Sony Hunting Amazon (and Apple?) With E-Reader

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Sony announced it will be rolling out two new e-readers, with the smaller 5-inch screen version selling for only $199. That's $100 less than the Amazon Kindle, which has grabbed most of the buzz and bucks in this, the dawn of the e-reader industry. Sony also slashed the price of their e-book books to $9.99 to compete directly with Amazon, but early sales are lagging. Did Sony do enough to improve on this Amazon-dominated market?


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Don't get me wrong, I think the Kindle and e-readers in general present a fascinating new chapter in the accelerating migration of media online. And the more the merrier for certain. So here comes Sony, introducing a smaller, simpler, version for $100 less. That's important, I think, because every electronics market has a group of customers interested in good cheap products. Laptop lovers have their Dell, smartphone shoppers have the BlackBerry Peal, and e-bookies now have the Sony Reader Pocket Edition.

But even if the smaller Reader is a step forward in bringing down prices, the larger doesn't seem like much of any improvement over Amazon. Yes, you can flip the pages by swiping the touch-sensitive screen, but you don't have Wifi to download content on the go like the Kindle.

PC World also raises as good point that the Readers haven't standardized the format of their e-book. Tony Bradley reports that Sony's readers use a different e-book format that isn't compatible with Kindle libraries, which will effectively discourage any former Kindle-buyer from ever switching to Sony because he would lose his entire catalogue.

In short: Hooray for cheap e-readers, I don't know who will buy Sony's $299 device, and we're all still waiting to see if September's Apple Tablet will blow the competition away ... at a price that makes it competitive.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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