Sony pretty much invented the modern e-reader. But it was Amazon that perfected it–and Sony’s models have generally felt like they delivered too little for too much money. But Cliff Edwards of Bloomberg says that new Sony Readers will arrive shortly.
Tag Archives | Sony Reader
Back in August, I wrote about Amazon.com’s odd habit of frequently bragging about sales of its Kindle e-reader without ever providing explicit numbers. It continues to do so–and it’s inspired its competitors to do some similarly evasive crowing of their own.
Barnes & Noble issued a press release today that it had sold “millions” of Nooks since the first version’s release in December of 2009. But it mostly bragged about Nook sales without disclosing them, by saying that Nooks are the company’s best-selling products ever, and that the Nookcolor is its best-selling gift this holiday season.
Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS), the world’s largest bookseller, today announced that with millions of NOOK eReading devices sold, the line has become the company’s biggest bestseller ever in its nearly 40-year history. The new NOOKcolor Reader’s Tablet, introduced just eight weeks before Christmas, is the company’s number one selling gift of the holiday season. Barnes & Noble also announced that it now sells more digital books than its large and growing physical book business on BN.com, the world’s second largest online bookstore.
Demand for the critically acclaimed NOOKcolor remained high following the product’s introduction in late October through the holidays. Sales have continued to exceed the company’s high expectations.
The only hard number in the release is the “millions” of Nooks sold; we can apparently assume that B&N has sold at least two million devices. (A few weeks ago, it was a minor news story when an Amazon staffer said that “millions” of third-generation Kindles had been sold in 73 days; I wonder if B&N would have been even this specific if Amazon hadn’t made the leap first?)
Back in 2006, before the world knew what a Kindle was, Sony released the first modern e-reader with a power-efficient, glare-free E-Ink screen. It’s upgraded them and added new models ever since–and it’s announcing improved versions of all its models today, a week after Amazon started shipping its newest Kindle. The company gave me a sneak peek last week.
As before, Sony is the only major e-reader maker that offers devices in three sizes: the 7″ Daily Edition, the 6″ Touch Edition (with a screen the same size as the one on the standard Kindle and on the Nook), and the 5″ Pocket Edition. Last year’s Touch and Daily Editions had touch-screen interfaces that worked with a fingertip (for general navigation) or a stylus (for note-taking and other precision work). The big news is that the whole line now sports touch, including the Pocket Edition–and Sony has come up with a way to implement technology without adding a layer to the screen. (Last year’s touch Sonys had murkier screens than the non-touch competition.)
In my brief hands-on time with the readers, the displays looked good. (I wasn’t able to compare them side-by-side with other e-readers, but they were noticeably more legible than last year’s Sonys.) The touch input worked reasonably well, too. But flipping pages didn’t have quite the effortless feel of e-reading apps on an iPad, an iPhone, or an Android phone, and I think the Kindle’s less fancy input system–physical buttons and a keyboard–works at least as well for the basics of exploring books.
Sony’s Reader e-readers have a decent selection of books, but–unlike the Kindle and Nook–they haven’t done newspapers or magazines. (There’s an RSS reader feature, but as far as I can tell, it’s been busted for months.) But Sony just struck a deal to bring News Corp. content, including the Wall Street Journal, MarketWatch, and the New York Post, to its e-readers. I hope more’s on the way–especially now that the company’s launching the Reader Daily Edition, which can snag periodical content wirelessly as it’s available.
By almost any imaginable definition, last week was the newsiest ever in the still-new world of e-book readers. We witnessed the unveiling of Barnes & Noble’s ambitious Nook. We got more details about Plastic Logic’s long-awaited device. We learned of an underdog known as the Spring Design Alex. We were informed that Amazon was killing the original Kindle 2 and lowering the price of the model with international roaming, and saw a demo of an upcoming Amazon Kindle reader application for Windows (a Mac version is also in the works). In short, the era in which it was logical to use “Kindle” as shorthand for “book-reading gizmo” is over.
It seems like a good time, then, to put some basic facts and figures about a bunch of major and/or new e-reader competitors in one place. After the jump, a quick Technologizer Cheat Sheet.
While the Amazon Kindle and to some extent the Sony Reader have ignited the e-book industry, analysts say that the market will not be able to grow much further without a serious price drop. Forrester Research studied the problem, and found the “magic price” where consumers would start considering a purchase was around $150.
It gets worse though: the actual price that consumers want to pay is much lower, sitting at around $90. This is nowhere close to the current retail prices of e-bookreaders: Sony’s somewhat close to the magic number with it’s cheapest at $199, but Amazon’s way overpriced in consumer’s eyes at $299.
Analyst Sarah Rotman Epps said that e-readers will likely never be a mass market device, however by getting prices down quicker they could exceed current sales targets easily. Consumers have an expectation that prices on technology can drop quickly (i.e. iPhone) and are expecting the same to happen here, she argues.
Component prices seem to be the major issue here, as the screens used to manufacture these devices are still somewhat prohibitively expensive. Regardless, Epps said she expects the prices of e-readers to drop about 20% in the next year.
That would put Sony near that $150 goal, but the Kindle would still remain well over $200, and above what most consumers would be willing to pay.
I agree that the pricing needs to come down on these units. If it comes to it, and the reason why the Kindle can’t get cheap faster is due to the EV-DO data included, take it out. Sell it as an option. I don’t know if Amazon would be willing to do that, but if they did that could be one way to lower prices faster.
Are you all in the market for one of these devices, and if so, what is your magic price for an e-reader? Let us know in the comments.
Slates Farhad Manjoo has a good story up about how Sony in particular and e-reader makers in general can build an e-book device that’s better and more popular than Amazon’s Kindle. One graf that left me mentally applauding:
I’d counsel Amazon’s competitors to embrace openness even more. In particular, they’d be wise to let people trade eBooks. They could do this even while maintaining copy protection—you could authorize your friend to read your copy of The Da Vinci Code for three weeks, and while he’s got it, your copy would be rendered unusable. (I’d prefer if eBooks came with no copy protection—as is the case with most online music—but many in the publishing industry would never go for that.) Kindle’s rivals could also get together to create a huge, single ePub bookstore. Publishers would have a big incentive to feed this store with all their books—if they provide books only to Amazon, they’d be helping to create a monopolist in their industry, and that’s never good for business.
Manjoo says he hopes that Sony and/or other players provide Amazon.com with intense competition. So do I, for the same reason–I don ‘t want Amazon or Google or anyone else to dominate electronic books any more than I’d have been happy if Random House (say) had cornered the market on dead-tree tomes. Right now, Sony seems like the best hope for a strong Amazon alternative (Plastic Logic is a fairly promising dark horse). The upcoming Sony Reader Daily Edition leaves me cautiously optimistic, but I’d love to see more companies leap into the action…
The news about devices for reading books just doesn’t stop these days, from the good (Sony’s Reader is going wireless and is supporting the ePub format) to the bizarre and troubling (Amazon yanking back books people have already bought).
So today’s T-Poll takes your temperature on the whole notion of electronic readers. Are you an owner, a potential fan, or a naysayer?
Until now, discussions of the e-book rivalry between Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s Reader have had to point out that Sony’s gadget lacked the wireless connectivity that was probably the Kindle’s best feature. No longer: At a press event at the New York Public Library, Sony announced the Reader Daily Edition, its first e-reader that lets you buy books via wireless broadband. The carrier in this case is AT&T (the Kindle uses Sprint) and the Daily Edition will ship in December for $399. (Two cheaper Sony e-reader models, sans wireless, are available now.)
The Daily Edition will be $100 more than the comparable Kindle; without trying it, it’s hard to gauge whether it’s worth the extra bucks. (It does have a touch-screen interface rather than the Kindle’s somewhat clunky buttons and tiny joystick.) And over the long haul, Sony’s support for the open EPub e-book standard could be a major advantage over Amazon’s use of its proprietary format.
In any event, it’s nice to see that Sony is responding to the Kindle’s dominance of a market it pioneered by redoubling its efforts. Next year should bring lots of e-book developments–such as the release of the Plastic Logic reader–but for now, it’s an Amazon-vs.-Sony war, and they’re both going great guns.
If Sony is a bit nonplussed over all the attention for Amazon’.coms Kindle, it’s understandable. The Japanese consumer-electronics behemoth beat Amazon to market with e-book readers that share much of the Kindle’s appeal and technology, and their current touchscreen model arguably has a better interface than the Kindle 2. (Of course, the Kindle benefits hugely from its wireless connection and large selection of new books.)
Now Sony’s striking back with a couple of interesting new e-readers–including one called the Reader Pocket Edition (seen at left) that has a five-inch e-ink screen and a $199 pricetag, $100 less than the Kindle 2. Its very name pitches it as being pocketable; I haven’t seen one in person, but I’m guessing that the five-inch display means it’ll be a tight fit in a shirt pocket. (The pocket-filling iPhone has a 3.5-inch screen).
I’ll be intrigued to see if a relatively cheap, relatively small e-reader will appeal to folks who haven’t splurged on a Kindle. It’s true that iPhones and iPods Touch already make pretty pleasing e-readers thanks to apps like Kindle for iPhone and Eucalyptus, but the Pocket Edition’s screen is larger and its E-Ink display should let it run for days on a charge.
Sony is also announcing the Reader Touch Edition (at right), a touchscreen model which matches the Kindle’s six-inch screen and $299 price, but doesn’t have wireless. (Sony told ZDnet that it’s working on a wireless device.) It’s also matching Amazon’s price of $9.99 for bestsellers and new releases–down from $11.99–and touting its million-book library, although that figure includes a lotta public-domain tomes from Google.
People keep treating the Plastic Logic reader as the Kindle’s principal rival, and maybe it will be, once it stops being vaporous (it’s due sometime next year). For now, though, it’s really an Amazon-Sony battle–and it’s nice to see Sony coming back for more.
Are you any more interested in a $199 five-inch Sony e-reader (sans wireless) than in a $299 six-inch Amazon one?