updated 07:40 am EDT, Wed September 1, 2010
Sony Reader refreshes to fight Amazon and Apple
Sony as expected today revamped its entire Reader lineup to hold on to its position in e-books. The five-inch Pocket Edition, six-inch Touch Edition and seven-inch Daily Edition all now use touchscreens and fix a common problem of glare with e-paper touchscreens: the new models have a single touch and display layer that should be easier to read without glare. They also use E Ink Pearl panels that update faster, produce a higher contrast and help extend the battery life.
The entire line has significantly more capacity and now more clearly differs based on feature set, not just screen size. The Pocket Edition has 2GB of storage, four times more than before, and handles ePub, PDF, Word and plain text. Moving to the Touch Edition adds both Memory Stick Duo and SD card slots as well as a headphone jack for playing AAC and MP3 audio. Neither of the smaller models has Internet access, however.
As the flagship, the Daily Edition now has Wi-Fi in addition to its free 3G and should last longer on a charge, running for up to 27 days without any wireless. It holds 4GB of memory and is intended for downloading periodical subscriptions such as the Wall Street Journal as well as traditional books.
Both the Pocket and Touch Editions should be available now for $180 and $230. Sony doesn't ship the Daily Edition until the fall, when it will sell for $300. Sony has also promised to follow in the footsteps of competitors and produce both Android as well as iOS apps to continue reading on non-Sony hardware.
The updates come at a critical time for Sony but may also prove problematic. Its most immediate competitors, Amazon's third-generation Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook, both cost $190 for a device with 3G and, in Amazon's case, Wi-Fi as well; their least expensive models also have Wi-Fi where Sony is still charging more for offline-only reading. At $299, the Daily Edition is also closer to the iPad's price than all but the Kindle DX and could see customers lured to the Apple reader's color and apps.