updated 02:00 pm EST, Thu November 25, 2010
Sony Reader returns to Japan despite iPad, Kindle
Sony Japan today said it would return to e-readers in Japan by launching the Reader in the country. The recently updated all-touch line will come to the country on December 10, starting at the equivalent of $239 for the five-inch Pocket Edition and moving to $299 for a six-inch Touch Edition. The 3G- and Wi-Fi-capable Daily Edition won't be part of the first round of models.
The company is counting on its Japan-focused book lineup to stand out in competition. About 20,000 e-books will be available through Sony's local online store, most of which will be in Japanese.
It arrives in its home country three years after bowing out in 2007, when it cited a lack of content as the main reason; it had less than 10,000 titles at the time. Moving back in is nonetheless expected to be difficult due to its sustained absence. Both Amazon's Kindle and the iPad have since launched in the territory and are claiming share in the relatively untapped market. Sharp's Galapagos tablets are also shipping into Japan the same month and should have 30,000 titles, many of which will also be Japanese.
Sony Senior VP Fujio Noguchi believed Japan could be the third- or even second-largest market for e-reader devices in time, but warned that it was a "complex" market where other rules didn't apply. Among them was a hesitation from Japanese publishers to get involved in the market where North American and European publishers have usually been very active. With the exception of Apple's still-young iBookstore, North American stores like the Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and US-based Sony shops usually have over one million titles.
In the long term, Sony doesn't have any immediate ambition of beating Apple in sales and plans to move just 300,000 readers in Japan over the course of a year, though the company's Japanese marketing president Nobuki Kurita estimated Sony could claim half of local market share by 2012. [via Reuters]