Sunday, 05 October 2008 17:01

Sony and Amazon re-Kindle interest in e-readers

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Sony has announced a new low priced e-reader, while rumours are circulating about the impending release of a new version of Amazon's ground breaking Kindle reader. Can we remain skeptical about the electronic reading revolution with the proliferation of these e-readers at a similar price point to iPods?

Online mega book seller Amazon released the Kindle $399 e-reader in November 2007, offering users in the US the ability to wirelessly purchase and download books through the Sprint EVDO network for no added cost.

Estimates vary as to how many units of the Amazon e-reader have been sold to date but most analysts generally agree that Amazon has moved more than a quarter of a million Kindle units so far and could be on its way to creating a billion dollar plus business for itself.

Amazon, which dropped the price of Kindle to US$359 in May, has been said to be doing a roaring trade selling e-books to its Kindle customers - which is after all the real game for the bookseller. And now, according to a report on gadget blog site The Boy genius Report, a revamped Kindle 2 model is on its way.

The new Sony PRS-700 e-reader, which will go on the market next month for about US$400, is getting favourable reviews.

Like its predecessor the PRS-505 and Kindle, the PRS-700 uses a low power consumption electronic paper six-inch display which is not backlit. However, the new Sony reader has an LED reading light that shines on the front of the screen for readability in dim conditions.

According to Sony, the storage capacity of the PRS-700 is about "350 average digital books", which if true is almost double that of the Kindle.

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Another feature of the new reader being touted by Sony is its touch screen capability, which allows users to flip pages by sliding a finger across the display.

The main issue being aired by the Sony PRS-700 detractors (aside from the name) is that it does not have wireless connectivity. Downloads are limited to USB connections to computers or via Memory Stick Duo media or SD memory cards.

Unlike Amazon, Sony is not in the business of selling books but it should be grateful that its competitor is helping to make the e-reader market.

Outside the US,where Amazon is not even a player yet, Sony has an opportunity to press its advantage.

The question is, however, can Sony or anyone else ultimately compete with the likes of Amazon in the e-reader market any more than MP3 makers can compete with Apple in the portable music space?

That question should be answered when Amazon gets round to giving the rest of the world a bit of Kindle love.

With the way the US economy is going, Amazon may find that it is in its best interests to take Kindle global sooner rather than later. We can only hope.

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Stan Beer

 

Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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