terrible secret really. Unfortunately the forthcoming e-readers still don't have wireless capability, so Amazon's Kindle still has that key selling point.

From what I can gather, the PRS 300"pocket" version has a five-inch (12.7cm) screen which is smaller than Kindle and other competitors. This smaller version won't play mp3 files, there is no slot for a memory card. I believe it's designed to hold 350 books.

The PRS-700 will be replaced by the PRS-600. The 600 will have the same six-inch screen as but not the built-in light. As you know from my previous review of the PRS-700, the light chews up battery. Steve Haber, president of Sony's Digital Reading Business Division, has confirmed that removing the light will also correct some screen clarity problems it has caused.

The second bit of news was the repricing of their ebook content to $9.99 to match Amazon. Personally, I didn't care about the $11.99 price point - or even dearer - because if I want the content I will pay for it. (The only thing I have to consider is the price conversion to Australian dollars!) I don't have a Kindle, I rarely use Amazon (afterall I have access to an extensive book database day in and day out with my job), and I'm interested in what is available in ebook format through the Sony ebook site. To me, the difference of $2.00 was irrelevant. And I definitely don't give a rat's arse about 4cents, which I believe is the difference between Amazon's Kindle books and Barnes & Nobles new ebooks. Everyone is trying to outdo everyone else!

On the local front I keep hearing mixed messages from Sony re releasing them here. A Marketing Director for a major trade publisher advised they were planning to launch them in September, albeit a soft launch due to the lack of content available in ebook format from local trade publishers at present. I'd assume they'd be looking at the new e-readers? Who knows...

My own enquiries to Sony have received somewhat automoted and impersonal responses. When I responded to the initial correspondence, I received "We have not been updated on any future release dates. This is why we cannot supply you with any particular information. To be honest, we are unsure as to whether the e-book reader will be released in Australia, simply because our head office has not informed us of this." Ah customer service vs customer demand.

It will be interesting to see whether Sony makes any waves in Australia. There are quite a number of ebook readers available now. We hear about a new device every other day and of course everyone always mentions iTunes and the Stanza application as being the focus. Alternatively I hear publishers discuss smart laptops and the Apple iTablet. Who knows where this market will go? It's a moving target in many ways and that also makes it exciting.