Digital Books Could Make a Breakthrough with New Sony E-Reader
Can Sony do for electronic books what Apple has done for digital music and video? The electronics giant took its first steps in finding out, as it formally revealed its much-talked-about digital reading device and a dedicated online electronic bookstore. The company began offering both to bibliophiles in the United States in early October.
Sony announced that its paperback-sized Portable Reader System (PRS-500)—which is a half-inch thick and weighs nine ounces—would retail for $349.99. The device, which Sony states is able to hold up to 80 electronic books without expanded memory, went on pre-sale on the company’s Web site and became available in retail stores shortly after.
Heavyweight publishing houses including HarperCollins, Penguin-Putnam and Simon & Schuster were among the six that Sony announced will jointly offer nearly 10,000 books at its iTunes-like Connect e-Bookstore. The digital books, which will be downloaded to the users’ PC and then transferred to the reader device, are expected to be made available at a slightly discounted price when compared to the list price of their printed-book equivalent.
Sony had initially announced plans to release the reader during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. The device was expected to go on sale in the spring, but the launch was delayed.
The device, which only uses power when a new page is displayed, is the first of its kind to imitate the look of paper through the use of electronic paper technology, which mimics an ink-on-paper feel for readers.
According to the reader’s specifications, the device will run only on PCs with Windows XP. Sony’s digital rights management system will not display e-books purchased from other sites, but will allow its users to display documents free of those restrictions, including images, text documents and PDFs. The reader will also play unsecured MP3s and AAC audio files. The device will also let users download blogs from approved Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds.
Matsushita, the parent company of Panasonic, followed Sony’s announcement with its future plans for e-books. It announced that it intended to release a new e-reader by the end of the year.